The Drum Yoda’s Totally Awesome
Dictionary of Drum Terms
Compiled by Richard Best
Welcome to my dictionary. I call it MY dictionary so you don’t
confuse it with A dictionary or THE dictionary. People who write
dictionaries have to follow certain rules. Mainly they have to stick to words
that are well documented, and then define those words in as little space as
possible. What I wanted to offer was not curt definitions but reasonable
explanations. So what we have here is sometimes a dictionary, sometimes an
encyclopedia, and sometimes a work a fiction. Actually, a lot of research went
into this so I hope there’s no outright fiction, although I did toss in a
couple of new items I thought should be added to the nomenclature. Otherwise,
every term can be found in general use among drummers. As always, my goal is to
inform, explain and enlighten.
I have sometimes used double words to enhance clarity even
though hyphenated or joined words might be more common. Where there was more
than one term for a concept, I either put them together in one entry or spread
them out to two entries, depending on how close the terms are in usage. I have
omitted a lot of ‘required’ commas where they just cluttered things up, and
have added commas, quotes and apostrophes if they helped add clarity. I have
also added a couple of terms I’ve coined myself. There are a few concepts that
are important but have not risen to the status having their own terminology. I
am just helping the process along. I have avoided most outright slang. For
example, one drummer, upon inviting me to sit in, said I could ‘lay’ his ‘cans’
any time. Neither lay nor cans made the cut.
Many of the words used to describe sounds are very
subjective. While there is substantial agreement on what 'dry' might sound
like, the intent of terms such as 'round' and 'brittle' is less clear. I've
tried as much as possible to find agreement on the less precise terms, but on
occasion had to resort to a 'best guess' strategy.
All references to ‘handedness’ assume a right-handed player.
This is significant in terms of leading hand and if using traditional grip.
Apologies to left-handed players. I have expressed all sizes in inches, which
is the industry norm.
Oakville Ontario Canada
Dictionary of Drum Terms
A B C D E F G
H I-J K L M N O P Q-R S T U-V W X-Y-Z
An old music form, dating from the early 19th century, that evolved from
work songs and spirituals. The form has been standardized at 12 bars in
three 4-bar phrases, with the melody and harmony ranging from simple to
complex. Blues has a number of distinct sub-styles including Chicago blues,
West Coast blues, Boogie-woogie, and many others.
Less common than other song structures, the 16-bar blues is based on the
12-bar blues and incorporates an extra 4-bar phrase. There are no hard rules on
how that 4-bar phrase is placed. Most common are a repeat of the first phrase,
a repeat of the second phrase, or an added phrase between the second and third
A standard song structure that is made up of four 8-bar phrases.
Each phrase is generally given a letter -- A, B, C, etc. -- which is
then used to describe the tune’s structure. E.g., “I’ve Got Rhythm” (see Rhythm
Changes) defines the standard and is AABA -- verse, verse, bridge,
verse. Other popular structures are: ABAB, ABBA, ABCA.
A note that is significantly louder then neighbouring notes. Accents are
important in the development of rhythm, syncopation and articulation.
Also see Ghosting.
A type of strong plastic that, since the late 1960s, has
been used for drum shells. (John Bonham loved his Ludwig
"Vistalite" plastic-shelled drums.)
Literally 'at liberty', the musician is allowed a free hand for what may be
played during this passage. Sometimes denotes a feature for a soloist or simply
a vamp to help set the mood for what is to come next.
The songs, rhythms and dances that originated in Latin and South America as
a result of an African influence on native musics. E.g. Rumba, conga,
tango, salsa, mambo, and also Latin-Jazz and even hip-hop.
The tendency for hi-hat cymbals to lock together. Cymbal
manufacturers have devised a number of solutions to air lock including rippled
edges, scalloped edges and drilling air holes in the bottom cymbal.
A metal that is made by combining two other metals. E.g. bronze is
the product of combining copper and tin.
Striking an up beat in such a way that it seems to be a part of the
next beat. E.g. in jazz it's very common to 'replace' 1 with 4-uh.
The manner in which strokes are played and sounds are produced. Ideally
every stroke should be clean and well defined.
See Traditional Grip.
Sounds have a beginning, a middle and an end. The initial spike of sound is
called the attack and is usually sharp and short lived. Cymbals have a somewhat
longer attack than drums. Also see Envelope, Decay.
A type of bronze that is 8% tin and 92% copper. The metal does not
have the quality of bell bronze, but can produce a decent cymbal
at a moderate price. The sound such cymbals produce might be described
as hard or brittle, which makes them ideal for rock. For the beginner or
someone on a tight budget, they can be a good option. Also see Sheet Metal
A type of bronze made from 12% tin and 88% copper. Not as common as B8
The alloy known as bell bronze is made of 20% tin and 80%
copper. This is the highest quality of musical bronze and is the
standard for quality cymbals.
In 4/4 or common time, striking the snare (usually) on
counts 2 and 4. This sets up the rhythm and adds tension.
Playing well ’behind the beat’, a common technique used by soloists.
As an accompanist, a drummer must be aware that the lead instrument may cast
aside the time. Some soloists will back-phrase constantly.
A visually entertaining way of playing using both ends of the stick by quickly
flipping the stick from tip-first to butt-first. A frequent highlight of
The basic unit of music. One bar contains the full complement of the time
signature. Thus a bar of 6/8 would contain six eighth notes.
A rudimental/military drumming tradition established in Basel,
Switzerland, in the early 1600s and still going strong. Many of today's rudiments
were adapted from the so-called Swiss rudiments of Basel.
Bass ‘n’ Drums
An electronic music style born of the rave scene in the 1990s. Consists of
a repetitive, driving rhythm and break beats, accompanied by syncopated
Sometimes called a ‘kick’ drum, a bass drum is a large, low-pitched drum
that usually lies on its side on the floor or in a rack, and is played
with a foot-operated pedal. Range from 16” to 28”, with 18” to 24” the most
common. Also see Port, Wet.
Bass Drum Pedal
For years drummers experimented with gadgets that would allow them to play
a bass drum with a pedal. Then in 1909, the Ludwig brothers of Chicago introduced
a pedal that actually worked. The device revolutionized drumming and was the
missing piece that enabled the drum set to blossom. Many early pedal
models were made of wood, sometimes heel activated, and occasionally hung from
the top of the drum.
The top head of a drum, the one that gets ‘battered’.
The drum section of a marching band. Consists of snare drums, bass drums,
tenor drums, and cymbals. Also see Front Line.
The small round, acorn- or barrel-shaped tip of a drum stick.
In written music, a curved line that is placed over a group of notes to
denote an irregular note division. E.g. triplets would be shown with a
beam over the notes and rests with the number 3 above the beam.
The top and bottom edges of a drum where the drum head meets the shell.
It’s important that the bearing edges are smooth and even, to allow the head to
sit properly on the drum with no wrinkles or dead spots. A drum with uneven
bearing edges will be difficult to tune. There are different philosophies
regarding the positioning, angle and profile of bearing edges, which may or may
not have a scientific basis or measurable effect. Also see Snare Bed.
The basic unit of rhythm or pulse. E.g. the time signature
4/4 specifies four quarter notes per bar, which means four beats to a bar.
The striker of a bass drum pedal. Also see Mallets.
Beats Per Minute/BPM
The standard method of specifying tempo. Metronomes are
typically calibrated from 40 bpm to 208 bpm, although in practice music tempos
can be slower or significantly faster (the upper limit being around 400 bpm).
Behind The Beat
Normally an ensemble -- and a rhythm section in particular --
will play time so that it falls in the ‘middle' of the beat. Some
musicians will play slightly behind or after the mid-point of the beat, but not
to the point of sounding slower (see Dragging). The result is a solid,
relaxed feel that still conveys energy. Not the same as back phrasing. Also
see On Top of the Beat, Pocket.
Bell (of a Cymbal)
The rounded dome shape at the centre of a cymbal. Often used to
produce a bell-like sound. The size, shape and height of the bell help to
define the cymbal’s pitch and overall character, e.g. crash
cymbals tend to have larger bells than ride cymbals.
See B20, Bronze.
A cymbal that is mostly bell. Usually small -- 8” to 12” --
and heavy, with a very small bow. Sometimes made by cutting most of the bow
off of a damaged cymbal.
A stack of small graduated cup-shaped bells. Played with a stick by
dragging it top to bottom to produce a glissando.
A copyrighted name for a Remo drum head that has a reinforcing ‘dot’
of Mylar in the centre of the head. Originally created to withstand the
heavy pounding of rock drummers, the heads produce a distinctive tone that is
desirable in its own right. (Tony Williams used black dot heads on all his
drums, including the snare.)
Another name for the bow of a cymbal, in particular a smaller cymbal
with an upturned edge.
A somewhat frantic playing style that relies on long bursts of eighth notes
on the snare and cymbals, accompanied by double bass drum beats.
See 12-bar Blues
A frame drum rooted in Irish and Celtic music.
In East Indian drumming, bols are the various strokes. Each bol has a
unique sound and its own spoken syllable, e.g., 'Na' is an open sound on the
high drum (tabla); 'Toon' is an open sound on the low drum (bayan). See Tala.
When not referring to a lick that didn’t work, it’s a form a bass drum shot
popular in some styles of jazz. Joe Morello was fond of dropping bass drum
A joined pair of small, slightly tapered, open-ended hand drums popular
in Latin music and among beatniks. Usually tuned quite high.
A style of Latin music that evolved in the US in the 1960s. A fusion of
Latin and soul music, it gave birth to music such as Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon
A type of fast-tempo dance music that emerged in the 1930s, usually
featuring piano. Sometimes called fast blues or eight-to-the-bar.
A band or orchestra's repertoire. Their 'song book'.
Lightweight plastic tubes of different lengths and different colours. Each
colour is tuned to a specific note, and melodies can be played by striking the
tubes in the desired order. Often used for educational exercises.
Low pitched, having a lot of volume, perhaps a bit too much resonance
and sustain, with controlled overtones. Also see Damping.
A gong that has a raised dome in the centre of the playing area. The
gong can be played by striking the boss or the area to the side of the
boss. A boss tends to produce a well-defined note.
1. The response of a percussion instrument. Some techniques require a
certain amount of bounce in order to play them cleanly and/or at speed (e.g. double-stroke
2. A lively rhythm.
Bow (of a Cymbal)
The ‘flat’ part and main playing area of a cymbal. The shape, depth,
taper and thickness of the bow determine how the cymbal will
sound which, in turn, will determine -- or at least suggest -- how the cymbal
should be used. See Profile.
Though at first glance brass would seem to be the same as bronze, this
alloy of copper and zinc, it is too weak and malleable for serious cymbal
1. A momentary period of silence.
2. A section where the band plays short, staccato figures.
3. A short passage where the drummer provides a conspicuous fill.
The term applies to both a genre of music and a rhythmic style. Break beats
originated when DJs programmed distinctive drum breaks into
sequencers, which then ran them non-stop. As a drumming style, break beats are
typically fast and syncopated, with a strong emphasis on the down
beat. In a live situation, a drummer would play a comparable rhythm,
almost always in 4/4, with a strong down beat and syncopation
interpolated with doubles and buzzes on the snare. A favourite backdrop of
Keeping strict time is a valuable skill, but sometimes the music
benefits from slight increases and decreases in tempo as the energy of
the music waxes and wanes. When the playing gets exciting, the tempo may
creep up a bit, and then slow down when the energy ebbs. Such shifts are
tolerable only if they are very slight.
In a 32-bar tune with AABA construction, the bridge is the ‘B’
section. Also see Middle Eight.
Bridge (of a Cymbal)
The region of a cymbal where the bell evolves into the bow.
Research shows that the shape of the bridge can have an effect on a cymbal's
tone and response.
A cymbal (but can be applied to a drum) that has a lot of high
frequencies. May be a light cymbal with high-toned overtones/partials
and few low frequencies, or a heavy cymbal with high-pitched fundamentals.
Bright sounds are better able to project and cut through. Also see Envelope,
A cymbal that has been polished to a high lustre, usually by
applying an abrasive. This removes some of the metal and may obliterate tone
grooves. The cymbals are often brilliant in sound as well as
See Glassy, Trash.
An alloy made by combining copper and tin. Bronze is the preferred
metal for making cymbals due to its strength and tonal qualities. The
two main types of bronze used for cymbals are B20 (bell bronze)
and B8. Cymbal companies often have their own formulas for
creating bronze, sometimes adding a small percentage of other metals
(e.g. silver, gold, phosphorus), and may have closely guarded processes.
