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A Drum kit (also drum set or trap set) is a collection of drums, cymbals and sometimes other percussion instruments, such as cowbell, wood blocks, triangle, chimes, or tambourines, arranged for convenient playing by a single person (drummer). The term "drum kit" first became used in the 1700s in Britain. In the U.S.marker, the terms "drum set", and "trap set" were more prevalent historically.

The individual instruments of a drum set are struck 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 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, hi-hat cymbals, a 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. In the 2000s, an increasing number of drummers have begun to use electronic drum pads which trigger synthesized or sampled drum sounds.

Rhythm pattern characteristic of much popular music including rock

History and development

Drum kits were first developed due to financial and space considerations in theaters where drummers were encouraged to cover as many percussion parts as possible. Up until then, drums and cymbals were played separately in military and orchestral music settings. Initially, drummers played the bass and snare drums by hand, then in the 1890s they started experimenting with footpedals to play the bass drum. William Ludwig made the bass drum pedal system workable in 1909, paving the way for 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. Hi-hat stands appeared around 1926. 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 "contraptions" (shortened to "trap") tray used to hold whistles, klaxons, and cowbells, thus drum kits were dubbed "trap kits."

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.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 toward 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 and Stewart Copeland were using large numbers of drums and cymbals[1] and had also begun using electronic drums. Double bass pedals were developed to play on one bass drum, eliminating the need for a second bass drum. 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 2000s, 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).

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exact collection of drum kit components depends on factors like musical style, personal preference, financial resources, and transportation options of the drummer. Cymbal, hi-hat, and tom-tom stands, as well as bass drum pedals and drummer thrones (stools) are usually standard in most drumkits. 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.
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.

Drum pedals have a felt beater which the drummer operates by pressing down on the pedal. When the pedal is depressed, it pulls a chain or sturdy cloth 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. In some metal bands like Anthrax, Kreator, or Slayer, the drummers use a double bass pedal, or use two bass drums, instead of the standard single bass drum and pedal. 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.

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


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 mics with them to shows, to avoid having situations where a venue has substandard equipment. In particular, the bass drum needs a specialized mic, because it produces a high sound pressure; a regular mic designed for vocals will not be able to do justice to the sound of a powerful bass drum. 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 shut off any microphones which are not being used. This allows the sound engineer to use a higher overall volume for the drumkit, 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 a 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 drums

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 drumkit 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 neighbours 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. 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. 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".

The second approach to playing electronic drums is to use a regular 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 drumkit. 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 Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Led Zeppelin's John Bonham. 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 that can produce a deep, resonant tone.

See also


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