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Classification of percussion instruments

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There are several overlapping schemes for the classification of percussion instruments.

These schemes are based on four types of criteria:

Percussion instruments vary enormously in nature and usage, and have possibly the longest history of any group of musical instruments.[1] For these and other reasons their classification proves difficult, and different classification systems are used in different contexts.


At the highest level of grouping, authorities differ over whether stringed instruments such as the hammered dulcimer and keyboard instruments such as the celesta are percussion instruments, let alone the piano which is both stringed and a keyboard and yet sometimes also termed percussion.[2][3]

Hornbostel–Sachs does not use the term percussion as a general grouping at all, but instead in a very different sense to the common usage. Instruments such as castanets and cymbals used in pairs are not percussion in the Hornbostel–Sachs sense, but are percussion instruments in every other sense.

Similar problems are encountered at lower levels of classification.