When a softer sound is required, a drummer might opt to use brushes made of
wire or plastic. Drum brushes resemble whisk brooms, which is what drummers
used before wire brushes became available. Playing with brushes is considered a
bit of a specialized art form.
The tendency for a cymbal to develop a 'swell' of sound as
it's being played. Similar to wash, though usually with a lower pitch (see
A spacer that is positioned inside one hardware part to facilitate
attaching another part. Most modern stands have nylon bushings within
the clamps that hold the various pieces. Provide a firm grip, preventing
rattles while protecting the parts from damage. Also found on drum racks.
The end of a drumstick opposite the bead. Typically a drummer
will hold the stick near the butt end, but reversing that is quite acceptable. See
Back Sticking, Rock Knockers.
A metal plate to which snare wires are attached and that has holes
to provide a means of attaching the snares to a drum. A set of snares
has a butt plate at each end. Also see Snare Bed, Snare Head, Snare Strainer.
A sound made by pressing the bead of a drum stick into
the head and dragging it slightly. The technique causes the stick to bounce off
the head a number of times, producing a buzzing sound. See Buzz Roll, Scratch
A type of smooth, clean roll usually played on the snare drum.
See Buzz, Double-stroke Roll, Scratch Roll, Whipped Cream Roll.
A rhythmic cadence is a distinctive pattern that indicates the end of a phrase.
See Resolution, Turn-around.
A 'drum' that consists of a rectangular wooden box with a sound hole in the
back. The player sits atop and plays on the front surface, hitting different spots
for different sounds. Also see Idiophone, Membranophone.
A piece of leather taken from the back of 1-3 year-old calves -- at one
time the only option for drum heads. Although almost entirely replaced
by plastic heads, calf skin heads have a cult following, and some drummers
consider them far superior to plastic. On the down side, leather is easily
affected by temperature and moisture, and costs 2-3 times as much as a plastic
head. See FibreSkyn, Goat Skin, Mylar, Slunk.
Extreme power toms.
One of several types of resin-based shell materials. The drums are
manufactured in the same way as a fibreglass shell, substituting a sheet
of carbon fiber fabric for fibreglass.
The classical music of Southern India, famed for its highly evolved rhythms
and tala system.
A standard rhythm that is often played against the clave
rhythm. For example, the right hand might play the cascara while the left hand
plays the clave.
The best cymbals start out as a single cast ingot of bell bronze.
After smelting, the metal is poured into small moulds about the size of a soup
bowl. When the metal cools, it is machine-rolled repeatedly to create a large
disk. Rolling also compresses the metal and 'aligns' its structure. The cymbal is
then pressed and/or hammered into its final shape, and finally lathed.
Also see Hammering, Roto-casting.
A counter hoop that is made of cast metal rather than bent or spun
metal. Tend to make a drum sound somewhat ‘boxy’. Can be easier to tune
than flanged hoops.
At one time bass drum pedals relied on strips of leather to connect
the foot plate to the beater assembly. In the late 1960s, drum
companies began to substitute lengths of chain. A chain link is smoother,
immune to stretching, nearly indestructible, and is now almost universal.
A double stroke preceded by a grace note. Often found in hybrid
rudiments. (So-named possibly because it sounds a bit like ’cheese’.)
The sort of sound that a hi-hat makes when played by quickly
depressing the pedal. Thicker cymbals make a ‘chick’ sound whereas
lighter cymbals sound more like ‘chup’.
A set of tuned metal tubes hung in a frame and usually forming an octave.
Played by striking the top of a tube with a soft hammer.
China (Type) Cymbal
A cymbal that has its outer edge turned up, pagoda style, and
occasionally with a square bell. Produces a short, trashy tone.
Sometimes mounted upside down, they are used as both ride and crash
cymbals. Available in most sizes, including splash cymbals. Also see
See China Cymbal.
A confusing category that includes a number of styles of small splash
cymbals. Authentic Chinese cymbals produce a distinctive glissando
To add tonal variety, early drum set players added Chinese toms to
their set-up. These drums had heavy wood shells and two animal hide
heads that were tacked in place. The drums were tuned by wetting or heating the
heads. See Tunable Tom.
A colloquialism denoting technique, usually in reference to someone who has
a lot of it coupled with notable speed.
The classic gong, mostly flat with turned over edges. Often have a ‘bulls-eye’
pattern on the playing surface.
See Hand Cymbals.
1. An instrument of Latin American origin that consists of two short, thick
dowels of tone wood such as rosewood. The dowels are struck
together making a sharp, clear tone.
2. A standard rhythm that is played on claves. The bossa nova rhythm
is a type of clave pattern. Also see Ostinato
To help the band stay in time during a recording session, the tempo
is sometimes played through the monitor headphones.
A bit raunchier than trashy.
A space-saving configuration that consists of a tall tom, 14” to 16"
in diameter and 20" or so deep, often with a small snare drum, a cymbal,
and perhaps a tom attached. A modified bass drum pedal can
be rigged to strike the bottom head of the main drum.
The 'vertical' part of a drum head, between the retaining
ring and the playing surface. The collar must be suitable to the size and shape
of the drum shell and the collar depth must suit the depth of the counter
hoop. The rim may sit too low or too high if the collar is not
the right depth for the drum.
General term for the tone and timbre of a cymbal.
Another name for the 4/4 time signature. The signature is so
pervasive in all music forms that is it now thought of as the default
signature. Sometimes denoted by a large 'C' in the music staff.
To accompany or complement a soloist. In a jazz context, it is common to
play a jazz ride while adding accents and figures on the snare
drum and/or bass drum. The goal is to enhance the music while
impelling the soloist to greater heights.
Having plenty of overtones and perhaps undertones as well.
Thin cymbals tend to be more complex then thicker ones (see Ping)
and hand hammered ones even more so.
A set of single-headed drums in graduated sizes. May be tuned to a
scale. Also see Octoban, Tenor Drum.
Drum catalogs refer to standard drum set offerings as configurations. The
basic configuration is the 4-piece, with snare drum, bass drum and 2 toms.
While cymbal stands are often included, cymbals are not figured
in to the count -- e.g., a seven drum kit would be a ‘7-piece’ regardless of
how many cymbals were illustrated in the catalog.
A large, single-headed hand drum ranging from 10" to 12"
in diameter and approximately waist height. The body is amphora-shaped and may
be made from wood or fiberglass. Usually played in pairs, they are
almost required in Latin music.
The original drum rack, consoles were a standard part of early drum
sets. They consisted of a large stand with a hoop that encircled the bass
drum, to which the drummer could attach various holders. A trap tray
was a common accessory for holding bells, whistles and other gadgets. Some
consoles were mounted on wheels, with the bass drum resting inside.
Others were stripped down models that were attached to the bass drum and
predecessors to the consolette.
A type of tom mount that consists of a short, curved rail attached
to the bass drum plus an adjustable arm to hold a tom. De
rigeur up until the late sixties, they are making a comeback.
Control Unit/Brain/Drum Module
A computer that accepts input from drum triggers and converts it
into sounds. Sounds are often samples from live drums and cymbals,
augmented by various synthesized sounds. Sampled sounds need not be only from
percussion instruments. Some control units can be programmed with new sounds.
See Black Dot.
A cymbal that has conspicuous hammer marks on its surface. The cymbal
may have been hammered for tone but visible marks are mainly cosmetic and may
contribute little to the sound.
See Beat, Time Signature.
A hoop, usually made of metal, that holds the drum head against the
drum and is held in place with tension bolts. At one time the hoops were
made of wood, and there has been renewed interest in wood hoops
on snares and toms. Also see Cast Hoop, Triple-Flanged, Rim, S-hoop.
Originally borrowed from inattentive cows, these instruments have undergone
dramatic changes over the years. Now available in an astounding array of sizes,
shapes, colours and materials, they are often heard in funk and Latin music.
Some drummers even have their own signature cowbells.
See Traditional Grip.
A cymbal that produces a distinctive crash sound and is used as an accent.
Crash cymbals are typically smaller and thinner than ride cymbals,
and usually have a larger bell, which allows the bow of the cymbal
to vibrate more. Also see China Cymbal, Crash-Ride, Splash
A cymbal that is deemed suitable for both ride and crash
Usually a reference to a snare drum that has a short, sharp,
Creating a set of hi-hat cymbals by pairing cymbals from
different lines and even different manufacturers.
Cross Rhythm/Cross Beats
A type of polyrhythm where a second rhythm or time
signature is played within the original. A standard pattern is to play two bars
of 3 and a bar of 2 rather than two bars of 4. The result is a rhythm
that appears to weave in and out of the underlying rhythm. See Polymeter.
Tuning a drum by adjusting one tension bolt and then the bolt
directly opposite, and proceeding around the drum. On an 8-lug drum, the
pattern would be: 1, 5, 2, 6, 3, 7, 4, 8.
The technique of holding the drum stick bead against the drum
head near the rim and striking the rim with the other end
of the stick, producing a satisfying ‘click’ or ‘clock’ sound. Sometimes
erroneously called a rim shot, the cross-stick is useful for
creating a subtle effect. Very common in jazz, country and Latin music. Also
see Stick Shot.
See Latin Jazz.
Another name for a cymbal's bell.
A somewhat misleading term applied to limited production instruments. A
truly custom-made drum would not be fabricated until after the buyer had signed
off on all specifications.
1. The quality of a sound that enables it to penetrate through surrounding
sounds. I.e. having good projection, often due to higher pitch and
2. To ‘defeat’ another player, as in “I can cut him any day!” which means “I
can play much better than him.”
See Half Time.
These disks of bronze have been prized as musical instruments for
thousands of years (from about 1200 BCE). To produce a cymbal, a bronze
ingot is rolled many times to reduce it to a thin, flat disk. This process also
changes the nature of the metal, giving it the beginnings of its strength and
distinctive musical tones. The disks are then pressed or ‘hammered’ into a
specific shape, according to anticipated use. The majority of cymbals
are then lathed to remove the oxidized surface, creating tone grooves.
See B8, Bell Bronze, Hammering, Hand Hammered, Lathing,
Roto-casting, Spun Formed.
1. To produce a short, quick accent on a crash cymbal
by striking it and then choking it with a hand or arm. Can be very dramatic
2. To clamp a cymbal too tightly to a stand preventing it from moving
and vibrating freely. While this produces a choked sound, it also dramatically
shortens the cymbal’s life expectancy.
Over time, cymbals accumulate dirt, fingerprint grease and corrosion
(see Patina). Philosophies on what to do about this differ. Some
drummers would never mess with this gift of time. Some want to remove the
grunge while others want to return the cymbal to its original lustre.
Many cymbal makers offer a cymbal cleaner designed to clean the cymbal
of grime without attacking the metal. Removing ‘age’ requires that the surface
of the cymbal be stripped away. Aggressive cleaning will, over time,
permanently affect the sound of a cymbal.
A device that holds the top cymbal of a hi-hat assembly. Also
see Drop Clutch.
A prepackaged set of cymbals matched at the factory for tone and
compatibility. Basic sets include hi-hat, ride and crash;
larger sets add another crash cymbal or two. Often a good bargain
and an excellent starting point for beginning players. Some makers also offer
extension packs, which may include china type and splash cymbals.
A craftsperson who specializes in making cymbals. It takes many years
of training and apprenticeship to attain the rank of cymbal smith.
It’s tempting to classify cymbals purely by weight and diameter, but
there are various design elements that can affect a cymbal's sound as
much as weight. For example, the height of the bell can make one cymbal
sound higher (heavier) or lower (lighter) than a comparable cymbal with
a different profile. In general, cymbals are classed from paper thin
through to heavy. Cymbals are also classified by intended use and tonal
character: e.g. ‘ping ride’, ‘explosive crash’, etc. Each cymbal type will have
a range of weights, e.g. a 20” medium ride can range from just over 2000 grams
to nearly 3000 grams.
General term for any technique that seeks to reduce the ring and resonance
of a drum. Includes adding tape, pads, plastic or foam rings, felt
strips, pillows, blankets, and mechanical dampers. Also see EMAD, EQ Ring.
A cymbal with low pitch, few overtones and a dry
Dark vs. Bright
A reference to the abundance or lack of high frequencies and overtones.
Drums and cymbals rich in high frequencies are often described as
bright; those with few highs are interpreted as dark.
Allowing the tip of the stick to remain on the surface of the drum
or cymbal after striking to muffle the sound.
The final moments of a sound, when it fades to nothing. The conclusion of
the sound envelope.
