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english drum set , italian batteria , french battery
Drum set.svg
Standard structure of the drum kit

1.  Ride Cymbal second  floor tom 3.  Tomtom 4.  Large drum 5.  snare drum 6.  Hi-Hat

classification Membranophon (drums)
Idiophon (cymbals, cowbell)
percussion instrument
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / parameter range missing Sound sample Rockbeat on a drum kit
Related instruments

Electronic drums , list of percussion instruments , percussion

List of drummers and drummers , category: drummers

The drums , and drum set , drum kit , drums or abbreviated dr , is a combination of various percussion instruments .

In the course of history, different structures of the drum kit have been established depending on the music style . To today's standard form include snare drum ( snare drum ), bass drum ( bass drum ), usually several toms , a hi-hat , several other basins and some small percussion such as a wood block , cowbell or tambourine . This combination can be put together individually by the respective musician, varied and arranged according to his playing style with the help of stands and fastening devices.

In addition to the acoustic drums, there is also an electronic counterpart today, see electronic drums .

In common parlance, the terms percussion and drum set are used synonymously, but academically the percussion is synonymous with percussion , the generic term for all percussion and percussion instruments within a symphony orchestra .

Drum notes are notated in the usual notation . The neutral clef is used for identification .

Percussion instruments

The individual instruments in the percussion set are either idiophones ("self- tinklers") or membranes ("fur tongues"). The choice of instruments depends on the musical context, style and ideas of the drummer. The sizes of the drums and cymbals are reported in inches (1 inch = 2.54 cm). Even if a whole range of standards have established themselves, the market now offers a large number of different sizes. A combination of the following instruments is almost always used as the basis of the drum kit.

Small drum

Snare drum with wooden shell, 14 ″

The snare drum , also called "snare drum" called (of English. Snare drum ), is positioned in the center front of the player, the main instrument of the drums. It comes from European military music and has developed from various forms of marching and stirring drums.

It has a shell made of several layers of wood (usually six to ten layers) or made of metal, which is covered with skins on both sides . The upper batter head is usually slightly roughened and coated white or light gray; the skin on the underside is a smooth and significantly thinner resonance skin. Originally, real animal skins were used; today, industrially manufactured plastic products with metal tires are used almost exclusively.

The snare drum gets its characteristic sound from a series of parallel wires (snare carpet or snare carpet), which are stretched from one side of the drum to the other along the outside of the resonance head. The snare carpet is set in vibration with each beat and strikes back on the resonance head, causing the typical sound of the snare drum and a dense and full sound when eddies. When a drumstick hits a single drumstick, the sound is the result of a combination of two processes: the hitting of the stick on the batter head and the resulting kickback of the snare carpet on the resonant head. With the help of a special mechanism (snar removal), the snare carpet can be lifted off the fur, which means that it loses its effect. The tension of the snare carpet can also be adjusted differently, which enables a variety of different timbres.

The skin diameter is usually 14 inches, common shell depths are 5.5 or 6.5 inches. However, other sizes such as 13 × 6.5 inches or 15 × 3.5 inches can also be found. Meanwhile, there are also piccolo drums with a diameter of only 8 or 10 inches or relatively flat shells, which are often used as an additional instrument ("side snare").

Big drum

Big drum

The bass drum (also known as the bass drum or kick drum) is the second main instrument of the drums. It consists of a large wooden boiler, usually covered on both sides, which rests on its side and is held in its position by two legs at the front end that can be folded for transport. The bass drum is operated with the aid of a foot machine , which is fixed on the batter side with a clamping device on the drum's hoop. As an alternative to using two large drums ( double bass ), a double pedal can be used which, through mechanical transmission, enables playing with both feet on just one drum.

The resonance head on the front side is often provided with holes in order to reduce the reverberation of the drum and to enable the sound to be picked up directly by a microphone in the drum. In addition, pillows or blankets are often placed in the drum to dampen it.

In the early days of drums, large drums were very large, 28 or 30 inches in diameter, before smaller sizes gradually became popular. For a long time 14 "deep and 22" diameter kettles were standard, but now 16 or 18 "deep drums are preferred. Depending on the style, modern drums are equipped with bass drums of different sizes from 16 to 26 inches in diameter.

The bass drum rosette is the name given to the fastening clamp that is required to mount cymbals and toms on the drum. On some drums, the bass drum is undrilled , i.e. without a rosette. Some drummers perceive the resulting sound to be more open and lively, as the bass drum can vibrate more freely in this way.

