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Percussion instruments: Idiophones
Agung a Tamlang
Handpan/Hang Drum
Wood block
Percussion instruments: Membranophones
Bass drum
Bongo drums
Chenda (Chande)
Conga (Tumbadura)
Daf (Dap, Def)
Dhimay (Dhimaya)
Dholak (Dholaki)
Dunun (Dundun)
Drum kit
see also:
Bass drum
Tom-tom drum
Goblet drum
Lambeg drum
Taiko (O-daiko)
Talking drum
Tom-tom drum
Musical instruments - Library

Musical instruments - History
The First Instrument

Ensembles and Orchestras
The symphony orchestra

Musical instrument classification


Musical instruments
Wind Instruments-pipes
Wind Instruments-brass
Stringed instruments-bowed
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Stringed Instruments-plucked and struck

Musical instruments - Library
Percussion instruments: Idiophones
Percussion instruments: Membranophones  (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5)
Wind instruments (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10)
Stringed instruments
Electronic instruments

Percussion instruments

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Instrument Origin Relation
Bass drum
Bongo drums
Chenda (Chande)
Conga (Tumbadura)

bass drum
frame drum

friction drum
Daf (Dap, Def)
Dhimay (Dhimaya)
Dholak (Dholaki)
Dunun (Dundun)
West Africa
West Africa
goblet drum
frame drum
bass drum
bass drum
barrel drum
frame drum
goblet drum
frame drum
Drum kit
see also:
Bass drum
Tom-tom drum
United States of America drum
Goblet drum
Lambeg drum
Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines
Middle East
frame drum
bass drum
Taiko (O-daiko)
Talking drum
Tom-tom drum

West Africa, India

bass drum
Drum kit

see also:
Bass drum
Tom-tom drum

A drum kit (primarily American), drum set (primarily British/Australian), trap set, or just drums is a collection of drums and other percussion instruments, typically cymbals, which are set up on stands to be played by a single player with drumsticks held in both hands and the feet operating pedals that control the hi-hat cymbal and the beater for the bass drum. A drum kit consists of a mix of drums (categorized classically as membranophones, Hornbostel-Sachs high-level classification 2) and idiophones most significantly cymbals but also including the woodblock and cowbell (classified as Hornbostel-Sachs high-level classification 1). In the 2000s, some kits also include electronic instruments (Hornbostel-Sachs classification 53) and both hybrid and entirely electronic kits are used.

1 Bass drum | 2 Floor tom | 3 Snare drum
4 Hanging toms | 5 Hi-hat | 6 Crash cymbal
7 Ride cymbal | 8 Splash cymbal | 9 China cymbal

A standard modern kit (for a right-handed player), as used in popular music and taught in music schools, contains:

-A snare drum, mounted on a stand, placed between the player's knees and played with drum sticks (which may include rutes or brushes)
-A bass drum, played by a pedal operated by the right foot
-Two or more toms, played with sticks or brushes
-A hi-hat, played with the sticks, opened and closed with left foot pedal
-One or more cymbals, played with the sticks

South-African jazz drummer Louis Moholo playing a four-piece kit

All of these are classed as non-pitched percussion, allowing for the music to be scored using percussion notation, for which a loose semi-standardized form exists for the drum kit. If some or all of them are replaced by electronic drums, the scoring and most often positioning remains the same, allowing a standard teaching approach. The drum kit is usually played while seated on a drum stool or throne. The drum kit differs from instruments that can be used to produce pitched melodies or chords, even though drums are often placed musically alongside others that do, such as the piano or guitar. The drum kit is part of the standard rhythm section used in many types of popular and traditional music styles ranging from rock and pop to blues and jazz. Other standard instruments used in the rhythm section include the electric bass, electric guitar and keyboards.

Many drummers extend their kits from this basic pattern, adding more drums, more cymbals, and many other instruments including pitched percussion. In some styles of music particular extensions are normal, for example double bass drums in heavy metal music and the enlarged kits used by some progressive rock drummers, which may include unusual instruments such as gongs. Some performers use small kits that omit elements from the basic setup, such as some rockabilly drummers. Some drum kit players may have other roles in the band, such as providing backup vocals, or less commonly, lead vocals.

Dance band drummer Stan Farmer in 1935 at Mark Foy's
Empress Ballroom in Sydney, New South Wales, using a kit
with bass drum pedal and a "low sock".


Early development

Prior to the development of the drum set, the standard way that drums and cymbals were used in military and orchestral music settings was to have the different drums and cymbals played separately by different percussionists. Thus, in an early 1800s orchestra piece, if the score called for bass drum, triangle and cymbals, three percussionists would be hired to play these three instruments. In the 1840s, percussionists began to experiment with foot pedals as a way to enable them to play more than one instrument. In the 1860s, percussionists began to experiment with combining multiple drums into a set. The bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, and other percussion instruments were all played using hand-held drum sticks. Drummers in musical theater shows and stage shows, where the budget for pit orchestras were often limited, contributed to the creation of the drum set because they tried to develop ways so that one drummer could do the job of multiple percussionists.

Double-drumming was developed to enable one person to play the bass and snare with sticks, while the cymbals could be played by tapping the foot on a "low-boy". With this approach, the bass drum was usually played on beats one and three (in 4/4 time). While the music was first designed to accompany marching soldiers, this simple and straightforward drumming approach eventually led to the birth of ragtime music when the simplistic marching beats became more syncopated. This resulted in a greater 'swing' and dance feel. The drum set was initially referred to as a "trap set," and from the late 1800s to the 1930s, drummers were referred to as "trap drummers." By the 1870s, drummers were using an "overhang pedal." Most drummers in the 1870s preferred to do double drumming without any pedal to play multiple drums, rather than use an overhang pedal. Companies patented their pedal systems such as Dee Dee Chandler of New Orleans 1904–05. Liberating the hands for the first time, this evolution saw the bass drum played with the foot of a standing percussionist (thus the term "kick drum"). The bass drum became the central piece around which every other percussion instrument would later revolve.

Ludwig-Musser, William F. Ludwig, Sr., and his brother, Theobald Ludwig, founded the Ludwig & Ludwig Co. in 1909 and patented the first workable bass drum pedal system, paving the way for the modern drum kit. It was the golden age of drum building for many famous drum companies, with Ludwig introducing... "The ornately engraved Black Beauty Brass Snare drum; Slingerland premiered its Radio King solid-maple shell; Leedy invented the floating drum head & self-aligning lug;& Gretsch originated the three-way tension system of the Gladstone snare drum". Wire brushes for use with drums and cymbals were introduced in 1912. The need for brushes arose due to the problem of the drum sound overshadowing the other instruments on stage. Drummers began using metal fly swatters to reduce the volume on stage next to the other acoustic instruments. Drummers could still play the rudimentary snare figures and grooves with brushes they would normally play with drumsticks. As brushes gained popularity, the drum companies started manufacturing brushes.

Drummer in a Memphis "juke joint" orchestra playing a kit with four non-tunable toms.
Marion Post Wolcott, October 1939


20th century
By World War I, drum kits were often marching band-style military bass drums with many percussion items suspended on and around them. Drum kits became a central part of jazz music, specifically (but not limited to) Dixieland. The modern drum kit was developed in the Vaudeville era during the 1920s in New Orleans. In 1917, a New Orleans band called "The Original Dixieland Jazz Band " recorded jazz tunes that became hits all over the country. These were the first official jazz recordings. Drummers such as Baby Dodds, "Zutty" Singleton and Ray Baduc had taken the idea of marching rhythms, combining the bass drum and snare drum and "traps", a term used to refer to the percussion instruments associated with immigrant groups, which included miniature cymbals, tom toms, cowbells and woodblocks. They started incorporating these elements with ragtime, which had been popular for a couple of decades, creating an approach which evolved into a jazz drumming style.

Budget constraints and space considerations in musical theatre pit orchestras led bandleaders to pressure fewer percussionists to cover more percussion parts. Metal consoles were developed to hold Chinese tom-toms, with swing-out stands for snare drums and cymbals. On top of the console was a "contraption" tray (shortened to "trap"), used to hold items like whistles, klaxons, and cowbells, so these drums/kits were dubbed "trap kits". Hi-hat stands became available around 1926.

In 1918 Baby Dodds ( Warren "Baby" Dodds, circa 1898–1959), playing on riverboats with Louis Armstrong on the Mississippi, was modifying the military marching set-up and experimenting with playing the drum rims instead of woodblocks, hitting cymbals with sticks (1919), which was not yet common, and adding a side cymbal above the bass drum, what became known as the ride cymbal. Drum maker William Ludwig developed the "sock" or early low-mounted high-hat after observing Dodd's drumming. Ludwig noticed that Dodd tapped his left foot all the time. Dodds had Ludwig raise the newly produced low hats 9 inches higher to make it easier to play, thus creating the modern hi-hat cymbal. Dodds was one of the first drummers to also play the broken-triplet beat that became the standard pulse and roll of modern ride cymbal playing. Dodds also popularized the use of Chinese cymbals.

Louis Bellson with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Palomar Supper Club.
Vancouver, B.C., 19 April 1952


The 1920s are known as the jazz age or the "Roaring 20's". In 1919, US Congress passed a prohibition law outlawing the manufacturing and transporting of drinking alcohol. When drinking became illegal, it became popular in underground nightclubs. The type of music that was played at these underground establishments that were selling alcohol was jazz. It was not seen as upstanding to listen to or perform jazz music, because it was an African American style and at that time the United States was segregated and racism was a prevalent issue. Because jazz music was seen as great dance music, big band jazz became popular in nightclubs. In the 1920s, freelance drummers emerged. They were hired to play shows, concerts, theaters, clubs and back dancers and artists of various genres. Just as modern drummers have many different roles, so did the drummers of the 1920s. One important role for drummers in the 1920s is what is referred to in modern times as a foley artist. A foley artist is a sound effects person. During silent films, an orchestra was hired to accompany the silent film and the drummer was responsible for providing all the sound effects. Drummers played instruments to imitate gun shots, planes flying overhead, a train coming into a train station, and galloping horses etc.

Sheet music from the 1920s provides evidence that the drummer's sets were starting to evolve in size and sound to support the various acts mentioned above. However, the first "talkies" or films with audio, were released circa 1927 and by 1930 most films were released with a soundtrack and the silent film era was over. The downside of the technological breakthrough was that thousands of drummers who served as sound effect specialists were put out of work overnight. A similar panic was felt by drummers in the 1980s, when electronic drum machines were first released.

Gene Krupa, 400 Restaurant, New York City.
William P. Gottlieb, June 1946


Big Band drumming
In 1929, when the stock market crash resulted in a global depression, one of the things that helped people cope with the trying years was swing jazz music. By the early to mid 1930's, big band swing was being embraced throughout the US it became the country's most popular form of music. The other contributing factor to the big band's success during the 1930s was the popularity of radio. The drum kit played a key role in the big band swing sound. Throughout the 1930s Chick Webb and Gene Krupa at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, increased the visual and musical driving force of the drummer and their equipment by simply being so popular and in demand- and they ensured that their drum kits became not only functionally developed but dazzling and well designed. Jazz drummers were influential in developing the concept of the modern drum kit and extending playing techniques. Gene Krupa was the first drummer to head his own orchestra and thrust the drums into the spotlight with his drum solos. Others would soon follow his lead.

As the music of the world was evolving, so was the drum set. Tom-tom drums, small crash cymbals, Chinese cymbals and hi-hat cymbals were added to the drum set. The hi-hats were the primary way for the drummers of the big band era to keep time. Before 1930, while playing the New Orleans jaz and Chicago styles, drummers would choke the cymbals on the "ands" of eighth note figures as an alternative to playing a buzz roll, the rim of the drums, or on the woodblocks to keep time. This muting method of keeping time by choking the crash and china cymbals proved to be awkward, so the drummers of that time came up with the idea of having a foot-operated cymbal. This resulted in the creation of the snowshoe cymbal, a foot-operated cymbal. It enabled drummers to play the eighth note figures ("Boom, Chick, Boom, Chick, Boom, Chick") between the right and left foot, improving the ergonomics and facility of drumset playing and helping drummers to keep a more steady rhythm.

Toward the end of the 1920s, variations of the hi-hats were introduced. One of the most popular hand held hi-hat cymbal variations used was called the "hand sock cymbals". The reason for the name "hi-hat" was because earlier versions of the hi-hat were referred to as a "low boy." The evolution that became the "hi-hats" allowed drummers to play the two cymbals with drum sticks while simultaneously controlling how open or closed the two cymbals were with their foot. The pedal could also be used to play the cymbals with the foot alone, while the right hand played other drums. By the 1930s, Ben Duncan and others popularized streamlined trap kits leading to a basic four piece drum set standard: bass, snare, tom-tom, and a larger floor tom. In time, legs were fitted to larger floor toms, and "consolettes" were devised to hold smaller tom-toms (ride toms) on the bass drum.

Bebop drumming
In the early 1940s, many jazz musicians, especially African American jazz musicians, started to stray from the popular big band dance music of the 1930s. Their experimentation and quest for deeper expression and freedom on the instrument led to the birth of a new style of music based from Harlem called bebop music. Whereas swing was a popular music designed for dancing, bebop was a "musician's music" designed for listening. During the bebop era, given that bands no longer had to accompany dancers, bandleaders could speed up the tempo. Bebop was also much more based on improvisation, in comparison to the heavily arranged big band scores. Bebop musicians would take an old standard and re-write the melody, add more complex chord changes, resulting in a new composition.

Swing drummers such as Max Roach and Kenny Clarke had already deviated from the large marching band-style bass drums, finding that they were too loud and boomy. Bebop drummers continued this trend, and they started trying out smaller bass drum sizes in the drum set. Bebop drummers' experimentations with new drum sizes and new sounds led to the innovative concept of applying the busy "four on the floor" bass drum rhythms to a new larger cymbal called the ride cymbal. By focusing on keeping time on the new ride cymbal instead of the bass drum, the "feel" went from bass drum and hi-hat heavy, to a lighter melodic feel that has been explained as "floating on top of the time." This allowed drummers to express themselves in a more melodic fashion by playing the rhythms used by the guitar, piano and sax players using the new smaller, more focused bass drums and snare. Louie Bellson also assisted in the innovative sizes and sounds of the 1940s drum set by pioneering the use of two bass drums, or the double bass drum kit.

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, New York City, 1975

With rock and roll coming into place, a watershed moment occurred between 1962 and 1964 when the Surfaris released "Wipe Out", as well as when Ringo Starr of The Beatles played his Ludwig kit on American television. As rock moved from the nightclubs and bars and into stadiums in the 1960s, there was a trend towards bigger drum kits. The trend towards larger drum kits took momentum in the 1970s with the emergence of progressive rock. By the 1980s, widely popular drummers like Billy Cobham, Carl Palmer, Nicko McBrain, Phil Collins, Stewart Copeland, Simon Phillips and Neil Peart were using large numbers of drums and cymbals. In the 1980s, some drummers began to use electronic drums.

