If you know more than one or two instruments in the percussion family, you know more than the average Joe. Some instruments in the percussion family are not often thought of as being a percussion instrument. Even though you will strike a drum head and a cymbal if you are in the percussion section of an orchestra, there is so much more to it than that. If you could take away the percussion from an orchestral piece you would see how vital it is to the overall sound. Drums are not the only percussion as we will see. You will greatly enlarge your knowledge of music as a whole if you learn one or more of the instruments in the percussion category.
Percussion is defined as the striking of one body against another with some sharpness; impact; blow. The sound of the piano is made when the hammer strikes the strings and is often forgotten as being a percussion instrument. Pianos are strictly known as a chordophone as it is a stringed instrument but the fact that the sound is produced by a hammer striking strings also makes it a percussion instrument. Open the piano and see how the hammers strike the strings to understand the effects of percussion. Music is made in so many ways, percussion is only one.
Percussion can be divided into groups as follows. Idiophones are that which produce sounds through the vibration of their entire body and membranophones and are defined as instruments that have a stretched membrane. Xylophone, drum cymbals and bells are all examples of idiophones. Membranophone examples are congas, bongos and the tom tom. Percussion can also be further sub-divided into instruments that produce a definite pitch or do not produce a definite pitch.
As many instruments in this area can produce defined pitches, players are often required to learn to read music as it is essential to playing.