The tam-tam is a huge, round dish of metal – a kind of gong. Tam-tams come from the Far East and Central Asia.
Some 20th-century composers have experimented by getting the percussionist to do unusual things with a tam-tam. The American composer John Cage had it lowered into water: that makes quite an eerie sound!
To play it
You strike it with a beater that has a large, padded head.
You can even scrape it with a bouncy ball to make it sound like a dinosaur!
The tam-tam makes a loud, fantastically rich, exotic, colourful, echoing sound.
In Indonesia there are orchestras called ‘gamelan’ orchestras. Gongs feature a lot here. All the instruments are very rich and echoey.
Do You Know?
See if you can answer the questions below!
● A tam-tam is a kind of…
● Which of these composers used a tam-tam?
● What is a tam-tam made of?
● How is it normally played?
● What shape is a tam-tam?
Play More Music!
Here is more music to listen to. Click the + to see tracks and information about each work!
Selected Tam-Tam Extracts
Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
Symphony No. 2, ‘Resurrection’: V. Im tempo des scherzo (‘In the tempo of a scherzo’) (extract)
The tam-tam is quickly followed by a cymbal clash for real drama.
Performers: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Antoni Wit
Taken from Naxos 8.550523–24