Musical instruments which are struck, rubbed, scraped or shook are called percussion instruments. Percussion instruments have an ancient legacy, developing soon after singing. If you count hand claps and foot stomping, percussion is certainly as old as singing. Percussion is also the largest and most diversified category of instruments, with hundreds of different instruments in regular use.
Ethnomusicologists classify percussion instruments in two categories according to how sound is produced: membranophone and idiophone.
Taiko Drum | Honolulu, Hawaii
Musical instruments known as membranophones produce sound when their membrane or skin is struck with a stick, hand or foot. The membrane vibrates and subsequently resonates within a chamber. Membranes are typically made of animal skin or plastic stretched tightly across a frame or resonating chamber. Common membranophones include drums such as taiko, snare, conga and bongos.
Drums come in all sizes | Small taiko drums produce sounds in the upper register while larger drums produce deep bass.
Musical instruments known as idiophones produce sound via vibration of the entire body of the instrument. Common Idiophones include claves, rattles, cymbals and the marimba. Here's an example of the claves, a common implement of Latin percussion:
Definite and Indefinite Pitch Percussion
While the classifications of membranophone and idiophone are useful for Ethnomusicologists and anthropologists cataloging musical artifacts, most performing musicians think of percussion instruments in terms of the type of sound produced, i.e., definite pitch percussion and indefinite pitch percussion.
Definite pitch percussion instruments produce musical tones with an identifiable pitch and, thus, are able to play melodies, and some, harmony. Examples of definite pitch percussion include the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, timpani, chimes, celesta and glockenspiel. Here's the sound of a definite pitch percussion instrument, the Spacedrum (handpan):
Spacedrum (3:03) | Yuki Koshimoto | The Spacedrum (handpan) is a definite pitch idiophone.
Here's the sound of a common definite pitch percussion instrument, the marimba: