How To

The Triangle Instrument: Make The Triangle Great Again!

Photograph of the blog post author, Hammad Rashid

Hammad Rashid

29.1.2021

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Do you know that percussion plays a very important role in music? It makes us move to the groove of the song. These are the sounds used in the rhythmic sections of a song. The triangle instrument is one of the percussion instruments. It was very popular in the pre-digital workstation era, especially in the 70s funk disco music. This is due to the pleasant high frequencies it produces.

triangle instrument

It has been part of Bossanova and other South American musical genres for much longer due to the sound of the triangle being an active part of the percussive rhythms. There is a general portrayal that it is an instrument to be laughed at, however, you might be surprised that being good at this instrument can actually make you a good hip hop and electronic music producer.

In this article, we will be bringing back the triangle and giving it the spotlight that it deserves! We’ll be going over how to play it, how to make your own, and super interesting facts that you may not have known. Let’s dive in!

What Is The Triangle Instrument?

triangle instrument

The triangle instrument as the name suggests looks like a triangle. It is made up of 3 bars of metal (steel). The bars get hit by a percussion stick to produce a ‘clangy’ sound. The frequencies produced by the instrument are in the high frequencies region and generally sound pleasant to a human ear. 

This instrument has been part of music for almost 300 years. It is fun, easy to play, and can be used in multiple genres of music. It can also help musicians learn interesting and unique rhythms!

Is The Triangle A Percussion Instrument?

percussion instruments

Yes! It is a percussion instrument used in the rhythm sections. It is prominent in Western classical and Bossanova music

In electronic genres, the triangle is used in hip hop and dance music. It produces similar pitch information as hitting an empty wine glass. The sound is used to create complexity in dance rhythms

Historically, triangle has been an orchestral instrument to create transitions in between sections. 

How Much Is A Triangle?

money

You can purchase a triangle instrument for less than £5 and can be made at home for even cheaper! Due to triangles not being in high demand these days, it is very easy to find a used one for next to nothing. 

This is partially due to music being made digitally and digital workstations have pre-loaded triangle samples ready to use for producers

Like we said above, you can make one at home for super cheap. Let’s find out how!

How To Make The Triangle Instrument

triangle instrument

The triangle instrument comes in a variety of sizes. The average triangle is around 7 inches on each side. However, there has been a triangle which measures up to 2 feet!

Here is a step by step guide of how to make one at home:

  1. Get 2 hollow metal bars 5-8 inches long and then grab another hollow metal bar slightly shorter than the other 2.
  2. With a soldering iron (be safe as they can get really hot) connect the metal bars in a triangle shape. The shorter bar should only connect from one side leaving the other side not connected.
  3. Get a thin stick, ideally another metal piece that can be used to hit the triangle. You can also get a long metal road and bend it into the shape of a triangle by hitting it with a metal hammer, but that process might be too noisy. Different lengths of metal bars will change the audio pitch.

That’s it, you got yourself a DIY triangle instrument!

What’s So Special About This Instrument?

triangle instrument

Let’s get into the fun stuff of why the triangle instrument matters!

First of all, it is quick to learn and requires little practice to be able to play along with any song. Jamming with live musicians or recorded music is a fun activity. Being able to play along a melodic instrument such as piano or guitar requires the rhythmic and melodic understanding of music. 

However, percussive instruments such as the triangle just need to be rhythmical. As humans, we are naturally rhythmical. Even the people who think they cannot dance can still internalise a simple 4/4 beat!

Jamming Along To Your Favourite Songs

Once you have a triangle instrument, you can play your favourite song in the background and start hitting the triangle along with it. 

Fairly quickly your instrument understanding will increase and you will find yourself adding interesting rhythmical ideas to these songs.

Just to clear one thing, the easiness of this instrument doesn’t make it any less of an instrument than the melodic instruments. 

There are amazing triangle players who can create very inspiring and groovy rhythms on a triangle. In Bossanova music, there are many songs that do not have a drummer yet you can dance to it due to the triangle players.