A bass drum pedal that has a solid link between the
pedal and beater unit rather than a flexible one (see Chain Drive).
The second foot board of a double pedal is usually linked
through direct drive to the primary pedal.
A common rhythm pattern that appeared during the disco era. Derived from
funk, it emphasized four-to-the-bar on the bass drum, a strong back
beat and an off-beat pattern on the hi-hat
(see Pea Soup). The rhythm can still be found in break
A single-headed, hourglass shaped hand drum of African
(Mali) origin. Rope-tuned, skin-covered, 9” to 18” in diameter, the djembe is
valued for its tonal range and its volume. The name derives from the African
term for ‘peace gathering’.
For want of a better term, denotes any sort of tone-enhancing ring that is
added to a drum head during manufacture.
1. A two bass drum set-up.
2. Double bass drum pedal set-up.
3. Another name for an upright acoustic bass.
See Rock Knockers.
A drum that has both top and bottom heads. See Resonance, Resonant Head.
A pedal that has two foot plates and two beaters
attached to a single foot pedal assembly, allowing the drummer to play double bass
drum patterns on a single drum. The gadget is highly popular as, along
with eliminating the added expense and real estate requirement of a second bass
drum, it allows the hi-hat to remain in its original area
(typically it had to be moved further away from the player to make room for a
second drum). There now appears to be a cult following for players who
over-play double bass pedals. Also see Blast Beat.
A shift in both time signature and feel to suggest a doubling of the
tempo without a change in the song structure. E.g. A song in 4/4 might
shift to 8/8. While the song would seem to be moving along at twice the speed,
the bars would have twice as many beats and therefore remain the same
length over time. Also see Half Time, Cut Time.
A type of roll in which the player allows the sticks to bounce,
producing a second stroke. This Rr Ll Rr Ll pattern is sometimes called the long
roll or ‘mama-dada’ roll. See Opened/Closed.
A single-headed hour-glass shaped hand drum. Available
in a number of diameters and about 2 ½ times as tall as its diameter, it is a
favourite of drumming circles.
1. The first count in a bar or measure.
2. The first beat of a new phrase (see Resolution).
A rudiment similar to the flam except that
the grace note is a double stroke (i.e.rr-L). See Rudiment
A tendency to slow down rather than keeping steady time. As with rushing,
considered a major flaw. Not the same as playing behind the beat.
A two-piece hi-hat cymbal clutch that incorporates a quick-release
mechanism. This allows the drummer to easily drop the top cymbal onto the
bottom one. The device is often used by double-bass drummers. The
clutch can also pick up the cymbal by simply depressing the hi-hat
Usually taken to refer to membranophones, although certain
instruments that lack a ‘skin’ are often called drums, e.g. log drum, tongue
A break in the music to give the drummer a bit of a feature. Neither a fill
nor a solo, the drummer would simply play time, albeit in a more
attention-getting manner. Also see Break Beat.
Drum Corps/Drum & Bugle
A marching band consisting of drum section, brass section and
colour guard (flag bearers). These bands are a regular feature in parades and
stadiums and often hone their skills by entering competitions.
A circular membrane made from plastic (Mylar, PET), leather (calf
skin, goat skin) or nylon (Kevlar) attached to a solid hoop to
form the striking surface of a drum. The styles and properties of drum heads
available today are far too numerous to describe here. Suffice it to say that
each style is designed to produce a unique sound, and for every drummer and
every style of playing there is a suitable type of head. Also see Black Dot,
FiberSkyn, Hydraulic, Membranophone, Two-Ply.
Whether a commercial or custom-made mat or a cast off rug, a soft surface
for drums to sit on has a number of advantages. It provides a consistent
surface, it keeps the drums from moving around, and the texture can improve
An infinitely expandable frame -- positioned in front of or slightly over
the bass drum(s) -- that provides a means for attaching all
manner of drums, cymbals and other objects to the set. As the size of
drum sets expanded during the 1970s, the setup became cluttered with stands and
attachments. The rack evolved as the most practical method for managing all of
the extra hardware. (The drum rack is not a new invention as a look at
photos from the 1920s and 1930s will show. See Console.)
A screen or small room where the drummer sets up and plays to restrict
sound from interfering with other instruments. Booths are very common in
studios. Portable screens are useful for live situations.
Drum Set Rudiments
A somewhat confusing reference that suggests (a) the standard rudiments
applied to the drum set, or (b) a set of rudiments
standardized for the drum set. In reality, few drum set
players use more than a few of the rudiments, nor is there a standard
set of anything for the drum set. Many teachers and authors use
the term to describe what might more correctly be called ‘drum set essentials’.
Hailed as an American invention, the drum set began as a make-shift
assemblage of instruments. Traditionally drums and cymbals were played
by several people. The invention of the bass pedal, lo-boy
and snare stand enabled one drummer to play two, three or more instruments at
once. Early drum sets were augmented with suspended cymbals, Chinese
toms and ‘traps’. The rest of the story is the gradual refinement
and addition of various tools. The term ‘drum kit’ is more commonly used in
Europe. Also see Console, Consolette, Drum Rack.
Drum Stick Sizing
In a field overrun with signature models, today's drummer may
be hard pressed to understand drum stick sizes. Originally different models
were given a number to signify the stick’s thickness and a letter to represent
its application: A = orchestra, B = band and S = street. Sizing ran from large
to small, so a 1A stick is much thicker than a 7A. There is little correlation
between classes of stick; e.g. a 5A and a 5B are different in length and
thickness and have different profiles.
Drum Sticks /Drumsticks
These timeless tools are a virtual encyclopaedia of creativity and
ingenuity. Though simple devices, drum sticks are made from all manner of
materials, and in an incredible range of sizes and styles. Most sticks are made
from wood, with hickory, maple and oak the most popular. Sticks can also be
made from aluminum, plastic, carbon fibre, and other synthetics. Styles range
from dowel-like timbale sticks to industrial strength parade
sticks. See Drum Stick Sizing, Nylon Tip, Rock Knockers.
A term coined to describe a style of playing that focuses entirely on the
drums with little or no reference to music. In some contexts this is
appropriate, as in the drum ensemble features of marching bands and drum
corps. However, a drumistic approach is rarely welcome at other times.
A group of people -- not necessarily musicians -- who participate in a
somewhat ritualized session of creating rhythms using mainly hand
drums. A popular pastime for a variety of reasons: It’s fun, it’s highly
entertaining, it builds social cohesion, and it can be therapeutic.
A colloquial term that refers to a tone that is rich, with low resonance
or ring, and quick decay.
Dual Tone /Dual Zone
A cymbal that has two (or more) apparent playing areas, one lathed
and one unlathed. See Hybrid Cymbal, Lathing.
A time signature that has two beats to the bar.
A cymbal that is unlathed and therefore covered in a layer of
oxide. So-called possibly because the surface looks like a plot of ground.
Any cymbal that departs from the standard crash or ride
cymbals. Includes china cymbals, cymbals with jingles, cymbal
stacks, trash cymbals, sizzle cymbals, etc.
Eight to The Bar
In the 1940s, eight-to-the-bar was a common reference to up-tempo music,
especially boogie woogie, (which is actually a four-to-the-bar shuffle).
The expression means, simply, ‘play something fast’.
A drum or drum set that consists of percussion triggers
connected to a control unit. The control unit receives input from
the triggers and assigns them sounds based on its programming. Modern
e-drums rival acoustic drums in quality of sound, and have the advantage of
being almost infinitely adjustable by turning a dial or pushing a button. Most
have a selection of sampled drum sounds enabling the player to
completely switch the sound of the instrument instantly. The units can produce
any sound that has been programmed into the controller giving the player nearly
unlimited potential. And if that weren’t enough, the sets are usually very
light and compact and work with a sound system and headphones.
A system developed by Evans that adds a channel to the outside of a bass
drum head. Different sized damping rings can be fitted into the
channel to provide quick, easy and effective control of damping level.
A drummer who plays a certain brand by arrangement with the manufacturer (the
endorsee) is said to endorse that product. The endorser/endorsee relationship
provides credibility and a number of other advantages for both parties.
Passages that the band members play in unison: e.g. the breaks
in traditional jazz where all or most of the band plays the same
sequence of notes and beats.
Sounds have a beginning, a middle and an end. The initial spike is called
the attack, which is immediately followed by sustain. When the
sound energy begins to dissipate, it is called the decay. Drums
typically have a short envelope consisting mainly of attack; cymbals
have a somewhat longer envelope.
A plastic ring made of drumhead material (e.g. Mylar).
Usually about 1” wide and cut to the diameter of the drum, it sits just inside
the drum’s tension hoop providing an agreeable amount of damping.
EQ rings are sometmes incorporated into the inside of a drum head (see
Donut). Also see EMAD
While there are various sets of 'essential' rudiments, there is a
core group of seven from which all others are derived: double stroke roll,
single stroke roll, five-stroke roll, flam, drag ruff,
multiple bounce (buzz) roll, and single paradiddle. See Rudiment
A drum head company started in 1957 by drummer Chick Evens in Santa
Fe, New Mexico. Evans beat the Remo company to the Mylar head
market by a full year, and has spent much of the last 50+ years marching in
lock-step with the other company. Evans is now a major provider of OEM
heads and has recruited an impressive roster of endorsers. Also see Hydraulic,
A drum set-up that goes beyond the standard 4-5 drum, 3-4 cymbal
kit. Since the advent of drum racks, some drummers have been
progressively adding to their 'instrument'. (Were it a competition, Terry
Bozzio would NOT walk away with it, despite sometimes using a set with more
than 100 drums and cymbals.)
A reference to the attack and decay of a crash cymbal.
Thinner cymbals usually speak more quickly than thicker cymbals.
Some companies designate such cymbals as ‘fast crash’.
A sound that is full, with good attack and resonance, usually
with ample low and mid frequencies.
A style of eighth-note rhythm in 4/4 where the snare drum
plays a dominant back beat and syncopated figures in between. For
example, the drummer might play a strong ‘2’ but accent ‘4-&’ to
finish the bar. “Sex Machine” by James Brown is a good example of fat
Playing the bass drum very lightly on every beat. Common in
some forms of jazz. Also see Ghosting.
A hybrid drum head from Remo that bonds a Tyvek film
to a Mylar drum head. The result is a head that looks and feels like calf
skin. The tone is warmer than plastic and the surface is excellent for
A type of drum shell made from resin and fibreglass or
similar cloth. The shells are made in a mould from the outside in, often
starting with the finish. Fibreglass drums have been around since the late
'60s, and have an on-and-off popularity. The shells offer a number of
advantages over wood, and generally provide excellent sound. Some medium-range
drums are made of wood and lined with fiberglass.
See Parade Drum.
A short passage -- usually a bar or less -- when the drummer departs
from playing straight time and plays a complementary figure on the drum
set. To goal is to contribute interest and impetus to the music or
punctuate a transition. Different music styles have different latitude for
fills. For example, some rock styles feature a fill every other bar,
while country music calls for a more Spartan approach.
Controlling the drum stick using mostly the fingers. Not
practical at high volumes, but at low to medium volumes it allows exceptional
execution, speed and articulation. See Fulcrum.
A snare drum that has a small diameter and is fairly deep (e.g. 12”
x 6”) that produces a high-pitched ‘crack’. Usually mounted off to the side as
an alternative to the main snare drum.
A note played by striking the drum with two sticks, one slightly before the
other (e.g rL, lR). The first note (see Grace Note) is not as loud as
the second. Can be very dramatic.
A bend in a piece of metal. Can refer to the bends in a counter
hoop, the flat section of a pang cymbal or the up-or
down-turned edge of a china type cymbal.
A style of metal counter hoop that has a number of bends. The
first such hoops had a single bend (flange) that sat against the flesh
hoop and held the drum head in place. The next generation had a
second flange that wrapped around the flesh hoop. Triple
flanged hoops provide a more generous striking area for rim shots.
Also see Cast Hoop, S-hoop, Spun Metal.
A type of cymbal that has no bell. While the cymbal
may appear flat, it will have a low bow with a flat portion where the bell
ought to be. The lack of a bell reduces overtones -- sometimes to
almost nothing -- and minimizes build, wash and sustain. The
result is a dry sound with pronounced stick articulation, and
perhaps some splashing or crashing potential.
A small nick in the edge of a cymbal caused by dropping it or
bumping it into something hard. Although it may seem like a minor problem, a
small ding can provide an opening for a crack to develop.
