Top 14 Awesome & Cheap PERCUSSION Instruments – Add Rhythm and Practice Your Beat!

Hey good people! My name is Alon, I am 26 and I play mainly the guitar, piano and harmonica. In the last few years, I was lucky enough to travel four different continents with my guitar while teaching music. The GuitarHippies mission: To get you to enjoy your musical journeys to the fullest. Cheers! Learn Harmonica With Me:


“Percussion is the most adaptable family of instruments. The biggest challenge though, is to project percussion in a lyrical way.”

Evelyn Glennie

Percussion instruments are so accessible! Let’s have a further look at this wonderful family.

They are:

  • Massively helping you improve your time-keeping skills for other instruments that you play.
  • Incredibly fun to play and always project bubbly vibes.
  • Add a lot to almost any song you will add them to.
  • Very cheap. (mostly)
  • They make a great second instrument to play.
  • A lot of them are lightweight and can be carried in addition to your guitar.
  • Very easy to figure out and produce a decent sound at the very least, even for non-musical people.
  • Everyone can play them. That means you can carry them in your guitar case and hand them to people around the jam.

*Originally posted in January ’16.

Let’s begin our look on the coolest percussion instruments out there.

I highly recommend having at least one big percussion instrument (like a djembe drum) to play around with and work on your rhythm and at least one or two that are highly portable and can be always carried in your case for any jam like an egg shaker or drum sticks. (Funny drum sticks video – click here if you like 70’s music)

Playing a percussion instrument even occasionally is sure to boost your time-keeping skills which will make your whole sound much better on whatever your main harmonic instrument is: guitar, ukulele, piano or whatever else.

percussion instruments of my own

Some of my own humble collection of percussion instruments. And a smiley.

 

Besides, they’re just loads of fun! So here are some of the best and most popular percussion options to choose from:

CLICK the pictures to have a look at great and affordable offers for the specific instruments. 

DjembeSample Video

The biggest instrument in the picture above is my djembe. It’s an African drum that has a great and full sound, very bassy, comes in a lot of different designs and a lot of the djembes around are actually handmade in Africa. Mine’s a 14″ djembe which is pretty big and heavy as you can see in the picture above.

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If you want something that is more suitable to take when you go out and about so get a 12″, a 10″ or even an 8″. Their sound will not be as full and loud, but they will still make for a great mini rhythm section.

I actually like the smaller ones because their sound is more balanced and less full of bass, and I plan on getting a 10″ djembe soon.

percussion instruments

Egg Shakersvideo

The eggs with the “rice” kind of material bouncing inside them that makes for a funky and lively sound. Almost no bossa nova, samba or any similar Latin tune sounds complete without the egg shakers. They are ultra cheap and I always carry one in my guitar case, people LOVE them because they are just fun. I recommend getting a couple of ’em because they tend to get lost.

Click here for a video of me jamming with 2 friends with a flute, harmonica, two guitars and an egg shaker.

percussion instruments egg

Drum Sticksvideo 

These are some of my favorites! So how do you use them? Good news:

You do NOT need a full drum set to use these guys, you can drum on trash cans, used food cans, table, chairs sofas, stones, whatever that’s within your reach and not gonna break. You can even put some different cans to simulate different sounds like a real drum set.

Watch the video above for a great example. There are a few different kinds of drum sticks, they’re ultra fun and simulate playing on a full drum set.

percussion instruments drum sticks

Cajonvideo

These became very popular lately, you sit on ’em and they offer great and rich high pitched sounds. They are big but they have a huge variety of sounds (especially those that have an inner snare) and I think they are amazing acoustic guitar companions. I had the pleasure of working and jammin’ with an excellent cajon player for one full summer and had a BLAST when he played along to my acoustic guitar.

Cajons are known to be perhaps THE best complementaries to acoustic guitars. Check out these videos to see for yourself: 1 23.

  • Note that cajons’ sound vary widely, (very bassy, very snarry, very deep, etc.) so do not order one online. Instead, go to stores and try at least a bunch of them before you decide which one to buy. Feel which one ignites your spark and seems to fit your kind of music.
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percussion instruments cajon

percussion instruments cajon

My gorgeous cajon along with my acoustic guitars. One of the best combinations in acoustic music! See video links above for examples.

Check out my cajon in action: (it comes in on 0:55)

O.C.M.W – Wagon Wheel: HARMONICA, Guitars & Piano cover

Bongosvideo

An African drum. Bongos are pretty portable, they come in a pair and one of them is bigger than the other which makes for an interesting variation of sounds. They are best placed on a dedicated stand.

percussion instruments bongos

Tambourinevideo

One of the most popular percussion instruments to see on stages. They are A bit tricky to master so you gotta know what you’re doing or otherwise they sound like quite a mess.

