Percussion mallet

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Mallet bag showing variety of mallets Mallet bag.JPG
Mallet bag showing variety of mallets

A percussion mallet or beater is an object used to strike or beat a percussion instrument in order to produce its sound.


The term beater is slightly more general. A mallet is normally held in the hand while a beater may be foot or mechanically operated, for example in a bass drum pedal. The term drum stick is less general still, but still applied to a wide range of beaters. Some mallets, such as a triangle beater, are normally used only with a specific instrument, while others are used on many different instruments. Often, mallets of differing material and hardness are used to create different timbres on the same types of instrument (e.g. using either wooden or yarn mallets on a xylophone).

Some mallets, such as vibraphone mallets, are normally just called mallets, others have more specialized names including:


Drum sticks

Drum sticks are beaters normally used in pairs, with each held in one hand, and are similar to or derived from the snare drum sticks that were subsequently adopted for kit drumming.

They are the most general-purpose beaters, and the term covers a wide variety of beaters, but they are mainly used for untuned percussion.

Synthetic yarn mallets held in Stevens Grip Mallet grip.jpg
Synthetic yarn mallets held in Stevens Grip


Cartwheel mallets with wooden shafts and heads of felt held between steel washers Cartwheel mallets.JPG
Cartwheel mallets with wooden shafts and heads of felt held between steel washers

As well as being a general term for a hand-held beater, mallet is also used specifically to refer to a hand-held beater comprising a head connected to a thin shaft, and used in pairs. There is a wide selection of mallets to choose from to create a desired sound, articulation, character, and dynamic for the pieces being played. [1] Professional percussionists typically have a good selection of mallets on hand in order to be prepared for each piece. There are three main types:

Mallet shafts are commonly made of rattan, birch, or synthetic materials such as fibreglass. Birch is stiff and typically longer in length, while rattan is a more flexible shaft and gives a more open sound. Fiberglass is ideal for playing lightly on an instrument because it is easy to control.

Different mallets are used primarily to alter the timbre of the mallet instrument being played. Generally, mallets composed of softer materials will stick to the instrument for longer as they bounce off of it, which gives a deeper sound made up of lower frequencies. Harder materials tend to bounce off quicker, and as they stick to the instrument for a shorter amount of time, they tend to be able to excite more of the higher frequencies, giving the sound a higher pitch with more overtones. Mallet choice is typically left up to the performer, though some compositions specify if a certain sound is desired by the composer.

Players frequently employ two mallets in a matched grip or four mallets in a four-mallet grip; however, use of up to six mallets is not uncommon. More than two mallets may be used even when no chords are called for by the composer so that the performer has a wider range of timbres from which to select or to facilitate performance of music that moves rapidly between high and low, and if hit properly can switch between the two pitches.

If the mallet is too hard, the instrument may be damaged. For example, on rosewood marimbas, certain mallets may be too hard, increasing the risk of a cracked bar.


Brushes are a set of bristles connected to a handle so that the bristles make a rounded fan shape. They are often used in jazz or blues music, but also in other genres such as rock, country and pop. The bristles can be made of metal or plastic; the handles are commonly made of wood or aluminum, and are often coated with rubber. Some brushes are telescoping so that the bristles can be pulled inside a hollow handle and the fan made by the bristles can be of variable length, width and density. Retracting the bristles also protects the brush when it is not being used. The non-bristled end of the brush may end in a loop or a ball.


A rute or multi-rod consists of several thin sticks that are bound together to form one stick. Its sound is midway between a stick and a brush.

Long used in orchestral music, in the mid 20th century rutes also became popular for many other purposes including kit drumming and bodhrán.

By dissipating much of the energy of the stroke within the stick, a rute allows a drummer to achieve both a tone and a playing action that would normally be associated with quite loud playing, but at a moderate or even low volume. The tone produced by many can be adjusted by adjusting the position of one of the bands holding the bundle together.

Major percussion mallet companies

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drum</span> Type of musical instrument of the percussion family

The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, it is a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a percussion mallet, to produce sound. There is usually a resonant head on the underside of the drum. Other techniques have been used to cause drums to make sound, such as the thumb roll. Drums are the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drum kit</span> Musical instrument

A drum kit is a collection of drums, cymbals, and other auxiliary percussion instruments set up to be played by one person. The player (drummer) typically holds a pair of matching drumsticks, one in each hand, and uses their feet to operate a foot-controlled hi-hat and bass drum pedal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Percussion instrument</span> Type of musical instrument that produces a sound by being hit

A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater including attached or enclosed beaters or rattles struck, scraped or rubbed by hand or struck against another similar instrument. Excluding zoomusicological instruments and the human voice, the percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments. In spite of being a very common term to designate instruments, and to relate them to their players, the percussionists, percussion is not a systematic classificatory category of instruments, as described by the scientific field of organology. It is shown below that percussion instruments may belong to the organological classes of ideophone, membranophone, aerophone and cordophone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snare drum</span> Type of percussion instrument