Usually made of wood, these rings hold and give shape to calfskin
drumheads. The heads are soaked in water to soften the leather, which is then
tucked into the ring to secure it. (Modern polyester drum heads are
attached to an aluminum ring that is still sometimes called a flesh hoop.)
Heavy-duty shipping case built to withstand the rigours of air travel and
A drum built in such a manner that it has no tension lugs attached
to the shell. Most common design is a shell that sits in a metal
frame. The frame holds one of the heads and the tension rods for
both heads, enabling the heads to be tensioned individually, with one head
pressing against the shell and the other head pressing against the frame.
Some companies have experimented with snare tensioning systems that keep
the snares at constant tension even while disengaged. These allow the
snare tension and the snare pressure against the snare head to be
adjusted independently (e.g. Rogers Dynasonic). Also see Parallel Snares.
A large diameter drum -- 14" to 18" -- that rests on the floor
and is held up by steel legs attached to the shell. Floor toms are
usually louder than mounted toms and their large diameter can make them
somewhat difficult to play. Shell depth is quite often the same as the
diameter. See Low Tom, Side Tom.
A damping device made of light foam that is attached to the
underside of a drum's batter head. Results in a deep round
tone with few overtones.
A sound that is well defined with few or well-controlled overtones,
firm attack and limited sustain.
The business end of a foot pedal. Foot plates come in two configurations:
solid and hinged. The solid plate has a rocker unit mounted below the heel of a
single solid foot board. The hinged variety has a small heel plate attached to
the foot plate by a hinge. Each type has a specific feel and responsiveness,
and neither is superior to the other, so it's a good idea to try both.
Most objects can be coaxed into making a sound. Many drummers capitalize on
this by adding interesting sounding objects to their set-ups. Brake drums,
hubcaps and kitchen bowls are particularly popular.
Playing steady four beats to the bar on the bass drum,
a common practice in disco, jazz, boogie-woogie and a few
other genres. Very effective for driving things along. Also a good stand-by
when volume or tempo are challenging. Also see Feathering, Disco Beat,
A small, single-headed drum often found in older cultures. Consists
of a shallow shell with a diameter ranging from 12” to 15” or more. The
head is usually tacked on and there is often a single rod or X-shaped
reinforcement in the centre of the drum. Played with a short two-ended stick.
Most early cultures had some form of frame drum.
A stroke that begins with a very relaxed grip and a whipping motion,
allowing the stick to rebound to its original position while the hand stays in
a down position. The hand then grabs and lifts the stick and is ready for the
next stroke. The stoke delivers excellent power.
A roll executed by playing exactly three strokes per strike with
In a rudimental drum ensemble, the snare drummers will sometimes
form a straight, stationary line. Makes for an interesting display, with the
drum line playing out front and the remaining percussionists playing and
marching in formation in the background.
Assumed to be the point at which a drum stick connects with the
fingers to create a pivoting point. In practice, a drummer works with a number
of fulcrums: shoulder, elbow, wrist, and various parts of the hand. In the
‘grip zone’, the fulcrum is typically between the thumb and first finger in matched
grip, and the crotch of the thumb and first finger for traditional
grip. In matched grip the fulcrum often switches from one
finger to another depending on volume, speed, and technical background. Also
see Finger Control.
The basic pitch or note of an instrument, and usually its dominant
sound. See Overtones, Perceived Pitch, Timbre.
An industry term for a 5-piece set: bass, snare, two mounted toms
and one floor tom. Also see Configuration.
A note, usually played on the snare or bass drum, that is
light to the point that it can barely be heard. Also see Feathering.
A term commonly used by musicians to refer to a playing job.
Billy Gladstone is responsible for many of the innovations we see on snare
drums today. His tuning system introduced a unique type of tension
casing and tension rods that let the drummer tune either
head by using different sockets of a special drum key on the top tuning rod.
One socket tuned the top head and another adjusted the bottom. A third socket
adjusts both heads at once.
A cymbal sound in which high-pitched overtones dominate,
producing a shimmering sound similar to breaking glass.
A single note that rises or falls in pitch. See Roto-Tom, Twang.
Some drum shells have a reinforcing ring on the inside of the shell
edge. Usually 1 to 1 ½ inches wide and applied to both the top and bottom of
the shell. May be solid wood or layers of thin veneer, and appears to
have a positive effect on tone.
Goat skin is considered inferior to calf skin and therefore
of interest mainly to modest budgets, although it is a common head material on hand
A type of rim shot where the stick hits firmly in the middle
of the drum to produce a rich, powerful sound.
Members of the cymbal family, gongs are disks of bell bronze
ranging in size from a few inches to as much as 8-10 feet. Gongs are typically
flat with a rolled edge, although there is much latitude for shape. Gongs are
valued for their power, rich tone and unmatched sustain.
A traditional Korean gong (jing gong), about the size of small crash
cymbal, that rests in a frame so it can be played horizontally. Also a
redundant name for a gong.
A single-headed drum with a head that is significantly larger
than the shell, e.g. a 24” head on a 20” drum. The result is a drum with
a gong-like envelope. Usually mounted like a tom tom.
A note that is played slightly before and softer than the next note. See Cheese,
A gravity roll used as part of a blast beat.
A roll executed by placing the stick flat against the head and rim
and quickly rocking the stick to alternately strike the rim and the head
to produce a very rapid and visually interesting roll.
A rhythm that is more than a rhythm -- one that compels one
to move with it. See Pocket.
In olden times, snare ‘wires’ were made from leather cords made from animal
intestines. Modern ‘gut’ snares are mainly made from synthetics (e.g. Nylon)
or silk wrapped with fine wire. Now, mostly replaced by metal wires.
A term for snares sometimes used by field drummers.
Half Time/Cut Time
A shift from one rhythm to one that moves at half the speed but
without changing the song structure. E.g. A tune in 4/4 might shift to 2/2 to
imply a slowing down, although a bar would take the same length of time
to play as before. See Double Time.
A technique of forming and tempering metal by hammering it against a hard
surface or anvil. At one time the only way to create a cymbal, hammering
is still an integral part of the process. Although some cymbals are made
without any hammering, better quality cymbals usually have been treated
to some form of hammering. Hammering expands, thins and compresses the metal,
and refines the cymbal’s shape and tone. The most highly regarded method
is hand hammered, where an artisan uses hammer and anvil to coax the
metal into its final form. Some cymbals go under an automated hammer,
guided by a skilled set of hands. Computer-controlled hammering delivers much
of hammering's benefits faster, cheaper and more consistently. Also see Bell
Bronze, Sheet Metal Cymbals, Roto-casting.
A pair of matched cymbals attached to handles or straps and played
by slapping the cymbals together. Used mainly in orchestras and marching
Any drum that is played with the hands rather than with sticks. (The heads
on hand drums, often made from animal skin, can be too fragile to be hit with
Hand hammering is an expensive technique, but the result is a high
quality, more individual and more personal instrument. The highest quality cymbals
are often finished with hand hammering. Some companies make hand-hammered
metal snare drums. Also see Cosmetic Hammering, Machine
Hammering, Turkish Style Cymbals.
Hand Hammered vs. Hand Hammering
Before the invention of machines to do the work, all cymbals were created
by hand hammering a slab of bronze until it took on the shape of a cymbal. The
process took many hours and thousands of hammer strokes. The majority of modern
cymbals are rough shaped by rolling and stamping. The cymbals are then hammered
using a variety of techniques. Good quality cymbals can be made by automated
hammering, where a computer-controlled hammering machine does all the work. At
the next level are cymbals that go under the hammering machine but under the
control of a skilled craftsperson. Then there are the so-called hand hammered
variety. These are taken from rough form to final cymbal by cymbal smiths who
use the old fashioned method of applying hammer to anvil. The result is a
distinctive cymbal and a pretty high price. One step below this level are
cymbals that have been hammered using mechanized process and then hand-hammered
to finish them off.
Pronounced 'hung', this instrument consists of two steel bowls attached at
the rim giving it the appearance of a UFO. The top of the drum has a number of
tuned playing areas similar to a steel drum; the lower bowl has a large
sound hole. The sound is reminiscent of a steel drum but mellower
and with an almost haunting resonance.
Another name for a mounted tom or rack tom.
All of the stands, clamps, rods, and wing nuts that hold a drum set
together. Over the years hardware has evolved in terms of strength, weight and
versatility. Modern hardware tends to be heavy duty to withstand the pounding
of the most physical drummers while providing the maximum in adjustability.
Most drum companies offer several lines of hardware, from medium-duty on up.
Also see Bass drum Pedal, Console, Drum Rack, Hi-Hat.
The sounds musical instruments produce consist of the fundamental --
i.e. the note or pitch -- plus a number of related pitches called
harmonics. The harmonics and their complexity make up the recognizable
character of an instrument. Taken together, these sounds form the instrument’s timbre.
Because percussion instruments tend to have a large vibrating area, their
harmonics are more complex and irregular than those of melodic instruments. See
Odd Order Harmonics.
A term used mainly in jazz to denote playing the tune with little or no
embellishment. Playing the head once or twice establishes the tune before turning
things over to soloists. It's traditional to repeat the head to finish the
tune. See Rhythm Changes.
A term coined around 1970 to describe an emerging style of hard-driving
rock. (The term was first used to describe Humble Pie.) Metal has since evolved
into a number of sub-genres including death metal, thrash and many others.
A specific type of polyrhythm where two dotted quarter notes are
played in 3/4 time. The technique originated in the middle ages when composers
sought some creative relief from the church-mandated 3-beats per bar, in honour
of the holy trinity. In recent times, musicians have adapted the technique by
playing a cross-rhythm of 3/4 time within 4/4 time and then
adding the hemiola as well. Also see Metric Modulation.
A type of cloth that can be used to create resin shells. See Fibreglass.
High Tin Bronze
See B20, Bell Bronze.
A foot-operated stand that holds two cymbals, with the top cymbal
movable via a vertical rod. The player can produce a chick or chup
sound by stomping on the pedal and can also ride on the cymbals.
Opening and closing the cymbals produces a wide variety of sounds. Also
see Clutch, Drop Clutch, Pea Soup, Remote Hi-Hat.
A music style that evolved from rap, break beats and drum samples.
Similar to rap, it is less stylized and with more latitude for subject matter.
The music is almost always tied to hip-hop dance.
A cymbal that has both lathed and unlathed areas. Each
area would have a subtly different sound and stick feel. See Dual-tone,
A rudiment created by combining elements of, or adding new elements
to, existing rudiments. The list of such sticking patterns is
ever-growing, with one source documenting more than 500 of them. Their
existence demonstrates the desire of drummers to go beyond the traditional.
The Evans drum head company revolutionized the sound of the drum
set in the mid-1970s with their hydraulic drum head, so called
because the head is two-plies of Mylar with a thin layer of oil in
between. The oil helps to mellow the sound while preventing premature failure
due to friction between the layers. Also see Pinstripe.
I -- J
An instrument that is a single component rather than an assembly of parts,
e.g. cymbals, claves, vibraphone, etc. vs. a drum, which requires
both a shell and a membrane.
Unlike melodic instruments, most percussion instruments do not produce a
recognisable note but an indistinct tone that sounds generally high or low. See
Mallet/Keyboard Instruments, Perceived Pitch.
The accepted term for getting two or more limbs moving at once. It is
virtually impossible to move arms and legs independently, but with sufficient
practice one, two or even three limbs can be conditioned to repeat a basic
pattern while other limbs play in a freer manner. A better term would be
A reference to recorded and commercially available music from a small,
usually independent producer rather than one of the established big labels. May
be produced and marketed by the artist(s).
In melodic instruments, the partials or harmonics of a note
follow an orderly pattern based on regular multiples of the note's frequency. Because
percussion instruments produce complex fundamentals, their partials
do not follow a neat logical pattern. Although the results are called ‘inharmonic’,
the result can be very musical and pleasing. Also see Odd Order Harmonics.
A passage in a song, usually 8 or 16 bars, that precedes the head.
Many well known tunes have an introduction that is virtually unknown despite
the remainder of the tune being a standard, e.g. “Lush Life”.
Inverted Chinese Cymbal
A Chinese style cymbal that has an inverted profile, with a
trough close to the bell and a down-turned edge. Allows the cymbal
to be mounted normally on a stand, reducing stress on the bell.
Note divisions that deviate from the natural multiples for that rhythm.
E.g. Playing triplets when the music has an eighth-note feel, or eighth-notes
over a triplet feel. Also see Polyrhythm, Tuplets.
In the 1930s, jazz drummer Kenny 'Klook' Clarke experimented with playing
the standard jazz rhythm on a ride cymbal rather
than on the snare and/or hi-hat as was the style of the time.
