The Sound of Metal: Timbral Characteristics of Crash Cymbals, Triangles, and Tambourines



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Analysis and description of the timbral characteristics of percussion instruments has been verbally transmitted from teacher to student for generations. Percussion educators use this vocabulary to indicate their desired sound, which determines the instrument selection of their students and peers in solo, chamber, and ensemble settings. Unfortunately, this vocabulary often fails to coherently translate to young percussion students as well as composers and educators with no prior percussion training. This dissertation will explore the timbral possibilities of three unpitched metallic instruments that frequently appear in the percussion repertoire: tambourines, triangles, and crash cymbals.The analysis synchronizes three forms of methodologies: spectrogram analysis, binary oppositions, and timbral semantics. The methodology is then applied to musical examples, which I term guided orchestration and open orchestration. Here, we will be able to select the instruments that are the most timbrally appropriate for each individual musical settings such as large ensemble, chamber, and solo works, thus forming timbral continuity in the formation of auditory streams in orchestral layers. We will then be able to conceptualize the terms utilized in the percussion community to describe the available sounds on these instruments.



Crash Cymbals, Metal, Percussion, Tambourines, Timbre, Triangles