In the 2010s, some drummers use a variety of auxiliary percussion instruments, found objects, and electronics as part of their "drum" kits. Popular electronics include: electronic sound modules; laptop computers used to activate loops, sequences and samples; metronomes and tempo meters; recording devices; and personal sound reinforcement equipment (e.g., a small PA system to amplify electronic drums and provide a monitor).

On early recording media (until 1925) such as wax cylinders and discs carved with an engraving needle, sound balancing meant that musicians had to be literally moved in the room. Drums were often put far from the horn (part of the mechanical transducer) to reduce sound distortion. Since this affected the rendition of cymbals at playback, sound engineers of the time remedied the situation by asking drummers to play the content of the cymbals onto woodblocks, temple blocks, and cowbells for their loudness and short decay.

Foreground: Snare drums. Midground: Hi-hat cymbals.
Background: Ride/Crash cymbals



Breakables, shells, extensions, hardware

The drum kit may be loosely divided into four parts:

Breakables: Sticks, various cymbals, snare drum, throne (stool) and sometimes the bass drum pedal.
Shells: Bass drum and toms
Extensions: Cowbell, tambourine, chimes, any other instrument not part of the standard kit
Hardware: Cymbal stands, drum stands, pedals

There are several reasons for this division. When more than one band plays in a single performance, the drum kit is often considered part of the backline (the key rhythm section equipment that stays on stage all night, which often also includes a bass amp and a stage piano), and which is shared between/among the drummers. Often the main "drawcard" act will provide the drums, as they are being paid more, possibly have the better gear, and in any case have the prerogative of using their own. However sticks, snare drum and cymbals are commonly swapped, each drummer bringing their own, and sometimes other components. The term breakables in this context refers to whatever basic components the "guest" drummer is expected to bring. Similar considerations apply if using a "house kit" (a drum kit owned by the venue, which is rare), even if there is only one band at the performance.

The snare drum and cymbals are the core of the breakables, as they are particularly critical and individual components of the standard kit, in several related ways.

-Their tone varies a great deal from drummer to drummer, reflecting their individual styles and the styles of music they play.
-The snare drum often does not match the kit, for example being a metal or plain wood shell in a kit where the other drums are in a matching finish.
-Drummers tend to spend more time playing the snare and cymbals than the other drums.
-Thin and/or bell-metal cymbals are easily broken by poor technique.
-Many drummers use thinner heads on their snare than the other drums.
-Often, a drummer will retain their snare drum and cymbals when upgrading the rest of the kit, or upgrade cymbals or snare while keeping the other drums.

Much the same considerations apply to bass drum pedals and the stool, but these are not always considered breakables, particularly if changeover time between bands is very limited. Swapping the snare drum in a standard kit can be done very quickly. Replacing cymbals on stands takes longer, particularly if there are many of them, and cymbals are easily damaged by incorrect mounting, so many drummers prefer to bring their own cymbal stands.

Drum sizes
Traditionally, in America and the United Kingdom, drum sizes were expressed as depth x diameter, both in inches, but in The United Kingdom it was stated the other way around. More recently, many drum kit manufacturers have begun to express their sizes in terms of diameter x depth; still in the measure of inches.

Manufacturers still using the American traditional format in their catalogues include these:

Drum Workshop
Gretsch Drums
Slingerland Drum Company
Tama Drums
Drum Shop USA

Those using the European measures of diameter x depth include these:

Brady Drum Company
Mapex Drums
Meinl Percussion
Pearl Drums
Premier Percussion
Rogers Drums
Yamaha Drums

For example, a hanging tom 12" in diameter and 8" deep would be described by Tama as 8" x 12", but by Pearl as 12" x 8", and a standard diameter Ludwig snare drum 5" deep is a 5" x 14", while the U.K.'s Premier Manufacturer offers the same dimensions as: a 14" x 5" snare.

Snare drum on a modern light-duty snare drum stand


Snare drum

The snare drum is essential as it is the musical center of the kit. It provides the strongest regular accents, played by the left hand (if right handed), and the backbone for many fills. It produces its distinctive sound, due to the bed of snare wires fitted to the underside of the drum which, when engaged, vibrate with the bottom (snare-side) drum skin (head), creating a snappy, buzzing sound.

Keith Moon of The Who with a mixture of concert toms and conventional toms, 1975

Tom-tom drums, or toms for short, are drums without snares and played with sticks (or whatever tools the music style requires), and are the most numerous drums in most kits. They provide the bulk of most drum fills and solos.

They include:

-Traditional double-headed rack toms, of varying depths

-Floor toms

-Single-headed concert toms


Floor toms

6x16 floor tom with traditional mounting

A floor tom is a double-headed tom-tom drum which usually stands on the floor on three legs. However, they can also be attached to a cymbal stand with a drum clamp, or supported by a rim mount.

The floor toms are the lowest tuned drums played with sticks in the regular 5 piece drum set. Common sizes are

-16x16, that is, 16 inches (41 cm) in both depth and diameter. This was the original size and is still most common.
-14 inches (36 cm)x14 for jazz and fusion kits, and very occasionally with a 16x16 as well.
-18x16; that is, 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter and 16 in depth, the most common size for a second floor tom, used with a 16x16.
-16x18, a rarer size sometimes used for a second floor tom, also with a 16x16.

Floor toms can be mounted:

-In the traditional manner, with three adjustable legs.
-On three legs but connected to them by means of a rim mount on the lower rim, the original floor tom rim mounting.
-Attached to a drum rack or a (very heavy duty) cymbal stand by means of a rim mount on the top or bottom rim.
-Attached to a drum rack or a cymbal stand by means of a standard hanging tom mount on the drum shell. This method is generally restricted to the smaller, 14x14 floor toms.

The smallest and largest drums without snares, such as octobans and gong drums, are sometimes considered toms.

The naming of common configurations is largely a reflection of the number of toms, as only the drums are conventionally counted, and these configurations all contain one snare and one or more bass drums, (though not regularly any standardized use of 2 bass/kick drums) the balance usually being in toms.

A drum kit bass drum

Bass drum
The bass drum (also known as the "kick drum") provides a regular but often-varied foundation to the rhythm. The bass drum is the lowest pitched drum and usually provides the basic beat or timing element with basic pulse patterns. Some drummers may use two or more bass drums or use a double bass drum pedal with a single bass drum. Double bass drumming is an important technique in some heavy metal genres. Using a double bass drum pedal enables a drummer to play a double bass drum style with only one bass drum, saving space in recording/performance areas and reducing time and effort during set-up, tear-down and transportation.

Anders Johansson with an array of Octobans

Other drums
Octobans/Rocket toms (Pearl)/Deccabons were designed for use within a drum kit, extending the tom range upwards in pitch, primarily by their depth; as well as diameter (typically 6").

Timbales are tuned much higher than a tom of the same diameter, and normally played with very light, thin, non-tapered sticks. They have relatively thin heads and a very different tone than a tom, but are used by some drummers/percussionists to extend the tom range upwards. Alternatively, they can be fitted with tom heads and tuned as shallow concert toms. Attack Timbales and mini timbales are reduced-diameter timbales designed specifically for drum kit usage, the smaller diameter allowing for thicker heads for the same pitch and head tension and are clearly recognizable in modern genres and in more traditional forms of Latin, Reggae & numerous world music styles too .

Similarly, most hand drum percussion cannot be played easily or suitably with drum sticks without risking damage to the head and to the bearing edge, which is not protected by a drum rim. For use in a drum kit, they may be fitted with a suitable drum head and played with care, or require playing by hand.

Cymbal innovator Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater with many cymbals. Rio de Janeiro, 7 March 2008

In most drum kits and drum/percussion kits cymbals are as important as the drums themselves. The oldest idiophones in music are cymbals, and were used throughout the ancient Near East, very early in the Bronze Age period. Cymbals are most associated with Turkey and Turkish craftsmanship, where Zildjian (the name means cymbal smith) has predominantly made them since 1623.

Beginners cymbal packs normally contain four cymbals: one ride, one crash, and a pair of hi-hats. A few contain only three cymbals, using a crash/ride instead of the separate ride and crash. The sizes closely follow those given in Common configurations below.

Most drummers soon extend this by adding another crash, a splash, a china/effects cymbal; or even all of those last mentioned.

Ride cymbal
The ride cymbal is most often used for keeping a constant-rhythm pattern, every beat or more often, as the music requires. Development of this ride technique is generally credited to Baby Dodds.

Most drummers have a single main ride, located near their right hand,(& within easy playing reach, as it is used very regularly) most often a 20" sizing but, 16"-24" diameters are not uncommon. It is most often a heavy, or medium-weighted cymbal that cuts through other instrumental sounds, but some drummers use a swish cymbal, sizzle cymbal or other exotic or lighter metal ride, as the main or only ride in their kit, particularly for jazz, gospel or ballad/folk sounds. In the 1960s Ringo Starr used a sizzle cymbal as a second ride particularly for use during guitar solos.

A Zildjian 19" Armand Ride Cymbal


The hi-hat cymbals consist of two cymbals mounted facing each other on a metal pole, with a foot pedal that can be depressed to move the cymbals together. The hi-hats can be sounded by striking the cymbals with one or two sticks or just by opening and closing the cymbals with the footpedal, without striking the cymbals. Different sounds can be created by striking "open hi-hats" (without the pedal depressed) or "closed hi-hats" (with the pedal pressed down). A unique effect can be created by striking an open hi-hat and then closing the cymbals with the footpedal. The hi-hat has a similar function to the ride cymbal; The two are rarely played consistently for long periods at the same time, but one or the other, usually is employed to keep the finer rhythm much of the time within a piece of music. It is played by the right stick of a right-handed drummer. Changing between ride and hi-hat, or between either and a leaner sound with neither, is often used to mark a change from one passage to another, for example; to distinguish verse and chorus.

Modern hi-hat stand


The crash cymbals are usually the strongest accent markers within the kit, marking crescendos and climaxes, vocal entries, and major changes of mood/swells and effects. A crash cymbal is often accompanied by a strong kick on the bass drum pedal, both for musical effect and to support the stroke. It provides a fuller sound and is a commonly taught technique.

In the very smallest kits, in jazz, and at very high volumes, ride cymbals may be played in with the technique and sound of a crash cymbal. Some hi-hats will also give a useful crash, particularly thinner hats or those with an unusually severe taper. At low volumes, producing a good crash from a cymbal not particularly suited to it is a highly skilled art. Alternatively, specialised crash/ride and ride/crash cymbals are specifically designed to combine both functions.

A crash cymbal is a type of cymbal that produces a loud, sharp "crash" and is used mainly for occasional accents, as opposed to in ostinato. They can be mounted on a stand and played with a drum stick, or by hand in pairs. One or two crash cymbals are a standard part of a drum kit. Suspended crash cymbals are also used in bands and orchestras, either played with a drumstick or rolled with a pair of mallets to produce a slower, swelling crash. Sometimes a drummer may hit two different crash cymbals in a kit at the same time to produce a very loud accent, usually in rock music.

A 16" Zildjian A Custom Projection Crash.

Although crash cymbals range in thickness from paper-thin to very heavy, all crash cymbals have a fairly thin edge. They are typically 14 to 18 inches (36 to 46 cm) in diameter, but sizes down to 8 inches (20 cm) and up to 24 inches (61 cm) are manufactured. Custom crash cymbals up to 28 inches (71 cm) in diameter have been used by big bands. Different thicknesses are used for different kinds of music, and the alloy for each manufacturer's models varies. A thick cymbal is likely to be used by a metal or rock band, while thinner cymbals are generally used in lighter rock. Darker crashes are best used for jazz.

The sound of a crash is changed by its luster. A cleaner cymbal creates a crisper sound, whereas a cymbal showing signs of oxidation (called a 'raw' cymbal) creates a duller sound.

Normally, two crashes are best for a drum set; a 16" and a larger one.


Other cymbals
Effects cymbals

All cymbals other than rides, hi-hats and crashes/splashes are usually called effects cymbals when used in a drum kit, though this is a non-classical or colloquial designation that has become a standardized label.

Most extended kits include one or more splash cymbals and at least one china cymbal. Major cymbal makers produce cymbal extension packs consisting of one splash and one china, or more rarely a second crash, a splash and a china, to match some of their starter packs of ride, crash and hi-hats. However any combination of options can be found in the marketplace.

Some cymbals may be considered effects in some kits but "basic in another set of components . A swish cymbal may, for example serve, as the main ride in some styles of music, but in a larger kit, which includes a conventional ride cymbal as well, it may well be considered an effects cymbal per se.


Splash cymbals

Saluda Voodoo 12" china and 10" china splash, against a Paiste 20" china

In a drum kit, splash cymbals are the smallest accent cymbals. Splash cymbals and china cymbals are the main types of effects cymbals.

The most common sized splash has a diameter of 10", followed by 8". Most splash cymbals are in the size range of 6" to 13", but some splash cymbals are as small as 4".

Some makers have produced cymbals described as splash up to 22", but a splash of 14" or more is more often described as a crash cymbal.

Splash cymbals include:

Traditional splash cymbals, medium in weight with little or no taper.
Rock splash cymbals, heavy but often with a slight taper.
China splash cymbals.
Salsa splash cymbals.
Thin splash cymbals.
Bell cymbals.
Specialised stack cymbals.

Accent cymbals

Cymbals of any type used to provide an accent rather than a regular pattern or groove are known as accent cymbals. While any cymbal can be used to provide an accent, the term is applied more correctly to cymbals for which the main purpose is to provide an accent. Accent cymbals include chime cymbals, small-bell domed cymbals or those with a clear sonorous/oriental chime to them like specialized crash and splash cymbals and many china types too, particularly the smaller and/or thinner ones.

China-type cymbals

China type cymbals from three continents

In western music, China-type cymbals are cymbals manufactured to produce a dark, crisp, trashy, and explosive tone. It is for this reason that they have been nicknamed "trash cymbals". The name "China cymbal" is derived from its similarity in sound and shape to Chinese gongs. They are most frequently mounted upside down on cymbal stands, allowing for them to be more easily struck and for a better sound.

Günter Sommer with bodhrán and bongo drums in his kit

Other acoustic instruments

Other instruments that have regularly been incorporated into drum kits include:

-Wood block and cowbell. These are traditional in classical or culturally rich forms of music
-Tambourine, particularly mounted on the hi-hat stand above the cymbals; an ordinary tambourine can be used, or a tambourine produced specially for drum kit use
-Timbales can be used to extend the range of tom-toms, particularly when the drummer owns them for other musical settings; a traditional timbale is tuned far higher than a tom of the same diameter, so the result is not always the most ideal (see also Timbales#Non-traditional use)
-Xylophone or glockenspiel
-Tubular bells
-Bar chimes/orchestral chimes
-Found objects, including spanners, brake drums, buckets, cardboard boxes, and jam and kerosene tins (anything ordinary that can be percussively struck to produce sounds, patterns and grooves for their setting)

Triggers sensors in use, here they are red and mounted on the rims of the snare drum, bass drum and hanging toms. The larger box in the same colour red is the "brain" to which they are connected.

