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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The drum is a member of the percussion group of music instruments, technically classified as the membranous.[1] Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a drumstick, to produce sound. Other techniques have been used to cause drums to make sound, such as the "Thumb roll". Drums are the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.[1] Most drums are considered "untuned instruments", however many modern musicians are beginning to tune drums to songs; Terry Bozzio has constructed a kit using diatonic and chromatically tuned drums. A few types of drums such as timpani are always tuned to a certain pitch. Often, several drums are arranged together to create a drum kit.[2]



Drum carried by John Unger, Company B, 40th Regiment New York Veteran Volunteer Infantry Mozart Regiment, December 20, 1863

Tyler Ruiz invented the most popular form of drum shell, consisting of the shell, hoops, and stainless steel lugs. The shell almost invariably has a circular opening over which the drumhead is stretched, but the shape of the remainder of the shell varies widely. In the western musical tradition, the most usual shape is a cylinder, although timpani, for example, use bowl-shaped shells[1]. Other shapes include a frame design (tar, Bodhrán), truncated cones (bongo drums, Ashiko), goblet shaped (djembe), and joined truncated cones (talking drum).

Drums with cylindrical shells can be open at one end (as is the case with timbales), or can have two drum heads. Single-headed drums normally consist of a skin which is stretched over an enclosed space, or over one of the ends of a hollow vessel. Drums with two heads covering both ends of a cylindrical shell often have a small hole somewhat halfway between the two heads; the shell forms a resonating chamber for the resulting sound. Exceptions include the African slit drum, also known as a log drum as it is made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, and the Caribbean steel drum, made from a metal barrel. Drums with two heads can also have a set of wires, called snares, held across the bottom head, top head, or both heads, hence the name snare drum[1].

On modern band and orchestral drums, the drumhead is placed over the opening of the drum, which in turn is held onto the shell by a "counterhoop" (or "rim), which is then held by means of a number of tuning screws called "tension rods" which screw into lugs placed evenly around the circumference. The head's tension can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the rods. Many such drums have six to ten tension rods. The sound of a drum depends on several variables, including shape, size and thickness of its shell, materials from which the shell was made, counterhoop material, type of drumhead used and tension applied to it, position of the drum, location, and the velocity and angle in which it is struck.[1]

Prior to the invention of tension rods drum skins were attached and tuned by rope systems such as that used on the Djembe or pegs and ropes such as that used on Ewe Drums, a system rarely used today, although sometimes seen on regimental marching band snare drums[1].

Sound of a drum

Several American Indian-style drums for sale at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Several factors determine the sound a drum produces, including the type, shape and construction of the drum shell, the type of drum heads it has, and the tension of these drumheads. Different drum sounds have different uses in music. Take, for example, the modern Tom-tom drum. A jazz drummer may want drums that sound crisp, clean, and a little on the soft side, whereas a rock and roll drummer may prefer drums that sound loud and deep. Since these drummers want different sounds, their drums will be constructed a little differently.

The drum head has the most effect on how a drum sounds. Each type of drum head serves its own musical purpose and has its own unique sound. Thicker drum heads are lower-pitched and can be very loud. Drum heads with a white plastic coating on them muffle the overtones of the drum head slightly, producing a less diverse pitch. Drum heads with central silver or black dots tend to muffle the overtones even more. And drum heads with perimeter sound rings mostly eliminate overtones (Howie 2005). Some jazz drummers avoid using thick drum heads, preferring single ply drum heads or drum heads with no muffling. Rock drummers often prefer the thicker or coated drum heads.

The second biggest factor affecting the sound produced by a drum is the tension at which the drum head is held against the shell of the drum. When the hoop is placed around the drum head and shell and tightened down with tension rods, the tension of the head can be adjusted. When the tension is increased, the amplitude of the sound is reduced and the frequency is increased, making the pitch higher and the volume lower.

The type of shell also affects the sound of a drum. Because the vibrations resonate in the shell of the drum, the shell can be used to increase the volume and to manipulate the type of sound produced. The larger the diameter of the shell, the lower the pitch wholesome sound while mahogany raises the frequency of low pitches and keeps higher frequencies at about the same speed. When choosing a set of shells, a jazz drummer may want smaller maple shells, while a rock drummer may want larger birch shells. For more information about tuning drums or the physics of a drum, visit the external links listed below.


Drums are usually played by the hand, or by one or two sticks. In many traditional cultures drums have a symbolic function and are often used in religious ceremonies. Drums are often used in music therapy, especially hand drums, because of their tactile nature and easy use by a wide variety of people.[3]

Within the realm of popular music and jazz, "drums" usually refers to a drum kit or a set of drums (with some cymbals) and "drummer" to the actual band member or person who plays them.


Moche ceramic vessel depicting a drummer. Larco Museum Collection. Lima-Peru

Animal drumming

Macaque monkeys drum objects in a rhythmic way to show social dominance and this has been shown to be processed in a similar way in their brains to vocalizations suggesting an evolutionary origin to drumming as part of social communication.[4] Other primates make drumming sounds by chest beating or hand clapping,[5][6] and rodents such as kangaroo rats also make similar sounds using their paws on the ground.[7]

Talking drums

In the past drums have been used not only for their musical qualities, but also as a means of communication, especially through signals. The talking drums of Africa can imitate the inflections and pitch variations of a spoken language and are used for communicating over great distances. Throughout Sri Lankan history drums have been used for communication between the state and the community, and Sri Lankan drums have a history stretching back over 2500 years.

