Wooden Percussion Instruments

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A percussion instrument produces a sound once part of or all of it vibrates. Vibration can be produced a number of ways, including hitting the instrument (with a hand or drumstick), shaking the instrument or rubbing the instrument. Numerous percussion instruments are made of wood.

Wood Block

The wood block is a simple percussion instrument that consists of a rectangular, hollow block of wood. The wood block is generally made of hardwood. The wood block produces a sound when struck by a mallet. Sizes of wood blocks can vary from hand-held objects to large, immovable items.


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Castanets consist of two concave shells, joined together at one end by a piece of cord. The concave shells are made of hardwood. The cord of the castanets is wrapped around the thumb while the shells are held in the hand. The castanets are then snapped together in order to produce a sound. Players often wear two pairs of castanets--one in each hand.


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A xylophone--a percussion instrument that dates to the 9th century and originated in Africa and Asia--is made up of graduated wooden bars of different lengths. Each bar is tuned to a different pitch. Arrangement is generally from low to high--with the larger bars making the lower sound and the shorter bars making the higher sound.


A cabasa is percussion instrument of African origin. It is made up of a rounded wooden wheel, around which a steel ball chain is wrapped. From the wheel stems a long, wooden handle. A player holds the handle and can produce sounds by either shaking the cabasa or by scratching the chain against the wooden wheel.


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The djembe is a percussion instrument that originates from the Malinke people of West Africa. The goblet-shaped body of the djembe is made of wood and is covered by a stretched skin membrane. The djembe--which is known for producing a wide range of tones because of its shaping--sounds when the skin membrane is hit with bare hands.