(Last Updated on : 27/11/2014)
Percussion instruments are those which produce sound on being struck. They mat be hit with an implement, shaken, rubbed, scraped or they may produce sounds by any other action which sets the object into vibration. The most common way of differentiating the various percussion instruments are the idiophones and membranophones. The idiophones are those which produce sound by means of vibration of their entire body while the membranophones produce sound when their head or membrane is struck.
Ghana Vadya, Idiophones
Idiophpones, known as Ghana Vadya in Indian Musicology, are the earliest known instruments. These do not require any special kind of tuning and can be played as they are made. The Danda is perhaps a more peaceful use of the hunting rod and the sword. The Ghatam
and the Noot are cooking pots serving musical purposes. By the very nature of their construction, the sound emitted by most idiophones is noisy. That is, they do not give out a sound of definite pitch; also the sound so produced is of indefinite quality and of short duration. Hence these instruments are eminently suited for rhythmic purposes. Due to their acoustic properties they have also remained comparatively ill-developed.
Avanaddha Vadya, Mebranophones
The origins of drums of various kinds are not definitely known. The oldest form was, most probably, derived from the stamped pit. This was a hollow in the ground covered with barks or planks on which men and women stamped or beat with sticks. Eventually, the bark might have been substituted by the hide of animals. Such a one was the Bhoomi Dundubhi mentioned in the Vedas
. Another line of development was the employment of cooking and storage pots and pans. Even today we come across the Ghumat, the Ghumera, the mate and so on which are nothing more than vessels used for cooking and storing water (Surahi, Kooja) covered with animal skin. Whereas the mebranophones were earlier made mostly of mud, they gradually came to be replaced by wood due to the fragility of the former and better tonal quality of the latter. Thus there is seen the Tabla
, Mrindaga etc.
Types of Percussion Instruments in India
There are a number of percussion instruments found in India. These include the Chenda, Dhol, Dholak, Idakka
, Mizhav, Mridangam, Pakhavaj, Tabla, Thavil, Dhadh, Ghatam etc.
Most popular among the various percussion instruments of India is the Tabla. It is used in the classical, popular and religious music of the Indian subcontinent and in North Indian Classical Music
. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres. The musician uses the base of the palm as well as the fingers to produce great variations in sounds. The Tabla has also found its way on to the international forum and is used in a number of international musical collaborations.
A very popular percussion instrument in India is the Dhol, widely used in the Punjab region. A double-sided sided barrel drum, the Bhangra Dhol is played mostly as an accompanying instrument to the traditional Punjabi dance of Bhangra and the traditional dance of Gujarat, the Raas. The Dhol is played using two wooden sticks, usually made out of bamboo and cane wood. Nowadays, the Dhol is not just limited to the region of Punjab but extensively used all over India as well as in the field of world music.
The Pakhavaj is an ancient Indian barrel-shaped percussion instrument which is similar to the Mridangam, famous in North India. It is widely used for Odissi dancers and sometimes for Kathak
. It is the standard percussion instrument in Dhrupad
The Idakka is an hour-glass drum from Kerala
, south India, which is played with a stick. Since it is considered to be a very auspicious instrument, it is the custom to play the Idakka as an accompaniment to singing during the Pujas. It is also used during the performance of the Kathakali
, Koodiyattam, Mohiniattam
A percussion instrument popular in Carnatic music is the Mridanga. In ancient Hindu sculpture, painting, and mythology, the Mridangam is often depicted as the instrument of choice for a number of deities including Lord Ganesha
(the protector) and Nandi
, who is the vehicle and companion of Lord Shiva
There are a number of percussion instruments in the world of international music which are fast gaining access into the realm of Indian music. These include the drums, Tambourine
, Snare Drum
etc. With the increasing spread of globalisation, there has been seen an inter-mingling of musical instruments the world over. Thus not only do we today see the drums being used in the Indian film industry with a large following in India, the traditional Indian instruments like the Tabla and Dhol are also going places now.