Electronic drums
Electronic drums are used for many purposes. Some drummers use electronic drums for playing in small venues where a very low volume for the band is desired. Since electronic drums do not create any acoustic sound, with all of the drum sounds coming from a keyboard amplifier or PA system, the volume of electronic drums can be much lower than an acoustic kit. Some drummers use electronic drums as practice instruments, because they can be listened to with headphones, enabling a drummer to practice in an apartment or in the middle of the night without disturbing others. Some drummers use electronic drums to take advantage of the huge range of sounds that modern drum modules can produce, which range from sampled sounds of real drums, cymbals and percussion instruments, to synthesized sounds. Drummers' usage of electronic drum equipment can range from adding a single electronic pad to an acoustic kit (e.g., to have access to an instrument that might otherwise be impractical, such as a gong), to using a mix of acoustic drums/cymbals and electronic pads, to using an acoustic kit in which the drums and cymbals have triggers, which can be used to sound electronic drums and other sounds, to having an exclusively electronic kit, which is often set up with the rubber or mesh drum pads and rubber "cymbals" in the usual drumkit locations. A fully electronic kit weighs much less and takes up less space to transport than an acoustic kit.

Pat Mastelotto playing a kit with both acoustic and electronic drums, 2005

Electronic drum pads are the second most widely used type of MIDI performance controllers, after music keyboards. Drum controllers may be built into drum machines, they may be standalone control surfaces (e.g., rubber drum pads) , or they may emulate the look and feel of acoustic percussion instruments. The pads built into drum machines are typically too small and fragile to be played with sticks, and they are played with fingers. Dedicated drum pads such as the Roland Octapad or the DrumKAT are playable with the hands or with sticks, and are often built in the form of a drum kit. There are also percussion controllers such as the vibraphone-style MalletKAT, and Don Buchla's Marimba Lumina.

As well as providing an alternative to a conventional acoustic drum kit, electronic drums can be incorporated into an acoustic drum kit to supplement it. MIDI triggers can also be installed into acoustic drum and percussion instruments. Pads that can trigger a MIDI device can be homemade from a piezoelectric sensor and a practice pad or other piece of foam rubber.

A Korg trigger pad

This is possible in two ways:

Triggers are sensors that can be attached to drum kit components. In this way, an electronic drum sound will be produced when the instrument is played/struck, as well as the original sound voiced by the instrument being available, if so desired .

Trigger pads can be mounted alongside other kit components. These pads make no significant acoustic sound themselves (if not modified to do otherwise), but are used purely to trigger the electronic sound, within the electronic source and are played with the same drum sticks as are used on other drum kit components.

In either case, an electronic control unit (sound module/"brain") with suitable sampled/modeled drum sounds, amplification equipment and monitor speakers are required. See Triggered drum kit.

A trigger pad could contain up to four independent sensors, each of them capable of sending information describing the timing and dynamic intensity of a stroke to the drum module/brain. A circular drum pad may have only one sensor for triggering, but a 2015-era cymbal-shaped rubber pad/cymbal will often contain two; one for the body and one for the bell of the cymbal, and perhaps a cymbal choke trigger, to allow drummers to produce this sound.

Trigger sensors are most commonly used to replace the acoustic drum sounds, but they can often also be used effectively with an acoustic kit to augment or supplement an instrument's sound for the needs of the session. For example, in a live performance in a difficult acoustical space, a trigger may be placed on each drum or cymbal, and used to trigger a similar sound. These sounds are then amplified through the PA system so the audience can hear them, and they can be amplified to any level without the feedback or bleed problems associated with microphones in certain settings.

Drum controllers, such as the Roland V-Drums, are often built in the form of an actual drum kit. The unit's sound module is mounted to the left.


The sound of the drums and cymbals themselves is heard by the drummer and possibly other musicians in close proximity, but even so, the foldback (audio monitor) system will be fed from the electronic sounds rather than the live acoustic sounds. The drums can be heavily dampened (made to resonate less or subdue the sound), and their tuning and even quality is less critical in the latter scenario. In this way, much of the atmosphere of the live performance is retained in a large venue but without some of the problems associated with purely microphone-amplified drums.

Triggers/sensors, can also be used in conjunction with conventional or built-in microphones. If some components of a kit prove more difficult to "mike" than others, triggers may be used on only the more difficult instruments, balancing out a drummer's/band's sound via the mix.

Trigger pads/drums, on the other hand, when deployed in a conventional set-up, are most commonly used to produce sounds not possible with an acoustic kit, or at least not with what is available. Any sound that can be sampled/recorded can be played when the pad is struck, by assigning the recorded sounds to specific triggers . Recordings or samples of barking dogs, sirens, breaking glass and stereo recordings of aircraft taking off and landing have all been used to great effect. Along with the more obvious electronically generated sounds there are synthesized human voices or song parts or even movie audio or digital video/pictures that (depending on device used) can also be played/triggered by electronic drums.

Virtual drums
Virtual drums are a type of audio software that simulates the sound of a drum kit. Different drum software products offer a variety of features. Those include a recording function, the ability to select from several acoustically distinctive drum kits, as well as the option to incorporate different songs into the session. Some software for the PC can turn any hard surface into a virtual drum kit using only one microphone. Virtual drumming software is often provided for mobile or tablet formats.

A drummer for a Korean Arirang ensemble.

Hardware is the name given to the metal stands that support the drums, cymbals and other percussion instruments. Generally the term also includes the hi-hat pedal and bass drum pedal or pedals, and the drum stool, but not the drum sticks.

Hardware is carried along with sticks and other accessories in the traps case, and includes:

-Cymbal stands
-Hi-hat stand
-Floor tom legs
-Tom-tom drum brackets or arms
-Snare drum stand
-Bass drum pedal or pedals
-Drum key

Particularly for large kits, many or even all of the stands may be replaced by a drum rack.

In some genres, such as jazz, drummers often set up their own drum hardware onstage. Major rock and pop band drummers on tour will often have a drum tech who knows how to set up their hardware and instruments in the drummers' desired location and layout.

A two-piece kit in action

Common configurations

Drum kits are traditionally categorised by the number of drums, ignoring cymbals and other instruments. Snare, tom-tom and bass drums are always counted; Other drums such as octobans may or may not be counted.

The sizes of drums and cymbals given below are typical. Many drummers differ slightly or radically from them. Where no size is given, it is because there is too much variety to call a typical size.

Three-piece set for a young player: 16" bass, 10" snare, one 10" hanging tom

A three piece drum set is the most basic set. A conventional three-piece kit consists of bass drum, 14" diameter snare drum, 12"-14" hi-hats, and a single 12" diameter hanging tom, 8"–9" in depth, and a suspended cymbal, in the range of 14"–18", both mounted on the bass drum.

Such kits were common in the 1950s and 1960s and may still be found in small acoustic dance bands. It is a common configuration for kits sold through mail order, and, with smaller size drums and cymbals, for very young drummers.

A four-piece kit extends the three-piece by one tom, either a second hanging tom mounted on the bass drum and often displacing the cymbal, or a floor tom. Normally another cymbal is added as well, so there are separate ride and crash cymbals, either on two stands, or the ride on the bass drum to the player's right and the crash on a stand.

The standard cymbal sizes are 16" crash and 18"–20" ride, with the 20" ride most common.

Four piece with floor tom
The floor tom is most often 14" for jazz, and 16" otherwise.

Many historic bands and early rock music recordings used this configuration, notable users including Ringo Starr in the Beatles, Mitch Mitchell in the Jimi Hendrix Experience, John Barbata in the Turtles and many others.

The four-piece kit with floor tom remains popular, particularly for jazz.

Four piece with two hanging toms
If a second hanging tom is used, it is 10" diameter and 8" deep for fusion, or 13" diameter and one inch deeper than the 12" diameter tom. Otherwise, a 14" diameter hanging tom is added to the 12", both being 8" deep. In any case, both toms are most often mounted on the bass drum with the smaller of the two next to the hi-hats (on the left for a right-handed drummer).

These kits are particularly useful for smaller venues where space is limited.

A basic five-piece fusion kit, with one crash cymbal
and no effects cymbals, complete with throne and sticks

The five-piece kit is the full entry-level kit and the most common configuration. It adds a third tom, making three in all.

A fusion kit will normally add a 14" tom, either a floor tom or a hanging tom on a stand to the right of the bass drum; in either case, making the tom lineup 10", 12" and 14".

Other kits will normally have 12" and 13" hanging toms plus either a 14" hanging tom on a stand, a 14" floor tom, or a 16" floor tom. For depths, see Tom-tom drum#Modern tom-toms. In recent years, it is very popular to have 10" and 12" hanging toms, with a 16" floor tom. This configuration is often called a hybrid setup.

The bass drum is most commonly 20" in diameter, but rock kits may use 22" or 24", jazz 18", and big bands up to 26".

A second crash cymbal is common, typically an inch or two larger or smaller than the 16", with the larger of the two to the right for a right-handed drummer, but a big band may use crashes up to 17" and ride up to 24" or, very rarely, 26". A rock kit may also substitute a larger ride cymbal or larger hi-hats, typically 22" for the ride and 15" for the hats.

Most five-piece kits, at more than entry level, also have one or more effects cymbals. Adding cymbals beyond the basic ride, hi-hats and one crash configuration requires stands in addition to that of standard drum hardware packs. Because of this, many higher level kits are sold with little or even no hardware, to allow the drummer to choose the stands and also the bass drum pedal they prefer. At the other extreme, many entry level kits are sold as a five-piece kit complete with two cymbal stands, most often one straight and one boom, and some even with a standard cymbal pack, a stool and a pair of 5A drum sticks.

Modern digital kits are often offered in a five-piece kit, usually with one crash and one ride.

Small kits
If the toms are omitted completely, or the bass drum is replaced by a pedal-operated beater on the bottom skin of a floor tom and the hanging toms omitted, the result is a two-piece "cocktail" (lounge) kit. Such kits are particularly favoured in musical genres such as trad jazz, rockabilly and jump blues.

Some rockabilly kits and beginners kits for very young players omit the hi-hat stand. In rockabilly, this allows the drummer to play standing rather than seated.

Although these kits may be small with respect to the number of drums used, the drums themselves are most often normal sizes, or even larger in the case of the bass drum. Kits using smaller drums in both smaller and larger configurations are also produced for particular uses, such as boutique kits designed to reduce visual impact or space requirements, travelling kits to reduce luggage volume, and junior kits for very young players. Smaller drums also tend to be quieter, again suiting smaller venues, and many of these kits extend this with easily fitted extra muffling to the point of allowing quiet or even silent practice in a hotel room or bedroom.

A seven-piece kit with snare, double bass drums, two hanging toms, two floor toms, hi-hats, ride cymbal, three crash cymbals, splash cymbal and china type

Extended kits
Common extensions beyond these standard configurations include:

-Effects cymbals, particularly splash cymbals and china cymbals
-Double bass drums. Double bass drums or a double bass pedal are standard for some genres, particularly in heavy metal music
-Extra hanging or rack toms
-Extra Crash cymbals
-A crash/ride cymbal in addition to the main ride
-A second, larger floor tom
-One or more octobans or a pair of mini timbales
-A second pair of hi-hats mounted as cable hats or x-hats
-Cymbal stacks
-Individual tiger, wind or chau gongs
-Multiple ride cymbals. A sizzle cymbal, thinner and larger than the main ride, was once common as a second ride or crash/ride, even in a four-piece kit, but is now less so (jazz drummers, however, may still have two or more ride cymbals, even in a small kit)

See also other acoustic instruments above. Another versatile extension becoming increasingly common is the use of some electronic drums in a mainly conventional kit.

Less common extensions found particularly, but not exclusive to very large kits, include:

-Multiple snare drums
-Multiple bass drums beyond the double bass drum setup
-Gong drums (single headed bass drums, played with sticks or mallets)
-Sets of gongs, tuned or untuned
-Sound effects such as a thunder sheet
-One or more crotales
-Instruments "borrowed" from orchestral percussion, such as timpani
-Instruments "borrowed" from marching band percussion, such as the tuned bass drums used in the drumline

A very large kit played by Terry Bozzio



The most common kit-drumming sticks are wooden sticks modeled on, or in some cases identical to, those originally designed for use with the snare drum. These come in a variety of weights, conventionally expressed as a number, and tip designs, expressed as a letter following the number, with the higher numbers indicating lighter sticks. Thus, a 7A is a common jazz stick with a wooden tip, while a 7N is the same weight, with a nylon tip, and a 7B is a wooden tip but with a different tip profile (shorter and rounder than a 7A). A 5A is a common wood tipped rock stick, heavier than a 7A but with a similar profile. The numbers are most commonly odd but even numbers are used occasionally, in the range 2 (heaviest) to 9 (lightest).

Tools of the trade: 7N, 5B, "double bummer", and side drum No3 sticks, standard 19 cane rutes, sheathed 7 cane rutes, nylon brushes, steel brushes, cartwheels

The exact meanings of both numbers and letters differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, and some sticks are not described using this system at all, just being known as Jazz (typically a 7N or 8N) or Heavy Rock (typically a 4B or 5B) for example. The most common general-purpose stick is a 5A (wood tip, for snare tone) or 5N (nylon tip, for cymbal tone).

Materials, other than wood (hickory, maple, oak, persimmon), used for producing sticks include aluminum (used primarily for marching band applications), acrylic (primarily for visual appeal) and graphite (most often used by "heavy hitters", playing Metal, etc.).

Other sticks commonly used are rutes, consisting of a bundle of canes, and wire or nylon drum brushes. More rarely, other beaters such as cartwheel mallets (known to kit drummers as "soft sticks") may be used. It is not uncommon for rock drummers to use the "wrong" (butt) end of a stick, and in view of this, some makers now produce tipless sticks with two "wrong" ends.

Mylar muffle ring on snare.


Drum muffles can reduce the ring, overtone frequencies, or volume on a snare, bass, or tom. Controlling the ring is useful in studio or live settings when unwanted frequencies can clash with other instruments in the mix. There are internal and external muffling devices which rest on the inside or outside of the drumhead, respectively. Common types of mufflers include muffling rings, gels and tape, and improvised methods, such as placing a wallet near the edge of the head.

Snare drum and tom-tom
Typical ways to muffle a snare or tom include placing an object on the outer edge of the drumhead. A piece of cloth, a wallet, gel, or fitted rings made of mylar are common objects. Also used are external clip-on muffles that work using the same principle. Internal mufflers that lie on the inside of the drumhead are often built into a drum, but are generally considered less effective than external muffles, as they stifle the initial tone, rather than simply reducing the sustain of it.

Bass drum
Muffling the bass can be achieved with the same muffling techniques as the snare, but bass drums in a drum kit are more commonly muffled by adding pillows or another soft filling inside the drum, between the heads. Cutting a small hole in the resonant head can also produce a more muffled tone, and allows manipulation in internally-placed muffling. The Evans EQ pad places a pad against the batterhead and, when struck, the pad moves off the head momentarily, then returns to rest against the head, thus reducing the sustain without choking the tone.

Another type of drum muffler is a piece of rubber that fits over the entire drumhead or cymbal. It interrupts contact between the stick and the head which dampens the sound even more. They are typically used in practice settings.

