Alan Abel (musician)

Alan Abel (December 6, 1928 – April 25, 2020) was an American percussionist, music educator, and inventor of musical instruments. He was the associate principal percussionist of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1959 until his retirement in 1997. He is widely regarded as one of the most important percussion educators of the second half of the twentieth century, having taught at Temple University beginning in 1972.[1] Abel’s inventions include several unique and ubiquitous triangles and a bass drum stand that allowed the instrument to be suspended with the use of rubber bands.

Alan Abel
Alan Abel performing in 2015
Alan Abel performing in 2015
Background information
BornDecember 6, 1928
Hobart, Indiana, U.S.
DiedApril 25, 2020(2020-04-25) (aged 91)
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genresclassical music
Instrumentstriangle, snare drum, bass drum
Years active1951–2020
Associated acts

Early life and educationEdit

Abel was born in Hobart, Indiana, in 1928.[2] At the age of seven, he started percussion lessons. He studied with Clarence Carlson at the Roy Knapp School and then with Haskell Harr and William Street at the Eastman School of Music from 1947 to 1951, where he earned a performance degree and played part-time with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.


After enlisting and playing in the United States Air Force Band from 1951 to 1953, he performed with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic from 1953 to 1959. In 1959 he became a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra and remained there until the end of his career in 1997. He was named Associate Principal Percussionist of the orchestra in 1972.[3]

In 1998 he was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.[3] In 2012, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music by the New England Conservatory of Music.[4]

Abel was also a teacher at Rutgers University, Rowan University, and Temple University.[5][6]

Musical instrumentsEdit

Abel's predecessor at the Philadelphia Orchestra, James Valerio, had a custom-made triangle which was coveted by his peers.[7] After lending it to Abel for the first two years, Abel devised a way to recreate the sound and created the "Alan Abel triangle", which uses a piece of chromed brass.[8] Used because of its overtone-rich sound,[9] the triangle has been manufactured since 1963.[6][10]

Abel also invented the "suspended" bass drum stand in the early 1960s, which he manufactured himself until 2013, when he handed manufacturing to Andrew Reamer, who had previously supplied the drums.[9] The stand allows the bass drum to be suspended on a ring that swivels.[7] The suspended bass drum stand is used by most American symphonic orchestras, and the concept has been copied and imitated by multiple drum hardware manufacturers worldwide.[7][10]


Abel died on April 25, 2020, of complications from COVID-19.[11][12][13]


  1. ^ "Alan Abel, Percussion". PCMS Concerts. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  2. ^ Huffman, Larry. "Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians List". The Stokowski Legacy. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Barnhart, Stephen L. (2000). Percussionists: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. p. 5. ISBN 9780313296277.
  4. ^ "Honorary Doctor of Music". New England Conservatory of Music.
  5. ^ Lewis, Susan (June 17, 2014). "A Master Percussionist Nurturing the Next Generation". WRTI. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Colaneri, Chris (2015). Modern Etudes and Studies for the Total Percussionist. Oxford University Press. p. 126. ISBN 9780199389148.
  7. ^ a b c O'Mahoney, Terry. "PAS Hall of Fame: Alan Abel". Percussive Arts Society. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  8. ^ Facchin, Guido (2000). Le percussioni (in Italian). EDT srl. p. 133. ISBN 9788870632514.
  9. ^ a b Kanny, Mark. "Percussion trifecta: PSO's Reamer plays, teaches, makes drums". Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Lewis, Susan (February 4, 2013). "Where Music Lives: At Percussionist Alan Abel's House". WRTI. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "April 25, 2020". CaringBridge. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  12. ^ Dobrin, Peter (April 27, 2020). "Philadelphia Orchestra's Alan Abel, 91, was 'one of the great orchestral percussionists'". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  13. ^ Lewis, Susan (April 27, 2020). "Alan Abel, Former Philadelphia Orchestra Percussionist and Renowned Teacher, Dies at 91". WRTI.

External linksEdit