The Triangle In Trap Beats

Hip hop is one of the biggest genres of music. The drum sounds, specifically in the trap genre of hip hop, are heavily inspired by the retro sounds of 808. 

The signature 808 sounds are the rolling kick/bass sound alongside the hi-hats and the triangle. The sound is used to create risers and rolls to indicate the arrival or end of a section. 

In dance music, the triangle sound is added to create ‘jumpiness’ and ‘excitement’ which makes the listeners want to move/dance to the beat.

How Playing The Triangle Helps In Music Production

music production

The rise of laptop producers has been the dominant face of this musical era. Midi sequencing is an extremely common musical practice. Being able to hit the midi or keyboard keys in different rhythms can help your music to stand out due to the human performative element and errors. 

Learning triangles will give you control over your hand and finger movements. This control can be used when programming rhythms on a laptop or a midi controller/pad. As a music producer, the ability to play rhythms along your music can add another dynamic layer of interest for your listeners.  

How To Play

how to play the triangle

Hopefully by now you are convinced that triangles are great and we should be showing them the respect they deserve!

Let’s look at a few ways you can start making music using the triangle instrument.

4/4 Rhythm

Use any metronome program, they are digitally acquired for free. Set any tempo on the metronome (50-100 bpm). 

Hit the triangle on every 2nd and 4th click, assuming your metronome is set to 4/4. This constant rhythm will make you attentive to various available grooves via triangle hitting. 

Once you are comfortable with it, try playing on all 4 clicks. This is the famous 4 on the floor EDM groove. 

3/3 Rhythm

Set the metronome to a specific bpm. This time count 1, 2 and 3 on each click till you start to feel the clicks being a set of 3 clicks per bar. This rhythm is also known as the Waltz. 

Try playing the triangle on every 1 and 3 or 2 and 3, this will give you a complex understanding of how hitting triangle on different clicks can provide unique rhythms. 

Further Rhythms

You can count the clicks on metronome as you wish. For example you can count up to 7 per bar, this way your triangle rhythm will be more interesting and unique because you have changed how the song will feel to a listener. Suggested counts are 5, 7, 9 and 11 per bar.

Melodic Playing

Triangle is mainly a rhythmic instrument. However, any percussive rhythm is basically a melody being played extremely fast that our auditory system perceives as a percussion. 

Keeping that in mind, the triangle is producing some sort of pitch information. Different lengths of metal bars in a triangle sound different in pitch. By playing around on a triangle alongside recorded music can help you discover what part of metal sounds the best. 

Once you discover the musical side of this instrument, you can start writing new musical and rhythmic patterns.

Interesting Facts About The Triangle Instrument

the triangle solo foo fighters

The triangle percussion instrument is probably one of the least thought about instruments in terms of training involved and coolness levels. After all, who can’t play it?

What better way to end this article than go through some super interesting facts? Here’s some below!

  • In 2008 the Foo Fighters had their percussionist Drew Hester play triangle solos on their 2008 tour. 
  • Triangle percussion sound was synthesized in Roland Tr-808 which has since been part of modern Hip-Hop music.
  • Technically a triangle isn’t really a triangle. Mathematically speaking, a triangle requires 3 angles yet the 3rd bar isn’t connected so it should be an ‘almost triangle!’
  • Triangles are an easy instrument, so the pieces written for them are often very complex!

Our Final Thoughts

triangle

So there you go, that was our guide on the triangle instrument!

The article will allow you to explore the various aspects of using the triangle for your own musical journey. It is a simple instrument that produces a clear, piercing sound that can cut through the sound of an entire orchestra.

It is very easy to ignore this humble twisted rod of steel. But hopefully, we have inspired you to pay a little closer attention to a simple-sounding percussion instrument!

Do you play the triangle? Let us know in the comment section below! Most importantly though, don’t forget to share this article on your socials and tag us @musicgateway! We love interacting with you all!

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