Percussion Instruments

Percussion Instruments

Presenting the percussion instruments that are available from Gandharva Loka: the world music store in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Percussion Instruments

Apitua, Agogo and Grello

Apitua and Agogo are metal African bells. Grello are more like castanets as they are played on two of the fingers. All are usually made of iron and are percussion instruments used to establish and drive rhythm and to add texture and variety to music. They are distinctive and provide a strong cutting metallic sound that will be heard even in large drum circles or music ensembles. These instruments are all handmade by expert blacksmiths in Africa and are each unique in both tone and look.

ApituaApitua (also known as a Banana Bell, Toke or Atoke Bell) resembles a little boat that curves upwards at each end. It is made from black iron and played with a metal stick – hence its good volume. The apitua often played with the Djun Djun drum and is attaching to the top of the drum through its lacing. They can also be simply held in the hand and played. The holding hand can enclose the body between the beats to create special effects.

AgogoAgogo (a word from the Yoruba language meaning 'bell') are a single or multiple bell now used throughout the world but with origins in traditional Yoruba music and also in the samba baterias (percussion ensembles) of Latin America. The agogo is considered to be the oldest samba instrument and is based on West African Yoruba single or double bells. The agogo has the highest pitch of any of the bateria instruments.

The African agogo bell is also called the gangkogui or gonkogui. It is made of metal with each bell a different size. This allows a differently pitched note to be produced depending on which bell has been hit. Originally wrought iron, they are now manufactured in a variety of metals and sizes for different sound qualities. The most common arrangement is two bells attached by a U shaped piece of metal. The smaller bell is held uppermost. Either bell may be hit with a wooden stick to make a cowbell like sound or less commonly a clicking sound is produced by squeezing the two bells together.Grello

Grello (also known as frikywa [pronounced: free-chee-wah] or African castanet), is a two-piece instrument used in Ghanaian percussion ensembles.

The bell is shaped like a large, open walnut shell that is connected at the top and the bottom, which is held by one finger. The ring is worn on another finger, the thumb or held in the opposite hand and is used to strike the bell.

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Bird and Fish Trident

Our bird and fish tridents are fun percussion instruments that are great value for money because they double as a guiro and a wood block with three different tones. They are well made and very cute! Appealing and quite suitable for children.

Bird and Fish Tridents

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Boomwhackers

BoomwhackersBoomwhackers are percussion tubes – lightweight, colour-coded, plastic tubes, tuned to musical pitches by length. They are the creation of American Craig Ramsell who came up with the idea after he had cut up some cardboard tubes for recycling in 1994. Noticing that the different lengths of tube offered a variety of pitches, he decided to investigate their creative potential but using plastic tubes. Boomwhackers are a lot of fun and an instrument that anyone can play.

In our experience, Boomwhackers have been a great hit with children and school music groups. Demonstrations of boomwhackers being played can be viewed here and here.

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Cabasa

CabasaThe cabasa is a percussion instrument of African origin that is constructed with loops of steel ball chain wrapped around a wide cylinder. The cylinder is fixed to a long, narrow wooden or plastic handle. It provides a metallic, rattling sound when shaken or twisted, similar to the sound of a rattlesnake.

The cabasa is often used in Latin jazz, especially in bossa nova music. Precise rhythmic effects can be gained by the advanced player. The player places his non-dominant hand on the metal chain, to provide pressure, while holding the wooden handle with the other hand and twisting the instrument back and forth as per the rhythmic pattern desired. In addition to Latin music, many band and orchestra pieces call for the cabasa. The instrument is frequently used in music therapy.

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Caisa Drum

Caisa DrumThe Caisa Drum is a convex steeldrum created by Bill Brown of Kaisos Steel Drums in Germany. It is commonly believed that the creation of the Caisa Drum was inspired by the Hang drums made by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer of PANArt in Switzerland. Available in a variety of tunings, Caisa Drums are designed to be played with finger tips, hands or short mallets. It consists of two parts: the upper half is a round steel dome approximately 60cm in diameter from which a wooden (in older models) or metal (in all newer models) disk is suspended. The two parts are connected by metal cables which permits an ideal resonance.

