Template:Drum kit components

A drum kit (also drum set,[1] or trap set) is a collection of drums, cymbals and often other percussion instruments, such as cowbells, wood blocks, triangles, chimes, or tambourines, arranged for convenient playing by a single person (drummer).

The individual instruments of a drum-set are hit by a variety of implements held in the hand, including sticks, brushes, and mallets. Two notable exceptions include the bass drum, played by a foot-operated pedal, and the hi-hat cymbals, which may be struck together using a foot pedal in addition to being played with sticks or brushes. Although other instruments can be played using a pedal, the feet are usually occupied by the bass drum and hi hat, and as a result the drummer often plays in a seated position. Percussion notation is often used by drummers to signify which drum set components are to be played. A full size drum set without any additional percussion instruments has a bass drum, floor tom, snare drum, tom-toms, and a variety of cymbals including hi-hat cymbals, ride cymbal and a crash cymbal.

Various music genres dictate the stylistically appropriate use of the drum kit's set-up. For example, in most forms of rock music, the bass drum, hi-hat and snare drum are the primary instruments used to create a drum beat, whereas in jazz, ride and snare patterns tend to be more prevalent and the hi-hat is played by the foot. In the 2000s, an increasing number of drummers have begun to use electronic drum pads which trigger synthesized or sampled drum sounds.

Drum kits have ranged in size and components from old style jazz/dance hall kits through to modern rock/techno kits.

File:Characteristic rock drum pattern.png

History and developmentEdit

File:Dance band drummer at Mark Foy's Empress Ballroom from The Powerhouse Museum.jpg

Drum kits are infants of the Vaudeville era. Pecuniary and theater space considerations demanded that fewer percussionists covered more percussion parts. In military and orchestral music settings, drums and cymbals were traditionally played separately by one or many percussionists. The bass drum, snare drum, cymbals and other percussion instruments were played by hand. Circa 1890, experimentation with foot pedals began. Liberating the hands for the first time, this evolution saw the bass drum played (first standing) with the foot of a percussionist and became the central piece around which every other percussion instruments would later revolved. Today Ludwig-Musser, William F. Ludwig Sr. and his brother Theodor Ludwig founded the Ludwig & Ludwig Co. in 1909 and patented the first workable bass drum pedal system, paving the way for what was to become the modern drum kit.

By World War I drum kits were characterized by very large marching bass drums and many percussion items suspended on and around it, and they became a central part of jazz music, specifically (but not limited to) dixieland. 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" (shortened to "trap") tray used to hold whistles, klaxons, and cowbells, thus drum kits were dubbed "trap kits." Hi-hat stands appeared around 1926.

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 floor tom. In time legs were fitted to larger floor toms, and "consolettes" were devised to hold smaller tom-toms on the bass drum. In the 1940s, Louie Bellson pioneered use of two bass drums, or the double bass drum kit. Gene Krupa was the first drummer to head his own orchestra and thrust the drums into the spot light with his drum solos, others would soon follow his lead. Krupa is also known to be the first to record a drum solo on a commercial record.

With the ascendancy of rock and roll, a watershed moment occurred between 1962 and 1964, when the Surfaris released "Wipe Out" and when Ringo Starr of The Beatles played his Ludwig kit on American television; events that motivated legions to take up the drums.

The trend towards bigger drum kits in Rock music began in the 1960s and gained momentum in the 1970s. By the 1980s, widely popular drummers like Billy Cobham, Carl Palmer, Nicko McBrain, Phil Collins, Stewart Copeland and perhaps most notably Neil Peart were using large numbers of drums and cymbals[1] and had also begun using electronic drums. In the 1990s and 2000s, many drummers in popular music and indie music have reverted back to basic four piece drum set standard.[2]

In the 21st century, it is not uncommon for drummers to 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 for singing).


On early recording processes such as on wax cylinders and discs carved with an engraving needle, it was noted that cymbals distorted sound and affected the spectrum of sound at playback. To remedy the situation, drummers were often asked to play the content of the cymbals onto - short attack and quick decay - woodblocks, temple blocks and, cowbells.

This recording specific particularity had the effect of altering the evolution of the drum set for a time and of stigmatizing the sound of the music recorded at the time.


File:China cymbal.jpg
The exact collection of a drum kit's components depends on factors like musical style, personal preference, financial resources, and transportation options of the drummer. Cymbal, hi-hat, and tom-tom stands (if it comes with), as well as bass drum pedals and drum thrones are usually standard in most drum kits. Most mass produced drum kits are sold in one of two five-piece configurations (referring to the number of drums only), which typically include a bass drum, a snare drum, two toms, and one floor tom. The standard sizes (sometimes called ‘rock’ sizes) are 22” (head size diameter) bass drum, 14” snare drum, 12” and 13” mounted toms, and a 16” floor tom. The other popular configuration is called "Fusion", a reference to jazz fusion music, which usually includes a 20” (or sometimes 22") bass drum, a 14” snare drum, and 10”, 12” mounted toms, and a 14” floor tom.

