A Brief Introduction to Drum Parts

The history of drums is as old as the beginning of civilization. If you look back at African traditional culture they played a central role in various ceremonies and dance rituals. In different countries, you will different varieties of drum types. In Brazil, Konga drums are popular especially in samba and marimba music. In Africa, we have our own African drums. But the universally used drum set is the standard five piece drum set which brings together several parts each with their own sound and function. Learning about each part and how it is played is the key to becoming a good drummer.

Snare Drums

A snare drum produces a loud blasting sound when played. It is therefore at the centre of the drum kit and sits very close to the drummer’s hands for easy reach. It is made with a wooden or at times light metal shell which reverberates very quickly when hit. The top side of a snare drum is thicker than the lower side and is usually coated to protect it from the consistent impact of drum sticks. It is secured by a rim and hoops which are often adjusted to loosen or tighten the drum head for a sharper or damper sound.


Bass or Kick drum

The bass drum is the largest drum in the whole set. It is usually made from wood such as maple and mahogany. The bass drum plays a key role in maintaining the tempo of a song and assisting in the band’s timekeeping.

It is placed on the floor and is in a lower position than every other part in the kit. This is because it is always played using one’s foot. The bass drum is played by stomping on a kick pedal which is hinged to a padded beater which hits the kick drum directly and produces a thumping sound. Learning how to coordinate your foot to stomp the pedal in time with all other parts that you play by hand is the first hurdle one has to overcome in order to become a good drummer.

Tom Drums

Floor toms
Rack toms

Tom drums or tom toms are positioned above the bass drum or beside it. The tom drum that is beside the kick drum is the floor tom and produces the lowest sound. The other toms which are placed above the bass drum are the rack toms. Tom drums are not played as often as the kick and snare and are used mainly when playing fills or rolls. They are also made of wood or metal.

Hi-hat, Cymbals and Crashes

The hi-hat is a pair of metallic discs that is normally positioned right next to the snare drum. It adds a consistent accent to the rhythm of the drums and can either be played while the discs are spaced apart from each other or when in close contact with each other.

The cymbals and crash are larger metallic discs that produce a louder sharper crashing sound when hit and are therefore played minimally to add accents to fills or basic rhythms. One can have as few as two cymbals in their set or as many as 5 cymbals depending on the type of music one intends to play.


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