This approach soon became the standard. In strict written notation, the rhythm
is: [quarter note - dotted eighth & sixteenth] [quarter note - dotted
eighth & sixteenth] etc. In practice, the rhythm is almost always
played with a triplet feel and almost never a dotted-eighth and
Large drums with bowl-shaped bodies originated in the middle
east and have been around for more than 3000 years. Usually made of metal, they
were often mounted on horses or camels, and played the army into battle. Also
Best known as the material used to make bullet-proof vests,
Kevlar is a type of nylon invented by DuPont in the early 1960s.
The fibres, called aramid, can be woven into an extremely tough, heat- and
moisture-resistant cloth that has five times the strength of steel. The
material is ideal for rudimental drum heads, which call for very high
tensioning, ruggedness and a dry sound, and it is also used for drum shells
See Mallet Instruments.
Misnomer for bass drum.
A cymbal that is too heavy for the intended use.
In Carnatic music, the practice of singing or reciting the rhythm
using standardized syllables, e.g. Ta-ki-ta, Ta-ka-dim-mi. Tabla bols
are a subset of Konnakol.
The final process in cymbal making is removing the outer layers by
mounting the cymbal on a special lathe and making one or more passes with
a chisel. Up to 2/3 of the cymbal’s metal is removed along with the
oxydized exterior coating. This leaves the cymbal covered with tone
grooves. Some specialized cymbals undergo partial lathing (see Dual
Tone) and some are not lathed at all. Lathing is an important
step in a cymbal's sound development. See Hybrid Cymbal, Taper,
A style of Latin-influenced jazz that emerged in the early 1940s and then
popularized by Dizzy Gillespie's Latin jazz band throughout the decade. Now a
standard part of the jazz tradition.
The ‘conventional’ approach to playing (vs. linear drumming),
where patterns are played in layers, e. g. a ride pattern on top, bass pulse
below and snare patterns in the middle. The vast majority of contemporary
drumming is of the layered variety.
Defined as a drumming style where hands and feet never (or at least rarely)
strike at the same time. (Steve Gadd and Mike Clarke are known for their linear
playing.) Also see Layered Drumming.
Another name for china-type cymbals.
See Wind Gong.
Melodic percussion instrument with tone bars made from stone. See Mallet
The progenitor of the hi-hat, the first pedal-operated
devices held a pair of cymbals just a few inches from the floor.
Eventually the stands were made taller to allow playing the cymbals with
Antiquated name for a bass drum. See Side Drum.
See Double-stroke Roll, Open/Closed.
A continuously repeated pattern. In certain music styles, drum patterns are
sampled and then programmed into a unit that plays the pattern in a
continuous ‘loop’. Also the hip-hop term for vamp or riff.
Low Tin Bronze
A floor tom, or a rack tom positioned like a floor
Tuning a drum so that the tone at each tension lug is identical. See Tap-tuning,
A cymbal that has been worked with a machine-powered hammer.
Provides a hammered character more economically and with better consistency
than hand hammering. The process may be fully automated but is
often under the control of an artisan who decides how the cymbal is to
be worked. For this reason 'made by hand' can apply to a great number of
Mallet Instruments/Melodic Percussion
Percussion instruments capable of playing melodies. Includes xylophone,
marimba, vibraphone, and tubular bells. (Note that a celeste is neither
a mallet instrument nor keyboard percussion.)
A type of drum stick that has a round or oval beater ball usually made of felt. Mainly used to produce
a softer, rounder sound. Especially effective on tom toms. Also see Beater.
A user-friendly term for the long or double-stroke roll.
See Parade Drum.
The technique of holding both drum sticks ‘like a hammer’. The lead
hand is held the same as in traditional grip, and the other hand simply
does the same. The technique appears to be just as adaptable as traditional
grip, delivers more power, and is much easier for the new student to learn.
There are three recognized styles of matched grip -- French, German and
American -- determined by degree of rotation of the forearms. For mallet
players, the differences may be important, but for the average drum set
player, all three positions emerge quite naturally.
Same as a bar.
A set of toms, usually single-headed, tuned to a scale or subset of
a scale. See Concert Toms, Octobans.
An instrument that consists of a membrane (i.e. a drum head) stretched
across a resonating chamber and played by striking the membrane by hand or with
sticks. The basic designs are single-headed, double-headed,
and bowl-shaped. Single-headed drums are cylinders with a head on
one end and open at the other. Double-headed drums are cylinders
with a head at both ends. The diameter of the cylinders is usually constant,
but there are exceptions (e.g. congas, derbaki, doumbek, pakwaj,
mrdangam, etc.). Bowl-shaped or kettle drums have a single head and a
roundish body, and include such drums as tympani, tabla/bayan,
etc. Not all ‘drums’ are membranophones.
A stroke that is controlled so that the tip of the stick remains close to
the playing surface after striking. This is also the basis of the Moeller
stroke. Also see Dead Sticking.
A method of switching tempo by substituting note values (see Polyrhythm)
and then switching to the implied time signature. E.g. In 4/4
time, playing quarter note triplets and then switching to straight 6/4
A device, either mechanical or electronic, that marks out a tempo in
beats per minute. Most provide a range of 40 bpm to 208
bpm. Some electronic versions offer a broader range of tempos and may count
out various time signatures.
In 32-bar tunes and many 'pop' structure tunes, there is usually an
8-bar passage that is melodically and harmonically different from the main
tune. Sometimes called the bridge.
A cymbal -- usually a ride cymbal -- that has a very
small bell, about 1/4 the size of a normal bell. Mid-way between
a regular cymbal and a flat ride, it provides a very precise
stick sound with little wash or build.
Similar to a vamp, a montuno is a Latin-derived device where the
band plays a simple, recurring, highly rhythmic pattern, often on just two
chords. This can provide an exciting backdrop for a soloist and especially a
drummer. (Carlos Santana is a big fan of montunos.)
The outer hoop of a drum head. Sometimes called a flesh
hoop or crimp hoop.
An instrument that has been damped to the point that its sound has been
substantially quashed, i.e. lacking the high frequencies needed for projection
and articulation. Some drummers will put a piece of cloth over the
entire head or put another drumhead loosely on top to produce a muffled sound.
These techniques also produce a fatter sound. See Damping, Fat.
Same as EQ-rings or foam rings.
“Music hath charms” to the point that listening to and playing music can be
therapeutic to mind, body and spirit. See Drumming Circle.
An extreme form of damping device that eliminates much of the noise
of drums. The drums are still audible, which makes muted drums ideal for
A strong plastic film invented by Dupont during World War II and taken into
service as drum head material in the late 1950s independently by two
drummer-entrepreneurs, Remo Belli and Chick Evans. Mylar is
superior to calf skin in many ways, not least of which is cost. Mylar
heads are available in an astounding array of configurations, and sometimes
mimic the appearance and texture of calf skin heads (see Tyvek).
Formed in the early 1930s, the National Association of Rudimental Drummers
established the first set of “13 Essential Rudiments” in the US. The list was
expanded to “26 Standard American Rudiments” by 1936. These included the
essentials -- single-stroke roll, double-stoke roll, flams, paradiddles,
short rolls -- as well as some more complex patterns such as the flamacue and
triple ratamacue. The organization was supplanted by the Percussive Arts
Society in 1978. In 2008, surviving members of the N.A.R.D. reactivated the
organization with the mandate to continue to champion the standard rudiments.
See Stainless Steel.
A type of tough yet flexible plastic that is used for a variety of purposes
including drum stick tips, drum heads (see Kevlar), snare
wires, and brushes as well as bushings and bearings.
In the mid-1950s, drummer Joe Calato (founder of Regal Tip) perfected the
technique of attaching a nylon bead to a wooden drum stick.
Catalo’s design resulted in tips that stayed on the stick. Nylon tips
are very hard wearing and produce a sharper attack than wood tips. Nylon
tipped sticks are now a standard product for all drum stick makers.
A North American two-headed frame drum that has gravel or
beads inside. Rotating the drum creates an ocean-like sound as the beads move
across the head. Also see Water Drum.
A series of notes from tonic to tonic.
Originally introduced by Tama in the 1970s, octobans are a set of eight
6" toms of varying depths. Shorter drums are tuned higher than
longer drums. The idea is to tune the drums to an 8-note scale (see Octave).
Any time signature that is not a multiple of 2 or 3. For
example, 5/4, 7/8, 11/16, etc. would be odd metres whereas 9/8 would not as
it’s divisible by 3.
Odd Order Harmonics
Unlike a taut string or length of tubing, a drum’s resonating element is a
broad disk. When struck, the disk produces an array of sounds that are unlike
typical harmonics. It’s this complexity of harmonics that gives
drums and cymbals their distinctive tone and enables them to blend with
all manner of music. They can also make drums somewhat tricky to tune.
Original equipment manufacturer. Usually refers to an add-on to another
product. E.g. Gretsch contracted with Gibraltar to provide hardware for their drum
sets. Such hardware would be classified as OEM and therefore considered
a Gretsch product.
Refers to notes placed between the main counts. In the case of eighth notes
[1-&, 2-&, 3-&, 4-&], the ‘&’ would represent off beats.
On top of the Beat
Similar to behind the beat. In this case, the player
interprets the time as slightly ahead of the beat, adding energy
and a sense of urgency to the music. Also see On-Top-of-the-Beat, Rushing.
A reference to a sound that is clear and resonant, usually with a
touch of natural ring.
Open Hand(ed) Drumming
A style of playing that avoids crossing one hand over the other. For a
right-handed drummer, this would mean playing the hi-hat mainly with the
left hand to avoid crossing the right hand over the left. Necessitates the
ability to play ride rhythms with the non-leading hand.
Many sticking patterns can be played in an open, or loose,
manner or closed, with the strokes very close together. Rudiments such as the double
stroke roll and the flam are commonly played both open and
closed for different effects. Closed is necessarily played faster than open.
Buddy Rich was famous for including a single-stroke roll in his
solos, starting out with a very slow open roll, gradually speeding up to
a blistering closed roll, and then slowing down to the original open tempo.
A two-step stroke where the stick is allowed to bounce off of the head on
rebound, with the hand relaxed and staying in the down position. On the next
stroke, the hand snaps shut and pulls the stick back to the starting position.
Also see Moeller.
A rhythm or pattern that is steadily repeated without modification
and serves as a background for other rhythms and other instruments. The jazz
ride is a type of ostinato, as is the clave rhythm. Also see Montuno,
An early bass drum pedal design where the beater
was suspended from the top hoop and a pedal attached to the bottom hoop. Often
included a metal cymbal beater that struck a small cymbal
attached to the rear bass drum hoop.
Anything that vibrates has a fundamental tone -- known as its pitch
or note -- and a series of overtones at various higher pitches. Overtones,
their pitch and their intensity are the characteristics that determine an
instrument’s timbre and distinctive sound. Can detract from as well as
enhance the sound of an instrument. See Harmonics, Odd-order Harmonics, Undertone.
Over time, cymbals will change colour due to interaction with oxygen
and other elements in the atmosphere. Commonly called a patina. Also see
A crash cymbal, introduced by Sabian, that has a number of
large holes drilled in the bow. The holes lighten the cymbal,
giving it a quicker response and add a trashy aspect. Also visually
quite impressive. Many cymbal companies now offer cymbals with
all manner of holes in them.
A cymbal that has a flat portion at the outer edge of the bow.
Makes a distinctive ‘pang’ sound. Also see Chinese Cymbal, Flange.
An extremely thin crash cymbal. Tend to be higher pitched
than a regular crash cymbal, with a very fast response. Such cymbals
are delicate and cannot tolerate abuse. See Fast.
Visually similar to regular drum sticks, rudimental sticks
tend to be much thicker, with a heavier bead and are often made from
General term for deep-shelled snare and tenor drums
used by marching bands and pipe drummers. These days parade drums are very
specialized instruments. To achieve the preferred sound, the drums are fitted
with high-strength often Kevlar heads, and the shells and
hardware are built to accommodate very high tension. Drums are typically
14" to 16" in diameter and 12" or so deep. The snare drum
may have a snare mechanism mounted under the top head.
A type of snare throw-off that has an activation mechanism extending
through the drum to hold both ends of the snares at constant tension (e.g.
Ludwig Super-Sensitive). When engaged or disengaged, the entire assembly moves
parallel to the snare head. The theory is that snare response
will be greatly improved. Also see Floating Snares.