Drum pedals have a felt, plastic, or wooden beater which the drummer operates by pressing down on the pedal. When the pedal is depressed, it pulls a chain, metal shaft, or sturdy cloth or plastic strap which is attached to the end of the fulcrum-mounted beater rod. Some bass pedals are designed to be attached to the bass drum using metal screws. The double bass pedal was developed to eliminate the need for a second bass drum. It has since become popular in heavy metal bands such as Anthrax, Kreator, and Slayer. Drummers that use two bass drums or pedals usually have their hi-hat unscrewed or have a different cymbal in place of the hi-hat, because of the extra kick pedal. Some drummers make use of a drop clutch, which is used to open or close the hi hat by tapping a device with the stick as an alternative to using the foot pedal. When the drop clutch is closed, this keeps the hi-hats closed without the drummer having to hold down the pedal. This frees up the foot that is normally used with the hi-hat to perform on the second bass drum pedal.

File:Dave Weckl's drum kit @Jazz Alley, 8th Dec. 2007.jpg
File:Tom-tom 12x8.jpg

The standard hardware pack includes a hi-hat stand, a snare drum stand, two or three cymbal stands, and a bass drum pedal. Drum kits are usually offered as either complete kits which include drums and hardware, or as “shell packs” which include only the drums and perhaps some tom mounting hardware. Cymbals are usually purchased separately and are also available in either packs or as individual pieces, which enables the buyer to test for their perfect cymbal.

Depending on the drummer or style of music, the quality of equipment must also be taken into consideration. All drums, cymbals, and other accessories project different sounds, and contribute to music as a whole. For example, if a drummer is looking for a more washy, less clean snare drum sound, he/she might choose to use a vintage, or cheaper snare drum. If a drummer is looking for a powerful, clean and cutting cymbal sound, he/she might choose a cymbal that is more expensive and made out of higher quality metal.

Basic drum kit Edit

Five-piece kit
  • Bass drum & pedal(s) [1]
  • Snare drum & stand [2]
  • Floor tom [3]
  • Mounted tom (with mounting hardware) or second floor tom [4]
  • Mounted tom (with mounting hardware) [5]
  • Hi-hat cymbals & stand
  • Crash cymbal & stand
  • Ride cymbal & stand
  • Throne

"Four-piece kit", "five-piece kit", etc., refers to the actual number of drums in the set, cymbals not being counted.[2]


Drummers who perform in concert venues often have a variety of equipment cases to transport the drums, cymbals and hardware. Performers who play local gigs may only have relatively inexpensive padded cloth bags or thin plastic cases. Professional touring drummers who have to ship their drums will typically have heavy-duty road cases that will securely hold and protect the equipment during transport. Professional drummers may also carry their own drum microphones (usually referred to as "mics") with them to shows, to avoid having situations where a venue has substandard equipment. Dynamic microphones, which can handle high sound pressure levels are usually used to close-mic drums while condenser mics are used for overheads and room mics.[3] Some drummers who have their own mics have a set of drum-mounted mics, an approach which eliminates the need for mic stands and reduces set-up time. In some styles of music, drummers may also use electronic effects on drums. In some situations, drummers use noise gates that mute microphones below a threshold volume. This allows the sound engineer to use a higher overall volume for the drum kit, because it reduces the number of "active" mics which could feed back.

In some styles or settings, such as country music clubs or churches, the drummer may use a plexiglass screen to dampen the onstage volume of the drums. Many drummers who play in different venues carry carpeting or mats to prevent the bass drum from slipping on a wooden floor. Some drummers use an insulation-style filling or foam in the bass drum to lessen the "ringing" sound. Drummers often use a variety of accessories when they are practicing. Metronomes and beat counters are used to develop a steady rhythm. Drum mufflers are used to lessen the volume of drums during practicing.

Electronic drumsEdit

Main article: Electronic drums
File:Roland V-Drum TD-12S V-Stage set + expansion.jpg

Some drummers use some or all electronic drum components. There are two approaches to using electronic drums. One approach is to use drum trigger pads for all of the different instruments. These pads are discs with a rubber-type coating that can be mounted on stands in the same locations that the traditional drum shells would be placed. Each disc has a piezoelectric transducer which transmits an electronic signal when it is struck. A patch cord from each drum pad disc is plugged into a drum synthesizer module and connected to the appropriate synthesized or sampled drum sound. Thus, when the drummer strikes the drum pad that is designated as the snare drum pad, the synthesizer module produces the sound of a snare drum. Since the sound is produced by a synthesizer, a performer can choose a range of sounds, such as samples of an actual drum or cymbal or electronic drum sounds. A drummer could even have the synthesizer produce non-drum sounds, such as sound effects or pitched notes.

