Percussion instruments in primary-school music classes are primarily used to teach rhythm. The largest instrument family in the orchestra, percussion instruments include all those that are played by being struck, scraped, or shaken. While most percussion instruments such as drums produce an indefinite sound and are therefore considered unpitched, others like the piano and xylophone can play melodies and are classified as tuned percussion instruments.
Percussion instruments can be struck by an implement such as a drumstick or beater, or clapped together to produce a rhythmic sound. These instruments include drums, xylophones, cymbals and pianos. Struck instruments most often used in the primary-school classroom include wooden blocks clapped together, finger cymbals, wooden sticks called claves, castanets, chime bars and the triangle.
The percussion family also includes instruments that are rubbed together or scraped against one another to produce sound. One example of a scraped instrument is a washboard, which is played by running a beater along the ridged surface at varying speeds. Other scraped instruments used commonly in primary-school classrooms include the guiro, agogo bells, ridged claves and sandpaper blocks.
Instruments that are played by shaking them also fall into the percussion section. In the primary-school classroom, the most common shaken instruments include tambourines, maracas and jingle sticks---small bells attached to wooden sticks. The cabasa is made from metal bead strands woven into netting and fastened around a metal cylinder, and can be played by shaking or turning the instrument to produce a rasping sound.