Tambourines can produce a variety of sounds based on the angles in which you hold them, and usually you’ll hear them come in on the song choruses or C parts, because they let the song pick up a lot of energy.

percussion instruments tambourine

Foot Tambourine video

From vast experience – these babies will make your time keeping skills wayyy better because they will incorporate your feet into the beat, and any strays out of the beat would sound very harsh and sluggish which will force you to get better quickly with your beat!

percussion instruments foot tambourine

Wood Blocksvideo

Usually played with a stick. Thin sounding but can be fun at times, and they also usually come in at the chorus in a ton of songs, open your ears and you’ll notice them.

percussion instruments wood block

Even a simple egg shaker can add so much! Percussion is a powerful thing.

Even a simple egg shaker can add so much! Percussion is a powerful thing.

Guirosvideo

Cha cha cha rhythms! Played with a stick either by tapping or by sliding. Famous South American sounds that can be very fun especially if you play jazz or if you’re looking to add some Latin vibrations to the music.

latin percussion instruments guiro

Congasvideo

These are big bastards and cannot be hauled around easily, but if you place them in your music room they are sure to give you some cool Cuban rhythms whenever someone steps behind them. Like the bongos, they come in a pair where one is bigger than the other.

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Personally, I think their sound isn’t rich enough to justify their size and price so I would say get them only if you are looking very specifically for their sound because that’s what your music demands.

percussion instruments congas

Darbuka / Doumbek / Goblet Drumvideo

The famous Arab sounds. They’re not too big compared to their African cousins – the djembes. The sound is very trebly, which makes for a stellar and fresh companion for jumpy and fast paced songs.

percussion instruments doumbek darbuka

Trianglevideo

Yep, we all know the triangle from kindergarten. It’s a pretty funny instrument that you can add on the side.

percussion instruments triangle

Castanetsvideo

Another Latin percussion instrument that can add some nice decorations for a song’s funkier parts.

percussion instruments castanets

Maracasvideo

And yet another Latin instrument with a lot of carnival energies in it, I personally prefer the egg shakers since they tend to sound similar but more open, and they are cheaper and smaller.

You can always improvise! This potato grinder my friend Luisa is holding was a great percussion instrument for this song we played.

You can always improvise! This little potato grinder my friend Luisa is holding was a great percussion accompany for the Manu Chao song we played.

percussion instruments maracas

Cowbell Percussion Instruments – video

Played with a stick, similar to the wood blocks but produce a metallic and richer sound.

percussion instruments cowbell

That’s it, that covers a good portion of the popular percussion instruments you can put your hands on.

Now go online and grab the one or two percussion instruments that you like the most. Start having more fun, spice up every jam sesh, and improve your rhythmical skills on the guitar or any other instruments that you play.

What’s YOUR favorite percussion instrument to jam with? Please share with us in the comments!

Peace and keep havin’ fun!

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4 comments for “Top 14 Awesome & Cheap PERCUSSION Instruments – Add Rhythm and Practice Your Beat!

  1. Kari
    February 9, 2017 at 11:44 PM

    Hi Alon, well done information! I played 50 years guitar, then I bought a tambourine and a pair of maracas to do
    something different with other players. Now after 1,5 years I have 5 pairs of maracas, three pairs of bongos,
    one mini conga, two bigger tambourines, one mini tambourine (it’s great with acoustic playing), a foot tambourine
    (Instead of foot I keep it in my left hand when playing bongos or mini conga) and ‘a motion shaker’ for right hand
    (with bongo playing of straight rhythms). Now my guitars can have some holiday. I can recommend this kind of
    new things to all old players, who need something refreshing!
    P.S. Bongos are from Cuba, not Africa.

    • Alon
      February 12, 2017 at 10:26 AM

      Kari this is great to hear. Indeed the whole point is to freshen up your musical life while also taking your rhythm skills up a notch which I am sure these percussion instruments helped you with. Best

  2. Sherv
    December 18, 2016 at 4:28 PM

    Many thanks for the guide just a comment here on Doumbek (or Tonbak). This is an authentic Persian instrument and being used all around the region including Arabic, African and other countries.

    • Alon
      December 21, 2016 at 7:28 PM

      Hey Sherv, thanks for the comment, the Doumbek / Tarbuka is actually in the list – have a look around the middle. It’s one of my favorites.
      All the best.

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