The sound of an instrument consists of its fundamental tone plus its
partial tones. Partials are over- and undertones that are generated by
the instrument, and all three contribute to timbre. Partials can be harmonic
PAS/Percussive Arts Society
An international organization whose mandate is to promote education,
research, performance, and appreciation of all types of percussion, and oversees
the “40 Standard Rudiments”. Also see NARD.
A colour change that occurs in cymbals over time -- from bright gold
to dull amber to olive green or green/brown. It is actually a form of tarnish
and is a result of oxydation and other chemical changes to the metal.
Patina is a prized quality in older cymbals, but it can be removed by
aggressive cleaning. See Brilliant Finish, Cymbal Cleaner.
Playing the off beats (‘and’) on the hi-hat while opening it
and closing it on the beat. Results in the ubiquitous “pea soup -- pea
soup -- pea soup” rhythm of the classic disco beat.
Percussion instruments produce complex sounds. A two headed
drum, for example, produces sound through the interaction of the two heads. The
drum heads themselves have a large vibrating area that typically
cannot produce a simple note. As a result, a drum’s pitch is a product
of how the ear and brain interpret the many subtle sonic components. For
example, although a tympani appears to produce a distinct note, what you
hear is actually a by-product of its over- and undertones.
A variation on a sticking pattern. For example, a paradiddle
is played RLRR LRLL. A permutated paradiddle is played RLLR LRRL.
Polyethylene terephthalate -- a strong, light, recyclable plastic film
similar to Mylar and used to make drum heads as well as plastic
drink bottles. See Polyester.
The basic unit of a musical statement. Singers and horn players have enough
breath for about two bars, and this has been rounded up to four bars,
providing a nice balance between musical statements, and so phrases have been
somewhat standardized at 4 bars.
Italian for 'musical plates', i.e. cymbals.
A snare drum that is a standard diameter but is fairly
shallow, e.g. 4” x 14”; 3” x 13”. Also see Firecracker.
A beat or part of a beat that is added to the beginning of a
tune, just before the first bar, to provide a lead-in.
Placing two cymbals on a single stand. A larger cymbal is
mounted normally on the stand and a smaller cymbal is placed on top, and
often inverted. The cymbals can be struck separately, and when struck
together produce a trashy sound. Also see Stack Cymbals.
The sound of a heavier cymbal that has a high-pitched fundamental,
little low frequency energy, and good attack and definition.
Tends to project very well. Also see Articulation, Ping Shot.
A type of rim shot that is played with the bead close
to the rim to produce a crisp, bright sound. (Bill Bruford is
known for playing ping shots much of the time.)
Partly in response to the popularity of the hydraulic head, the Remo
company created a similar two-ply head. Instead of using oil to dampen
the sound, Remo uses a ring of glue around the circumference of the
head. The edge of the glue is then masked by a thin black stripe.
A type of parade or marching drum that is preferred for use
with a Scottish bagpipe band.
The relative ‘high-ness’ or ‘low-ness’ of a sound. Small instruments tend
to be higher pitched than larger ones. A firecracker snare, for example,
will always produce a higher pitch than a large tom.
Refers to when the drummer plays a basic beat with little or no
variation or embellishment. Playing time is what anchors the music, and
when well done is often superior to a busier approach. See Rhythm Section.
The number of layers of wood veneer that go into a plywood drum shell.
The number of plies determines the thickness of the shell, which in turn
affects tone and tessitura. Thicker shells generally have greater volume
but a more limited tonal range. Can be as few as 3 plies or up to 30, although
6 to 10 plies are most common. See Tone Wood.
A reference to a drummer playing very closely with the bass player and is
thus said to be ‘in the bass player’s back pocket’ – especially at slower
tempos. Now taken to mean an exceptionally good groove. A ‘deep pocket’
is even more so.
A general term for plastic film. There are a number of types of polyester
used to make drum heads, including mylar and PET.
Usually lumped in with polyrhythms (and it is one), a polymeter is
different in that it alludes to an intermingling of time signatures.
In 4/4 for example, it's possible to play in 3/4, where a quarter note still
gets one beat. This creates a strong 3 pulse in apposition to the 4/4
pulse, and if not resolved naturally after 12 bars, must be resolved at some
other point. The classic example is the 3-3-2 pattern: 2 bars of 3/4 and 1 bar
of 2/4 played over two bars of 4/4 -- a very common technique in modern jazz. Also
Two or more different rhythms played at the same time. To play a
polyrhythm, you would play a basic rhythm and then overlay a second rhythm
that has a different, contrasting structure, e.g. '2 against 3', where one
hand/instrument might play eighth notes while another plays triplets at the
same time. Usually expressed as a ratio, e. g. 3:4 (3 over 4; 3 against 4)
where 4 is the number of underlying beats and 3 is the number of notes played
‘over top’. May be the basis of the music or added as an embellishment to add
interest. Many world music styles use polyrhythms liberally. Also
see Poly-Meter, Hemiola.
Polyrhythm vs. Poly Meter vs. Cross Rhythm vs. Hemiola.
The art of combining two contrasting rhythms has a strong tradition in
almost all music forms. It therefore makes sense to study the theories and
techniques involved and at the same time not make a big deal out of it. Most
drummers play simple polyrhythms quite regularly and easily, while the more
complex rhythms are only occasionally heard.
Sometimes the difference between a polyrhythm and a
cross-rhythm is a matter of perspective. For example, if you play 3 quarter
notes with one hand and two dotted quarter notes with the other, you're playing
a polyrhythm (3:2). Shift your attention slightly and you'll see that you're
also playing a hemiola (2:3). Or you might be laying down the start of a
The important thing is to not get hung up on the
nomenclature or the ‘cleverness’ of these techniques. Get a feel for what the
resulting rhythms sound like by listening, especially to jazz, African and East
Indian music, and to drummers who have a particular interest in these
approaches. Pete Magadini and Steve Smith would be good player-educators to
A large percentage of popular music is based on a fairly loose song
structure. Phrases can be 4 or 8 bars (and there is latitude for
other lengths) and usually three types of phrase: verse, chorus, bridge
(V, C, B). a Common pop tune structure is V-C-V-C-B-V-C-C.
A condition where the muscles in a drummer’s forearms are over developed in
relation to the upper arms.
Common name for a small- to medium-sized hole cut into the front head of a bass
drum. Serves a variety of functions: cuts down on ring, adds
definition, improves projection, and allows access to the inside of the
drum to adjust damping or to place a microphone. May be augmented with a
plastic horn lining the hole.
A drum with greater than average depth. For example, a 12” tom is
traditionally 8” deep whereas a 12” power tom might be from 10” to 12” deep.
Practice (Pad) Set
A frame and set of practice pads that mimic a drum set.
May have practice cymbals as well. Most are portable enough to be easily
taken on the road, allowing practice and warm-up before a gig.
Practice Pad/Drum Pad
The first practice pad was probably invented the same week the first
humanoid began banging on objects. Drummers value practice pads not merely for
sound reduction. They are highly portable, very cost effective and allow you to
observe your technique close up. The majority of pads are made from live gum
rubber although other materials are used as well, including adapted drum heads.
A drum head that has been mounted on its hoop so that it is
tensioned to a certain tone. Very useful on rope tension drums,
which don't have a lot of mechanical ability to apply tension.
The side view of a cymbal. The amount of curvature of the cymbal's bow
affects pitch, sustain and relative 'dryness'. Flatter cymbals
tend to be dry with rich overtones; cymbals with a higher
profile will be higher pitched and less complex.
Another term for the underlying regular beats that set the time
and the rhythm in music. See Time, Time Signature.
Having a very quick response; short and loud, with penetrating mid-range
Q -- R
A uniquely British term for a quarter note. Eighth notes and
16th notes are semi-quavers and hemi-semi-quavers respectively. (One has to
wonder what 64th notes or septuplets might be called.)
See Drum Rack.
A tom that is mounted in a rack, attached to a bass drum
mount, or hanging from a stand. See Mounted Tom.
In 1957 Remo Beli created a Mylar drum head, and soon after began
manufacturing them commercially. He also aggressively promoted the heads to the
drummers of the day, easily convincing them of Mylar’s superiority to calf
skin. Today Remo is one the world’s leading maker of drum heads and
other percussion products, including world percussion
A hi-hat stand (or other pedal device) that has the pedal
attached to the stand by a length of cable, allowing the stand to be placed at
a distance from the player while keeping the pedal close by. Also see Double
Drum shells that are made in a mould from a material such as fiberglass
and a polymer resin. Drums are made from the outside in, the finish often being
the outer surface of the shell. The inner layer is usually a sheet of
cloth, which can be fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fibre,
and even hemp.
The conclusion of a phrase. Typically, a phrase will
introduce tension through rhythm, melody or harmony The resolution
resolves the tension and gives a satisfying conclusion to the phrase.
The bottom head of a two-headed drum. The resonant head plays an
important role in a drum’s sound. It keeps the sound ‘inside’ the drum allowing
it to bounce resulting in richer depth, tone and complexity, and increased sustain.
Often a lighter weight than the batter head. Also see Voicing.
One of the fundamental -- and indeed indispensable -- components of all
music, rhythm is a regular pattern of beats and their variation. (Music
consists or melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.)
Rhythm & Blues/R&B
A style of performance that relies predominantly on two musical forms: the structure
and chord changes of “I’ve Got Rhythm” and 12-bar blues.
See 32-bar, Rhythm Changes.
A tune that uses the structure and harmony -- the chords changes --
of George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm”. See 12-bar blues, 32-bar, Rhythm
The section of a band made up of bass player, drummer and usually a
chording instrument such as guitar or piano. The rhythm section's job is to lay
the foundation for both the tune and the soloists.
A technique of moving a rhythmic pattern off of the down beat,
giving the illusion that the time has shifted. E.g. a simple rock pattern might
be shifted so the back beat falls on 1-&, 3-& while the bass
drum shifts to 2-&, 4-&.
The notion of a ride rhythm is that it ‘rides along’ throughout a tune. In
jazz, it is the ubiquitous ‘ding ding-a ding’ cymbal pattern. In rock,
it is usually eighth notes on the hi-hat or ride cymbal.
A specialized cymbal that is geared toward playing a steady ride
rhythm. Tend to be heavier than crash cymbals, but this is
relative. Available in an impressive variety of sizes, weights and styles, they
are a drummer’s mainstay. Also see Crash-Ride, Flat Ride, Mini-cup.
A recurring melodic pattern, usually short and distinctive. (When Jimmy
Page formed Led Zeppelin, his goal was to create riff-based music.)
Another name for a counter hoop, and also a reference to the
top edge of a counter hoop. Also see Rim Shot.
A drum stroke where the stick strikes the drum head and the rim
(counter hoop) at the same time. The effect is a loud, crisp and
decisive sound. Rim shots can also be used to produce a ringing tone suited to
Latin music. Also see Ping Shot, Cross Sticking.
Invented by the Gary Gauger in the 1970s, the “resonant isolation mounting
system” is a frame that holds a drum by its tension rods, eliminating
the need to bolt a mounting attachment to the drum shell. The goal is to
allow the drum to resonate freely rather than lose vibration through the
mounting system. Similar systems are now standard issue on most quality drum
A type of high-pitched overtone that may or may not be desirable
depending on context and fashion. Ring may clash with other instruments and can
make a drum difficult to tune and to mic. See Boomy, Ping Shot, Resonance.
A drum stick that has no taper and no bead.
Essentially a stick with two butt ends, hence the alternate term double
A general name for three common sticking patterns that
produce a continuous, even sound. The main rolls are the single-stroke
(RL RL RL RL), the double-stroke roll (RR LL RR LL) and the buzz
roll. Rolls can also be short; the standard rudiments include a
number of short rolls based on double strokes: 5-stroke, 7-stroke, 11-stroke,
Before the advent of metal parts, drums were assembled and tensioned with
rope. The rope criss-crossed between top and bottom heads and hoops to secure
them in place. Rough tuning was done by tightening or loosening the rope. Fine
tuning was accomplished by moving leather ‘ears’ (buffs) along a rope pair to
increase or decrease tension.
A method of creating cymbals by pouring molten bronze into a
spinning mould. An expensive and rarely used method. Also see Cast Cymbal,
A shell-less drum that consists of two circular racks mounted on a
threaded rod. The drums are tuned by spinning the entire drum -- clockwise to
raise the pitch, counter clockwise to lower it. The toms can be quickly
tuned and can also produce a glissando.
A subjective description of a sound that is well balanced and mellow,
without many high frequencies. See Warm.