Tom toms

14 ″ stand tom

Tomtoms are usually drums with diameters between 6 and 18 inches covered with skins on both sides. Depending on the type of suspension and set-up is called the drums as toms ( English rack toms ) who need a tripod or a bracket on the bass drum, or as floor toms ( english floor toms ) that stand on their own-mounted boiler legs. Most high-quality toms are suspended from cantilever systems such as RIMS in order to exploit their maximum sound potential. Nowadays, however, many drums in the lower price segment have vibration-neutral suspension devices.

The ratio of the bowl diameter to the bowl depth is very different; Floor toms are often deeper than hanging toms of the same diameter. The rototoms occupy a special position : They consist of a flat metal frame on which the batter head is stretched; there is no shell or resonance head. A screw construction makes it possible to change the skin tension by turning the frame while playing, thus creating a glissando . Rototoms were particularly common in the 1980s.

Some drummers such as Phil Collins prefer toms without a resonance head ( concert toms ). These have a very clearly defined pitch, comparable to timbales . Concert toms were particularly popular in the 1970s.

The number of toms on a set is heavily dependent on the respective musical style. While only two or three toms are often used in pop music and classical jazz , drummers in jazz rock and heavy metal use up to eight toms. However, this varies greatly depending on the personal playing style. Most standard sets come with three toms: two hanging toms (10 to 13 inches) and one floor tom (14 to 16 inches).

The shell material and processing have a certain influence on the sound of the drum, but the sound of tom toms can be varied over a wide range by the selection of the drum heads and the head tension.


In principle, five pool types can be distinguished. According to their sound characteristics, these fulfill different functions in the drum set:

Ride pool

The ride cymbal usually has a diameter of 16 to 24 inches and can have different material thicknesses. Depending on the processing, it has a relatively defined stop ("ping"), which is underlaid by a background noise ("wash"). Some cymbals sound relatively dry, others thinner ones generate more background noise and thus a rather undefined soundscape. If you play the bell ( English bell or cup , bell), you will hear a bright and clear, bell-like tone. If, on the other hand, you play the edge, the overtone component is correspondingly larger and the cymbal can rock up. Depending on their applications, there are some special forms, such as sizzle rides, which are equipped with a few rivets in order to create a flowing, pronounced background noise or the flat ride, which has no crest and therefore has fewer overtones.

A continuous pulse or fixed rhythmic figures ( English patterns ) are usually played on the ride pool .



The hi-hat consists of a pair of cymbals that are horizontally mounted on a stand with a pedal. This enables the hi-hat to be opened and closed with the left foot in the standard setup using a spring balancer.

Closing the hi-hat cymbals with the pedal produces a comparatively quiet sound similar to that of a cabasa . Striking with a stick produces a fine sound when closed, a rougher ("rocky") sound when closed, and a loud sound similar to that of a crash cymbal when open. Depending on how long the contact between the two cymbals is, different sounds are created.

A continuous pulse or fixed rhythmic figures ("patterns") are usually played on the hi-hat. It is often used as a tonal alternative to the ride cymbal.

Crash pool

16 ″ crash cymbal (bronze)

Compared to ride cymbals, crash cymbals are usually thinner and smaller (about 13 to 20 inches in diameter) and, in terms of their processing, are designed for a significantly higher proportion of "white noise". Their sound is rather noisy. That is why they are often used for accents or (for example with felt mallets) for swelling crescendo effects. Depending on the size, shape and material thickness, different crash cymbals have different lengths of reverberation.

China basin

Conical top of a China basin

The china cymbal (china cymbal, dt. "Chinese cymbal") differs - due to a different cultural background - in the shape of the other basin types and is an exception. The dome is often not arched, but has the Shape of a cylinder or truncated cone, the base of which represents the top of the dome. The most striking feature is the curved edge, which makes the basin look like a kind of elongated Gugelhupf shape in cross section. The diameter is usually 14 to 24 inches. The sound image is comparable to that of a crash cymbal, but rather “dirtier” or “rawer” and shorter. China cymbals are often used for short explosive accents or staccato figures. Especially in the field of metal it is used on the one hand as a strong accent pool, but also often as a hi-hat or ride replacement. Larger china cymbals , often with sizzles , have also found their way into jazz and big band music as ride cymbals. To protect the edge of the pool, they are usually hung upside down or vertically so that the bent edge can be hit flat. The china cymbal (china type) is the cymbal with the widest range of different sounds.

Splash and effect pools

10 ″ splash basin with tom holder

Splash basin (splash cymbal) are comparable with crash cymbals in type and function, but they are in diameter significantly smaller (about 6 to 12 inches), which is why they have a different sound characteristics: splash cymbals speak rapidly, sound bright, sparkling and hardly lingering. They are used for short light accents. Stewart Copeland and Manu Katché in particular established the use of splash cymbals.