The advantage of playing with a purely electronic drum kit is that there is no onstage drum sound, apart from any sound from a monitor or keyboard amplifier (which can be easily turned up or down). This may be desirable for venues in which only a quiet drum sound is desired, as in the case of a church or a music theater show. As well, a drummer with electronic drums can practice without being concerned about disturbing neighbors or room-mates. Another advantage is that electronic drums do not need to be mic-ed and sound-checked. The disadvantage of electronic drums is that they may not have the full range of tonal options and textures that are available with natural drums, and the pads and plastic cymbals may not have the same "feel" for the performer. For example, an entry-level electronic drum system will have a snare sound, but the snare drum pad may not have a sensor that detects "rim shots". Another potential disadvantage is that an electronic drummer needs to have a keyboard amplifier or PA system in order to be heard in a rehearsal.

The second approach to playing electronic drums is to use an acoustic drum kit (wooden shells and metal cymbals) and attach trigger sensors to each drum or cymbal. The sensors are then routed to a synthesizer module in the same fashion as a purely electronic drum kit. The advantage of this approach is that a drummer could switch between traditional, natural drum sounds and quirky electronica drum sounds throughout a performance.


Snare, tom and bass drum sizes are commonly expressed as diameter x depth, both in inches, for example 14 x 5.5 is a common snare drum size. However, some manufacturers, including Drum Workshop, Slingerland, and Tama Drums, use the opposite convention, and put the depth first, so they would call this size 5.5 x 14. Makers who use the diameter-first convention include Premier Percussion, Pearl Drums, Pork Pie Percussion, Ludwig-Musser, Sonor, Mapex, and Yamaha Drums

The standard sizes for a 5 piece, "2 up, 1 down" rock kit are: 22" x 18" bass drum, 12" x 9" rack tom, 13" x 10" rack tom, 16" x 16" floor tom and a 14" x 5.5" snare drum. Another common sized drum kit is a fusion set. A standard 5 piece fusion drum kit will consist of a 20" x 16" bass drum, 10" x 8" rack tom, 12" x 9" rack tom, 14" x 14" floor tom and a 14" x 5.5" snare drum. Jazz drum kits usually exclude the mid tom. In recent years manufacturers have introduced modification to the rock kit standard, with more and more drum makers offering a "1 up, 2 down" configuration, where the configuration includes two floor toms and a single rack tom. This evolution can be explained by the popularity of artists such as Led Zeppelin's John Bonham who in fact modeled his kit after Gene Krupa a Big Band era jazz drummer. The amount of pieces in a drum kit can vary by large amounts from player to player due to personal preference from minimal kits mainly used in rockabilly and dixieland jazz to indulgently sized kits in some progressive rock, fusion, and metal groups. The size of bass drums differs a great deal between different styles. A jazz drummer may use a relatively small bass drum, because in jazz, the bass drum is often used more as an accent instrument than for laying down a heavy beat. In contrast, a metal or hard rock drummer may have a very large bass drum (often multiple bass drums) that can produce a deep, muffled tone. This obviously varies upon the genre of the music in which is being played.

Audio samplesEdit

Audio samples
Component Content Audio (Vorbis: click the arrow to play)
Snare Unmuffled snare drum File:Snare drum unmuffled.ogg
Muffled snare drum File:Snare drum muffled.ogg
Rim click on a snare File:Snare drum rim.ogg
Bass drum Muffled bass drum File:Bass drum.ogg
Toms 8-inch (20 cm) rack tom File:Tom drum 8 inch.ogg
12-inch (30 cm) rack tom File:Tom 12 inch.ogg
Floor tom File:Floor tom.ogg
Hi-hat Closed hi-hat File:Hi hat closed.ogg
Open hi-hat File:Hi hat open.ogg
Hi-hat being opened and closed by its foot pedal (chick) File:Hi hat foot pedal.ogg
Crash Crash cymbal File:Crash cymbal.ogg
Ride Hit on the bow File:Ride cymbal.ogg
Hit on the bell of the cymbal File:Ride cymbal bell.ogg
Hit on the edge File:Ride cymbal rim.ogg
Beat A typical rock beat on hi-hat File:Rock beat hi hat.ogg
Typical rock beat on ride cymbal File:Rock beat ride cymbal.ogg
See the Drums category at Wikipedia Commons for more


See also Edit


  1. Peckman, Jonathan (2007). Picture Yourself Drumming, p.30. ISBN 1598633309.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Peckman (2007), p.31.
  3. Drum Lessons -

External linksEdit

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