The tone areas of the dome are hammered by hand and are usually tuned to a pentatonic scale. Each Caisa Drum is a unique instrument with its own visual and acoustic characteristics. A built-in thread in the base of the Caisa drum allows the attachment of a wooden goblet-shaped stand and three openings in the base accommodate the use of a snare drum stand (see images below). This allows the Caisa Drum to be played in a seated (on lap or using the wooden stand) or standing position, or for the instrument to be set up as part of a drum kit/percussion section. This accessible and portable percussuion instrument (special back packs are available) is ideal for amateur musicians, buskers, percussionists and professional musicains who want to experience and share the versatile and enchanting sounds that can be produced with a Caisa Drum. Video clips of Caisa Drums being played can be viewed here and here.

Caisa Drum on wooden and metal stands

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Castanets

Castanets can be mastered through dedicated practice. You need to have your hands held in the correct position and have the rope fastened tightly around either side of your thumb knuckles. Within a pair there will be two tones. The fun and begins when you dance and need to play the castanets at the same time in rythym.

Castanets

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Caxixi

CaxixiCaxixi (pronounced ka-shee-shee) are a percussive musical instrument of African origin that became popular in Brazil as a accompaniment to the berimbau in the dance-game of Capoeira. In West Africa it is used by singers and often alongside drummers. They are similar, in many ways, to maracas.

Caxixi consist of a woven cane basket with a hard gourd skin or wooden base. It is filled with special seeds or rice and, like the maraca, it is sounded by shaking. Caxixi can be used to drive the beat or in pairs to produce intricate rhythmic sounds and textures. Suitable for children five years and older.

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Claves

ClavesClaves are a percussion instrument made up of two short pieces of wood which are played against each other producing a sharp cutting sound. They are traditionally made from good hardwoods but some modern producers will even use fiberglass or plastic. When played they are held with the non dominant hand cupped underneath one of the clave to create a resonating chamber while the other hand holds the remaining clave like a drumstick to strike against the other.

Clave in Spanish means key or keystone, and it plays this role in the music of many countries. The claves play a vital role in Afro-Cuban music and many people consider the clave to be the key to understanding the music. Suitable for children five years and older.

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Cuica

CuicaThe one and only cuíca, a Brazilian friction drum, is synonymous with the sound of fun and laughter that one would experience at a Brazilian carnival. The cuica is often used in samba music and is a wonderfully simple instrument. It is made from a small drum with a stick mounted in the middle of the skin. One plays by rubbing up and down on the stick with a wet cloth, the other hand can be used to change the pitch by pressing on the head. A demonstration of the cuíca can be viewed here.

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Flexatone

FlexatoneThe flexatone was invented in the 1920s. It is a percussion instrument that consists of a small flexible metal sheet suspended in a wire frame that also makes up the handle. Two wooden knobs are mounted on strips of spring steel and attached on each side of the metal sheet. The player holds the flexatone in one hand with the palm around the wire frame and the thumb on the free end of the metal sheet. The player then shakes the instrument with a trembling movement which causes the beaters to strike the sides of the metal sheet. While shaking the handle, the musician makes a high or low pitched sounds depending on the curve given to the blade by the pressure from the thumb. A vibrato is thus produced.

The flexatone is sometimes heard in funk music, and occasionally in pop music for special effect. It is occasionally used in the soundtracks of films or cartoons to represent ghosts or other paranormal phenomena. A video clip of four very creative young musicians using flexatones in a variety of ways can be viewed here.

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Frog Family

ClavesThe wooden frog is one of the most common percussion instruments one comes across in Thailand where they are made by skilled members of the Northern hill tribes.

A popular percussive instrument with children, these wooden frogs have two main sounds – a 'struck wooden block' sound made by striking the nose of the frog with the wooden beater, and the renowned 'croaking frog' effect made by running the beater along the ridges of the spine. The most effective frog croak is created by running the beater from the bottom of the spine to the top. Using the larger end of the beater gives a louder and stronger sound. Available in a variety of sizes, from the tiny mini frog's right up to the jumbo models.

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Ghungroos

GhungroosGhungroos (also spelt ghunghroo or ghunghru) are sets of many small metallic bells strung together to form a musical anklet that is strapped to the feet of Indian classical dancers. Ghungroos serve to accentuate the rhythmic aspects of Indian classical dance and allow complex footwork to be heard by the audience. The sounds produced by ghungroos vary in pitch depending on the metallic composition and size of the bells. A string of ghungroos can range from fifty to more than two hundred bells. Young novice dancers might start with fifty bell ghungroos and add more as they grow older and more advanced in their technical ability. Ghungroos are worn in traditional performances of the classical Indian dance forms Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi and Odissi.

