The first drum sets were put together in the late 1800s sometime after the invention of the bass drum pedal. This invention made it possible for one person to play several percussion instruments (snare drum, bass drum, and cymbals) at one time. The set developed as it was used to accompany jazz musicians in New Orleans during the 1920s.
As new instruments were introduced to the drum set (tom-toms and the high hat cymbal) in the late 1920s and 1930s, new techniques developed. Gene Krupa, one of the greatest jazz drummers of the big band era, highlighted tom-toms in his pieces and did solos using the drum set as the featured instrument.
The drum set, also commonly referred to as drum kit, is a collection of percussion instruments which is played by one musician. It usually includes a bass drum, a snare drum, several cymbals, and tom toms. Other percussion instruments such as cowbells and woodblocks are sometimes included.
This drum is the largest member of the set and is played by using a foot pedal attached to a beater which then strikes the drum head. This drum produces a low deep sound.
This shallow, cylindrical drum produces a sound that is very distinctive to the drum (higher in pitch than the bass drum). The snares, which are bands of metal wires, are pulled across the bottom head of the drum. This produces a buzzing or snapping sound when the drum is struck using a variety of techniques.
Cymbals are made of various combinations of metals and are usually six to twenty-two inches in diameter. The most important cymbals in the drum set are:
hi-hat- this horizontally mounted pair of cymbals can either be hit with a stick or closed on each other with a foot pedal.
crash cymbal and ride cymbal- two commonly used cymbals in a drum set. Both are hit with sticks and, depending on their size, produce varied sounds.
tom-toms- a drum set usually has three tom-toms. One is on the floor and the other the other two are mounted on the bass drum.
The timpani is often called a kettledrum because it is shaped like a kettle. The timpani has a large copper or fiberglass shell with a single drumhead. It also has a pedal mechanism which allows the musician to adjust the tension of the drumhead, thereby tuning the drum to different pitches. This makes the timpani the only drum which can produce definite musical notes. To produce the deep tone of the timpani, its drumheads are hit with mallets. Mallets are made of soft and hard felt or wood and will produce different tones on the timpani. Timpani are most often played in pairs or groups of four.
OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS
There are many instruments included in the percussion family commonly known as "toys". Some examples of these would be: cymbals, triangle, gong, maracas, tambourine, and hand drums.
Cymbals, thin round concave plates (usually made from copper-tin alloy), have been known since the Middle Ages. Often used in religious ceremonies, they became part of the orchestra around the 18th century and are played by dashing two together or by being struck separately by beaters.
The triangle is another commonly used percussion instrument. The instrument is made by bending a steel rod into a triangle shape with an opening at one corner. It is suspended by a string and struck with a steel beater to produce a tone. The instrument has been used in Europe since the 14th century.
Little known facts:
Up until the 1800s, the triangle often had jingling rings strung on it.
Franz Liszt, a Hungarian composer, included a triangle solo in his first piano concerto written in 1849.
The gong is a bronze disk which, when struck by a beater, produces a rich ringing sound. Many gongs have a central dome and a turned down outside rim. The gong has obscure origins in the Middle East or South East Asia and by the 9th century had migrated to Indonesia. The gong then made its way to Europe by the 18th century.
Maracas are egg-shaped musical rattles that are played in pairs. They originated in South America and were first made from dried gourd shells that were filled with beans or beads. A handle was attached so the gourd shells could be shaken. Today maracas are made from plastic or wood. They are often used in Latin American music.
A tambourine is a single-headed frame drum that has jingling metal disks set in its frame. It can be struck, shaken, or rubbed to produce a tone.
Little known facts:
In ancient and prehistoric times and in medieval Europe, the tambourine was traditionally a woman's instrument and continues to be so today in Islamic countries.
The xylophone is a mallet percussion instrument. It consists of a set of graduated wooden bars which are hit with mallets to produce a tone. Xylophones were used in Southeast Asia during the 1300s and spread to Africa, Latin America, and Europe.
Little known facts:
The xylophone's first orchestral use was in Dance Macabre (1874) by French composer Camille Saint-Saens.
The harp is a stringed instrument and produces a sound by plucking the strings which are perpendicular to the body of the instrument. The strings themselves run between a neck and a sound box also known as the body or resonator. There are several types of harps that are classified bassed on their shape:
Arched Harp - the neck and body form a bow-like curve.
Angular Harp - the body and neck form a right angle.
Frame Harp - has a third piece called a forepillar which is placed opposite the neck and body creating a triangle.
The modern orchestral harp has forty-six strings. The instrument has six and a half octaves with no accidentals. To produce sharp or flat notes, pedals which control strings in each octave are depressed to certain degrees thereby creating different steps.
Arched harps are the most ancient harps and date back to Sumerian and Egyptian times. Frame harps did not appear until the 9th century in Europe. Almost immediately, a new version, called the Irish harp, developed with a few adjustments which made this harp unique. Medieval harps also developed and were smaller and lighter than other harps. These Gothic harps were the ancestors of the folk harps of Latin America. Later in the harp's history, a second row of strings were added which allowed the harp to produce a wider range of notes.
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