Drum Terminology

Drum Kit Parts
Drum Kit Parts

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand. - Stevie Wonder

So to help you get started with this new language, here is a list of essential drums vocabulary.

 

DRUMS

  • The bass drum is the large drum at the bottom of the drum kit and has a low pitch. It is played with a pedal.
  • The snare drum goes between the drummers legs and is most commonly 14 inches in diameter. Wires on the bottom drum head produce a "buzzing" sound when the drum is played.
  • The high tom is placed above and in front of the snare drum and usually mounted on the bass drum. It is the highest-pitched of the tom toms and makes a round open, resonant sound.
  • Like the high tom, the mid tom is usually mounted on the bass drum. It is placed next to the high tom and has a similar sound but is tuned to a lower pitch.
  • The low tom (floor tom) is the lowest-pitched of the tom toms. It is usually deeper than the high and mid toms and most commonly features legs; therefore, it doesn't need to be mounted to a stand or another drum. A low tom with legs is called a floor tom.

 

CYMBALS

  • The hi hat cymbals are a pair of medium-sized cymbals that are held together on a hi hat stand. By releasing the foot pedal on the hi hat stand, the cymbals separate and produce a sustained sloshy sound. The hi hats are placed next to the snare drum and the pedal is played with the weak foot.
  • The ride cymbal is a large cymbal that is usually placed next to the floor tom at the right-hand side of the kit (for right-handed players). It is most commonly played with the tip of the stick on the surface of the cymbal to produce a "ding" sound.
  • The crash cymbal varies from 14 to 20 inches in diameter. It is struck with the neck of the stick on the edge of the cymbal to produce a loud, fast "crash." Crash cymbals are usually thinner than ride cymbals, as they are designed to have a quick response after being hit.
  • The splash cymbal is a small cymbal (6"-12" in diameter) that is played in a similar way to a crash. It has a very fast response and a fast decay.
  • The China cymbal is an effects cymbal which produces a harsh trashy sound. It is unusual in that it bends one way, and then the other

 

HARDWARE

  • Floor tom legs elevate the floor tom.
  • The bass drum pedal is used to strike the bass drum.
  • A snare stand is a stand for the snare drum.
  • The tom arm is usually placed in a hole in the bass drum. These tom stands are designed to mount the tom toms but allow them to resonate freely.
  • A hi hat stand features a pedal which is used to bring the hi hat cymbals closer together to produce a tight sound, or further apart to produce a sloshy sound.
  • A cymbal stand is designed to hold a cymbal.

 

MAINTENANCE

  • A drum key is for tuning drums.
  • Rings of felt are placed on cymbal stands to protect cymbals from damage.
  • Sleeves are plastic tubings placed on the cymbal stand to protect cymbals from damage.
  • The wing nuts are used to seal cymbals onto their stands.

 

DRUM HEADS

  • The drum head, otherwise known as “drum skin,” is a thin sheet of plastic film that covers the drum and is struck to produce the sound we hear.
  • Clear drum heads are transparent and have a resonant tone.
  • Coated drum heads have a white frosted coating, which gives them a dryer, warmer tone.
  • Calf skin heads are designed to look and feel like real calfskin heads.
  • The batter head refers to the drum head on the side of the drum which is struck.
  • The resonant head refers to the side of the drum which isn't struck.
  • Single ply heads feature one thin ply of film. They are less durable but have a brighter sound.
  • Double ply heads feature two plies of plastic film and produce a darker, more dampened sound.
  • The snare head is the drumhead placed on the bottom of the snare. It is an extremely thin head designed to get optimum response from the snares.

 

DRUM ANATOMY

  • The drum shell is the main body of the drum and is usually made of wood.
  • The hoop is placed over the drum head and is screwed into the lugs to create the desired head tension.
  • Lugs are small inserts on the outside of the shell into which tension rods are screwed.
  • The tension rods are placed through holes in the hoop and are screwed into the lugs to create the desired drum head tension.
  • Snares are coiled wires on the bottom of a snare drum, which rest on the snare head. When the drum is hit, the snares rattle producing a "buzzing" sound.
  • The throw off or throw is used to release the snares from the snare head and transform the snare drum into a regular drum.

 

RHYTHM

  • The backbeats are beats 2 and 4 of each bar. Most pop and rock music features a heavy accent on the backbeats, giving the music its momentum.
  • Down beats are notes played on the pulse.
  • Up beats are notes played against the pulse.
  • Time signature tells us the number of beats in each bar and the type of beats they are. 4/4 tells us that there are 4 quarter beats in each bar.
  • Bars are how music is measured. Breaking music down into bars allows players and listeners to more easily navigate.
  • The beat is another measurement of music. If bars are equivalent to a pound when referring to weight, then beats can be compared to ounces. A bar is made up of a certain number of beats, and a beat can be subdivided further.
  • A quarter note (crotchet) represents a quarter of a whole note. Most music has a quarter note pulse, so these notes are often defined as one beat in length.
  • The duration of an eighth note (quaver) is an eighth of a whole note. In most pop and rock music, an eighth note is half a beat in length (the beats are usually quarter notes in length).
  • A sixteenth note (semiquaver) has the value of a sixteenth of a whole note.
  • A half note (minim) has the value of half a whole note or 2 quarter note beats.
  • A whole note has the value of 4 quarter note beats.

Have articles like this sent to your inbox and never miss out again!

Subscribe to our newsletter to get regular updates on useful musical guides and tips on piano, drums, guitar, theory, and more.

Leave a Comment

1 Shares
Share1
Tweet
+1