I'm trying to figure out whether it's appropriate to use "percussion" or "percussions" in the following sentences:

  • A break can be any musical segment (typically four measures or less), even if it doesn't contain percussions/percussion.
  • Drum breaks, breaks, or breakbeats are percussions-only/percussion-only passages typically found in funk, soul, and jazz recordings.

I'm leaning towards the plural because:

I want to label certain objects as being either "percussion(s)-only" or "not only percussion(s)", and would therefore appreciate answers which adhere to this usage, rather than suggesting a more verbose alternative.

2 Answers 2


Employ the singular. Percussion designating a category of musical instruments is employed only as a collective, usually in the singular: an individual instrument is never called a percussion, and a collection of instruments is never called percussions. Percussion is the label for the section, score, or performers, and the word is often employed as an attributive noun in larger utterances.

This monograph cites known orchestral repertoire in which Turkish percussion, or stylistic features defining so-called “Turkish Music,” is a distinct compositional element. “Turkish Music” will, for the purposes of this study, be defined by the use of Turkish percussion in military bands which led to the original inclusion of percussion instruments(excluding kettledrums) in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century orchestra. —source

The count noun (a percussion or percussions) may be used for one or more single strokes, or the result, particularly a sound or a reflexive jerk; but I've never encountered this in a musical context.

(I may say that I have relevant experience in this matter: I was a percussionist forty years ago, and my son is a professional percussionist.)


I'm trying to explain why, but I am definitely 100% sure that you would always use 'percussion' in the singular for this usage.

You have a percussion section in an orchestra, and a strings section (but brass not brasses) and woodwind section but not woodwinds section. I can't really decide what the rule is.

  • It's string section, not strings section. Nov 15, 2023 at 14:29

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