With a name that means, “the hitting of one body against another,” instruments in the percussion family are played by being struck, shaken, or scraped. In the orchestra, the percussion section provides a variety of rhythms, textures and tone colors. Percussion instruments are classified as tuned or untuned. Tuned instruments play specific pitches or notes, just like the woodwind, brass and string instruments. Untuned instruments produce a sound with an indefinite pitch, like the sound of a hand knocking on a door. The percussion instruments are an international family, with ancestors from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe representing musical styles from many different cultures.

Gongs (also known as Tam-tams) are large disc-shaped pieces of brass that are hit with a large soft mallet. In China, gongs were used to make announcements and send signals. In the orchestra, the gong’s untuned sound can be a loud crash or a low rumble. Their size can range from just a few inches to huge ones that are larger than a person. The gong always adds drama whenever it is played.