A standard drum kit is only the beginning when it comes to percussion, and no instrumentalist should ever limit him or herself to just the basics. An untold number of less familiar instruments with roots in the Caribbean, Africa, Latin-America and across the world are now manufactured and available in North America. Whether you're looking for a unique addition to your drum kit or a stand-alone instrument to learn from scratch, world percussion is the right place to look to expand your horizons. With so many interesting and exotic options, it can be difficult to know where to start.
For an established drummer or someone just learning to keep the beat, a membranophone – which uses a vibrating skin to create sound – from a different musical tradition is a great option. They can be fun and easy for beginners, but they always leave room to develop new heights of technical prowess. Djembes, for instance, come in different sizes and make a variety of sounds depending on how your hands strike them. They can also be played either seated or standing for exceptional versatility. An idiophone creates sound using whole-body vibrations, and can be as simple as a jam block or cowbell, or as complex as a steel pan drum.
The former can be used to add an additional dimension to your drum kit, while the latter is a stand-alone instrument in its own right. The variety of available tunings of steel pans available allows you to create simple or complex pentatonic or chromatic melodies, adding a whole new element to your percussive playing. Whether you're looking to imitate a particular musical tradition or to create a sound all your own, you can experiment your whole life and never exhaust the options of world percussion available to you. From simple egg-shakers to cajons and castanet machines, when you dive in to the world of percussion, the beat is just the beginning.
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