Percussion instruments are simply those that are struck, scraped or beaten, which includes both pitched and non-pitched instruments. The main purposes of percussion is to emphasize the beat and to add color to a musical passage. Writing effective percussion parts can immensely enhance a piece. Simultaneously, composers have often misunderstood how to write for percussion instruments.

Outside of the human voice, percussion includes the oldest musical instruments of human culture. Probably the oldest percussion instruments dating from prehistoric times and still in use today are drums. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, extensive use of percussion instruments were widely employed in secular music. Their use is well-known because of the primary source illustrations showing both pitched instruments, such as fiddles and shawms, and non-pitched instruments percussion instruments such as drums and tambourines.

However, even with the rise of music notation for secular music in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, percussion parts were mostly improvised. Sometime during the beginning of the Baroque Period in the late 17th century, separate parts for percussion, most often timpani, began appearing in scores. Before circa 1750, timpani often simply played the tonic and dominant pitches usually in outdoor fanfare situations, such as in the Music for the Royal Fireworks by George F. Handel, premiered in 1749. By the Classical and Early Romantic Periods, composers began writing more intricate and precise percussion parts. Today, composers are expected to understand percussion notation.

The program will cover the most frequently used percussion instruments such as drums, timpani, tam tam, and triangle.