Companies with muffle products:

Pearl Drums
Tama Drums
Vic Firth
HQ Percussion

Historical uses
Muffled drums are often associated with funeral ceremonies as well, such as the funerals of John F. Kennedy and Queen Victoria. The use of muffled drums has been written about by such poets as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Mayne, and Theodore O'Hara. Drums have also been used for therapy and learning purposes, such as when an experienced player will sit with a number of students and by the end of the session have all of them relaxed and playing complex rhythms.

A four-piece kit in hard cases. From left: traps case, floor tom case,
snare drum case (in front), twin hanging toms case, cymbal case.
Rear: bass drum case.



Three types of protective covers are common for kit drums:

-Drum bags are made from robust cloth such as cordura or from cloth-backed vinyl. They give minimal protection, but are adequate for drums transported in private vehicles to go to local gigs. They are often the only option for working drummers starting out
-Mid-price hard cases are of similar construction to suitcases, commonly made of fibre composite
-Flight cases or road cases are standard for professional touring drummers

As with all musical instruments, the best protection is afforded by a combination of a hard case with padding next to the drums or cymbals.

Carl Palmer with rim-mounted tom mics

Microphones are used with drums to pick up the sound of the drums and cymbals for a sound recording and/or to pick up the sound of the drum kit so that it can be amplified through a sound reinforcement system. While most drummers use microphones and amplification in live shows in the 2010s, so that the sound engineer can adjust and balance the levels of the drums and cymbals, some bands that play in quieter genres of music and that play in small venues such as coffeehouses play acoustically, without mics or PA amplification. Small jazz groups such as jazz quartets or organ trios that are playing in a small bar will often just use acoustic drums. Of course if the same small jazz groups play on the mainstage of a big jazz festival, the drums will be mic'ed so that they can be adjusted in the sound system mix. A middle ground approach is used by some bands that play in small venues; they do not mic every drum and cymbal, but rather mic only the instruments that the sound engineer wants to be able to control in the mix, such as the bass drum and the snare.

In "micing" a drum kit, dynamic microphones, which can handle high sound-pressure levels, are usually used to close-mic drums, which is the predominant way to mic drums for live shows. Condenser microphones are used for overheads and room mics, an approach which is more common with sound recording applications. Close micing of drums may be done using stands or by mounting the microphones on the rims of the drums, or even using microphones built into the drum itself, which eliminates the need for stands for these microphones, reducing both clutter and set-up time, as well as isolating them. In some styles of music, drummers use electronic effects on drums, such as individual noise gates that mute the attached microphone when the signal is below a threshold volume. This allows the sound engineer to use a higher overall volume for the drum kit by reducing the number of "active" mics which could feed back at any one time.

Tris Imboden using a perspex drum screen

Drum screen

In some styles or settings, such as country music clubs or churches, or when a live recording is being made, the drummer may use a perspex or plexiglass drum screen (also known as a drum shield) to dampen the onstage volume of the drums. A screen that completely surrounds the drum kit is known as a drum booth. In live sound applications, drum shields are used so that the audio engineer can have more control over the volume of drums that the audience hears through the PA system mix and/or to reduce the overall volume of the band in the venue.

Two hi-hat stands both with retractable spikes extended


Drummers often bring a carpet, mats or rugs to venues to prevent the bass drum and hi-hat stand from "crawling" (moving away) on a slippery surface from the drum head striking the bass drum. The carpet also reduces short reverberation (which is generally but not always an advantage), and helps to prevent damage to the flooring or floor coverings. In shows where multiple drummers will bring their kits onstage over the night, it is common for drummers to mark the location of their stands and pedals with tape, to allow for quicker positioning of a kits in a drummer's accustomed position. Bass drums and hi-hat stands commonly have retractable spikes to help them to grip surfaces such as carpet, or stay stationary (on hard surfaces) with rubber feet.

Practice pad on snare drum stand

Practice equipment

Drummers use a variety of accessories when practicing. Metronomes and beat counters are used to develop a sense of a steady pulse. Drum muffling pads may be used to lessen the volume of drums during practicing. A practice pad, held on the lap, on a leg, or mounted on a stand, is used for near-silent practice with drumsticks. A set of practice pads mounted to simulate an entire drum kit is known as a practice kit. In the 2010s, these have largely been superseded by electronic drums, which can be listened to with headphones for quiet practice and kits with non-sounding mesh heads.

Tuning equipment

Drummers use a drum key for tuning their drums and adjusting some drum hardware. Besides the basic type of drum key (a T-handled wrench) there are various tuning wrenches and tools. Basic drum keys are divided in three types which allows tuning of three types of tuning screws on drums: square (most used), slotted and hexagonal. Ratchet-type wrenches allow high-tension drums to be tuned easily. Spin keys (utilizing a ball joint) allow rapid head changing. Torque-wrench type keys are available, graphically revealing the torque at each lug. Also, tension gauges, which are set on the head, aid in consistent tuning.



Kit drumming, whether playing accompaniment of voices and other instruments or doing a drum solo, consists of two elements:

-A groove which sets the basic timefeel and provides a rhythmic framework for the song (examples include a back beat or shuffle).
-Drum fills and other ornaments and variations which provide variety and add interest to the drum sound. Fills could include a sting at the end of a musical section.


A fill is a departure from the repetitive rhythm. Fills vary from a simple, single stroke on a tom, to a distinctive rhythm played on the hi-hat, to sequences several bars long that are short drum solos. As well as adding interest and variation to the music, fills serve an important function in preparing and supporting significant events in songs. A vocal cue is a short drum fill that introduces a vocal entry. A fill ending with a cymbal crash on beat one is often used to lead into a chorus or verse.

Drum solos
A drum solo is an instrumental section that highlights the virtuosity and skill of the drummer. While other instrument solos such as guitar solos are typically accompanied by the other rhythm section instruments, for most drum solos, all the other band members stop playing so that all of the audience's focus will be on the drummer. Drum solos are common in jazz, but they are also used in a number of rock genres. During drum solos, drummers have a great deal of creative freedom, and drummers often use the entire drum kit. In live concerts, drummers may be given long drum solos.

Most drummers hold the drumsticks in one of two types of grip:

The traditional grip, originally developed for playing the military side drum, most commonly with an overhand grip for the right hand and an underhand for the left. It arose from the need to clear the counter-hoop (rim) of an angled marching drum (due to the single-point attachment of the drum sling).

The matched grip, in which the sticks are held in similar (but mirror image) fashion.

Within these two types, there is still considerable variation, and even disagreements as to exactly how the stick is held in a particular method. For example, Jim Chapin, an early and influential exponent of the Moeller method, asserts that the technique does not rely on rebound,while Dave Weckl asserts that it does rely on rebound.

Tour of Thomas Lang's DW drum set January 2014
www.thomaslangdrumcamp.com and www.thomaslangdrummer.com
How To Make Your Cheap Drum-Set Sound Amazing
MEINL DRUM FESTIVAL 2015 – Thomas Lang Drum Solo
18” Byzance Jazz Medium Thin Crash
17” Generaion-X China Crash
14” Byzance Vintage Pure Hihat
15” Byzance Medium Hihat
18” Byzance Dual Crash
10” Generation-X Filter China
12” Generation-X Filter China (stack bottom)
08” Generation-X Filter China (stack top)
22” Byzance Vintage Pure Ride
08” Classics Medium Bell (top + bottom)
13” Byzance Fast Hihat
22” Byzance Jazz Thin Ride (used as crash)
19” Generation-X China Crash (stack bottom)
18” Classics Custom Trash China (stack top)
Terry Bozzio -- Guitar Center Drum Off 2011 (Part I)
Part I of Terry Bozzio's performance featuring Jimmy Johnson on bass and Alex Machacek on guitar @ Guitar Center's 2011 Drum Off Grand Finals at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on January 14th, 2012.
Terry Bozzio Drum Solo Performance - pat's changes
Published on Mar 13, 2014
a portion of terry's performance at sweet water's "gearfest" 2013
copyright terry bozzio/private life music ASCAP
Terry Bozzio At 2011 Drum Night Pt 2
Uploaded on Oct 25, 2011
In this second clip from his performance at last August's 2011 DRUM! Night festival, Terry Bozzio improvises over a 5/4 bass drum ostinato. Rather than taking the opportunity to rip some of his ferocious chops, Bozzio uses his carefully tuned drums and cymbals to create a contemplative drum composition that explores the possibilities of texture and melody.

1 Bass drum | 2 Floor tom | 3 Snare drum
4 Hanging toms | 5 Hi-hat | 6 Crash cymbal
7 Ride cymbal | 8 Splash cymbal | 9 China cymbal
Bass drum

A bass drum is a large drum that produces a note of low definite or indefinite pitch.

Bass drums are percussion instruments and vary in size and are used in several musical genres. Three major types of bass drums can be distinguished.

The type usually seen or heard in orchestral, ensemble or concert band music is the orchestral, or concert bass drum (in Italian: gran cassa, gran tamburo). It is the largest drum of the orchestra.
The kick drum, a term for a bass drum associated with a drum kit. It is struck with a beater attached to a pedal, usually seen on drum kits.
The pitched bass drum, generally used in marching bands and drum corps. This is tuned to a specific pitch and is usually played in a set of three to six drums.

A bass drum is typically cylindrical with the diameter much greater than the height. There is normally a struck head at both ends of the cylinder. The heads may be made of calf skin or plastic. There is normally a means of adjusting the tension either by threaded taps or by strings. Bass drums are built in a variety of sizes, but size has little to do with the volume produced by the drum. The size chosen being based on convenience and aesthetics.

Bass drums have many synonyms and translations, such as Gran Cassa (It), Grosse caisse (Fr), Grosse Trommel (Ger), and Bombo (Sp).

Bass drums are too large to be hand held and are always mounted in some way. The usual ways of mounting a bass drum are:

Using a shoulder harness so that the heads are vertical.
On a floor stand as part of a drum kit. The heads are always vertical when mounted in this way.
On an adjustable cradle. In this situation, the heads may be adjusted to any position between vertical and horizontal.
It is possible for the bass drum to have a single cymbal mounted on it.


Bass drums can have a variety of strikers depending on the music:

A single heavy felt covered mallet (Fr. Mailloche; It. Mazza).
When the drum is mounted vertically, the mallet above may be held in one hand and a rute held in the other.
2 matching bass drum mallets or a double headed mallet are used for playing drum rolls.
When used as part of a drum kit, a variation of the mallet described above is mounted on a pedal and called a beater.


The earliest known predecessor to the bass drum was the Turkish davul, a cylindrical drum that featured two thin heads. The heads were stretched over hoops and then attached to a narrow shell.To play this instrument, a person would strike the right side of the davul with a large wooden stick, while the left side would be struck a rod. When struck, the davul produced a sound much deeper than that of the other drums in existence. Because of this unique tone, davuls were used extensively in war and combat, where a deep and percussive sound was needed to ensure that the forces were marching in proper step with one another. The military bands of the Ottoman Janissaries in the 18th century were one of the first groups to utilize davuls in their music; Ottoman marching songs often had a heavy emphasis on percussion, and their military bands were primarily made up of davul, cymbal and kettle drum players.

Davuls were ideal for use as military instruments because of the unique way in which they could be carried. The Ottoman janissaries, for example, hung their davuls at their breasts with thick straps. This made it easier for the soldiers to carry their instruments from battle to battle. This practice does not seem to be limited to just the Ottoman Empire, however; in Egypt, drums very similar to davuls were braced with cords, which allowed the Egyptian soldiers to carry them during military movements.

The davul, however, was also used extensively in non-military music. For example, davuls were a major aspect of Turkish folk dances. In Ottoman society, davul and shawm players would perform together in groups called davul-zurnas, or drum and shawm circles.

Long Drum
At its peak, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Caucuses down to northern Africa and parts of the middle east. This long reach meant that many aspects of Ottoman culture, including the davul and other janissary instruments, were likely introduced to other parts of the world. In Africa, the indigenous population took the basic idea of the davul – that is, a two-headed cylindrical drum that produces a deep sound when struck – and both increased the size of the drum and changed the material from which it was made, leading to the development of the long drum. The long drum can be made a variety of different ways, but is most typically constructed from a hollowed out tree trunk. This is vastly different from the davul, which is made from a thick shell. Long drums were typically 2 meters in length and 50 centimeters in diameter, much larger than the Turkish drums on which they were based. The indigenous population also believed that the tree from which the long drum was made had to be in perfect shape. Once an appropriate tree was selected and the basic frame for the long drum was constructed, the Africans took cow hides and soaked them in boiling hot water, in order to stretch them out. Although the long drum was an improvement on the davul, both drums were nevertheless played in a similar fashion. Two distinct sticks were used on the two distinct sides of the drum itself. A notable difference between the two is that long drums, unlike davuls, were used primarily for religious purposes.

Gong Drums
As the use of the long drum began to spread across Europe, many composers and musicians started looking for even deeper tones that could be used in compositions. As a result of this demand, a narrow-shelled, single-headed drum called the gong drum was introduced in Britain during the 19th century. This drum, which was 70-100 centimeters in diameter and deep-shelled, was similar to the long drum in both size and construction. When struck, the gong drum produced a deep sound with a rich resonance. However, the immense size of the drum, coupled with the fact that there was not a second head to help balance the sound, meant that gong drums tended to produce a sound with a definite pitch. As a result, they fell out of favor with many composers, as it became nearly impossible to incorporate them in an orchestra in any meaningful way.

Bass drums with "woofers" or additional resonating sections attached to enhance tone and depth. Drum set used by Alex van Halen

Orchestral Bass Drums and Drum Kits
Because they were unable to be used by orchestras, music makers began to build smaller gong drums that would not carry a definite pitch. This smaller version of the gong drum is today called orchestral bass drum, and it is the prototype with which people are most familiar today. The modern bass drum is used primarily in orchestras. The drum, similar to the davul and long drum, is double-headed, rod tensioned, and measures roughly 40 inches in diameter and 20 inches in width. Most orchestral bass drums are situated within a frame, which allows them to be positioned at any angle.

Bass drums are also highly visible in modern drum kits. In 1909, William Ludwig created a workable bass drum pedal, which would strike a two-headed bass drum in much the same way as a drumstick. During the 1960s, many rock ‘n’ roll drummers began incorporating more than one bass drum in their drum kit, including The Who's Keith Moon and Cream's Ginger Baker.

In a drum kit, the bass drum is much smaller than in the traditional orchestral use, most commonly 20 or 22 inches (51 or 56 cm) in diameter. Sizes range from 16 to 28 inches (41 to 71 cm) in diameter while depths range for 14 to 22 inches (36 to 56 cm), with 16 or 18 in (41 or 46 cm) being normal. The standard bass drum size of past years was 20 in × 14 in (51 cm × 36 cm), with 22 in × 18 in (56 cm × 46 cm) being the current standard. Many manufacturers are now popularizing the 'power drum' concept as with tom-toms, with an 18 in (46 cm) depth (22×18 in) to further lower the drum's fundamental note. This is a misconception however, since the frequency of vibration and hence the fundamental note of a drum is determined by the diameter of the drum and not by the depth. The drum shell wall thickness, material and wood grain directions, because of alterations in the shell tension, also affects the fundamental note. The thinner wall in wooden ply constructed shells usually produces lower tone, because there are less horizontal grained wood, giving the shell less tension. A wider drum with a larger head would be capable of a lower tuning. Shorter drum shell, however, does not require as much force to vibrate the drum heads.

