Chinese Percussion Music

Grade Levels: 5 - 10

Teach students about Chinese percussion instruments and ensemble performances. This lesson was contributed by Han Kuo-Huang.


  • Students will play in a Chinese percussion ensemble.
  • Students will perform several compositions with percussion instruments.


  • “Lion Dance Number 1,” “Lion Dance Number 2,” and “Dragon Dance” (found in Chinese Percussion Ensembles).
  • Cymbals
  • Small gongs played with a thin wooden mallet
  • Large gongs played with a padded mallet
  • Large drums played with two thick sticks


  1. Give the students the following background information: The Chinese call their percussion ensemble luogu, which means “gongs and drums.” The ensemble may range in size from two to a small group of players. Percussion ensembles are used in a variety of settings: theaters, parades, and folk music groups. The four major instruments used in Chinese percussion music are the bo cymbals, the xiaoluo (small gong), the daluo (large gong), and the dagu (large skin-headed drum). If Chinese instruments are not available, use Western substitutes, such as drums, tam-tam, and small cymbals.

  2. Perform the “Lion Dance Number 1” and “Lion Dance Number 2” (Found in Chinese Percussion Ensembles) and then perform the “Dragon Dance” (Found in Chinese Percussion Ensembles). Read the following performance instructions before proceeding:

    1. The drummer is the leader of the ensemble and sets the tempo (each quarter note equals approximately 100-112) by striking the drum twice on the rim before each selection (indicated in the score by the x-shaped note heads). Each composition repeats in ostinato fashion. To end the performance, the drummer should play the ending signal, which is a drumroll followed by two eighth notes, shown just below the appropriate measure of the score. This signal leads the group to the conclusion.

    2. Perform each composition alone. When the students have mastered the performances, play all the compositions together as a suite, repeating the individual segments as many times as you wish. When played as a suite, only the introductory signal for the first piece is used; the ending measures of the first and second pieces are omitted. The “ending signals” in the first and second pieces become “changing signals” for the next section.

Standards Correlations

  • Standard 2

    : Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
  • Standard 5

    : Reading and notating music

Excerpted from Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education.

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Provided in partnership with NAfME

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