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Discover the Percussion Instruments of TorQ

by on October 26, 2010


TorQ Percussion Ensemble is coming to town next week and will be bringing almost 75 percussion instruments that they’ll be striking, tapping, hitting and shaking as part of the Playhouse’s Spotlight Classical Series, and 2010-11 School Programming line-up.  Emerging percussionists will be able to take advantage of TorQ’s 90-minute onstage percussion workshop as part of the Create, Learn and Play series on November 1 at 6:30 PM.

If you’ve never been to an all percussion performance, you’re in for a treat with TorQ’s sweet lyrical mallet quartets and no-holds-barred high energy pieces.  Whether it’s the strike of the bass drum that keeps soldiers in step, the recognizable hi-hat of traditional jazz, or the familiar sounds of the smaller handheld instruments like tambourines or cymbals, percussion is often referred to as the “heartbeat” of the music.

Knowing a bit more about percussion instruments can make your performance experience even better.

Are you surprised to know that TorQ will be using almost 75 percussion instruments in their show?  Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a marimba and xylophone?  Do you know what the Gankogui (gong-koh-gwee ) sounds like?  Here’s a quick run-down of some of TorQ’s instruments to get you started:

Marimba:  This originated in Africa hundreds of years ago and was imported to Central America in the sixteenth century. The keys (or bars), which are usually made of rosewood, are organized like a piano with “black keys” on top and “white keys” below. The resonators underneath help to project the sound. Marimbas are most easily distinguished from xylophones by their size: xylophones typically have a range of three to four octaves with fairly skinny bars.

Note:  xylophones are smaller, have a higher pitch and are typically played with harder mallets than the marimba.  Both use resonators (tubes underneath to amply the sound) and both use wooden keys.

Vibraphone:  Similar in appearance to the xylophone, but the vibraphone uses metal bars. The vibraphone also has a sustain pedal similar to that used on a piano:   when the pedal is up, the bars are all damped and the sound of each bar is quite short;  with the pedal down, they will sustain for several seconds.


Membrane Percussion


Snare drum: This drum has strands of snares made of curled metal wire, metal cable, or plastic cable stretched across the bottom drumhead to give it a “snappy” sound.






Bass drum: This is a relatively large drum that produces a low, “rumbly” sound. On a drum set it is often known as a kick drum.







Hand drum (i.e. djembe, darbuka, frame drum):  any drum that is played with your hands. The shapes are often goblet, cylindrical, or in the case of a frame drum, round.



“Accessory” Percussion


Shakers:  a basket or hollowed container that has beads inside.










Gankogui:   African double bell (i.e. a bell that has two separate pitches), typically made of iron.

Cajón: a box drum that originated in Peru and Cuba. Guitar strings are strung on the inside of the box against the front playing surface. The back houses a resonating hole, similar to an acoustic guitar body, which helps amplify the sound.


Cymbals: consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloy (usually bronze) which are shaped and hammered to produce different sounds. They can be played singularly or in pairs.

See TorQ perform at the Playhouse
Because of the mixture and wide assortment of percussive instruments, the range of emotion and expression that TorQ offers will leave you wanting more from these four young, enthusiastic musicians. Don’t miss them performing live at the Playhouse on November 2 at 8pm.

For a sneak preview, go to

TorQ Percussion Workshop
On November 1 at 6:30pm, TorQ takes a hands-on approach to discuss musical concepts of ensemble listening, playing without a conductor, musical expression and phrasing, and improvisation.   Bring along your own instrument, or use one of TorQ’s.  Ages 12+.  Registration is required by calling the Playhouse box office at (506) 458-8344.

Reprinted, in part, from the TorQ Percussion Quartet Resource Guide.


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