The snare is a percussion instrument that produces a sharp staccato sound when the head is struck with a drum stick, due to the use of a series of stiff wires held under tension against the lower skin. Snare drums are often used in orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, parades, drumlines, drum corps, and more. It is one of the central pieces in a drum set, a collection of percussion instruments designed to be played by a seated drummer and used in many genres of music.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bass drum</span> Drum, produces a note of low definite or indefinite pitch

The bass drum is a large drum that produces a note of low definite or indefinite pitch. The instrument is typically cylindrical, with the drum's diameter much greater than the drum's depth, with a struck head at both ends of the cylinder. The heads may be made of calfskin or plastic and there is normally a means of adjusting the tension either by threaded taps or by strings. Bass drums are built in a variety of sizes, but size does not dictate the volume produced by the drum. The pitch and the sound can vary much with different sizes, but the size is also chosen based on convenience and aesthetics. Bass drums are percussion instruments and vary in size and are used in several musical genres. Three major types of bass drums can be distinguished.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vibraphone</span> Mallet percussion instrument

The vibraphone is a percussion instrument in the metallophone family. It consists of tuned metal bars and is typically played by using mallets to strike the bars. A person who plays the vibraphone is called a vibraphonist,vibraharpist, or vibist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timpani</span> Pitched percussion instrument

Timpani or kettledrums are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum categorised as a hemispherical drum, they consist of a membrane called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. Thus timpani are an example of kettle drums, also known as vessel drums and semispherical drums, whose body is similar to a section of a sphere whose cut conforms the head. Most modern timpani are pedal timpani and can be tuned quickly and accurately to specific pitches by skilled players through the use of a movable foot-pedal. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet. Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra by the last third of the 18th century. Today, they are used in many types of ensembles, including concert bands, marching bands, orchestras, and even in some rock bands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snare drum technique</span> Percussive instrument technique

Snare technique is the technique used to play a snare drum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cajón</span> Box-shaped percussion instrument

A cajón is a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front or rear faces with the hands, fingers, or sometimes implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks. Cajones are primarily played in Afro-Peruvian music, but has made its way into flamenco as well. The term cajón is also applied to other box drums used in Latin American music, such as the Cuban cajón de rumba and the Mexican cajón de tapeo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marching percussion</span> Percussion instruments in a drumline

Marching percussion instruments are instruments specially designed to be played while moving. This is achieved by attaching the drum(s) to a special harness worn by the drummer, although not all marching bands use such harnesses and instead use traditional baldrics to sling their drums.

A tenor drum is a membranophone without a snare. There are several types of tenor drums.

Batucada is a substyle of samba and refers to a percussive style, usually performed by an ensemble, known as a bateria. Batucada is characterized by its repetitive style and fast pace. As is Samba, the Batucada is a Brazilian musical expression with African roots.

The rute, also known as a multi-rod, is a beater for drums. Commercially made rutes are usually made of a bundle of thin birch dowels or thin canes attached to a drum stick handle. These often have a movable band to adjust how tightly the dowels are bound toward the tip. A rute may also be made of a bundle of twigs attached to a drum stick handle. These types of rutes are used for a variety of effects with various musical ensembles. A rute may also be a cylindrical bunch of pieces of cane or twigs, bound at one end, like a small besom without a handle. The rute is used to play on the head of the bass drum. Rute are also constructed from a solid rod thinly split partway down.

Orchestral percussion refers to the various percussion instruments used in an orchestral setting. It may also refer to the act of playing such instruments in an orchestral style. Many music schools and conservatories offer training for musicians interested in developing their skills as an orchestral percussionist. Typically, an orchestral percussionist does not specialize in one particular instrument. Although there is no exhaustive list of all instruments that an orchestral percussionist must be able to play, there are particular instruments that are frequently used in orchestral repertoire. This includes timpani, snare drum, bass drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, triangle, and tambourine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rónán Ó Snodaigh</span>

Rónán Ó Snodaigh is a songwriter, composer, musician, poet and founding member and lead vocalist in the musical group Kíla. He has revolutionised the playing of the bodhrán and written many songs in Irish and English. He has written and released seven solo albums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drum stick</span> Type of percussion mallet

A drum stick is a type of percussion mallet used particularly for playing snare drum, drum kit, and some other percussion instruments, and particularly for playing unpitched percussion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bodhrán</span> Celtic frame drum

The bodhrán is a frame drum used in Irish music ranging from 25 to 65 cm (10–26 in) in diameter, with most drums measuring 35–45 cm (14–18 in). The sides of the drum are 9–20 cm deep. A goatskin head is tacked to one side. The other side is open-ended for one hand to be placed against the inside of the drum head to control the pitch and timbre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grip (percussion)</span>

In percussion, grip refers to the manner in which the player holds the percussion mallet or mallets, whether drum sticks or other mallets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Unpitched percussion instrument</span> Percussion instrument played to produce sounds of indeterminate pitch

An unpitched percussion instrument is a percussion instrument played in such a way as to produce sounds of indeterminate pitch, or an instrument normally played in this fashion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Classification of percussion instruments</span>

There are several overlapping schemes for the classification of percussion instruments.


  1. Peters, Kyle (7 May 2019). "How to Choose the Right Mallet". Yamaha Educator Suite. Retrieved 23 March 2021.