Top 10 Unusual Percussion Instruments

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The largest group of instruments in an orchestra is called the percussion family. This family of instruments is comprised by instruments that will create a sound when it is scraped, hit, or shaken.

To be a percussionist, it takes a lot of practice because you have to know how to adjust the strength at which you are applying to the instrument to get the perfect sound.

Unusual Percussion Instrument

Let’s take a look at some of the unique percussion instruments from around the world!

1. Caxixi

The Caxixi is a percussion instrument from Africa, Brazil, and other locations throughout South America. The instrument is made from a closed basket that has a flat bottom.

The basket is filled with seeds and/or other small items. The rounded bottom of the instrument is traditionally cut from a dried gourd. To make music with this instrument, you will typically shake it and change the angle to get a different sound.

2. Cajón

The cajón is a popular Afro-Peruvian musical instrument that dates back as far as the late 18th century. The instrument is a box shaped instrument is made from a thin plywood material.

To make music from this instrument, the player will sit on top of the box and slap the sides with their hands or fingers, but they will also use brushes, mallets, or sticks.

3. Daf

The Daf looks like a tambourine and it originates from the Middle East, but it is played other places like India, Iran, Pakastan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. The frame of the Daf is made from a hardwood material that has many metal rings.

daf instrument

One side of the Daf is coated with a membrane – typically made from goatskin. To make music with this instrument, the player will strike it with their hand, but it can also be shaken.

4. Damaru

The Damaru is a small, two headed drum that is often used in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. These drums can be made out of a variety of materials, such as wood, metal, and even bone. The ends of the drum will have leather covering them. The resonator of the drum is made from brass.

When playing this instrument, you only need one hand to wave the drum with a twisting wrist motion where the strikers will strike the leather covered ends. The strikers on the drum are typically beads that have been fastened by leather at the center of the drum.

5. Mridangam

The Mridangam originated in India and it is used to keep the rhythmic in a Carnatic music ensemble. The double sided drum is usually made from jackfruit wood that is about an inch thick.

The two ends of the drum are covered with goatskin and are laced together with leather straps that goes around the circumference of the unit. To make music with this, you’ll strike either side of the drum, depending what kind of sound you want – bass or tremble.

6. Ashiko

The Ashiko is a drum that has a hardwood tapered cylinder with a goatskin hide on the wider end and the narrow end remains open. This drum is often played by striking it with your hands and it is tuned by using a series of ropes.


The origins of the drum traces to Yoruba culture found in present-day Nigeria and Benin, West Africa. Traditionally, these drums were carved from a single piece of wood and wasn’t a straight cone.

7. Dabakan

The Dabakan is a drum that originates from the Phillippinese and it was often used to support the kulintang ensemble. The drum often has an hourglass or a goblet shape. The shell of the drum is often made from wood – either of the coconut tree or the jackfruit tree.

The drumhead is from goatskin, or the skin from carabao, deer, snake or lizard skin. To play this drum, you first stand and then you will use two sticks that are either made from rattan or bamboo.

8. Djembe

The Djembe is rope tuned goblet drum that has some kind of skin covering it. These drums are often made from West Africa and the name of the drum (djembe) means “everyone gather together in peace” and it was primarily used for these types of gatherings.

The drum is carved from hardwood and the drumhead is made from rawhide that was untreated. To make music with these drums, you will use your hands and slap the drumhead to produce various beats and rhythms.

9. Tabla

The Tabla is a South Asian percussion instrument that is very similar to bongos. The tabla is an important part of Hindustani classical music since the 18th century, but it is still India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.


The instrument consists of two single headed drums that varied slightly in size and shape. Each are made from hollowed wood, clay, or brass and are covered with a goatskin head. To play these drums, is quite complex and involves extensive use of your fingers and palms.

10. Thon-Rammana

The Thon-Rammana originates from Thailand and it consists of two drums; one is a goblet drum that is made from a ceramic or wooden body. The Rammana is a small frame drum. The thon creates a low pitch whereas the rammana creates a high pitch. These two can be played together, but they can also be played separately.

Wrap Up

The percussion family is pretty interesting and there are many different instruments you could choose from. These are just a small fraction of all the unique percussion instruments from all around the world.

Leave us a comment below and tell us which of these instruments you’d like to try, but also if you are a percussion player, what is your favorite instrument to play? We’d love to hear from you!





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