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Guiro

GuiroThe guiro is a percussion instrument commonly used throughout Latin-America. Originally created using a gourd, modern models are made from both wood and plastic. The guiro has ridges cut into the surface of it. One typically holds the guiro in one hand and plays it by rubbing a stick up and down over the ridges. Rhythms are made by combining long and short strokes up and down the guiro.

Gandharva Loka Christchurch also stocks a simplified but extremely effective version of the guiro that is known as a 'guiro on a stick' or 'scraping stick'. Like the traditional guiro, the simple scraping sticks are very useful for creating rhythm and also for adding depth and texture to musical performance. Suitable for children five years and older.

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Hapi Drum

Hapi drums are metal canister tongue drums that are made in a range of tunings, styles, colours and sizes. They have a beautiful resonate sound and can be played using the hands and/or with mallets. Hapi drum accessories include bags, mallets and microphones that can be attached through a jack hole that is built into every model of hapi drum. An example of a Hapi Drum being played can be viewed here.

Hapi Drums

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Maracas

Maracas and Beaded KabakaMaracas (also known as rumba shakers and, in Trinidad, shac-shacs) have their origins in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, Guatemala and are also associated with several nations in the Caribbean Islands. Clay maracas have been found that were used by the natives of Colombia some 1500 years ago. Maracas are a simple percussion instrument that are usually played in pairs. Maracas are made of dried calabash or gourd shell or coconut shell filled with seeds or dried beans and, like the caxixi, are shaken to produce sound. They may also be made of leather, wood and plastic. Often one maraca ball is pitched high and the other is pitched low.

Although a simple instrument, the method of playing the maracas often takes a little getting used to. The seeds must travel some distance before they hit the end of the ball, so the player must anticipate the rhythm. Maracas can also struck against the hand or leg to gain variety in sound. Maracas are heard in many forms of Latin music and are also used in pop and classical music. Similar to maracas are the brightly decorated Beaded Kabaka (pictured bottom right) which are also available from Gandharva Loka.

Gandharva Loka also stocks colourful plastic mini-maracas that are excellent for young children.

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Mouth Harps

Dan Moi: a mouth harp from VietmanThe mouth harp is an ancient percussive instrument that is found in many cultures and and has several hundred names and forms. It is thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world and appears in a Chinese drawing from the 4th century BC. Despite its commonly used title of 'Jew's harp', this instrument has no particular connection with the Jewish people. It is considered to be an instrument native to Eurasia being particularly common in Asia and amongst the Turkish tribes.

The mouth harp is played by pressing the two outer metal bars (some varieties are made of bamboo) against the teeth and then plucking a middle bar that gives a vibration. The mouth becomes a sound chamber which, in conjunction with the breath, is used to modulate the vibrations to produce volume and various effects with skilled players being able to create a broad range of overtones. The models made from bamboo are held between the lips so the sound is much softer. The Vietnamese Dan Moi works the same way but as it is made from metal the sound is has a full and strong tone. The dan moi, which comes in three different tones, is the easiest to play and offers the biggest sound.

Various Mouth Harps

Gandarva Loka Christchurch stocks a broad range of quality mouth harps from Austria, India (morsing), Vietnam and China.

MOUTH HARP SOUND SAMPLES:

Morsing (Indian mouth harp):


Dan Moi (Vietnamese mouth harp, single tongue treble):


Dan Moi (Vietnamese mouth harp, single tongue bass):


Dan Moi (Vietnamese mouth harp, double tongue):


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Patica

PaticaPatica are a most unique and interesting form of hand percussion instrument that evolved out of western Africa and has now become very popular throughout the world – especially in Japan.

Considered a children's toy in Ghana, the patica is a rhythmic/percussive instrument that is traditionally made from two small gourds filled with beans that are connected by a short piece of braided sting. With a pair in each hand – one gourd being cupped in the palm while the other being free to spin in a similar way to the New Zealand poi – a rhythm is created by the shaking of the beans and when the free gourd creates a 'clack' upon impact with the palmed gourd. Rhythms can be varied according to the skill and creativity of the player. Patica are now also being made from synthetic materials. You can view a video clip of patica being demonstrated here.

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Rain Sticks

Rain SticksThe rain stick comes from the Atacama Desert in Chile and is a truly natural instrument. Rain sticks are made from a particular type of cactus which, when it dies, is dried out. The thorns are then cut off and pushed back into the dried cactus branch so that the pointed tips of the thorns are on the inside. The branch is then filled with small stones and blocked off at each end.