In addition, there are a variety of different effect cymbals with special shapes or processes such as holes or clamps to expand the sound spectrum of the drum set. The creativity of the pool manufacturer seems inexhaustible, as does the variety of names under which effect pools are sold. Thus, the product range of “cups”, “bells”, “stacks”, “mini-Chinas”, “jingle hats” or similar pools is growing, although not all pools can be clearly assigned to a group. Cups or bells are cymbals that produce a sound similar to the bell of a ride cymbal. In the case of Stacks, several basins of different sizes are placed directly on top of each other in order to produce short "dirty" sounds.

Standard sizes

The common drum and basin diameters are:

design type size
Big drum 22 inches (16 to 30 inches)
Small drum 14 inches (6 to 16 inches)
Tomtom 10, 12 and 14 or 12, 13 and 16 inches

(6 to 18 inches)

Hi-hat 14 inches (8 to 16 inches)
Ride pool 20 inches (18 to 24 inches)
Crash pool 16 inches (13 to 24 inches)
Splash cymbals 10 inches (6 to 12 inches)
China basin 18 inches (8 to 26 inches)


Typical hardware: the foot pedal

Hardware includes all operating elements such as foot pedal , cymbal stands and tripods as well as the various brackets. This also includes parts that are firmly attached to the shell, such as the clamping lugs, snare lift-off and bass drum feet.


The drums and cymbals of the drums are by hand with two drumsticks ( English drumsticks played), which are mostly made of wood. The bass drums are played with a foot machine that hits a mallet with a felt or plastic head on the skin. Brooms are also used by hand, or rods called rods with bundled wooden sticks which, because of their properties, are also called “sticks” between sticks and brooms. In addition, there are mallets with felt or flannel heads for hand play for muffled or dull play. When playing with the hands, the rebound of the sticks from the vibrating surface is used, especially the denser a "carpet of blows" becomes, up to the whirl . Mallets are used , especially in classical music, to achieve a muted tone .



The drum heads used to be made from natural skin. Nowadays they usually consist of one or two layers of plastic film. They are stretched onto the drum shell by means of hoops, which are usually made of metal. Depending on the bowl diameter, this is done with four to twelve clamping screws each. In this way, the heads can be tuned by changing the tension in a pitch that matches the music style. The upper played head is called batter head, the lower one is called resonance head. When it comes to pelts, a distinction is mainly made between transparent ("clear") and roughened skins ("coated"). The latter produce a warmer sound for the drum and make it possible to use drum brooms to create a noise when wiping. While roughened skins were often only used on the snare drum in the past, they are now often found on the other drums as well. Furthermore, a distinction is made between single-layer and multi-layer (usually two-layer) skins. The multi-ply heads usually have a slightly more muffled and deeper sound than single-ply heads, and they are more stable. The multi-layered heads are usually found in harder music styles such as rock, hard rock and metal. There are also snare heads with very small holes that affect the sound and make the snare drum sound drier. These are designated with the addition of "dry snare". The more tensioning screws are used to fasten the head, the more precisely the drum can be tuned. Well-known manufacturers of fur are Remo , Evans and Aquarian.


The shells of the bass drum and the toms are mostly made of wood. The most popular wood is maple (often as English. Maple referred), which offers a warm and balanced sound with relatively strong lows. In addition, birch is very popular in recording studios due to its highlighted heights. In return, mahogany offers very powerful lows and reduced highs. As more wood used is beech , poplar , linden , oak and several other woods. There are also wood mixtures. Nowadays, one-piece acrylic kettles have become a popular alternative to wood kettles. In the case of inexpensive drums, you will also find cardboard shells that are glued and pressed together. In terms of sound, however, these do not come close to the alternatives.

The snare drum is often made of metal or wood. In the meantime, several manufacturers also offer exotic snares, for example with larger holes in the shell ("vents"), which ensure a louder and louder sound.

The less the sound is lost in the bowl, the better and, above all, the more resonant the drum sound is. This shows that the drum shells are of good quality. To ensure that the sound is transmitted to the kettle with as little loss as possible, the quality and shape of the ridge are crucial; this is the edge of the kettle on which the skin rests. While flat or round ridges predominated in the past, thin and pointed edges have prevailed today.

