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Updated on November 30, 2013

Drums are the oldest instruments in the world. Drums are quite simple instruments, all you need to make a drum is a stick and a surface to hit. Drums were once used to communicate, drums were also used for religious purposes and has become an important musical instrument in many cultures.

Drums come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all have some features in common.

How do drums make their sound?

  • A drum is cylinder (shell) with a membrane at one or both ends (the drum head). When something strikes the drum head, it produces vibrations in the air inside the shell. These vibrations make invisible ripples of air, our brains interpret these movements of air as sound.
  • Different types of head, and different shapes of shell give different shapes to the vibrations inside the drum. We hear these as different pitches when the drum is played. A smaller shell creates a higher pitched sound, whilst a larger shell creates a deeper sound.

What are drums made of?

Drum shells can be made of almost any material. Traditional drums are often made of carved or hollowed out-wood. Modern drums can be made of anything from specially treated wood to plastic and even metal. Different materials create different sounds.

Some drum heas can also be made from different sort of materials. In the past animal skins were used and still is the case with some traditional insturments. Modern drum kits use a plastic called Kevlar.

Kinds of Drums

  • Snare Drum /Side Drum

The snare drum was orignally used ti give signals on a battlefield. It has two heads or skins, one at each end of the drum. These are made of animal skin or plastic. Metal wires called snares rest against the lower head. They rattle when the drum is struck.

The snare drum is sometimes called the side drum because in marching bands players carry it at their side. It was developed in the 16th century and is still carried the same way on a sling that hold it on the players's left side. just below the waist. Both hands are left free to hold a pair of sticksand the side drummers play using both sticks together.

In the orchestra and as part of the modern rock drum kit, the side drum is held on a stand at waist height in front of the player.


Each drum has two heads.  they are usually made of plastic.  The tuning screws at the top and the buttom of the drum are uased to tighten the skins.  Both skins must be kept tight to produce the best sound.
Each drum has two heads. they are usually made of plastic. The tuning screws at the top and the buttom of the drum are uased to tighten the skins. Both skins must be kept tight to produce the best sound.


Tom- toms wee first played in the Caribbean hundreds of years ago. European visitors gave them the name tom-tom, after the sound they made.

Tom-toms are part of the drum kit and they are played with hard wooden sticks which produce a powerful sound. There are always at least three tom-toms in a drum kit. The two smallest tom-toms share a stand with the bass drum. Sometimes tom-toms are played in orchestra too.

Bass Drum

The bass drum is the deepest sounding member of the percussion section of the orchestra. The modern bass drum is up to 100 cm in diameter and has a calfskin or plastic head on each side.

The note a bass drum plays is altered by the tension of the head. The tone of the drum is altered by the kind of beater the player uses. The soft beater produces a dull, deep note, a hearder one makes a louder sound.

  • In the orchestra, the bass drum is usually hung on a large stand, which allows it to be moved easily and to be swivelled into the best position for playing. It stands at the back to stop it drowning out the other instruments. The drum is so large that drummer must stand to play it.
  • In jazz and rock drum sets, the bass drum is mounted on the floor and the bass drum is not played by hand, instead the drummer uses player uses a foot pedal to operate the beater. The bass drum is the biggest drum in the drum kit and has the deepest tone and it rests on its side.

Parts of the Drum Kit

Around the drum kit

Modern drum kits include several types of drum, so that the drummer can produce different sound.

The basic drum kit is referred to as the five piece kit. There are actually more than five pieces, the five refers just to the number of shells. The drum kit includes the following:

  • Snare drum
  • Floor toms
  • Bass drum
  • Cymbals
  • Tom toms

Side Drums
Side Drums | Source
Colourful drummers during the Chinese New Year Parade
Colourful drummers during the Chinese New Year Parade
Big drums
Big drums

Drums can be played in a wide variety of styles from classical and jazz to rock and pop. They can be played alongside other percussion instruments.

One of the great things about the drums is that they are relatively easy to learn. With a little practice you will be able to play a basic beat within a few hours. Within a few months, you will be able to play along with your favourite songs.

Most drummers will tell you that they always tap on things before they even started playing the real drums. This is after all, how drumming started thousands of years ago.

But like any other instruments rhythm is a very important part of any piece of music and the only way to learn how to play the drums well is to practise, or you can enroll in a drumming class and by listening to other drummers too.

Quotes about Drums / Drum Players

  • A good drum does not have to be beaten hard.~ Chinese Proverb
  • Drums usually seem to tune themselves. -Levon Helm
  • A good drummer listens as much as he plays - Indian Proverb

Online Drum Lessons

Do you play the drums?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I was born to drum! (Well, sort of. i love playing the flute) ;)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      drums are the coolest instrument ever invented

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      well done can you play the drums

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am a drummer

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i need to know the name of the drum Stuart Greenbaum uses in 90 minutes cirlcling the earth. Youtube '(0 minutes circling the earth - greenbaum- and then go to 2;30.

      Thanx, really need ur help :)

    • profile image

      Ghost Producer 

      7 years ago

      Very nice hub you have here thanks

    • Sun-Girl profile image


      7 years ago from Nigeria

      Educative and well researched article which actually made me to remember when i used to play one this drums in my school days.Lovely hub and thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Absolutely cool!

    • alqx profile image


      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the informative hub about drum parts.

      Note that a drum set doesn't need to have at least 3 toms though. In the past, jazz players commonly used only one rack tom one floor tom. Quite many still like the drum set like that.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      True, very good article you have here! I'm a drummer as well.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      im researching musical instruments :D

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This website is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!:)

    • profile image

      Drum Lessons Beginners 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for this hub really interesting and detailed, I am sure a lot of beginner drummers wil fin dthis invaluable.

    • Dink96 profile image


      9 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      My husband is a drummer and all I can say is thanks for the info! I can now speak to him semi-intelligently. I especially appreciate your picture depicting parts of the drum kit. It has taken me years to pick up what one picture has explained. Great little hub!

    • MM Del Rosario profile imageAUTHOR

      MM Del Rosario 

      9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      Hi Lisa,

      thanks for visiting, i enjoy researching this topic, I have learn as I go along. i also like to use the pictures that I have taken and make them useful to my hubs.

    • LisaG profile image


      9 years ago from Caribbean

      Very informative and well researched hub on drums. I like it! In the East Indian Culture, there is the Tass Drum. They can carry it around by strapping it around their necks or just sit down and play it. It's very rythmic and really encourages you to dance.


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