Tuned percussion, or pitched percussion, is a percussion instrument that produces notes when it is struck. As well as tuned percussion you have keyboard percussion instruments that are tuned to follow the arrangement of chromatic. Here is a list of the top tuned percussion instruments:



yamaha glockThe glockenspiel is arranged the same as a piano. It has metal keys/plates which fall into the category of the metallophone. It is a higher pitched instrument and is usually played two octaves above the written music. They are used is various musical categories, most commonly orchestral percussion and marching percussion. They are also used in a lot of modern music such as Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. They vary in size with a range from one to three octaves depending on whether they are used for children or large performances.


yamaha xylophoneThe xylophone is similar to the glockenspiel except it has wooden keys. It is tuned to a specific musical scale such as pentatonic, diatonic and chromatic etc. It is designed so that the upper register can cut through sections in the orchestra. It is played by either using 4 or 2 mallets in each hand. They are used a lot in classroom exercises to help children understand musical terms.


Tubular Bells

tubular bells



The tubular bells are another piano based percussion instrument and often played over two octaves. They are struck by using softer ended mallets and the sustain is often controlled by a pedal to stop the unwanted overtones. As they are a large instrument, chimes are usually used to mimic them in studio situations. They are used in quite a lot of popular music as well as being the main instrument for the Futurama theme tune!





vibraphoneThe vibraphone is very similar to both the xylophone and glockenspiel except it is driven by a motor to generate the sound. The motor adds the tremolo or vibrato effect when playing. The vibraphone also has a sustain pedal that controls the dampness of the notes being struck, similar to the piano. They range between three and four octaves. They are very popular in Jazz music due to its melodic tone.



timpaniThe timpani is also known as the kettle drum and they are made out of copper with a skin stretched over the top. They are tuned to an equal pitch which is the common tuning within the drums in the percussion family. They have a low sustain and uses a pedal to change the pitch of the drum. They vary in size from 20″ to 32″ in size however the most common set is 29″, 26″ and 23″. They are used widely in orchestras and even popular music but originated from military drums.



marimbaThe marimba is another keyboard percussion instrument that is made up from wooden keys and resonators to amplify the sound when being struck by mallets. The resonators are tubes that hang below each bar. Usually made from aluminum, they create the rich tone that the marimba is known for. It has a lower range than the xylophone and they are pitched between 4 and 5 octaves. They are another popular percussion instrument in jazz and orchestral music.


If you need any more information on tuned percussion then please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to help and answer any queries you have. You can get to me on 01283 535 333 option 1, or email to

About the author

Lizzie joined Normans after graduating from university in Popular Music with Music Technology. She has been playing the drums for most of her life and gained a great insight into both the technical and live aspects of them. As well as the drums, Lizzie loves to play guitar and will have a go at any instrument she can get her hands on!




  • Roseanna 21/09/2016 at 10:29 pm

    This is really good for students