Sometimes the front head of a kit bass drum has a hole in it to allow air to escape when the drum is struck for shorter sustain. Muffling can be installed through the hole without taking off the front head. The hole also allows microphones to be placed into the bass drum for recording and amplification. In addition to microphones, sometimes trigger pads are used to amplify the sound and provide a uniform tone, especially when fast playing without decrease of volume is desired. Professional drummers often choose to have a customized bass drum front head, with the logo or name of their band on the front.

The kit bass drum may be more heavily muffled than the classical bass drum, and it is popular for drummers to use a pillow, blanket, or professional mufflers inside the drum, resting against the batter head, to dampen the blow from the pedal, and produce a shorter "thud".

Different beaters have different effects, and felt, wood and plastic ones are all popular. Bass drums sometimes have a tom-tom mount on the top, to save having to use (and pay for) a separate stand or rack. Fastening the mount involves cutting a hole in the top of the bass drum to attach it; "virgin" bass drums do not have this hole cut in them, and so are professionally prized.

Use in music
To mark time

In many forms of music, the bass drum is used to mark or keep time. The bass drum makes a low, boom sound when the mallet hits the drumhead. In marches it is used to project tempo (marching bands historically march to the beat of the bass). A basic beat for rock and roll has the bass drum played on the first and third beats of a bars of common time, with the snare drum on the second and fourth beats, called back beats. In jazz, the bass drum can vary from almost entirely being a timekeeping medium to being a melodic voice in conjunction with the other parts of the set.

Control marching bands
As well as marking time as above, in some marching bands, the Bass Drum is used to give orders to the band e.g.

1 Stroke is used to order the band (and associated troops) to start marching.
2 Strokes is used to order the band to stop marching.

Classical music

In classical music, composers have much more freedom in the way the bass drum is used than in other genres of music. Common uses are:

Provide local colour
Climactic single strokes
Adding weight to tuttis

Apart from the standard beaters mentioned above, implements used to strike the drum may include keyboard percussion mallets, timpani mallets, and drumsticks. The hand or fingers can also be used (it. con la mano). The playing techniques possible include rolls, repetitions and unison strokes. Bass drums can sometimes be used for sound effects. e.g. thunder, or an earthquake.

Conventional single pedal

Bass drum pedal
In 1900, Sonor drum company introduced its first single bass drum pedal. William F. Ludwig made the bass drum pedal workable in 1909, paving the way for the modern drum kit. A bass drum pedal operates much the same as the hi-hat control; a footplate is pressed to pull a chain, belt, or metal drive mechanism downward, bringing a beater or mallet forward into the drumhead. The beater head is usually made of either felt, wood, plastic, or rubber and is attached to a rod-shaped metal shaft. The pedal and beater system are mounted in a metal frame and like the hi-hat, a tension unit controls the amount of pressure needed to strike and the amount of recoil upon release.

A double bass drum pedal operates much the same way only with a second footplate controlling a second beater on the same drum. Most commonly this is attached by a shaft to a remote beater mechanism alongside the primary pedal mechanism. One notable exception to this pattern is the symmetrical Sleishman twin bass drum pedal.


When using a double bass drum pedal, the foot which normally controls the hi-hat pedal moves to the second bass drum pedal, and so the hi hat opens and remains open. A closed hi-hat sound can be more useful for some genres of music, so drummers use a drop clutch to keep the cymbals closed without use of the pedal.

Tommy Aldridge pioneered the use of double bass drums in hard rock and heavy metal music.

Pedal techniques
The most common method of bass drum playing is a "heel-up" technique: the pedals are struck with the ball of the feet using force primarily from the thigh as opposed to the ankles when using the "heel-down" technique. Most drummers play single strokes, although there are many who are also capable of playing doubles or diddles. Drummers such as Thomas Lang, Virgil Donati, and Terry Bozzio are capable of performing complicated solos on top of an ostinato bass drum pattern. Thomas Lang, for example, has mastered the heel-up and heel-down (single- and double-stroke) to the extent that he is able to play dynamically with the bass drum and to perform various rudiments with his feet.

In order to play "doubles", proponents of the "heel up" technique use either one of two techniques: the "slide technique" or the heel-toe technique. In the slide technique, the pedal is struck around the middle area with the ball of the foot. As the drum produces a sound, the toe is slid up the pedal. After the first stroke, the pedal will naturally bounce back, hit the toe as it slides upwards, and rebound for a second strike. In the heel-toe technique the foot is suspended above the foot-board of the pedal. The entire foot is brought down and the ball of the foot strikes the pedal. The foot snaps up, the heel comes off the footboard, and the toes come down for a second stroke. Once mastered either technique allows the player to play very fast double strokes on the bass drum. Noted players include Rod Morgenstein, Tim Waterson (who formerly held the world record for the fastest playing on a bass drum), Tomas Haake, Chris Adler, Derek Roddy, Danny Carey, Hellhammer. The technique is commonly used in death metal and other extreme forms of music.

In certain types of heavy metal and punk, drummers play a constant stream of rapid-fire notes on the bass drum, and the ability to play evenly at extremely high tempos is a skill prized within the heavy metal scene. Many extreme metal, thrashcore and grindcore drummers use a combination of fast double bass drum patterns, the snare, and the cymbals to create blast beats.

With two feet playing bass drum, many of the techniques of snare drum playing (such as rudiments and rolls) can be performed on the bass drums.

Double bass drum
In many forms of heavy metal and hard rock, as well as some forms of jazz, fusion, and punk, two bass drums are used, or alternatively two pedals on one bass drum. One of the first people to popularize the use of the double bass drum setup was jazz drummer Louie Bellson,[16] who came up with the idea when he was still in high school. Double bass drums were first used initially by jazz artists such as Ray McKinley and Ed Shaughnessy in the 1940s and 1950s, and popularized in the 1960s by rock drummers Ginger Baker of Cream, Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Keith Moon of The Who and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. Double bass drumming later became an integral part of heavy metal, as pioneered by the likes of Carmine Appice, Ian Paice, Cozy Powell, Phil Taylor and Tommy Aldridge. American thrash metal band Slayer's drummer Dave Lombardo was named "the godfather of double bass" by the magazine Drummer World.

Pitched bass drum in marching band use
The "bass line" is a unique musical ensemble consisting of graduated pitch marching bass drums commonly found in marching bands and drum and bugle corps. Each drum plays a different note, and this gives the bass line a unique task in a musical ensemble. Skilled lines execute complex linear passages split among the drums to add an additional melodic element to the percussion section. This is characteristic of the marching bass drum — its purpose is to convey complex rhythmic and melodic content, not just to keep the beat. The line provides impact, melody, and tempo due to the nature of the sound of the instruments. The bass line usually has from as many as seven bass drums to as few as two. But most high school drumlines consist of between 5 and 3.

A bass line typically consists of four or five musicians, each carrying one tuned bass drum, although variations do occur. Smaller lines are not uncommon in smaller groups, such as some high school marching bands, and several groups have had one musician playing more than one bass drum, usually small ones, with one mounted on top of the other.

The drums are typically between 16" and 32" in diameter, but some groups have used bass drums as small as 14" and larger than 36". The drums in a bass line are tuned such that the largest will always play the lowest note with the pitch increasing as the size of the drum decreases. Individually, the drums are usually tuned higher than other bass drums (drumset kick drums or orchestral bass drums) of the same size, so that complex rhythmic passages can be heard clearly and articulated.

Unlike the other drums in a drumline, the bass drums are generally mounted sideways, with the drumhead facing horizontally, rather than vertically. This results in several things. First of all, to ensure that a vibrating membrane is facing the audience, bass drummers must face perpendicular to the rest of the band and so are the only section in most groups whose bodies do not face the audience while playing. Consequently, bass drummers usually point their drums at the back of the bass drummer in front of them, so that the drum heads will all be lined up, from the audience's point of view, next to one another in order to produce optimal sound output.

Playing a marching bass drum
Since the bass drum is oriented differently from a snare or tenor drum, the stroke itself is different, but the fundamentals remain the same. As the article "Bass Drum" states, "your forearms should be parallel to the ground, bent at the elbows. The line between your shoulder and elbow should be vertical. Hold the mallet upward at a 45-degree angle. The hands hold bass mallets in such a way as to place the center of the mallet in the center of the head.

The motion of the basic stroke is either similar to the motion of turning a doorknob, that is, an absolute forearm rotation, or similar to that of a snare drummer, where the wrist is the primary actor, or more commonly, a hybrid of these two strokes. Bass drum technique sees huge variation between different groups both in the ratio of forearm rotation to wrist turn and the differing views on how the hand works while playing. Some techniques also call for the use of fingers supporting the motion of the mallet by opening or closing, but no matter whether it is open or closed the thumb needs to be close to the rest of the fingers.

However, the basic stroke on a drum produces just one of the many sounds a bass line can produce. Along with the solo drum, the "unison" is one of the most common sounds used. It is produced when all of the bass drums play a note at the same time and with a balanced sound; this option has a very full, powerful sound. It has a sort of pop when it is clean, and a more "fat" sound when dirty. The rim click, which is when the shaft (near the mallet head) is struck against the rim of the drum, either solo or in unison. Rimshots are rare on a bass drum and usually only happen on the top drums. A Rimshot is a sound that is produced when the stick hits the rim and the head of the drum at the same time.

The different positions of the typical five person bass line each require different skills, though not necessarily different levels of skills. Contrary to the popular belief that "higher is better," each drum has its own critical role to play.

Bottom, or fifth bass, is the largest, heaviest, and lowest drum in the drumline. Consequently, it is used frequently to help maintain pulse in an ensemble and is thus sometimes referred to as the "heartbeat" of the group (the bottom bass was also often referred to as the "thud" bass in days gone by, indicating that many of their notes were the last one at the end of a phrase). Although this player does not always play as many notes as fast as other bass drummers (the depth of pitch renders most complex passages indistinguishable from a roll), his or her role is essential not only to the sound of the bass line or the drum line, but to the ensemble as a whole, especially in the case of parade bands.

Fourth bass is slightly smaller than the bottom drum (generally two to four inches (102 mm) smaller in diameter) and can function tonally similarly to its lower counterpart, but usually plays slightly more rapid parts and is much more likely to play "off the beat" - in the middle rather than at the beginning or end of a passage.

Third bass is the middle drum, both in terms of position and tone. Its function is usually that of the archetypical bass drum. This player plays an integral role in the actual rendering of complex linear passages.

Second bass is known for having a job in the drumline. This player's parts are very likely to be directly adjacent to the beginning or end of a phrase and less likely to be on a beat, which is highly counter-intuitive, especially to a new player. Sometimes this drum can function about the same as the top drum, but usually the second and top drummer function as a unit, playing very rudimentally difficult passages split between them.

Top, or first, bass is the highest pitched drum in the bass line and usually starts or ends phrases. The high tension drum heads allow this player to play notes that are just as taxing as those of the snare line, and often the top bass will play a part in unison with the snare line to add some depth to their sound.

New Orleans carnival: Krewe of Thoth Parade, 2007 on Magazine Street. Bass drummer with Marine band


Muffling a marching bass drum
There are a few different ways to properly muffle a marching bass drum. If the tuner uses generic weather-stripping type foam, start with medium density. If inexperienced or do not know how much foam to apply, the person should apply it to the outside of the head after he/she has put the head onto the drum. Once drum is tuned to the right pitch, make a note of how much foam was applied for future head changes. At that time, apply the foam to the inside of the head before its placed on the drum. This provides a cleaner look to the drumhead and will protect the foam from falling from the player’s beating and the environment.

Marching a bass drum
In a field show, bass drummers tend to turn to face either goal line. When standing on the 20 yardline, it can become difficult to see the drum major while facing the goal line. Or if the basses can't dress a form facing one direction, they can turn the other way for that section. Turns can take place either in unison, or rippled for a different effect.

For the lower basses it takes a lot more control to turn quickly. Cleaning turns for a bassline can be rather easy. They should lead with the shoulder at the start of the turn and lock the other direction on a specified count. Setting a check-point can help. For instance, one should be flat front on count two of the turn. However, note that the turn should be smooth and not jerky. A common problem may result from not stopping the weight of the drum at the end of the turn and letting the momentum get the better of the player. The solution to that problem involves tightening the core (abdominals and back muscles).

Concert Bass Drum 3: Playing Techniques / Vic Firth Percussion 101
In "PERCUSSION 101", Vic Firth presents a series of comprehensive instructional videos on the concert percussion instruments. From instrument setup to maintenance to performance techniques, Vic Firth's PERCUSSION 101 covers the essential skills necessary for today's all-around percussionist.

1 Bass drum | 2 Floor tom | 3 Snare drum
4 Hanging toms | 5 Hi-hat | 6 Crash cymbal
7 Ride cymbal | 8 Splash cymbal | 9 China cymbal

Octobans, also known as tube toms, are deep, small diameter, single-head tom-toms. Octobans were originally grouped in melodically-tuned sets of eight, hence the name, in reference to octave and from octo meaning "eight".

Part sets of two or four drums or an individual drum or octo are common additions to a drum kit.

Complete and half sets of octobans are commonly mounted in clusters of four, in a square pattern. Mounts for four drums in a straight line, dual mounts for two drums, and individual mounts are all also reasonably common. In a drum kit, octobans are most commonly placed to the left of a right-handed drummer, above the hi-hats.

A cluster of four home made octobans.


The Tama Octoban

Octobans were introduced by Tama drums in 1978, endorsed in particular by Billy Cobham, at that time one of the most popular drummers who had switched to Tama drums. Tama octoban were made by fiber using a patended moulding process . The naked shell were then painted in black lacquer ( the raw color is something close to light brown) visible inside the shell where not completely painted. SInce they were designed as rack small toms the attachment was different from the regular tom toms, it was basically the same one used for the concert toms. The rims were conveniently shaped in order to offer the maximum area available for the stick, being 6" quite hard to hit. The lugs (4) were the same model used for the swingstar series drum kits of the same period. The shell was a 6" diameter, (150 mm on outside diameter), thickness was 5 mm despite the very first series may have been 4 mm as advertised. A variation was produced in late '70 using plexiglas instead of fiber for the shell construction. This material was considerably more fragile than fiber. The Tama production line offered, in the 78-84 period, the complete 8 pieces set or, for those who did not need the whole set, two sub sets, of four pieces each, the low pitch ( the longest) set and the high pitch set. The most famous drummers used in particular the low pitch set, such as did Stewart Copeland for the whole Police period. The dimensions of the low pitch set of shells were the following (length mm, edge to edge): 810, 733, 667, 607. The high pitch set was instead dimensioned as follows: 552, 498, 455, 411 mm. Diameter = 6 inch in any way. In 1985 Tama changed its program of production and modified the octobans reducing the length of the shells, basically, the low pitch set was discontinued, because too difficult to transport on stage. The lengths available from then and even today are the following: 600, 536, 472, 443, 390, 343, 301, 280 (mm). The only difference with the original model is the lug and the batter skin now still clear but without black dot. The different lengths of the cylinders give each drum its distinct tone.

