Is a Guitar a Percussion Instrument?

The guitar is not a percussion instrument but a stringed instrument because it has strings that are plucked or strummed to produce musical notes. However, the guitar can also be used as a percussion instrument; you can produce a sound by tapping the body with your palms or fingers.

Guitars are versatile, and in this article, we will discuss the qualities of percussion and stringed instruments and how the guitar can be considered in both categories.

Qualities of a Percussion Instrument

A percussion instrument is any musical instrument that produces sound through percussion – the act of striking something to make a sound. This can include instruments such as drums, cymbals, xylophones, and more.

Most percussion instruments make a sound when struck with a drumstick or mallet but it isn’t the only way to produce sound from percussion instruments. For example, some percussion instruments create sound using vibration, such as shaking or rubbing. 

The xylophone and the glockenspiel are percussion instruments that use bars to produce sound similarly – by hitting them with drumsticks or mallets. Percussion instruments are made out of various materials, for example, xylophones consist of steel bars, whereas drums are made by stretching a membrane over a hollow wooden shell.

Some percussion instruments can also be stringed, but not all stringed instruments are percussion instruments. The guitar can be used as a percussion instrument by tapping different parts of its body to create sounds. Quite a few solo guitarists have used this method for performances usually with a looper to create a beat.

Qualities of Stringed Instruments

Instruments such as guitars, violins, harps, and cellos are stringed instruments – they have strings stretched along a neck or frame that produce sound when plucked or strummed.

Stringed instruments vary in their construction and the materials used to make them just like percussion instruments so that is the similarity there. The guitar, for instance, is made mainly of wood.

How To Use Guitar as A Percussion Instrument

There are several ways to use the guitar as a percussion instrument. This can be as easy as using its wooden body as a drum, hitting it with your hands, or slapping the strings hard. Below are some ways to use the guitar as a percussion instrument.

Change your guitar’s tuning

You may play the guitar as a string and percussion instrument by changing its tuning to achieve your desired technique. This also depends on the desired type of music; you can tune the guitar for percussion playing by loosening and tightening the strings for certain notes.

Tuning your guitar to more dark and deep-sounding tunings will allow for more deep sounds that are more suitable for percussion use.

Beating the body of the guitar

An acoustic guitar is excellent for creating percussive sounds due to its shape and also because the player has a free hand to tap the guitar’s body. Tapping the body of the guitar gives a drum-like effect, and there are different techniques to achieve this. You can hit its body with the fingers, palm, or edge of your knuckles. The closer you are to the soundhole, the deeper the sound. 

Slap the strings of your guitar

Slapping the strings of your guitar with your hand not only produces melodic sounds, but also percussion sounds. If you hit all the strings hard enough against the fretboard, the percussive intensity increases. Many artists use this method as you’ve probably seen by now, most notably Ed Sheeran uses this method.

Mute the strings

Due to the positioning of your hands, while playing the guitar, the body of the hands is free for other functions. You can use this to mute the guitar’s strings and create a percussion sound. Mute the strings by placing the fingers of your fret hand over them.

Additionally, using your other hand to strum through chords or pick individual notes while the strings are muted will produce a percussion tone. Just make sure that you have correctly tuned your guitar, and its strings are well stretched.

Conclusion

While the guitar is not typically thought of as a percussion instrument, it can be used in several ways to create percussion sounds that are useful for percussion music. By changing the tuning of your guitar, you can use it as a percussion instrument and make beats as a drum would.

You can also tap the guitar’s body to produce percussion sounds or strum through chords quickly and energetically to create clapping or drum-like sounds. Finally, you can hit the strings of your guitar with percussion mallets to create sounds similar to xylophones and drums.