Pitched percussion


Audio: pitched percussion (0:06)

Pitched percussion
Figure: pitched percussion

pitched percussion plays three different rhythms in succession on three different pitched percussion instruments. The pitched percussion figure shows the score. Each rhythm lasts one bar. The rhythms are identical to the following:

  1. Bar 1: timpani playing bar 7 of drum rudiment.
  2. Bar 2: celesta playing bar 1 of swing.
  3. Bar 3: hammered dulcimer playing bar 5 of syncopation.

A pitched percussion instrument plays notes instead of beats.

Pitched percussion is an eclectic grouping of instruments if ever there was one. It includes all sorts of weird and wonderful instruments from a musical saw to a boomwhacker. About the only thing they share in common is the ability to generate pitched sound. Some of them straddle other instrument categories too. The celesta, for example, is sometimes classed as a keyboard instrument along with the piano. The dulcimer is sometimes classed as a string instrument along with the violin and the guitar.

pitched percussion was written by arbitrarily assigning a pitched percussion instrument to a particular rhythm. Then it was a matter of taking each beat in the rhythm played by a specific drum and replacing it with a note. For example, replace all the beats played by a snare drum with the note C. There are lots of different notes that can be assigned to a single beat so a little experimentation was called for to achieve a tuneful output. However, this is an easy and surprisingly effective way to generate instant melody and harmony. Feel free to experiment yourself.

What pitched percussion does is show that pitch and rhythm are interlinked:

  • A beat and a note are interchangeable.
  • It is easy to convert an unpitched rhythm to a pitched melody or harmony.