The term octoban has since become a genericized trademark used to refer to such sets of smaller diameter tube drums.

Some users of Tama Octobans

Simon Phillips

Mike Portnoy

Tama Octoban Drum Solo

1 Bass drum | 2 Floor tom | 3 Snare drum
4 Hanging toms | 5 Hi-hat | 6 Crash cymbal
7 Ride cymbal | 8 Splash cymbal | 9 China cymbal
Snare drum

The snare drum or side drum is a ubiquitous percussion instrument known for its shallow cylindrical shape and powerful, staccato sound. Snare drums are often used in orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, parades, drumlines, drum corps, and more. It is one of the central pieces in a trap set, a collection of percussion instruments designed to be played by a seated drummer, which is used in many popular genres of music. Snare drums are usually played with drum sticks, although there are other options which create a completely different sound, such as the brush.

A drum kit snare drum.

The snare drum originates from the tabor, a drum first used to accompany the flute. The tabor evolved into more modern versions, such as the kit snare, marching snare, tarol snare, and piccolo snare. Each type presents a different style of percussion and size. The snare drum that one might see in a concert is usually used in a backbeat style to create rhythm. In marching bands, it can do the same but is used mostly for a front beat.

In comparison with the marching snare, the kit snare is generally smaller in length between the two heads, while the piccolo is the smallest of the three. The snare drum is known for its loud crack when struck with a drum stick or mallet. The depth of the sound varies from snare to snare because of the different techniques and construction qualities of the drum. Some of these qualities are tightness of the head, dimensions, and brand.

The snare drum is constructed of two heads—both usually made of plastic—along with a rattle of metal wires on the bottom head called the snares. The wires can also be placed on the top, as in the tarol snare. The top head is typically called the batter head because that is where the drummer strikes it, while the bottom head is called the snare head because that is where the snares are located. The tension of the drumhead is held constant by tension rods. The ability to tighten these provides an opportunity to alter the sound of the hit. The strainer is a lever that releases and tightens the snare. If the strainer is relaxed, the sound of the snare is more like that of a tom because the snares are not active. The rim is the metal ring around the batter head, which can be used for a variety of things, although it is notably used to sound a piercing rimshot with the drumstick.


Snares on a drum

The drum can be played by striking it with a drum stick or any other form of beater, including brushes, rute and hands, all of which produce a softer-sounding vibration from the snare wires. When using a stick, the drummer may strike the head of the drum, the rim (counterhoop), or the shell. When the top head is struck, the bottom (resonant) head vibrates in tandem, which in turn stimulates the snares and produces a cracking sound. The snares can be thrown off (disengaged) with a lever on the strainer so that the drum produces a sound reminiscent of a tom-tom. Rimshots are a technique associated with snare drums in which the head and rim are struck simultaneously with one stick (or in orchestral concert playing, a stick placed on the head and the rim struck by the opposite stick). In contemporary and/or pop and rock music, where the snare drum is used as a part of a drum kit, many of the backbeats and accented notes on the snare drum are played as rimshots, due to the ever-increasing demand for their typical sharp and high-volume sound.

A commonly-used alternative way to play the snare drum is known as a cross stick, or otherwise a rim click or rim knock. This is done by holding the tip of the drumstick against the drum head and striking the stick's other end (the butt) against the rim, using the hand to mute the head. This produces a dry high-pitched click, similar to a set of claves, and is especially common in Latin and jazz music. So-called "ghost notes" are very light "filler notes" played in between the backbeats in genres such as funk and rhythm and blues. The iconic drum roll is produced by alternately bouncing the sticks on the drum head, striving for a controlled rebound. A similar effect can be obtained by playing alternating double strokes on the drum, creating a double stroke roll, or very fast single strokes, creating a single stroke roll. The snares are a fundamental ingredient in the pressed (buzz) drum roll, as they help to blend together distinct strokes that are then perceived as a single, sustained sound. The snare drum is the first instrument to learn in preparing to play a full drum kit. Rudiments are sets of basic patterns often played on a snare drum.

Snare Strainer

Snare drums may be made from various woods, metal, or acrylic materials. A typical diameter for snare drums is 14 in (36 cm). Marching snare drums are deeper in size than snare drums normally used for orchestral or drum kit purposes, often measuring 12 in long. Orchestral and drum kit snare drum shells are about 6 in (15 cm) deep. Piccolo snare drums are even shallower at about 3 in (7.6 cm) deep. Soprano, popcorn, and firecracker snare drums have diameters as small as 8 in (20 cm) and are often used for higher-pitched special effects.

Most snare drums are constructed in plies (layers) that are heat- and compression-moulded into a cylinder. Steam-bent shells consist of one ply of wood that is gradually rounded into a cylinder and glued at one seam. Reinforcement hoops are often needed on the inside surface of the drum to keep it perfectly round. Segment shells are made of multiple stacks of segmented wood rings. The segments are glued together and rounded out by a lathe. Similarly, stave shells are constructed of vertically glued pieces of wood into a cylinder (much like a barrel) that is also rounded out by a lathe. Solid shells are constructed of one solid piece of hollowed wood.

The heads or skins used are a batter head (the playing surface on the top of the drum) and a resonant (bottom) head. The resonant head is usually much thinner than the batter head and is not beaten while playing. Rather than calfskin, most modern drums use plastic (Mylar) skins of around 10 mils thickness, sometimes with multiple plies (usually two) of around 7 mils for the batter head. In addition, tone control rings or dots can be applied, either on the outer or inner surface of the head, to control overtones and ringing, and can be found positioned in the centre or close to the edge hoops or both. Resonant heads are usually only a few mils thick, to enable them to respond to the movement of the batter head as it is played. Pipe band requirements have led to the development of a Kevlar-based head, enabling very high tuning, thus producing a very high-pitched cracking snare sound.

A blue snare drum

The snare drum seems to have descended from a medieval drum called the tabor, which was a drum with a single-gut snare strung across the bottom. It is a little bigger than a medium tom and was first used in war, often played with a fife (pipe); the player would play both the fife and drum (see also Pipe and tabor). Tabors were not always double-headed and not all may have had snares. By the 15th century, the size of the snare drum had increased and had a cylindrical shape. This simple drum with a simple snare became popular with the Swiss mercenary troops who used the fife and drum from the 15th to 16th centuries. The drum was made deeper and carried along the side of the body. Further developments appeared in the 17th century, with the use of screws to hold down the snares, giving a brighter sound than the rattle of a loose snare. During the 18th century, the snare drum underwent changes which improved its characteristic sound. Metal snares appeared in the 20th century. Today the snare drum is used in jazz, pop music and modern orchestral music.

Much of the development of the snare drum and its rudiments is closely tied to the use of the snare drum in the military. In his book, The Art of Snare Drumming, Sanford A. Moeller (of the "Moeller Method" of drumming) states, "To acquire a knowledge of the true nature of the [snare] drum, it is absolutely necessary to study military drumming, for it is essentially a military instrument and its true character cannot be brought out with an incorrect method. When a composer wants a martial effect, he instinctively turns to the drums."

Before the advent of radio and electronic communications, the snare drum was often used to communicate orders to soldiers. American troops were woken up by drum and fife playing about five minutes of music, for example, the well-known Three Camps. Troops were called for meals by certain drum pieces, such as "Peas on a Trencher" or "Roast Beef". A piece called the "Tattoo" was used to signal that all soldiers should be in their tent, and the "Fatigue Call" was used to police the quarters or drum unruly women out of the camp.

Many of these military pieces required a thorough grounding in rudimental drumming; indeed Moeller states that: "They [the rudimental drummers] were the only ones who could do it [play the military camp duty pieces]". Moeller furthermore states that "No matter how well a drummer can read, if he does not know the rudimental system of drumming, it is impossible for him to play 'The Three Camps,' 'Breakfast Call,' or in fact any of the Duty except the simple beats such as 'The Troop'."

During the late 18th and 19th century, the military bugle largely supplanted the snare and fife for signals. Most modern militaries and scouting groups use the bugle alone to make bugle calls that announce scheduled and unscheduled events of the organization (from First Call to Taps). While most modern military signals use only the bugle, the snare is still retained for some signals, for example, the Adjutant's Call.

Snare drumheads were originally made from calfskin. The invention of the plastic (Mylar) drumhead is credited to a drummer named Marion "Chick" Evans, who made the first plastic drumhead in 1956.

Drum rudiments seem to have developed with the snare drum; the Swiss fife and drum groups are sometimes credited with their invention. The first written rudiment was drawn up in Basel, Switzerland in 1610. Rudiments with familiar names—such as the single paradiddle, flam, drag, ratamacue, and double stroke roll, also called the "ma-ma da-da" roll—are listed in Charles Ashworth's book in 1812.

Military drum/field drum: a snare drum with a diameter of 14–16 in and 9–16 in deep, with a wood or metal shell and the two heads stretched by tensioning screws. It has a snare-release lever to activate or deactivate a minimum of eight metal, gut, or plastic snares. The term came into use in 1837 with the invention of the tensioning-screw mechanism. It is frequently placed on a stand.

Side drum: a common British and Scottish Highlands term for a snare drum.
Tamburo piccolo: an Italian term meaning "little drum", which when used in orchestral music means a snare drum.


There are many types of snare drum, for example:

Marching snare ("regular" and "high tension")
Marching snares are typically 12 in deep and 14 in wide. The larger design allows for a deeper-sounding tone, one that is effective for marching bands. Famous users of this type are The Ohio State University Marching Band and the Texas A&M marching band.

Drum kit snare
Drum kit snares are usually about half the depth of a marching snare. They are typically 14 in wide and 6 in deep, with 8 in depths available.

Piccolo snare
The piccolo snare is a type of snare used by drummers seeking a higher-pitched sound from their snare. Because the piccolo snare has a smaller diameter than that of the marching snare or set snare, a higher-pitched "pop" is more widely associated with it. Although the piccolo snare has a more distinctive, unique sound, it has some downsides. Because of the "sharper" sound of the piccolo, its sound travels further and is picked up by microphones further away during recording, making it difficult to record effectively. There are many kinds of piccolo snare, including the popcorn, soprano and standard snares. Popcorn snares typically have a diameter of 10 in, sopranos 12–13 in, and standard piccolos 14 in. A well-known user of the piccolo snare is Neil Peart, the drummer of Rush, who has used a 13-inch X Shell Series Piccolo.

The tabor snare dates back to around the 14th century, and was used for marching beats in wars. It is a double-headed drum with a single snare strand, and was often played along with the three-holed pipe flute. The dimensions vary with the different types of tabor. It is typically 4.5 in wide and around 11–13 in in diameter.

The tarol snare has similar dimensions to the kit snare. The major distinction is that the snares in this type are on the top head rather than the bottom one.

Marching Snare Drum Solo - Memphis Drum Shop - Isiah Rowser

1 Bass drum | 2 Floor tom | 3 Snare drum
4 Hanging toms | 5 Hi-hat | 6 Crash cymbal
7 Ride cymbal | 8 Splash cymbal | 9 China cymbal

Timpani (/ˈtɪmpəni/; Italian pronunciation: [ˈtimpani]), or kettledrums (also informally called timps), are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet. Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra by the last third of the 18th century. Today, they are used in many types of musical ensembles, including concert bands, marching bands, orchestras, and even in some rock.

Timpani is an Italian plural, the singular of which is timpano. However, in informal English speech a single instrument is rarely called a timpano: several are more typically referred to collectively as kettledrums, timpani, temple drums, or simply timps. They are also often incorrectly termed timpanis. A musician who plays the timpani is a timpanist.

Walter Light pedal and chain timpani set up in three different combinations.

Etymology and alternative spellings

First attested in English in the late 19th century, the Italian word timpani derives from the Latin tympanum (pl. tympana), which is the latinisation of the Greek word τύμπανον (tumpanon, pl. tumpana), "a hand drum", which in turn derives from the verb τύπτω (tuptō), meaning "to strike, to hit". Alternative spellings with y in place of either or both is—tympani, tympany, or timpany—are occasionally encountered in older English texts. Although the word timpani has been widely adopted in the English language, some English speakers choose to use the word kettledrums. The German word for timpani is Pauken; the French and Spanish is timbales. The Ashanti pair of talking drums are known as atumpan.

The tympanum is defined in the Etymologiae of St. Isidore of Seville:

Tympanum est pellis vel corium ligno ex una parte extentum. Est enim pars media symphoniae in similitudinem cribri. Tympanum autem dictum quod medium est. Unde, et margaritum medium tympanum dicitur, et ipsum ut symphonia ad virgulam percutitur.

The tympanum is [an instrument made of] skin or hide stretched over a hollow wooden vessel which extends out. It is said by the symphonias to resemble a sieve, but has also been likened to half a pearl. It is struck with a wand [stick], beating time for the symphonia.

The reference comparing the tympanum to half a pearl is borrowed from Pliny the Elder.

They are usually put together by hand in the southern region of France, and at one time were tightened together by horses tugging from each side of the drum by the bolts. The Industrial Revolution made that construction style obsolete and paved the way for more modern building methods.

Basic timpani
The basic timpani drum consists of a drumhead stretched across the opening of a bowl typically made of copper or, in less expensive models, fiberglass and sometimes aluminum. In the Sachs–Hornbostel classification, the timpani are thus considered membranophones. The drumhead is affixed to a hoop (also called a fleshhoop), which in turn is held onto the bowl by a counterhoop, which is then held by means of a number of tuning screws called tension rods placed regularly around the circumference. The head's tension can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the rods. Most timpani have six to eight tension rods.

The shape of the bowl contributes to the quality of the drum. For example, hemispheric bowls produce brighter tones while parabolic bowls produce darker tones. Another factor that affects the timbre of the drum is the quality of the bowl's surface. Copper bowls may have a smooth, machined surface or a rough surface with many small dents hammered into it.

Timpani come in a variety of sizes from about 84 centimeters (33 inches) in diameter down to piccoli timpani of 30 centimeters (12 inches) or less. A 33-inch drum can produce the C below the bass clef, and specialty piccoli timpani can play up into the treble clef. In Darius Milhaud's 1923 ballet score La création du monde, the timpanist must play the F sharp at the bottom of the treble clef.

Each individual drum typically has a range of a perfect fifth.

Machine timpani

Changing the pitch of a timpani by turning each tension rod individually is a laborious process. In the late 19th century, mechanical systems to change the tension of the entire head at once were developed. Any timpani equipped with such a system may be considered machine timpani, although this term commonly refers to drums that use a single handle connected to a spider-type tuning mechanism.

A pedal on a Dresden timpano – the clutch
(seen here on the left) must be disengaged
to change the pitch of the drum.

Pedal timpani
By far, the most common type of timpani used today is the pedal timpani, which allows the tension of the head to be adjusted using a pedal mechanism. Typically, the pedal is connected to the tension screws via an assembly of either cast metal or metal rods called the spider.