When it is tipped end-for-end, the rain stick makes for a wonderful 'rain' sound – a perfect instrument for relaxation or performances and a great accompaniment to the ocean drum. The sound and length of time it lasts can be controled by slowly rotating the rain stick as the stones are tipped from one end to the other. Rain sticks come in sizes ranging from 25cm to over a metre – the smaller ones being an excellent instrument for young children.

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Ruttli Shaker

The variety of rattle and shaker instruments these days is huge with the imagination of instrument makers always creating new instruments that offer new sounds and capacities. The Ruttli Shakers are high quality but simple cylindrical percussive instruments. There are three models and each model has its own unique sound. The smallest model contains a coarse filling which makes a deep timbre. The medium size model has a brass ring which enables it to produce a high metallic timbre. The third and largest Ruttli shaker has quite a strong sound. Each of these shakers has three grades: light, medium and heavy. The variety of models and sizes offers a broad range of sounds and possibilities.

Ruttli Shakers

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Shakers (various)

Various ShakersGandharva Loka in Christchurch stocks a broad range of shakers in different pitches, sizes and shapes. We have wooden eggs, wooden balls, plastic eggs, maracas, talking shakers, caxixi, shakers on a stick, and a variety of plastic, metal and wooden shakers. The colourful plastic egg shakers, as in the red one pictured on the right side of the image, are excellent for young children.

We also have shakers that double as a guiro, shakers that have a knocker attached, shakers with a membrane or skin, shakers made of African grass, gourds (including the mighty shekere) and stones. If you are not sure what kind of shaker will suit your needs, we cordially invite you to visit Gandharva Loka or to contact us and let us know what kind of sound you are looking for.

Various Shakers

Gandharva Loka also stocks a range of Schlagwerk shakers.

Schlagwerk Shakers

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Shaman Rattle

Shaman RattleThe shaman rattle played a very important role in Shamanistic cultures throughout the ages. Like the shaman drum, it was an instrument used to invoke the soul to expedite the process of healing.

Shaman rattles were traditionally made from various materials including turtle shells, snake skin, and rawhide, but in modern times materials such as gourds and coconuts are also used. They were filled with a variety of items to make the rattle sound such as corn seeds, teeth and shards of bone or crystal, but this aspect has also diversified in recent times. It was considered that a shaman's rattle possessed strong powers and they were often kept in their own special medicine bag.

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Shekere

ShekereThe shekere is a percussive instrument of West Africa origin. It is made of dried gourds of various sizes that are covered with nets that have colourful beads or shells woven into them. Throughout the African continent there are similar gourd and bead or gourd and seed percussion instruments that have various names and decoration.

The shekere is made from vine gourds that grow along the ground. The size and shape of the gourd determines the sound and volume of the instrument. A shekere is made by drying the gourd for several months and then removing the pulp and seeds. After it is scrubbed, skillful bead work is added. The shekere is used in African traditional music as well as some forms of popular music. In performance it is shaken and/or slapped with the hands. Shekere, which generally offer plenty of volume, are traditionally played as rhythmic accompaniment to drumming and dance. A good example of shekere being played can be viewed here.

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Spoons

SpoonsThe spoons are a percussion instrument that originated in Ireland as 'bones' – literally the convex sides of a pair of sheep rib bones that were rattled together. In more recent times 'playing the bones' has developed into 'playing the spoons'. A pair of desert spoons (or similar) are held with concave sides facing out and with a finger between their handles to keep them apart. When the pair is struck, the spoons hit each other and then spring back to their original position. The spoons are typically struck against the knee and the palm of the hand but the fingers and other body parts may also be used as striking surfaces to produce different sounds. Two very good examples of spoon playing can be viewed here and here.

This simple improvised instrument has been refined over the years and the spoons are often joined with the use of a synthetic handle or are crafted in wood. Gandharva Loka offers both the plastic handled/metal spoons and the one-piece wooden variety pictured above.

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Tambourine

TambourinesThe tambourine is at once an ancient instrument and one of the most common and best known instruments in the world today. It has been used in a wide range of music genre over the centuries. The tambourine consists of a wood or plastic frame with pairs of small metal discs, known as 'zils', mounted into it. Classically the term tambourine denotes an instrument with a drumhead although some models are headless. Right from a young age children love to shake the tambourine and it is also a great instrument for helping to maintain the rhythm in music groups.