In high-quality sets, the kettles are often painted to make them visually more attractive. For this, the outermost layer of wood should have a nice grain. In the case of inexpensive sets, on the other hand, color-printed foils are often used, which are glued to the boiler. Even high-quality sets can be foiled to achieve a corresponding look. However, the use of such foils can impair the sound quality of the boiler if the foils are poorly bonded and prevent the boiler from vibrating.


The basins are usually made of alloys such as brass or various bronzes such as copper-nickel-bronze and tin-bronze. The tin content varies from 8% to bell bronze with 20%. In addition, many high-quality pools contain a small amount of silver. In earlier times there were sterling silver cymbals, which shimmered silvery and consisted of the alloy of the same name. However, they could only be classified in the subclass of basins. Well-known manufacturers of cymbals are Zildjian , Meinl , Sabian and Paiste . In the shadow of these four large cymbal forges, other manufacturers have established themselves, such as Masterworks, Anatolian and Ufip.


The drumsticks are made of wood (mostly hickory ), plastic or carbon fiber (carbon sticks) and rarely made of metal. Rods consist of several thin wooden or plastic sticks that are tied together in a bundle. The brooms are usually made of plastic or metal. The mallets are usually made of wood or plastic; felt or fur is used for the head. There is also a large number of manufacturers in the drumstick sector. Well-known ones include Vic Firth , Vater Percussion and Pro Mark. Drumsticks are also sold by manufacturers of other drum parts; there are also series by Zildjian or Sonor .

History and manufacturer

Joe LaBarbera plays the drums

The invention of the first bass drum pedal by JR Olney in 1887 is decisive for the development of the drums . This is followed by the manufacture of the first series product by William F. Ludwig in 1899 and, in the cultural field, the "No-Drumming-Laws" in the USA. This forbade the slaves to play their traditional hand drums and led to the fact that the African strongly rhythmic music culture with European and oriental percussion instruments was cultivated. The first complete drum kit came onto the market in 1918 by the Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company .

As in many other branches of the economy, internationalization and globalization also prevailed in drum production and sales. Until the 1960s, the top products came mainly from the USA ( Ludwig , Gretsch ), Great Britain ( Premier ) and Germany ( Sonor , Trixon ).

From the 1960s onwards, cheap products became increasingly competitive. Cheap drums came first from Japan, later from Taiwan and South Korea. From the 1970s onwards, Japan and Taiwan were already offering top-quality products ( Tama , Yamaha , Pearl ), which oppressed top-class drums from the USA, Great Britain and Germany and finally took over large market shares from traditional manufacturers.

In the course of the 1980s, Taiwan in particular became more and more the cheapest hardware supplier to almost every drum manufacturer in the world. With globalization from around 1990 onwards, the international dependency relationship turned around: Former top producers became dependent on earlier cheap producers (such as Sonor in Chinese capital dependence).

Recently, Brazil has been entering the international market with reasonably priced RMV drums of relatively high quality.

Electronic drums

Electronic drums

The electronic drums ( e-drums for short ) are played like the classic drum set . The tones are not created when you hit an instrument, but are triggered by the beat impulse, mostly generated digitally in a sound processor and can be output via loudspeakers or headphones. For this purpose, all recorded components are equipped with electronic pickups. The resulting sound depends on the sound processor used or the type and quality of the sound templates ("samples") used; it can come very close to the sound of a conventional acoustic drum kit, but does not yet offer all possible playful subtleties compared to this. In addition to the more complex structure and the sometimes higher purchase price of the electronic drum kit, this is the reason that today both forms are used side by side.

A big advantage of electronic drums is that they almost completely lack their own sound without amplification. It is therefore suitable for use under difficult acoustic conditions. Examples of use are pop music at room volume at corresponding events, practicing without disturbing the noise of the neighbors while playing with headphones, and musical productions that require an extremely low volume on the stage. Another advantage of electronic drums is that you can create the sounds of various drum and percussion instruments with just one set .

The electronic drums are not to be confused with the drum machine, which mimics the sounds of the instruments without interaction with a drummer.

Match practice

Function of the drums

The main function of the drums in a band is to create a basic rhythm that carries the band and, together with the other instruments in the rhythm group (bass and keyboard), creates the leading groove . For this, the drummer usually uses a fixed sequence of beats that he repeats over and over again. The basis of the sustaining rhythm is the alternation between the deep sound of the bass drum, the high sound of the snare drum and the metallic, continuous pulse of the hi-hat or ride cymbal.

In addition to this basic function, something else becomes more and more important as the music becomes more complex: The drums incorporate decorations, emphasize and emphasize places with effects and modifications such as the rhythmic fills . Crash pools or other effect pools are usually used here. The use of vortices and rudiments on the snare drum also aim at this effect. The pinnacle of embellishment and emphasis is the drum solo , in which the other instruments in the band take a back seat.