The inside, bottom of a Yamaha pedal timpani, showing the mechanical tension-adjusting system

There are three types of pedal mechanisms in common use today:

-The ratchet clutch system uses a ratchet and pawl to hold the pedal in place. The timpanist must first disengage the clutch before using the pedal to tune the drum. When the desired pitch is achieved, the timpanist must then reengage the clutch. Because the ratchet engages in only a fixed set of positions, the timpanist must fine tune the drum by means of a fine tuning handle.
-In the balanced action system, a spring or hydraulic cylinder is used to balance the tension on the timpani head so that the pedal will stay in position and the head will stay at pitch. The pedal on a balanced action drum is sometimes called a floating pedal since there is no clutch holding it in place.
-The friction clutch or post and clutch system uses a clutch that moves along a post. Disengaging the clutch frees it from the post, allowing the pedal to move without restraint.

Professional level drums use either the ratchet or friction system and have copper bowls. These drums can have one of two styles of pedals. The Dresden pedal is attached to the drum at the side nearest the player, and is operated by ankle motion. A Berlin-style pedal is attached by means of a long arm to the opposite side of the drum, and the timpanist must use his entire leg to adjust the pitch. In addition to a pedal, high-end instruments have a hand-operated fine tuner, which allows the timpanist to make minute pitch adjustments. The pedal is on either the left or right side of the drum depending on where it is set up.

Most school bands and orchestras below a university level use less expensive, more durable timpani with either copper, fiberglass, or aluminum bowls. The mechanical parts of these instruments are almost completely contained within the frame and bowl of the drum. They may use any of the pedal mechanisms, though the balanced action system is by far the most common, followed by the friction clutch system. Many professionals also use these drums for outdoor performances due to their durability and lighter weight. The pedal is in the center of the drum itself.

On chain timpani, a chain links the tension rods so a master handle can be used to turn them all at once.

Chain timpani
On chain timpani, the tension rods are connected by a roller chain much like the one found on a bicycle, though some manufacturers have used other materials, including steel cable. In these systems, all the tension screws can then be tightened or loosened by one handle. Though far less common than pedal timpani, chain and cable drums still have practical uses. Occasionally, a player is forced to place a drum behind other items so that he cannot reach it with his foot. Professional players may also use exceptionally large or small chain and cable drums for special low or high notes.

Other tuning mechanisms
A rare tuning mechanism allows the pitch of the head to be changed by rotating the drum itself. A similar system is used on rototoms. Jenco, a company better known for mallet percussion, made timpani tuned in this fashion.

In the early 20th century, Hans Schnellar, the timpanist of the Vienna Philharmonic, developed a tuning mechanism in which the bowl is moved via a handle that connects to the base, and the head remains stationary. These drums are referred to as Viennese timpani (Wiener Pauken) or Schnellar timpani. Adams Musical Instruments developed a pedal-operated version of this tuning mechanism in the early 21st century.

Timpani heads
Like most drumheads, timpani heads can be made from two materials: animal skin (typically calfskin or goatskin) and plastic (typically PET film). Plastic heads are durable, weather resistant, and relatively inexpensive. Thus, they are more commonly used than natural skin heads. However, many professional players prefer skin heads because they produce a warmer quality timbre. Timpani heads are sized based on the size of the head, not the size of the timpani bowl. For example, a 23" drum may require a 25" head. This 2" size difference has been standardized by most timpani manufactures since 1978.

Timpanists use a variety of timpani sticks since each stick produces a different timbre.

Sticks and mallets
Timpani are typically struck with a special type of drum stick fittingly called a timpani stick or timpani mallet. Timpani sticks are used in pairs. They have two components: a shaft and a head. The shaft is typically made from hardwood or bamboo but may also be made from aluminum or carbon fiber. The head of the stick can be constructed from a number of different materials, though felt wrapped around a wood core is the most common. Other core materials include compressed felt, cork, and leather, and other wrap materials include chamois. Unwrapped sticks with heads of wood, felt, flannel, and leather are also common. Wood sticks are used as a special effect—specifically requested by composers as early as the Romantic era—and in authentic performances of Baroque music.

Although not usually stated in the score, timpanists will change sticks—the same piece—to suit the nature of the music. However, the choice of stick during a performance is entirely subjective and depends on the timpanist's own preference and occasionally the wishes of the conductor. Thus, most timpanists own a great number of mallets. The weight of the stick, the size and latent surface area of the head, the materials used for the shaft, core, and wrap, and the method used to wrap the head all contribute to the timbre the stick produces.

In the early 20th century and before, sticks were often made with whalebone shafts, wood cores, and sponge wraps. Composers of that era often specified sponge-headed sticks. Modern timpanists execute such passages with standard felt mallets.

Popular grips
The two most common grips in playing the timpani are the German and French grips. In the German grip, the palm of the hand should be parallel to the drum head and the thumb should be on the side of the stick. In the French grip, the palm of the hand should be close to perpendicular with drum head and the thumb should be on top of the stick. In both of these styles, as with most percussion grips, the fulcrum consists of the contact between the thumb and middle finger. The index finger is used as a guide and to help lift the stick off of the drum. The American grip is a hybrid of these two grips. Another known grip is known as the Amsterdam Grip, made famous by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which is similar to the Hinger grip, except the stick is cradled on the lower knuckle of the index finger.

A standard set of timpani consists of four drums.

In the modern ensemble

A set of timpani
A standard set of timpani (sometimes called a console) consists of four drums: roughly 32 inches (81 cm), 29 inches (74 cm), 26 inches (66 cm), and 23 inches (58 cm) in diameter. The range of this set is roughly the D below the bass clef to the top-line bass clef A. A great majority of the orchestral repertoire can be played using these four drums. However, contemporary composers have written for extended ranges. Igor Stravinsky specifically writes for a piccolo timpano in The Rite of Spring, tuned to the B below middle C. A piccolo drum is typically 20 inches (51 cm) in diameter and can reach pitches up to middle C.

Beyond this extended set of five instruments, any added drums are nonstandard. (Luigi Nono's Al gran sole carico d'amore requires as many as eleven drums, with actual melodies played on them in octaves by two players.) Many professional orchestras and timpanists own more than just one set of timpani, allowing them to execute music that cannot be more accurately performed using a standard set of four or five drums and music that requires more than one set of timpani.

Many schools and ensembles unable to afford purchase of this equipment regularly rely on a set of two or three timpani, sometimes referred to as "the orchestral three". It consists of 29-inch (74 cm), 26-inch (66 cm), and 23-inch (58 cm) drums. Its range extends down only to the F below the bass clef.

The drums are set up in an arc around the performer. Traditionally, North American, British, and French timpanists set their drums up with the lowest drum on the left and the highest on the right (commonly called the American system), while German, Austrian, and Greek players set them up in the reverse order, as to resemble a drum set or upright bass. (the German system). This distinction is not strict, as many North American players use the German setup and vice versa.

Balanced action timpani are often used in outdoor
performances because of their durability.

Throughout their education, timpanists are trained as percussionists, and they learn to play all instruments of the percussion family along with timpani. However, when appointed to a principal timpani chair in a professional ensemble, a timpanist is not normally required to play any other instruments. In his book Anatomy of the Orchestra, Norman Del Mar writes that the timpanist is "king of his own province", and that "a good timpanist really does set the standard of the whole orchestra." A qualified member of the percussion section sometimes doubles as associate timpanist, performing in repertoire requiring multiple timpanists and filling in for the principal timpanist when required.

Among the professionals who have been highly regarded for their virtuosity and impact on the development of the timpani in the 20th century are Saul Goodman, Hans Schnellar, Fred Hinger, and Cloyd Duff.

Timpani concertos

A few concertos have been written for timpani. The 18th-century composer Johann Fischer wrote a symphony for eight timpani and orchestra, which requires the solo timpanist to play eight drums simultaneously. Rough contemporaries Georg Druschetzky and Johann Melchior Molter also wrote pieces for timpani and orchestra.

Throughout the 19th century and much of the 20th, there were few new timpani concertos. In 1983, William Kraft, principal timpanist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, composed his Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra, which won second prize in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards. There have been other timpani concertos, notably, Philip Glass, considered one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century, wrote a double concerto at the behest of soloist Jonathan Haas titled Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra, which features its soloists playing nine drums apiece.

Performance techniques
Striking the drum

For general playing, a timpanist will beat the head approximately 4 inches in from the edge. Beating at this spot produces the round, resonant sound commonly associated with timpani. A timpani roll (most commonly signaled in a score by tr) is executed by rapidly striking the drum, alternating between left and right sticks, extending the duration of the sound as required and allowing increases or decreases in volume. Anton Bruckner's 7th Symphony requires a continuous roll on a single drum for over two-and-a-half minutes. In general, timpanists do not use multiple bounce rolls like those played on the snare drum, as the soft nature of timpani sticks causes the rebound of the stick to be reduced, causing multiple bounce rolls to sound muffled.

The tone quality of the drum can be altered without switching sticks or adjusting the tuning of the drum. For example, by playing closer to the edge of the head, the sound becomes thinner. A more staccato sound can be produced by changing the velocity of the stroke or playing closer to the center of the head. There are many more variations in technique a timpanist uses during the course of playing to produce subtle timbral differences.

Prior to playing the instruments, the timpanist must clear the heads by equalizing the tension at each tuning screw. This is done so every spot on the head is tuned to exactly the same pitch. When the head is clear, the timpani will produce a beautiful, in-tune sound. If the head is not clear, the pitch of the drum will rise or fall after the initial impact, and the drum will produce different pitches at different dynamic levels. Timpanists are required to have a well-developed sense of relative pitch, and must develop techniques to tune undetectably and accurately in the middle of a performance. Tuning is often tested with a light tap from a single finger, which produces a near-silent note that nonetheless matches the tune of the drum when struck with a mallet.

Some timpani are equipped with tuning gauges, which provide a visual indication of the drum's pitch. They are physically connected either to the counterhoop, in which case the gauge indicates how far the counterhoop is pushed down, or the pedal, in which case the gauge indicates the position of the pedal. These gauges are accurate when used correctly. However, when the instrument is disturbed in some fashion (transported, for example), the overall pitch of the head can change, thus the markers on the gauges may not remain reliable unless they have been adjusted immediately preceding the performance. The pitch of the head can also be changed by room temperature and humidity. This effect also occurs due to changes in weather, especially if an outside performance is to take place. Gauges are especially useful when performing music that involves fast tuning changes that do not allow the player to listen to the new pitch before playing it. Even when gauges are available, good timpanists will check their intonation by ear before playing.

Occasionally, players use the pedals to retune a drum while playing it. Portamento effects can be achieved by changing the pitch of the drum while it can still be heard. This is commonly called a glissando, though this use of the term is not strictly correct. The most effective glissandos are those from low notes to high notes and those performed during rolls. One of the first composers to call for a timpani glissando was Carl Nielsen, who used two sets of timpani, both playing glissandos at the same time, in his Symphony No. 4 ("The Inextinguishable").

Pedaling refers to changing the pitch of the drum with the pedal; it is an alternate term for tuning. In general, timpanists reserve this term for passages where the performer must change the pitch of a drum in the midst of playing – for example, playing two consecutive notes of different pitches on the same drum. Early 20th-century composers such as Nielsen, Béla Bartók, Samuel Barber, and Richard Strauss took advantage of the freedom pedal timpani afforded, often giving the timpani the bass line.


Since timpani have a long sustain, muffling or dampening is an inherent part of playing timpani. Often, timpanists will muffle notes so they only sound for the length indicated by the composer. However, early drums did not resonate nearly as long as modern timpani, so composers often wrote a note when the timpanist was to hit the drum without concern of sustain. Today, timpanists must use their ear and the score of the piece to determine the actual length the note should sound.

The typical method of muffling is to place the pads of the fingers against the head while holding onto the timpani stick with the thumb and index finger. Timpanists are required to develop techniques to stop all vibration of the drumhead without making any sound from the contact of their fingers.

Muffling is often referred to as muting, which can also refer to playing the drums with mutes on them (see below).

Extended techniques
It is typical for only one timpano to be struck at a time, but occasionally composers will ask for two notes to be struck at once. This is called a double stop, a term borrowed from the string instrument vocabulary. Ludwig van Beethoven uses this effect in the slow movement of his Ninth Symphony, as do Johannes Brahms in the second movement of his German Requiem and Aaron Copland in El Salón México.

Some modern composers occasionally require more than two notes at once. In this case, a timpanist can hold two sticks in one hand much like a marimba performer would, or more than one timpanist can be employed. In his Overture to Benvenuto Cellini, for example, Hector Berlioz realizes fully voiced chords from the timpani section by requiring three timpanists and assigning one drum to each. He goes as far as ten timpanists playing three- and four-part chords on sixteen drums in his Requiem, although with the introduction of pedal tuning, this number can be reduced.

Modern composers will often specify the beating spot to alter the sound of the drum. When the timpani are struck directly in the center of the head, the drums have a sound that is almost completely devoid of tone and resonance. George Gershwin uses this effect in An American in Paris. Struck close to the edge, timpani produce a very thin, hollow sound. This effect is used by composers such as Bartók, Bernstein, and Kodály.

A variation of this is to strike the head while two fingers of one hand lightly press and release spots near the center. The head will then vibrate at a harmonic, much like the similar effect on a string instrument.

Resonance can cause drums not in use to vibrate, causing a more quiet sound to be produced. Timpanists must normally avoid this effect, called sympathetic resonance, but composers have exploited it in solo pieces such as Elliot Carter's Eight Pieces for Four Timpani. Resonance is reduced by damping or muting the drums, and in some cases composers will specify that timpani be played con sordino (with mute) or coperti (covered), both of which indicate that mutes—typically small pieces of felt or leather—should be placed on the head.

Composers will sometimes specify that the timpani should be struck with implements other than timpani sticks. It is common in timpani etudes and solos for performers to play with their hands or fingers. Philip Glass's "Concerto Fantasy" utilizes this technique during a timpani cadenza. Also, Michael Daugherty's "Raise The Roof" calls for this technique to be used for a certain passage. Leonard Bernstein calls for maracas on timpani in both the "Jeremiah" Symphony and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Edward Elgar attempts to use the timpani to imitate the engine of an ocean liner in his "Enigma" Variations by requesting the timpanist play a soft roll with snare drum sticks. However, snare drum sticks tend to produce too loud a sound, and since this work's premiere, the passage in question has been performed by striking the timpani with coins. Benjamin Britten asks for the timpanist to use drum sticks in his War Requiem to evoke the sound of a field drum.

Robert W. Smith's Songs of Sailor and Sea calls for a "whale sound" on the timpani. This is achieved by moistening the thumb and rubbing it from the edge to the center of the drumhead. Amongst other techniques used primarily in solo work, such as John Beck's Sonata for Timpani, is striking the copper bowls. Timpanists tend to be reluctant to strike the bowls at loud dynamic levels or with hard sticks, since copper can be dented easily due to its soft nature.

On some occasions a composer may ask for a metal object, commonly an upside-down cymbal, to be placed upon the drumhead and then struck or rolled while executing a glissando on the drum. Joseph Schwantner used this technique in From A Dark Millennium. Carl Orff asks for cymbals resting on the drumhead while the drum is struck in his later works. Additionally, Michael Daugherty, in his concerto "Raise The Roof," utilizes this technique.