A fill the starts at one end of the kit and ends at the other end
(in some cases a very long trip). Usually straight-ahead 16th notes
or 16th note triplets.
The standard rudiments are now grouped under five specific families
according to sticking type: single stroke, double stroke,
paradiddle, flam, and drag.
There is a strong tradition in western culture of marching bands, drum
lines and drumming competitions featuring compositions built mainly on
the rudiments. Also see Drum Corps, Drumistic, NARD,
See Traditional Grip.
Standardized sticking patterns, some of which date back more
than 1000 years. Originally used to communicate signals to different sections
of an army. A list of 'standard' snare drum rudiments was first
set down in the early 1300s and has been evolving ever since. The first modern
interpretation was compiled by the NARD in 1933 as the "13 Essential
Rudiments", and soon expanded to the "26 Standard American
Rudiments". Most drummers will at least pay lip serve to the rudiments,
but it’s safe to say that a shocking number of superb drummers have never
studied them. Also see Drum Corps, Hybrid Rudiments,
Rudimental Drumming, Swiss Rudiments.
A tendency to play faster than the set tempo -- a serious fault. Can
cause the time to get completely out of control. Not the same as playing
on top of the beat.
Bundles of small sticks that are mid-way between a drum stick and a
brush. Range from pencil-sized dowels to spaghetti-sized strips of bamboo and
also fine nylon rods. Often have a sliding ring or sheath of plastic
that allows the bundles to be modified for different sounds.
A general term that can refer to a variety of Afro-Cuban/Afro-Latin
A section of recorded music that has been captured and then programmed into
a sequencer or synthesizer. Certain hip-hop styles frequently use
samples of interesting rhythms. Also see Break Beat, Loop.
An exaggerated buzz roll generated by pressing hard on the sticks in
short bursts. Sometimes considered a technical flaw, but can be effective if
A gong that is not round. A number of artisanal makers have created
interested shapes and sounds, such as Matt Nolan’s 'Hand' and 'Bat-Wing' gongs.
See Spun Metal.
Second Line Shuffle
A rhythm unique to New Orleans music that combines a military-style syncopated
snare drum roll atop a salsa bass drum rhythm. Also see Traditional
A note that is produced by allowing the stick to touch the head a second
time immediately following a full stroke. The double-stroke roll relies
on secondary beats or strokes, as does the Moeller stroke.
Almost anything that can produce a rattling noise can be used as a shaker.
Range from plastic 'eggs' filled with beads to woven baskets filled with seeds
or pebbles to hollowed-out gourds with a netting of beads around the outside.
Played by shaking, rolling and striking against the hand.
Sheet Metal Cymbals
An economical way of making cymbals is to stamp them out of a roll
of sheet bronze. Cymbal blanks then go through some of the same
processes as cast cymbals but lack the strength and complexity of
cast cymbals. Sheet bronze cymbals allow the drummer on a
tight budget to own bronze cymbals without the associated cost. (Note: Bell
bronze cannot be formed into large sheets.)
1. A set of drum shells drilled and ready for finishing and
2. Modern term for a drum set minus stands and cymbals.
Drum shells have a depth and a diameter. Both are somewhat
standardized, but there are two ways to specify a size -- diameter x depth or
depth x diameter -- and drum companies have yet to decide on one method. This
can lead to confusion: Is a ‘16 x 18’ drum sixteen inches wide and eighteen
inches deep or the other way around? The standard for North American drums was depth
x diameter and for Europe and Japan, diameter x depth. Fortunately, a company
will use the same notation for all their drums. (Given that we talk about a
drum as ‘12’, ‘14’, ‘20’, etc., it makes sense that the diameter x depth system
should emerge as the standard.)
A large, hollow tube that is the main component of a drum. Virtually every
facet of a drum shell has a range of design possibilities. Materials
range from solid wood, plywood and metal (steel, aluminum, copper, brass,
bronze) to plastic, fiberglass and carbon fibre. Metal shells
are usually reserved for snare drums as they tend to be too heavy
and vibrant for other drums. Wood appears to offer the best balance of tone,
volume, playability and cost. Diameters range from 6” to 18” for toms,
16” to 28” for bass drums, and 12” to 15” for snares. Depths range from
3” at the low end to the same or greater depth than the shell’s diameter
(see Floor Tom, Parade Drum, Power Tom). Interestingly, every diameter
from 10” to 16” is available with the exception of an 11” drum. Like the 2-dollar
greenback, drummers have turned their backs on the 11” drum. Also see
Membranophone, Plies, Tone Wood.
The bright, high partials of a cymbal. See Glassy.
A type of triple-flanged hoop that has the top flange
curled inward and slightly over the drum head.
In big band music, the drummer will often punctuate horn figures by playing
a figure or a subset of the figure (i.e. the accents). Shots can be
played anywhere on the drum set, although the snare drum
appears to be the favourite.
The part of a drum stick where the shaft leaves off and the taper
A rhythm loosely based on a dotted eighth and sixteenth. One of the
three core rhythms found in popular music, especially country and blues.
A drum that is carried by a sling and hung to the left for use while
marching. Side drums were most often snare drums and tenor
drums, but could also be deep-shelled bass drums. See Long, Drum, Parade
Drum, Suspended Drum, Traditional Grip.
A product that bears the signature of a drum celebrity. Many popular
drummers have their own signature drum sticks. Lately drummers have had
their names added to individual drums, cymbals and even cow bells.
The Ludwig Drum Company makes a drum head similar to the Remo
Black Dot, with a reflective silver dot. The heads sound slightly
mellower and with less ‘clack’ than a black dot head.
A drum that has only a batter head. Such drums tend to
project well and are easy to mic, but lack depth, tone and resonance.
See Concert Toms, MelodicToms, Octobans.
A double-headed drum that has no tension casings.
Instead, the tension rods connect one counter hoop
to the other. When a tension rod is turned, it affects both heads
equally. Such drums are perhaps somewhat easier to rough tune but are less
flexible in terms of tonal range compared to double-tension
A cymbal that has had rivets installed in it. Can be a ride or crash
cymbal with as few as 2-3 rivets and up to a dozen or more. Adds a
subtle wash element to the sound. Also see Effects Cymbal, Swish
In a jazz ride pattern, a light stroke placed just before the
1 and 3. Assuming a dotted 8th & 16th notation, the
16th note would be the skip beat. Played with a triplet feel
and counted as 1-trip-let, 2-trip-let, the skip beat would be the 'let'.
The skin of an unborn, stillborn or prematurely born calf. The hides are
sometimes used to produce a fine grade of calf skin for snare heads.
See Mounted Tom.
A two-headed drum that has wire snares fitted to the bottom
head by means of a snare release, which enables the drum to produce a
crisp ‘crack’ sound and also facilitates buzz rolls. At one time
snare drums were about as deep as they were wide (see Military Drum).
Modern snare drums tend to be shallower, although fashion brings back the
deeper drums from time to time. Range from 12” to 15”, and often have cute
names such as black beauty, firecracker or piccolo. Snare
drums typically cost more than other drums because of the extra hardware and
machining required. There are also snare drums that have snares beneath
the top head in addition to or instead of bottom-mounted snares. See Gut, Side
Snare drum shells typically have a region where the bottom bearing
edge has been filed away, producing two shallow channels at the edges of
the snare head. The width and depth of the snare bed -- or its absence
-- can have a dramatic effect on snare response, thus snare wires should
be selected to match the profile of the snare bed and vice versa.
In order to facilitate response from the snare wires, the bottom or resonant
head of snare drums is usually much thinner than the batter head.
Even in the case of ultra-high tension military tuning, the snare head will be
thinner than the top head.
A device that holds the snares onto a snare drum, allowing
the snares to be tightened or loosened or disengaged entirely. Also see Butt
Plate, Snare Bed, Snare Strainer.
Another name for a snare throw-off. When snares were made
from gut, the strainer actually ‘strained’ and aligned the individual
In general, a set of fine helical wires set into metal plates and strung
across the bottom of a snare drum. Snares give the drum its distinctive
crack and crisp tone. Snare wires come in a wide variety of materials and
configurations. Also see Butt Plate, Gut, Nylon, Snare Release.
Snow Shoe Pedal
A primitive predecessor to the hi-hat consisting of two boards with
a hinge at one end and two small cymbals at the other. A foot loop on
the upper pedal enabled the drummer to ‘sock’ the cymbals together by
tapping a foot.
The mid-point in the evolution from lo-boy to hi-hat, the
sock cymbal pedal placed a pair of cymbals roughly at the drummer’s
A drum shell that is made from one or more pieces of wood rather
than plies. Many vintage drums were made from a single plank of wood,
steam bent into a circle and joined. Stave drums are made from
sticks of wood glued vertically and then machined to produce a round shell.
Shells can be made from blocks of wood glued in a stack in a ‘butcher
block’ design. Drums are also made from hollowed out logs, e.g. the tabla
of India, Japanese Koto drums, Nigerian talking drums.
A crack or break in a cymbal that actually makes the cymbal
sound better. A reference to damage that has been repaired by grinding out the
affected area of the cymbal (my own offering).
A mnemonic that attempts to mimic the classic jazz ride cymbal
rhythm. Also ‘boom chick-a-boom’, ‘ding dinga-ding’.
How quickly a cymbal responds after being struck. Thin cymbals
speak more quickly than heavier cymbals.
A small, thin crash cymbal, usually 8 to 10 inches, that is used
mainly for accents. Also see Toy Cymbal.
Remo markets the rims of their Rototoms as a type of special effects tool
that produce a jangling sound. Some drummers will mount two spokes on a hi-hat
stand. (Pronounced 'spokes')
A method of forming entry-level cymbals by the spun
metal technique. Such cymbals are not usually lathed; the
lines in the cymabal's surface are caused by pressure rollers.
A technique of forming metal by putting it into a type of lathe and then
moulding it to a given shape through pressure. The result is a part or
instrument that has no seam. Quality metal snare drums and tension
hoops are often spun rather than bent and welded. Also see Rotocasting,
Metal ‘stakes’ affixed to a bass drum to prevent it from creeping
during play. Usually combine a sharp tip and a moulded rubber ‘foot’ to
accommodate both hard and soft surfaces.
A type of articulation where the sounds are short and sharp. In
percussion, most sounds are short -- in fact, achieving a long sound is a bit
of a challenge. Still, staccato sounds are possible using techniques like the stick
Two or more cymbals mounted on a single stand using a spacing unit.
Allows cymbals to be played individually or simultaneously. Also see Effects
Cymbal, Piggy Backing.
A 5-line grid that is used for writing music. Drum music is traditionally
written in the bass clef using the spaces to represent different instruments:
bass drum on the bottom space, hi-hat one space below, snare on the third
space, cymbal on the space above. As drum sets and playing became more complex,
the lines were called into play and new symbols were adopted beyond the round
note for drums and the 'x note' for cymbals.
While bell bronze is the standard metal for cymbals and gongs,
some makers have had success with other metals, principally stainless steel and
A song or tune that is universally accepted and recognised as a classic.
While the term is used most often in jazz circles, there are plenty of pop and
rock standards, as a visit to any dance hall will show.
See NARD, PAS, Rudiments.
See Common Time.
Tuning in a star shape, i.e. every other lug. On a 10-lug drum the pattern
would be: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.
Drum shell made of wood staves aligned vertically and glued, then
machined. Also see Solid Wood, World Percussion.
See Glue Rings.
Hailing from Jamaica, this drum is made from a repurposed metal drum such
as an oil drum. The top Is painstakingly hammered into a deep dish with a
number of raised areas tuned to specific notes. May be cut down to about 1 foot
in depth for lead instruments and for parade use.
A cymbal that has been purchased from a cymbal maker and then labelled and
marketed under the buyer’s brand.
An accent played by pressing the bead of the stick into the
head and striking the stick with the other stick.
The nuts and bolts of drumming, sticking patterns are the drummer’s
equivalent of scales and chords. Range from the basic single and double strokes
to the 40 standard rudiments to the very complex patterns laid down by
drummers like Steve Gadd, Gavin Harrison, et al.
The way in which a tune is built. Tunes are built up of phrases
which in turn are built from bars. The structure of a tune is the number
and length of the phrases and how they are arranged. It's important to
know the structure of the tune in order to know your place in its evolution.
See 12-Bar Blues, 32-Bar, Pop Tune.
A special microphone optimized for bass drums and mounted in
a drum-shaped enclosure about the size of a snare drum. Some
drummers have replicated the device by mounting a 10” or 12” speaker inside a
small drum shell.
