An Intro to the World of Drums

Drums have existed for a very long time. Some say they even date back to 6000 BC. It is no wonder then, that they have been used for a variety of situations and have evolved to create a wide range of different types. This being said, all drums, or ‘membranophones’ (the technical classification), consist of at least one drum-head or drum skin. This is stretched over a shell and beaten either by hand or instrument to produce its sound. Most commonly it is used as a musical instrument as a part of the percussion group, to be used in rituals or entertainment such as modern day’s rock bands. Throughout the world, drums have been created from many materials, including wood, metal, plastic and even clay.

The material of the drum skin can also vary from place to place, culture to culture. The skins of assorted animals such as goats, sheep and antelopes can be used as well as synthetic materials.

It is not uncommon to see an arrangement of drums called a ‘drum kit’. This allows the musician to use all of their limbs to produce numerous sounds and pitches.

There are a few simple classifications of drums which can be considered. Shape is undoubtedly the most familiar, with the majority of drums falling into one of these forms:

* Cylindrical drums

* Barrel drums

* Conga drums

* Waisted drums

* Goblet drums

* Bowl drums

There is another classification dependent on which side the drum has its head. A drum can have two heads on either side of the body, or alternatively, one drum-head on the top of the body. There are drums which have been designed to be easy to carry around, such as those used in street parades, and drums which are immobile.

When we listen to music such as rock, the drums we are hearing are inevitably part of the aforementioned drum kit – a selection of drums that are non-pitched and can be used together in harmony. The sounds and rhythms one can create with a drum kit are so diversified that a number of music genres can use them to create their preferred sound.

The bass drum is large and when played, creates a very low pitch. More specifically we are talking about the orchestral bass drum, the smaller ‘kick’ drum and the pitched bass drums. Orchestral drums are the larger of the three and are primarily used in orchestral concerts. The kick-drum is the largest drum in a drum-kit and is utilized with a foot pedal. The last one mentioned, the pitched bass drum, is a popular choice for marching parades and the drums corp.

The snare drum has plastic or calf skin drum heads stretched securely over a metal frame that is hollow. The top head is beaten with drumsticks that are wooden, and is known as the ‘batter-head’. The snare-head, also called the bottom head, has wires of metal called snares that are stretched across it. When this drum is struck on the head, the snares give off a sharp rattling sound, since they are vibrating on the snare head.

A tom-tom is a drum shaped like a cylinder that doesn’t have a snare. It goes all the way back to the Native America and Asian cultures and was not added to the drum kit until sometime in the early 20th century. It is now thought to be an essential component to the drum kit and can consist of up to three units of different size. One of those is mounted on three legs and sits to the left of the bass drum. The other two are usually hanging on either side above the bass drum.

An electric drum is generated by electronic waveforms produced by a generator or sampler as opposed to acoustic vibrations.