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Temple Block

Temple BlocksTemple blocks are traditionally used to serve as a beat for chants in Buddhist ceremonies. One can also use them with a lot of flexibility as the different sizes and tones produce a wonderfully array of sounds. Temple blocks are generally played as a set on a stand but they can also be held and played as single instrument using wooden or rubber tipped strikers.

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Thunder Drums

Thunder DrumsThe thunder drum (also known as a Spring Drum) is a wondrous creation as it gives us the power to create thunder and lightening, anywhere, anytime.

A simple instrument, in terms of construction, the thunder drum is a resonating tube with a drum skin attached to one end. Through this skin is connected a long spring, which when being played hangs down from the bottom of the instrument. By shaking the instrument from side to side we create wonderful thunder effects and by gently striking the spring we can bring lightening to life. The thunder drum is perfect instrument for all manner of performance and is always a firm favourite with children.

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Triangle

TrianglesThe triangle is an idiophone type of musical instrument in the percussion family. It is a bar of metal, usually steel but sometimes other metals such as beryllium copper, bent into a triangle shape. One of the angles is left open, with the ends of the bar not quite touching. The instrument is usually held by a loop of some form of thread or wire at the top curve. It is usually struck with a metal beater, giving a high-pitched, ringing tone. It is generally though that the triangle was first made around the 16th century and that early triangles had jingling rings along the lower side.

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Vibraslap

VibraslapThe vibraslap is a percussion instrument consisting of a piece of stiff wire that is bent into a U shape and connects a wood ball to a hollow wooden box that contains small pieces of metal. The percussionist holds the metal wire in one hand and strikes the ball with the free hand. The box acts as a resonating body for a metal mechanism placed inside with a number of loosely fastened pins or rivets that vibrate and rattle against the box.

The vibraslap is a modern version of a rattle instrument made from horse or donkey jawbones (the teeth would rattle in the dried out jawbones of the skull...!) which is probably why vibraslaps are sometimes called 'donkey rattles'. Vibraslaps, which come in a variety of sizes and materials, are frequently used in Latin American music. While they offer one basic kind of sound, there is plenty of room for variations and effects. There is a really helpful set of video clips that offer background and demonstrations of the vibraslap here.

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Wah Wah Tubes

Wah Wah TubesWah Wah Tubes are simple aluminium tubular bells that produce a long-lasting sound that is rich in overtones. A fascinating 'wah-wah' effect can be created by opening and closing the small opening.

Holding the tube in one hand with the thumb above but not covering the hole, the beater is used to strike the open end of the tube. Opening and close the hole with the thumb to get the wah-wah effect or by slide an extended finger backwards and forwards across the hole. Each wah wah tube comes with a beater.

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Wooden Clackers

Wooden ClackersGandharva Loka stocks hand-made wooden clackers with handles that are carved as dolphins or geckos. These eighteen blade wooden clackers offer a warm and natural tone. Clackers play a crucial role in both traditional and contemporary music that requires a strong percussive rhythm section.

Wooden clackers will add excitement to any Djembe circle or African drum sessions. And as they are made from natural material and feature the shapes of our cute friends from the animal kingdom, they are very popular with children.

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Zenko Drum

ZenkoZenko Drums are a stainless steel melodic tongue drum designed and created by Metal Sounds who also produce the Space Drum. The Zenko Drum is the result of a long research and development program carried out by the Metal Sounds team in collaboration with scientists and experts from the metal industry.

The Zenko Drum spread their sounds with smooth and soft waves. Its high harmonic content comes from a perfect tuning which remains consistent even as the instrument ages. The sound of the Zenko drum can be varied depending on whether the mallets, finger tips or hands (slap style) are used. Each Zenko Drum comes with a bag, support ring and two mallets. They weight 2.8 Kg (6.17 Lbs), are 32cm in diameter (12.6") and 13 cm (5.12") in height. Examples of Zenko Drums being played can be viewed here, here and here.

ZENKO DRUM SCALES AND SOUND SAMPLES

Zenko Drums are available in four tunings.

  • Ionian scale: A3, C4, D, E, F, G, A, B, C5

    Scale using hands:


    Scale using mallets:


    Improvisation using hands:

  • Ionian scale C Pentatonic (Penta C): A3, C4, D, E, G, A, C5, D, E

    Scale using hands:


    Scale using mallets:


    Improvisation using hands:

  • Akebono scale: G3, C4, D, Eb, G, G#, C5, D, Eb

    Scale using hands:


    Scale using mallets:


    Improvisation using hands:

  • Equinox scale: G3, B, C4, D, E, F#, G, B, D5

    Scale using mallets: