Why are the percussion instruments at the back of the orchestra? Come and join us as we are going to check out the reasons why we usually see percussion instruments placed at the back of the orchestra, and here are some of them:
Percussion Instruments Are Loud
One of the first reasons why percussion instruments are placed at the back of the orchestra is because, by their nature, they can really produce a loud sound. As percussion instruments can really project most of their sound, they can also be a little bit overpowering for many audiences. This is one of the reasons why percussion instruments are placed at the back and not at the front of the orchestra.
Percussion instruments can usually cut through the sound of the orchestra, which is placing them at the front can be an acoustic problem for the orchestra. Putting the percussion instruments at the back of the orchestra gives it some space, which results in a more mellow sound than placing them in the front. It also puts a lot of soft sound absorbers in front of the percussion instruments, so the crowd won’t get tired of listening to the percussion’s powerful and loud sound.
Percussion Instruments Are Huge And Massive Physically
Another reason why percussion instruments are placed at the back of the orchestra is because of their size. Most of them tend to be very huge and take up a lot of space. Most of the percussion instruments are also made up of lots of components, so when playing them at the front of the orchestra can be very distracting to look at for the audiences when the musician is frequently jumping around to get the right instruments.
Because of their massive size, there are some percussion instruments that can also cover lots of other instruments in the orchestra, which is not a nice thing to look at. These musical instruments can also block the view of others, so it can be very difficult, especially if one cannot see the movements of the conductor. So, to avoid having this issue, percussion instruments are always placed at the back of the orchestra.
Percussion Instruments Are Rarely Used As Primary Instruments
The third primary reason why percussion instruments are placed at the back of the orchestra is that there are not lots of pieces of music composed that use percussion as its primary musical instrument. There are lots of compositions that use string instruments, woodwinds, or even brass; however, percussion instruments are rarely the primary instrument for this kind of setup. This is why there is not much reason to put the percussion instruments at the front of the orchestra when they are not the star of the show.
Other Reasons Why Are The Percussions At The Back Of The Orchestra
Another reason the percussion instruments are placed at the back is that they can be attractive to the eyes of a lot of audiences, especially since most of them are standing, which can give some wrong notions to the ones watching the performance. You do not want to give off the notion that percussionists are playing solo or the piece is percussion-based, especially since they are standing a lot, so to avoid this kind of mindset, it is better to put them at the back of the orchestra.
Many percussionists are also known to misbehave, and you do want to give that vibe off to the audience, as this can also be distracting to the conduct, so to avoid this issue, placing the percussion instruments at the back of the orchestra can be a very good decision instead of placing them at the front.
Examples Of Percussion Instruments
One of the loudest when it comes to percussion instruments you can see in orchestral performances, the cymbals are two huge metal discs that are usually made of spun bronze. These things are untuned and come in different sizes, from small to very large. Typically, the bigger cymbals produce a lower sound compared to smaller ones. The cymbals can be used to accent the rhythm or possibly deliver unique sound effects.
When playing the cymbals, you can either hit it with another cymbal or use sticks, brushes, or mallets for it to produce its unique sound.
Another percussion instrument that you usually see in orchestral performance and is also similar to the cymbals, the gong or also known by many as a tam-tam, is a massive metal plate that is hung and suspended from a metal pipe. It is also untuned, and for you to play it, you are going to need a soft mallet and hit its center. So, depending on how hard you hit it, it can produce a soft flicker sound or a deafening one.
The biggest of all percussion instruments, the bass drum also has the ability to produce the lowest sound of them all. Similarly built with the snare drum, but only bigger and with no snare, this percussion instrument is also untuned. You can play the musical instrument by hitting its drumhead using a stick with a large but soft head that is either covered with felt or sheepskin. The bass drum can also produce a wide range of sounds, depending on how hard you hit it.
The snare drum is a small drum that is made of wood or brass and comes with a drumhead either made of plastic or calfskin and is stretched over both ends of its hollow cylinder body. It also comes with a set of wire-wrapped strings that are stretched across its bottom head, giving the snare drum its famous rattling sound. It is played by hitting its batter head using either a stick, mallet, or brush.
A percussion instrument made in Mexico, the Maracas are rattles that are usually made from gourds and are filled with dried seeds, beads, or tiny ball bearings for them to rattle. There are also some maracas that are made of either plastic or wood, and their produced sound will depend on what it is made of. To play the maracas, you will have to hold them with your hands and shake them.
You may have already seen a triangle once in your lifetime, as it is a musical instrument made from a small metal bar that is bent to the shape of a triangle, which gives a ringing sound when you hit it. There are many options when it comes to sizes for a triangle, and they also produce different pitches, as the size and thickness of the beater that you are going to use in playing it will also be a huge factor in how it will sound.
Chimes are made of metal tubes with different lengths and are hung from a metal frame. To play the chimes, you will need to strike the tubes using a mallet, and you can expect a ringing sound from it similar to what you hear in churches.
So, why are the percussion instruments at the back of the orchestra? Percussion instruments can be very loud and can cut through the mix, which can cover the other instruments’ sound, which is why they are placed at the back. Many of the percussion instruments you see in orchestral performances also take up too much space and can even cover the audience’s view with other instruments on the stage, which is another reason why they are placed at the back of the orchestra.