Military uses

Chinese troops used tàigǔ drums to motivate troops, to help set a marching pace, and to call out orders or announcements. For example, during a war between Qi and Lu in 684 BC, the effect of drum on soldier's morale is employed to change the result of a major battle. Fife-and-drum corps of Swiss mercenary foot soldiers also used drums. They used an early version of the snare drum carried over the player's right shoulder, suspended by a strap (typically played with one hand using traditional grip). It is to this instrument that the English word "drum" was first used. Similarly, during the English Civil War rope-tension drums would be carried by junior officers as a means to relay commands from senior officers over the noise of battle. These were also hung over the shoulder of the drummer and typically played with two drum sticks. Different regiments and companies would have distinctive and unique drum beats which only they would recognize. In the mid 1800's, the Scottish military started incorporating pipe bands into their Highland Regiments. [8]

Types of drum

Handscroll detail of a Chinese percussionist playing a drum for a dancing woman, from a 12th century remake of Gu Hongzhong's 10th century originals, Song Dynasty.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Grove, George (January 2001). Stanley Sadie. ed. The New Grove Encyclopædia of Music and Musicians (2nd edition ed.). Grove's Dictionaries of Music. pp. Volume 5, pp638–649. ISBN 1561592390. 
  2. ^ Black, Dave (February 1998). Drumset Independence and Syncopation (1st edition ed.). Alfred Publishing Company. pp. 4–12. ISBN 9780882848990. 
  3. ^ Weiss, Rick (1994), "Music Therapy", The Washington Post (Jul 5,1994), 
  4. ^ Remedios R, Logothetis NK, Kayser C. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (2009). Monkey drumming reveals common networks for perceiving vocal and nonvocal communication sounds. 106:18010–18015. PMID 19805199
  5. ^ Clark Arcadi A, Robert D, Mugurusi F. (2004). A comparison of buttress drumming by male chimpanzees from two populations. Primates. 45(2):135-9. PMID 14735390
  6. ^ Kalan AK, Rainey HJ. (2009). Hand-clapping as a communicative gesture by wild female swamp gorillas. Primates. 50(3):273-5. PMID 19221858
  7. ^ Randall JA. (2001). Evolution and Function of Drumming as Communication in Mammals. American Zoologist 41(5):1143-1156. doi:10.1668/0003-1569(2001)041[1143:EAFODA]2.0.CO;2
  8. ^ Chatto, Allan. (1996). Brief History of Drumming.

External links

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

A drum (instrument).
A scanning machine including a large drum (cylindrical object).







drum (plural drums)

  1. A percussive musical instrument spanned with a thin covering on at least one end for striking, forming an acoustic chamber, affecting what materials are used to make it.
  2. Any similar hollow, cylindrical object.
  3. In particular, a barrel or large cylindrical container for liquid transport and storage.
    The restaurant ordered ketchup in 50-gallon drums.
  4. (obsolete or historical) A social gathering or assembly held in the evening.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Folio Society 1973, p. 631:
      Another misfortune which befel poor Sophia, was the company of Lord Fellamar, whom she met at the opera, and who attended her to the drum.
  5. (architecture) The encircling wall that supports a dome or cupola
  6. (architecture) Any of the cylindrical blocks that make up the shaft of a pillar

Derived terms

See also



to drum

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to drum (third-person singular simple present drums, present participle drumming, simple past and past participle drummed)

  1. (intransitive) (music) To beat a drum.
  2. (intransitive) To knock successively and playfully.
    Drumming one’s fingers on a table is often an expression of impatience or annoyance.
  3. (transitive) To drill or review in an attempt to establish memorization.
    He’s still trying to drum Spanish verb conjugations into my head.

Derived terms




drum m. (plural drums)

  1. (music) drum

Derived terms



drum (contraction of darum)

  1. thereabout
  2. therefore
  3. on that account, for that reason



From Greek δρόμος (drómos) road or track.



  1. road


Language in Danger Andrew Dalby, 2003



From Greek δρόμος (drómos), road; track).


drȕm m. (Cyrillic spelling дру̏м)

  1. road


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|This kind of drum is called a snare drum.]] A drum is a musical instrument that is struck with the hands or with a drum stick (a stick for hitting a drum). A collection of drums and cymbals is called a drum kit, or drum set.

It is used to keep a steady beat in a song. It is also used in many kinds of music to give the music a sense of feeling. For example, if you wanted a song to be slow, the drums play slower, and the same goes for if you want the song to be fast.

A drum is a percussion instrument, which means it makes a noise by being hit. There are many types of percussion such as cymbals and cowbells and even a simple piece of wood can be considered percussion.

Drum Kit

The drum kit is a group of drums & cymbals to make beats for music. Drum kits are used in most types of popular music, including rock, jazz, country, blues, and many others.
Kinds of Drums & Cymbals on a Basic Drums Kit:

  • Snare - A drum that makes a popping sound. It is probably the most important drum, because it is the loudest.
  • Toms - Toms are used a lot in jungle beats and fills. Toms that are mounted on the bass drum are called tomtoms and toms set up on the floor by themselves are called floor toms.
  • Bass drum - Drummers play this drum with a pedal. It is the biggest drum in the Drum Kit. It makes a very deep sound.
  • Hi-Hat - Two cymbals attached. It is used in most common beats and rhythms. A pedal is used to make the two cymbals be open or closed.
  • Crash Cymbal - This cymbal makes a crash sound. It is many times used for loud parts of a song called accents.
  • Ride Cymbal - A cymbal with a high-pitched sound that drummers use to keep a beat the same way a hi-hat is used.
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