Typical drum key (in today's writing convention)

Due to the multitude of possibilities to combine and assemble the different percussion instruments, no binding notation has prevailed until today. This means that the notation has to be explained at the beginning of drum notes. This description is called a drum key .

There are several writing conventions for this: Instead of the common clefs , a neutral clef is used, as many percussion instruments are not tuned to one pitch. In addition, the individual metal instruments (cymbals and hi-hats) are shown with x-shaped noteheads, while the drums (bass drum, snare, toms) have round noteheads. The relative pitch of the instruments can be read off from the arrangement of the instruments in the score. It is also common to put the parts of the set that are played with the feet on the lower part of the staff, while those that are played with the hands are higher up. The hi-hat is an exception to this distinction, as it can be played with both feet and hands.

If each instrument is notated as a single part, a complex drum figure quickly appears confusing. In practice, pause signs are therefore not set according to fixed rules, but depending on the individual case in an effort to ensure optimal readability. So the following sheet music example treats the drums as a single instrument:

Simple eighth note beat

Analyze and Learn

Analyzing and learning is closely related to building a drum set. The drums differ from the bulk of other instruments in that they are played not only with both hands, but also with both feet. In addition, it is not a single instrument, but a system of several instruments that must be easily accessible for hands and feet and must be able to be hit quickly. The percussion patterns can be learned on the snare , which in the next step are implemented on the entire drum kit and especially in the interplay of snare and bass drum. This transference process is described as hand-foot coordination and is an essential part of the learning process. However, only the combination of both, i.e. figures on the snare (and also on the toms) and complete grooves on hi-hat, snare and bass drum, is the basis for drumming in a band.

Analyzing and learning is often done practically using a piece of music. Here it is important to first hear the time signature and the form of the piece. Then you analyze and learn a suitable accompaniment on the drums and later play it together with other instruments. This process can be supported by teaching. This conveys the recording of what is played, which is particularly important in larger music groups, using drum notes . In this way, important basic knowledge of general music theory and the correct posture on the drums can be learned from scratch.


Playing the drums can be learned at most music schools . Another common type of teaching is private drum teachers. As a professional continuation of the lesson, it is possible to study drumming. In addition to state universities, private institutes such as Drummers Focus also offer this route .

In music education the drums plays a major role. In addition to being used to reduce aggression, especially for younger children, the drums can be used to convey a basic understanding of music such as beat and rhythm. Due to the quick sense of achievement, the level of motivation for beginners is usually high. It is advisable to promote this level of motivation, as the complexity of further learning content increases significantly. A high level of long-term motivation can arise through correct support, motivated and motivating by the teacher, as well as through the versatility and complexity of drumming. This can be reinforced by using it in a larger group of instruments such as a band.

See also


  • Matt Brennan: Kick It: A Social History of the Drum Kit . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2020
  • Tom Börner: Basic book drums. The book for beginners and the first eight years; an educationally proven learning and play concept. Musiktotal, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-9809547-1-4 .
  • Tom Börner: Voices of the drum. A good sound in no time, tips for tuning the drums. Verlag musiktotal, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-9809547-9-X .
  • Joachim Fuchs-Charrier : History of Drumsetplaying. LEU-Verlag, ISBN 3-89775-041-4 .
  • James Holland: The drums. (= Yehudi Menuhin's music guide. ) 2. u. updated edition. Edition Bergh published by Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1994, ISBN 3-7163-0136-1 .
  • Geoff Nicholls: The Drum Book. A history of the rock drum kit. Miller Freeman, San Francisco 1997, ISBN 0-87930-476-6 .
  • Tannigel Peinkofer: manual of the drums. 2nd rev. u. supplementary edition. 1981.
  • Stefan Schütz: Fundamental concepts for drummers. A reader. Leu Verlag, Neustadt 2007, ISBN 978-3-89775-103-3 .
  • Christian Wenzel: Taschenlexikon Drumset and Percussion. PPVMEDIEN, Bergkirchen 2002, ISBN 3-932275-32-2 .
  • Peter Wicke, Kai-Erik, Wieland Ziegenrücker: Handbook of popular music. Revised and exp. New edition, 4th edition. Atlantis-Schott, Mainz 2001, ISBN 3-254-08363-6 , pp. 477-479, pp. 437-46 and a.

Web links

Commons : Drums  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Drums  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Drums  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. 100 years of drums . Deutschlandfunk culture
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 9, 2007 .