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Unusual Instruments: Percussion

Backgrounds and Videos of Unusual and Unique Musical Instruments

Percussion

An instrument in which sound arises from the striking of materials with sticks, hammers, or the hands.

Cajon

The cajón is nominally a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front or rear faces (generally thin plywood) with the hands, fingers, or sometimes various implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks.

The modern cajón may have rubber feet, and has several screws at the top for adjusting percussive timbre. Originally they would be only wooden boxes but now some versions may also have several stretched cords pressed against the top for a buzz-like effect or tone. Guitar strings, rattles or drum snares may serve this purpose. They may also have bells on the inside near the cords.

The player sits astride the box, tilting it at an angle while striking the head between their knees. The percussionist can play the sides with the top of their palms and fingers for additional sounds.

Musical Saw

A musical saw, also called a singing saw, is a hand saw used as a musical instrument. Capable of continuous glissando (portamento), the sound creates an ethereal tone, very similar to the theremin.

The saw is generally played seated with the handle squeezed between the legs, and the far end held with one hand. To sound a note, a sawer first bends the blade into an S-curve. The parts of the blade that are curved are damped from vibration, and do not sound. At the center of the S-curve a section of the blade remains relatively flat. This section, the "sweet spot", can vibrate across the width of the blade, producing a distinct pitch: the wider the section of blade, the lower the sound. Sound is usually created by drawing a bow across the back edge of the saw at the sweet spot, or sometimes by striking the sweet spot with a mallet.

- from Wikipedia

Mbira

The mbira (or kalimba) is an African musical instrument consisting of a wooden board (often fitted with a resonator) with attached staggered metal tines, played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs.

The tines were originally made of bamboo but over the years metal keys have been developed. The note arrangement of most mbira, with the notes in the scale ascending on the tines from the center outward in an alternating right-left fashion, results in chords being made by adjacent tines.

- from Wikipedia

African Slit Drum

A slit drum is a hollow percussion instrument. In spite of the name, it is not a true drum but an idiophone, usually carved or constructed from bamboo or wood into a box with one or more slits in the top. Most slit drums have one slit, though two and three slits (cut into the shape of an "H") occur. If the resultant tongues are different width or thicknesses, the drum will produce two different pitches. It is used throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

The ends of a slit drum are closed so that the shell becomes the resonating chamber for the sound vibrations created when the tongues are struck, usually with a mallet.

- from Wikipedia

Handbells

A handbell is a bell designed to be rung by hand. To ring a handbell, a ringer grasps the bell by its slightly flexible handle - traditionally made of leather, but often now made of plastic - and moves the wrist to make the hinged clapper inside the bell strike.

A handbell choir or ensemble is a group that rings recognizable music with melodies and harmony, as opposed to the mathematical permutations used in change ringing. The bells used generally include all notes of the chromatic scale within the range of the bell set.

Originally, tuned sets of handbells, such as the ones made by the Cor brothers, were used by change ringers to rehearse outside their towers. Tower bell ringers' enthusiasm for practicing the complicated algorithms of change ringing can easily exceed the neighbors' patience, so in the days before modern sound control handbells offered them a way to continue ringing without the aural assault. The handbell sets used by change ringers had the same number of bells as in the towers - generally six or 12 tuned to a diatonic scale.