The simplest form of percussion is banging two solid items together to create a beat, and that is the most likely origin of percussion instruments. In the world today, there are many different percussion instruments in most cultures. Some of them produce only one tone, but many cultures have developed instruments that create several tones. While many of these instruments are used solely to produce a steady beat for the more versatile instruments, there are those that produce their own variety of music.

There are many different forms of drums, and they are built in different ways to produce whatever sounds or beats the local culture requires. Many of the first drums were simply hollowed out pieces of wood, and one of the first improvements was stretching tanned animal hide over an opening to produce various sounds. When almost any drum with a skin is beaten, the area in the middle will produce a slightly different sound than that of the edges. Striking in different areas as a pattern is one of the most popular ways to create different musical tones with a single instrument.

Drums are not the only percussion instrument used, and various bells have become a part of many pieces of cultural music. In many cultures around the world, they are often made with metals and struck with a stick to produce the desired tone. They are an instrument that provides a unique sound to accentuate the beat, or they can be used to add interest during times when other instruments are at rest.

Stringed instruments are generally not considered true percussive instruments because they can be played with a bow, but they can also be plucked with a pick or the fingers to create a percussive beat or sound. Xylophones and guitars are just two of the instruments that fit within this category, and they have become an integral part of many musical traditions.