Also:       Triangel      triangolo      

Title: demo: triangle; David Miller, percussion. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The triangle is a metal idiophone of Europe. It has been present in Europe since Medieval times, and was introduced to the Western opera orchestra in the early 18th century and into the symphony orchestra by the mid 18th century. Today it is found distributed throughout the world wherever Western cosmopolitanism has taken root. The triangle is a standard instrument today in the battery of western percussion instruments and is called for in many orchestral and concert band works from the 19th century to the present and also in many percussion ensemble works. It is one of several instruments on which band and orchestral percussionists, be they are professionals or amateurs, are expected to be proficient.


The triangle is a hardened steel rod bent at a 60-degree angle in two places to form an unclosed equilateral, or isosceles, triangle. As can be seen in the gallery photo, triangles are made in a variety of sizes; the larger the size does not always mean that its relative pitch will the lower than that of a smaller instrument. Metal rods are typically used as beaters; occasionally a wood beater is employed.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A loop of nylon line located at one of the instrument’s bends is used to suspend the triangle, the loop being either held directly by the performer or attached with a clip to a stand. The triangle is struck with a metal rod (sometimes two), which comes in varying gauges. For single strokes, one of the outside edges is struck with the appropriate force to produce the desired dynamic level. Tremolos are produced on the inside edges of any of the corners. The use of a hard metal beater against a sonorous metal rod produces a high, penetrating, but indefinite-pitched sound that scientific analysis has revealed to contain as many as thirteen prominent tones. It is used both to add brilliance to fortissimo passages and to provide a delicate rhythm in soft passages. The decay of a strong stoke is relatively long and at times the player needs to dampen it before it dies out naturally. It is often left to the percussionist’s discretion which combination of triangle size and beater gauge is appropriate for a particular passage. For a video illustrating the player-instrument interface for this instrument, view the Philharmonia Orchestra website chapter on percussion [skip to 13:13 in the video for the segment pertaining specifically to the triangle].


Surviving iconographic sources from Medieval Europe show the triangle, often with small loose rings around one of its sides, being performed in a variety of musical settings. At the time of its adoption into opera and symphony orchestras in the 19th century, the sound-modifying rings may still have been present, but by the middle of the 19th century they were no longer in use.

Bibliographic Citations

Blades, James. 1970. Percussion Instruments and their History. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.

________. 1984. “Triangle.” NGDMI v.3: 623-625.

Brindle, Reginald Smith. 1991. Contemporary Percussion. London: Oxford University Press.

Campbell, Murray, Clive Greated, and Arnold Meyers. 2004. Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holland, James. 1978. Percussion. New York: Schirmer Books.

“Instruments.”  Philharmonia Orchestra website, accessed September 14, 2015:

Montagu, Jeremy. 2002. Timpani and Percussion. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Europe

Formation: European

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.211 idiophone--individual percussion stick struck with a non-sonorous object (hand, stick, striker)

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering and shaking

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: rod

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: no resonator

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - metal rod

Energy input motion by performer: hammering and shaking

Pitch of sound produced: relative pitch

Sound modification: none


9.4 in., 6.3 in., 5.5 in., 3.9 in. lengths

Primary Materials





Alan Abel

Entry Author

Roger Vetter