INSTRUMENTS OF PERCUSSION
THE preceding instruments have been more or less suited to melodic work, and have been played by bowing, plucking, or blowing. Besides these there are a large number of instruments which are simply struck with a drumstick, hammer, or similar object, and which are mostly incapable of melody. Instruments that are struck are known as percussion instruments, and sometimes alluded to in an orchestra as the battery. The instruments,of percussion may be further divided into those that have a definite pitch and those that do not.
By far the most important are the kettledrums (German, Pauken; French', timbales; Italian, timpani). These consist of hollow hemispheres of copper, supported on tripods, and covered with a parchment called the head. This head is attached to the body of the drum by a metal ring, in which are screws that may be used to tighten or loosen it. The kettledrum, or simply drum, as it is often called in the orchestra, has a definite pitch, in spite of its drum-like character; and the screws are used to tune it.
Not only does the kettledrum have pitch, but a skilful player can make its tone vary in quality also. Two pairs of drumsticks come with it, one pair of wood and the other with tips of fairly soft sponge. Sometimes a third pair, tipped with leather, is used; while Strauss once called for birch rods. These different kinds of stick give different sorts of tone; and the performer can also vary the tone by striking at different places. A stroke near the side gives the sharpest and brightest tone, while one in the middle is duller. The usual spot chosen is about halfway between these two. The drum may also be muffled, for which purpose it is covered by a piece of cloth, which will deaden and shorten the tone.
In the orchestra are at least two kettledrums, of different sizes and pitches, played by one performer. The larger drum can be tuned to any note of the fifth between F and C, an octave below
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Publication information: Book title: The Book of Musical Knowledge:The History, Technique, and Appreciation of Music, Together with Lives of the Great Composers, for Music-Lovers, Students and Teachers. Edition: Enlarged. Contributors: Arthur Elson - Author. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1927. Page number: 456.
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