In the 15th century, timpani were used with trumpets as ceremonial instruments in the cavalry.


Pre-orchestral history

It has been said that the first recorded use of early Tympanum was in "ancient times when it is known that they were used in religious ceremonies by Hebrews."

The Moon of Pejeng, also known as the Pejeng Moon, in Bali, the largest single-cast bronze kettle drum in the world, is more than two thousand years old. The Moon of Pejeng is "the largest known relic from Southeast Asia's Bronze Age period. According to Balinese legend, the Pejeng Moon was a wheel of the chariot that pulled the real moon through the night sky. One night, as the chariot was passing over Pejeng, the wheel detached and fell to earth, landing in a tree, where it glowed nearly as brightly as the real moon. This light disturbed a thief who, annoyed, climbed the tree and urinated on it; the thief paid for his sacrilege with his life. The moon eventually cooled and has been preserved as a sacred relic by the local villagers. The drum is in the Pura Penataran Asih temple."


A naqareh from Rajasthan, India

In 1188, Cambro-Norman chronicler Gerald of Wales wrote, "Ireland uses and delights in two instruments only, the harp namely, and the tympanum."

Arabian nakers, the direct ancestors of most timpani, were brought to 13th-century Continental Europe by Crusaders and Saracens. These drums, which were small (with a diameter of about 20–22 cm or 8–8½ in) and mounted to the player's belt, were used primarily for military ceremonies. This form of timpani remained in use until the 16th century.

In 1457, a Hungarian legation sent by King Ladislaus V carried larger timpani mounted on horseback to the court of King Charles VII in France. This variety of timpani had been used in the Middle East since the 12th century. These drums evolved together with trumpets to be the primary instruments of the cavalry. This practice continues to this day in sections of the British Army, and timpani continued to be paired with trumpets when they entered the classical orchestra.

Over the next two centuries, a number of technical improvements were made to timpani. Originally, the head was nailed directly to the shell of the drum. In the 15th century, heads began to be attached and tensioned by a counterhoop that was tied directly to the shell. In the early 16th century, the bindings were replaced by screws. This allowed timpani to become tunable instruments of definite pitch.

Although by the early 19th century, timpani were most commonly found in orchestras, ceremonial trumpet and timpani ensembles still existed.

Timpani in the orchestra.
Jean-Baptiste Lully is the first known composer to have scored for timpani, which he included in the orchestra for his 1675 opera Thésée. (Earlier uses were likely, but poorly documented.) Other 17th-century composers soon followed suit.

Later in the Baroque era, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a secular cantata titled "Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!", which translates roughly to "Sound off, ye timpani! Sound, trumpets!" Naturally, the timpani are placed at the forefront: the piece starts with a timpani solo and the chorus and timpani trade the melody back and forth. Bach reworked this movement in part 1 of the Christmas Oratorio.

Ludwig van Beethoven revolutionized timpani music in the early 19th century. He not only wrote for drums tuned to intervals other than a fourth or fifth, but he gave a prominence to the instrument as an independent voice beyond programmatic use (as in Bach's "Tönet, ihr Pauken!"). For example, his Violin Concerto (1806) opens with four solo timpani strokes, and the scherzo of his Ninth Symphony (1824) sets the timpani against the orchestra in a sort of call and response.

The next major innovator was Hector Berlioz. He was the first composer to indicate the exact sticks that should be used – "felt-covered", "wooden", etc. In several of his works, including Symphonie fantastique (1830), and his Requiem (1837), he demanded the use of several timpanists at once.

Until the late 19th century, timpani were hand-tuned; that is, there was a sequence of screws with T-shaped handles, called taps, which altered the tension in the head when turned by players. Thus, tuning was a relatively slow operation, and composers had to allow a reasonable amount of time for players to change notes if they were called to tune in the middle of a work. The first 'machine' timpani, with a single tuning handle, was developed in 1812. The first pedal timpani originated in Dresden in the 1870s and are called Dresden timpani for this reason. However, since vellum was used for the heads of the drums, automated solutions were difficult to implement since the tension would vary unpredictably across the drum. This could be compensated for by hand-tuning, but not easily by a pedal drum. Mechanisms continued to improve in the early 20th century.

Despite these problems, composers eagerly exploited the opportunities the new mechanism had to offer. By 1915, Carl Nielsen was demanding glissandos on timpani in his Fourth Symphony—impossible on the old hand-tuned drums. However, it took Béla Bartók to more fully realize the flexibility the new mechanism had to offer. Many of his timpani parts require such a range of notes that it would be unthinkable to attempt them without pedal drums.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, timpani were almost always tuned with the dominant note of the piece on the low drum and the tonic on the high drum – a perfect fourth apart. Until the early 19th century the dominant (the note of the large drum) was written as G and the tonic (the note of the small drum) was written as C no matter what the actual key of the work was, and whether it was major or minor, with the actual pitches indicated at the top of the score (for example, Timpani in D–A for a work in D major or D minor). This notation style however was not universal: Bach, Mozart, and Schubert (in his early works) used it, but their respective contemporaries Handel, Haydn, and Beethoven wrote for the timpani at concert pitch. Today, even though they're written at concert pitch, timpani parts continue to be most often but not always written with no key signature, no matter what key the work is in: accidentals are written in the staff, both in the timpanist's part and the conductor's score.

Timpani outside the orchestra
Later, timpani were adopted into other classical music ensembles such as concert bands. In the 1970s, marching bands and drum and bugle corps, which evolved both from traditional marching bands and concert bands, began to include marching timpani. Unlike concert timpani, marching versions had fiberglass shells to make them light enough to carry. Each player carried a single drum, which was tuned by a hand crank. Often, during intricate passages, the timpani players would put their drums on the ground by means of extendable legs, and performed more like conventional timpani, yet with a single player per drum. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, marching arts-based organizations' allowance for timpani and other percussion instruments to be permanently grounded became mainstream. This was the beginning of the end for marching timpani: Eventually, standard concert timpani found their way onto the football field as part of the front ensemble, and marching timpani fell out of common usage.

Timpani are still used by the Mounted Bands of the Household Division of the British Army.

As rock and roll bands started seeking to diversify their sound, timpani found their way into the studio. In 1959 Leiber and Stoller made the innovative use of timpani in their production of the Drifters' recording, "There Goes My Baby." Starting in the 1960s, drummers for high-profile rock acts like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, and Queen incorporated timpani into their music. This led to the use of timpani in progressive rock. Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded a number of rock covers of classical pieces that utilize timpani. More recently, the rock band Muse has incorporated timpani into some of their classically based songs, most notably in Exogenesis: Symphony, Part I (Overture).

Jazz musicians also experimented with timpani. Sun Ra used it occasionally in his Arkestra (played, for example, by percussionist Jim Herndon on the songs "Reflection in Blue" and "El Viktor," both recorded in 1957). In 1964, Elvin Jones incorporated timpani into his drum kit on John Coltrane's four-part composition A Love Supreme.

Jonathan Haas is one of the few timpanists who markets himself as a soloist. Haas, who began his career as a solo timpanist in 1980, is notable for performing music from many genres including jazz, rock, and classical. He released an album with a rather unconventional jazz band called Johnny H. and the Prisoners of Swing. Glass's Concerto Fantasy, commissioned by Haas, put two soloists in front of the orchestra, an atypical placement for the instruments. Haas also commissioned Susman's Floating Falling for timpani and cello.

Instrument: Timpani
Carmina Burana part 1 Raleigh Symphony Orchestra - Timpani
Carmina Burana by Orff. April 2010 concert / rehearsal with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra and North Carolina Master Choral. Al Sturgis - Director. Craig Zerbe timpani. Jim Linn, Bill Hayes, and Leah Shull percussion are visible in some scenes. Andrew Munger is off camera.
Tom-tom drum

A tom-tom drum (which is distinct from a tam-tam, a gong), also known as a tenor drum l, is a cylindrical drum with no snares. The name came originally from the Anglo-Indian and Sinhala. The tom-tom drum was added to the drum kit in the early part of the 20th century. Most toms range in size between 6 and 20 inches (15 and 51 cm) in diameter, though floor toms can go as large as 24 inches (61 cm).

1 Bass drum | 2 Floor tom | 3 Snare drum
4 Hanging toms | 5 Hi-hat | 6 Crash cymbal
7 Ride cymbal | 8 Splash cymbal | 9 China cymbal

Design history

The first drum kit tom-toms had no rims; the heads were tacked to the shell.

As major drum manufacturers began to offer tunable tom-toms with hoops and tuning lugs, a 12 in (30 cm) drum 8 inches (20 cm) deep became standard, mounted on the left side of the bass drum. Later a 16 in (41 cm) drum (16 inches deep) mounted on three legs (a floor tom) was added. Finally, a second drum was mounted on the right of the bass drum, a 13 in (33 cm) diameter drum 9 inches (23 cm) deep. Together with a 14 in (36 cm) snare drum and a bass drum of varying size, these three made up the standard kit of five drums for most of the second half of the 20th century.

Later, the mounted tom-toms, known as hanging toms or rack toms, were deepened by one inch each, these sizes being called power toms. Extra-deep hanging toms, known as cannon depth, never achieved popularity. All these were double-headed.

12 in × 8 in (30 cm × 20 cm) rack tom mounted to a stand

Modern tom-toms
A wide variety of configurations are commonly available and in use at all levels from advanced student kits upwards. Most toms range in size between 6 and 20 inches (15 and 51 cm) in diameter, though floor toms can go as large as 24 inches (61 cm).

Classic rack tom setups

Standard tom-tom diameters

-The basic rock configuration consists of 12" and 13" hanging toms, and a 16" floor tom
-The basic fusion configuration refers to a set-up that has 10", 12" and 14" diameter toms, as opposed to a standard rock configuration which is 12", 13" and 16". Note that these terms do not imply drum depths, so for example, the 14" in a fusion setup could have depth 10, 11, 12, or could be a 14×14 floor tom. These terms "fusion" and "rock" are really marketing terms invented by drum manufacturing companies, and there is not an absolute definition for them; more a case of an accepted norm.

In the 50s and early 60s, it was common to have only a single hanging tom (a 13") and a single floor tom (16").

Tom-toms mounted on a bass drum

Standard tom-tom depths

-The standard depth rack toms popular in the 1950-1980s were 12×8 and 13×9. This "classic" configuration is still popular among many players.
-"FAST" sizes are 10×8, 12×9, 13×10, etc. DW use the marketing term "FAST" for these sizes, but they are not unique to DW, and are widely popular sizes with all drum manufacturers.
-New Standard - 10×9, 12×10, 13×11, etc. i. e. The "New standard" sizes are 2" deeper than what was considered "standard" in the 50s. However, despite the term, these are becoming less "standard" in favour of "FAST" sizes.
-Power toms are one inch deeper than standard, so standard sizes are 10×9 or 10×10, 12×11, 13×12. This depth overtook the classic setup in popularity during the 1980s.
-Square - 10×10, 12×12, 13×13, etc. Popular in the 80s and 90s but no longer popular.
-Hyperdrive - Shallow depths made popular initially by Tama: 10×6.5, 12×7, 13×7.5, etc.

In the 1970s, Alex Van Halen simply removed the bottom heads from his hanging toms to create concert toms

Single-headed tom-toms
Single-headed tom-toms (also known as concert toms) have also been used in drumkits, though their use has fallen off in popularity since the 1970s. Concert toms have a single head and a shell slightly shallower than the corresponding double-headed tom. Phil Collins still uses four single-headed rack-mount toms and two floor toms (Gretsch) in his setup. They are generally easier to tune as they have no bottom head to adjust.

Recently the term concert tom has also been used to describe double- or single-headed tom-tom drums designed for use in a concert band rather than in a drumkit.

Rototoms have no shell at all, just a single head and a steel frame. Unlike most other drums, they have a variable definite pitch and some composers write for them as a tuned instrument, demanding specific notes. They can be tuned quickly by rotating the head. Since the head rotates on a thread, this raises or lowers the head relative to the rim of the drum and so increases or decreases the tension in the head.

Gong bass drum
A gong bass drum (also known as "gong drum"), is a large, single-headed tom often sized at 20 in (51 cm) or 22 in (56 cm), with the drumhead being 2 in (5.1 cm) larger than the shell. The sound produced is similar to a bass drum, though it is more open and has longer sustain. They can be mounted with standard floor tom legs, though many drummers mount them at an angle next to the floor tom(s). Notable users include Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland, Bill Bruford, Simon Phillips, Jason Bittner, Mike Portnoy and Dom Howard.

Floor tom
A floor tom is a double-skin drum, most often but not always as deep as its diameter, traditionally mounted on three legs and to the drummer's right for a right-handed drummer. It is normally the deepest-toned drum played by sticks in the kit, above the bass drum but below all others, and the most resonant, more so than even the bass drum.

Construction and manufacture
Typically a tom consists of a shell, chromed or plated metal hardware and head.

Shell depth standards vary according to the era of manufacture and the drum style. Tom-toms are typically made in diameters of: 6 in (15 cm), 8 in (20 cm), 10 in (25 cm), 12 in (30 cm), 13 in (33 cm), 14 in (36 cm), 15 in (38 cm), 16 in (41 cm) and 18 in (46 cm), with heads to fit.

Tom-toms can be fitted with an adjustable mounting for a floor stand, or attachment to a bass drum or marching rig. They can be single- or double-headed.

A crucial factor in achieving superior tone quality and insuring durability, especially with wood, is the creation of perfectly round shells and much research and development effort has been put into this manufacturing technology.

Shells are often constructed of 6–8 wood plies (often using different woods e. g. mahogany and falkata — birch or maple are commonly used for single-wood plies), solid wood (turned) or man-made materials (e. g. fibreglass, pressed steel, acrylic glass, resin-composite). Wood or composite shells can be finished by laminating in plastic in a large variety of colours and effects (e. g. sparkle or polychromatic); natural wood may be stained or left natural and painted with clear lacquer. Steel is usually chromed, fibreglass self-coloured and acrylic glass tinted or clear.

A shell-mounted clamp attached to ball-head floor stand.

One or two cast or pressed metal rims attach by threaded tension rods or lugs to nut boxes bolted onto the shell and hold the heads onto the bearing edges of the shell. The tension rod assembly needs to be precision-machined, cast and fitted to enable predictable and secure tuning without inhibiting resonance or introducing extra vibration. All components will be placed under great tension and experience added stresses from playing.

Mounting systems vary greatly, from a simple cast block on the shell which accepts and clamps to a rod attached to a clamp or holder to much more sophisticated arrangements where there is no attachment to the shell, instead a frame clamps to the tuning lugs.

Another sort of rod clamp system allows attachment of the drum to the tom holder without the need of a hole in the drum shell for the rod to pass through. The clamp is attached to the shell at the nodal point with two bolts so as to allow the shell to vibrate freely without degrading the shell's dynamic range and sustain. The nodal point is the location on a shell with the least amount of vibration allowing for the mount to have minimal effect on the resonance of the shell.

Some drummers use a snare stand to hold a tom, thus making it easier to position the tom.

Tom-Tom Beats - Drum Lessons