Why Percussion is Important & Why Music Needs It (Sometimes)


Music is a complicated world with ups and downs that influence everyone who listens, and many people get confused as which parts are the most important. Many times pop and rock bands will find their lead singer or guitar players as the most popular, or orchestras will give little attention to the rhythm section. So what is the importance of percussion then?

Percussion instruments keep the rhythm of songs and ensure it blends all the other instruments together, creating one cohesive sound. Whilst not essential, music can be enhanced with percussive beats and melodies to be made whole.

If that is true you may be wondering how acoustic music is made, or how there are so many people willing to replace their drummer. Many times the lack of a drum makes it a lot harder for any band or group to keep focus, with entire genres of music feeling empty without the inclusion of rhythm sections.

Here’s why percussion is important and why it is needed so badly for all music!

How important are drums to a song?

There are many acoustic covers of songs in the world, and they all sound good but they are not the songs that reach the top of the charts. It’s the same with any orchestra or marching band, they cannot make their music without the rhythm section playing properly.

Having drums in any song makes it complete, a proper trope in older musical movies is that the drum player always slams their sticks together, counting down. This is still being done today and is the start of almost any live song out there, it takes a highly trained musician to start playing their songs before the drums have started.

Drums provide the feeling of music; in musical terms they provide the rhythm of where the song is and what notes have to be played next. However, for the untrained listener drums are the heart of music, the instrument that makes you tap your feet, your heartbeat faster, and makes you want to get up and dance.

Is percussion hard to learn?

This is one of the hardest questions many interested in playing any percussion instrument has, one which some people have been greatly mistaken about. While having the rhythm naturally is important, not all percussion instruments require rhythm from the start.

Learning to play percussion instruments can be hard if you have no previous musical experience, however, as you progress further you will gain a natural affinity to playing the instruments. Instruments such as the Kalimba have notes that are clearly marked and that can be learned or taught.

There are some easy percussion instruments you can learn though

The challenge with learning percussion usually comes from having a full drum kits such as those used in pop culture. These instruments almost never have set notes and each drum kit can sound different, learning how to play requires some previous knowledge of how to keep a proper rhythm.

That being said, drums used in marching bands or orchestras can be slightly simpler to use as they are tuned and have specific notes. Learning to play these drums requires more practice than it will require the perfect rhythm, however, do be warned that those with a natural rhythm in their soul will have a much easier time learning these instruments.

How does percussion influence music?

The inclusion of percussion instrument in music is one of the vital parts to the playing and listening experience. Some of the oldest instruments ever found are in the percussion family, while every new garage band will always forget the importance of their drummer.

Not having a proper rhythm in a song can cause other instruments to sound lost, rarely achieving harmony in their play styles. Without percussion instruments orchestras cannot be in tune with each other, bands will feel a lot emptier and the overall sound of music becomes hollow.

The influence provided by percussion instruments is that there is a new rhythm to follow with other players knowing where to play which notes. Having bad percussion players that are out of tune and unable to keep the right beat can cause many players to become lost in their notes and unable to play properly.

Why are percussionists important in marching bands?

One of the most important locations for percussion instruments is in marching bands, where they do more than just provide the sound that makes your feet tap when you are in the audience. Most musicians even the starting guitar player can keep the rhythm of their own music when they’re practicing alone in their house.

However, once they are combined into a large group this becomes almost impossible to do, other players may make mistakes, the player could read the wrong note, and overall it becomes chaos. Trying to march while not including a percussion section then becomes even harder to do, which is why many times it is so confusing that other musicians in marching bands and orchestras look down on the rhythm section.

Percussion instruments are the heart of any marching band, they create and keep the rhythm that all other players must follow. From the way they walk to the notes they must play; everything relies on how well the percussion section is able to play. If there are not percussion instruments playing many times the rest of the marching band will be entirely lost in their own notes.

How many percussion instruments can be used at once?

The answer is almost impossible to answer, with many of the greatest musical composers insisting on adding as much as humanly possible into the backline that is the percussion section.

Some classical composers got so fed up with the limitations of percussion instruments that they required cannon fire throughout their song to give it the right feeling. But leaving Bach aside, in modern times many people have fallen in love with the sound of several drums playing in harmony, with Paul Simon preferring to have upward of four full drums sets to create the impact he loves in his music.

More recently as tribute to the Foo Fighters over 1000 musicians gathered to play together and celebrate the music of the band. There is no limit to how many percussion instruments you can have playing together, as long as they are all in sync the music being created will sound amazing.

However, the opposite is not true, there must always be some percussion instruments in music, even the best acoustic players will have some way of keeping the rhythm in their music. Either by slapping their hands on their guitar to create some percussion sounds or by tapping their feet on the ground.

Conclusion

Percussion instruments are easily one of the most important inclusions to any musical genre, requiring that you have one or more to keep the rhythm within your music alive and well. There is no way to accurately measure how important percussion instruments are to you or your band. However, if you do not include some form of percussion you will quickly realize what you are missing.

Percussion is always important so go out there and slam something, just be sure to keep the rhythm going!

SteveM

I enjoyed the unpitched appeal of percussion prior to discovering handpans in a 'moment' I was experiencing. I've been writing ever since.

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