The divisions of the beat that make the basic rhythm. E. g.
dividing the beat in half creates an 8th-note feel. Dividing it in
thirds creates a triplet or '6/8' feel. Dividing it into a dotted-eighth
and sixteenth creates a shuffle feel. Also see Tuple.
In the early days of the drum set, cymbals were often
suspended from large hooks attached to the console. The term goes back
much further, when 17th century composers asked for suspended cymbals rather
than the standard hand cymbals.
Usually a reference to a marching drum that is suspended from
a shoulder strap or harness. See Long Drum, Side Drum, Tenor Drum.
The tendency of a note or sound to persist. Percussion instruments are
usually short in sustain with the exception of bells, gongs and
vibraphones. Cymbals have more sustain than drums but less than most other
instruments. Also see Envelope, Staccato.
An area of a drum or cymbal that has both the best
playability and the best sound. Can vary depending on music style and desired
outcome. For example, a general purpose cymbal might have one sweet spot
for playing rock ride and another for jazz ride. A drum
stick also has a sweet spot -- see Fulcrum.
The tendency of a ride cymbal to increase in volume in a
certain part of its tonal range. Similar to build or wash.
A style of music that appeared in the 1940s, championed by big bands. An
outgrowth of jazz, it is based on the classic jazz ride rhythm.
A china-type cymbal with rivets.
A large china-type cymbal, usually 22", with many
rivets installed in the ‘trough’. A favourite of Mel Lewis.
See Basel Drumming.
A rhythm that liberally places unexpected emphasis between the beats
to create interest. Also see Off Beat.
A type of 'folk' snare drum carried in one hand and played
with the other, with or without a stick. Dates from medieval Great Britain.
The word tabla is often used to refer to the traditional drum pair of northern
India. The tabla itself, also called a dayan, is a small single-headed wooden-shelled
drum that is the lead voice of the pair. The bayan is a larger single-headed kettle
drum with a metal bowl. The drums are renowned for the astounding number of
sounds and rhythms they are capable of. Also see Bols, Carnatic, Tala.
The Carnatic rhythm system. Rather than time signatures,
Carnatic music is built on rhythmic cycles that have a theme, a number
of variations, and a stylized ending. All musicians adhere to the tala’s 3-part
structure. The ‘time keeper’, often the singer, uses distinctive hand motions
to mark the tala. Also see Konnakol.
A plastic or wooden frame drum or ring, with or without a
head, that has metal jingles mounted into the frame. Can be played by shaking
it and hitting it with the hand and fingers. Most cultures have some sort of
Another name for a wind gong.
A style of tuning that focuses on voicing rather than pitch.
After being brought up to pitch, the drum is set on a flat surface to
prevent resonance. The head is then tapped near each tuning lug and
tuned until the pitch at every lug is the same.
1. The section of a drum stick starting at the shoulder and
ending at the bead. As expected, it is tapered.
2. Decreasing thickness, from bell to edge, in the bow of a cymbal.
The taper – usually achieved by lathing -- affects a cymbal's attack.
The accumulated sticking patterns, co-ordination and independence
gained through extensive practice. A certain amount of technique is necessary
to play competently. Although sometimes viewed as the holy grail of drumming,
more is not always better. See Chops.
Of Chinese origin, these wooden blocks resemble large sleigh bells. Made of
tone wood, they are hollowed out and have one or two sound slits
in the front, they make a sound something like ‘clock’.
The speed of a rhythm or piece of music, measured in beats per
The marching band equivalent of a tom tom. Traditionally a side
drum, and big brother to the snare drum, modern tenor drums are
often more like mounted toms, with 3, 4 and even 6 drums mounted in a carrying
frame. May be double or single headed. The single headed variety are
sometimes called timp-toms as they can be tuned to a specific pitch.
Tension & Release
An important concept in music is to create excitement (tension) alternating
with more relaxed passages. Tension adds interest and energy to the music, and
the release provides a satisfying resolution, which in turn sets up the
next bit of tension.
Metal fittings attached to the side of a drum shell to receive tension
bolts. Much research has gone into the construction and mounting of tension
casings, and there are theories and opinions on what works and what doesn't.
Modern casings tend to be light, and are often fitted with an isolation gasket
between the casing and the drum shell.
See Counter Hoop.
A threaded bolt, usually with a square head, that holds the counter hoop
and drum head against the drum shell. The bolts also serve as
tuning rods: tightening raises the pitch and loosening lowers the pitch.
Also see Gladstone System.
The useful tonal range of an instrument. In the case of a drum, the tuning
range, from lowest to highest, that the drum is most suited to.
A sub-genre of heavy metal, this hyper-aggressive music style
gets much of its impetus from frenetic 8th notes on double bass and
on the rest of the drum set. Also see Blast Beat.
An apt name for a drummer’s stool.
A type of roll played by wetting a thumb or finger and dragging it
across the drum head. With practice, can yield a well-controlled,
fairly long roll sound that has an interesting 'growl' quality.
A small gong, 8” to 15", that has a slight glissando. See
Thin wooden sticks with a butt at both ends.
A pair of shallow single-headed metal drums peculiar to Latin music.
A pair is usually a 13" drum and a 14" drum. Played with thin,
un-beaded sticks, in the hands of a virtuoso they can be very exciting.
Instruments are identified by their timbre. Each instrument produces a
signature set of overtones that combine to create the instrument’s
character. While two instruments can play the same note, they will always sound
different because of timbre.
A general reference to the flow of the music: the beats or pulse.
Keeping good time means adhering to the tempo and not allowing it to
fluctuate noticeably. Also see Behind The Beat, Dragging, On Top of The
At one time, the drummer was considered the time keeper of the band. The
modern interpretation is that everyone in the band is responsible for keeping
time. In some contexts, notably jazz, the bass player is the main time-keeper
and anchor. See Pocket.
Except for certain 'free' styles, music is based on a regular repeated
pattern of beats. The time signature is a statement of how may beats
there are in a bar and which type of note gets one beat. Thus
11/8 would represent 11 beats to a bar with an eighth note
accounting for one beat.
See Playing Time.
The term comes from the middle east and refers to any drum that is not a snare
drum, kettle drum or bass drum. Tom toms -- or just
toms -- can range from as little as 4-6 inches in diameter to as large as or
larger than a bass drum, and may have one or two heads. See Chinese
Tom, Power Tom, Rack Tom, RotoTom, Tenor Drum.
Many of the terms here attempt to put sound into words. There is no
standard terminology, so players are dependent on impressions paired with words
meant for other uses. Thus the language for tone is filled with words like
glassy, trashy, complex, raw, dry, explosive, fast, fuzzy, delicate, woody,
breathy, throaty, clean, dirty, and many others. Fortunately, when listening to
an instrument it's fairly easy to agree that the terms appear to apply despite
After a cymbal has been lathed, one or both surfaces will be
covered in fine grooves, which enhance the tone of the cymbal. It takes
many years for a cymbal smith to become expert at lathing cymbals.
(Note: see Spun Formed.)
Any wood that will produce a quality instrument. Often thought of as the
woods used in xylophones, marimbas, stringed instruments, and woodwinds, the
term is valid for drum shells as well. The list of shell woods is
short, although there are almost unlimited possibilities and trials. Most drum
makers will offer at least these standards:
Mahogany - produces a warm sound with moderate volume and a somewhat
limited pitch range;
Birch - a very hard wood that results in loud, bright drums with lots of resonance;
Maple - midway between mahogany and birch.
The fundamental note in a key. In the key of C, C is the tonic.
Top Dead Centre/TDC
Not a drum term, but worth mentioning. Cymbals tend to be somewhat
uneven when mounted on a stand, and will gradually rotate and settle in a
certain position. The current recommendation is to determine TDC before
installing rivets, which should go on the edge furthest away from the natural
Very small splash cymbals, ranging from 7” down to 4”,
mounted several on a stand. At one time, drummers purchased cymbals at
toy stores and added them to their set-ups. Now a small number of cymbal
makers offer these special-purpose cymbals.
A drum feature where the band plays four bars and the drummer 'responds'
with a four-bar solo. This trading pattern is then repeated, usually for a full
chorus. The band and drummer can also trade eights, twos and even ones.
Traditional (Style) Jazz
Another name New Orleans or Dixieland jazz.
Also called rudimental grip, the technique is derived from the
realities of playing a drum slung from the shoulder and resting on the knee
while marching along. All drummers would play ‘right handed’ with the drum
suspended to the left side. To accommodate playing at this awkward angle, the
player held the stick in the left hand in the crotch of the thumb and first
finger, and struck the drum with a turn of the forearm. There are advantages
and limitations to traditional grip when applied to the modern drum set and to
modern music. It's a good idea to try both matched grip and
traditional grip to see which is better for you (although matched grip
seems destined to stay in the lead).
An early term for a drum set. Possibly derived from the word snare,
suggesting a trap, or from the word contraption, a still-valid comparison. See Console,
Trash Can Lid
An expression that is testimony to how much drummers like trashy
A distinctive cymbal sound produced by an abundance of midrange
tones. Chinese cymbals and stacked cymbals are valued for
their trashy tone.
A piece of showmanship where the player holds the sticks up where all can
see and then plays patterns back and forth between the sticks. Also see Back
1. In the world of electronic drums, triggers are the
mechanisms that send signals to the control unit. A trigger is
essentially a pressure sensitive plate that is embedded in a drum pad.
Pads can have more than one trigger, and high-end triggers have stick response
that better approximates real drums.
2. A small triggering device that attaches to a drum. The drum(s) can then be
played acoustically while also triggering a control unit. One
application is to send the triggered output to the sound system rather than using
microphones on the drums.
A counter hoop that has been bent three times. The first two bends
form a channel to accept the drum head. The third bend rolls the
top of the rim over to present a thicker profile that is less damaging
to sticks when doing rim shots. Also see Cast Hoop, S-hoop.
A rhythm that divides the beat into three equal parts, often
counted ‘1-trip-let, 2-trip-let’ etc. Rhythms based on triplets have a
gentle lilt. Jazz and shuffle rhythms are often played with a triplet
feel. Also see Jazz Ride, Tuplet.
The toms first used on drum sets were not tunable (see
Chinese toms). Celebrity drummer Gene Krupa was instrumental in
promoting the development of tunable toms through the addition of tension
rods and casings. Virtually all toms today are of the tunable
See Mallet Instruments.
See Tension Casing.
See Tension Rod.
Any type of note division other than 2 and 4. Includes triplets,
quintuples, septuplets, etc. Usually grouped by a beam and a number or
Turkish Style Cymbal
1. A cymbal made in the ‘Turkish style’ may be hand hammered
or not. When cymbals were completely hand-made, Turkish cymbals
were known for their distinctive tones and qualities. Typically the bow
is flatter than modern cymbals and the envelope will be complex with
a hint of trashy-ness.
2. The style of cymbals that evolved in and
around Turkey, with a pronounced rounded bell and a graceful bow,
in contrast to the upturned profile of Chinese cymbals.
It's common to add a variation or fill in the final 1 or 2 bars
of a phrase to wrap up the phrase and set up the next one. See Cadence,
When a membrane is struck, it stretches, which raises the pitch
slightly. Normally this is inaudible, but certain tuning techniques can
accentuate this glissando effect. Mainly applied to toms.
A drum head that is made from two sheets of Mylar fixed to a
single metal hoop. These heads tend to be more rugged due to the extra
thickness, but their main appeal is their warm tone and reduced over-tones
or ring. See Hydraulic, Pinstripe.
Modern day kettle drums are almost always
called tympani. Usually made of metal, they are not often found outside a
A paper-like plastic product that resembles calf skin. See Fiberskyn.
U - V
A sound that emerges below the instrument's fundamental. Cymbals
and gongs are prone to undertone. See Perceived Pitch.
When two or more musicians play the same part. Also see Break, Ensemble
Normally the last step in cymbal making is to lathe both sides of
the cymbal. Leaving all or part of a cymbal unlathed gives it
distinctive qualities. The unlathed portion will be thicker and therefore the cymbal
will have good articulation and will be higher pitched and less prone to
build. Also see Earth Cymbal, Hybrid Cymbal, Lathing.
The opposite of a down beat. In common time, 1
and 3 are down beats and 2 and 4 are up beats. In 3/4 time, 1
would be the down beat and 2 and 3 would be up beats.
A simple repeating musical figure, often based on just one or two chords.
Usually serves as a background for some other function (not necessarily music).
Although similar to an ostinato or montuno, a vamp typically is
more of a 'place holder', hence the instruction “Vamp until ready”.
A small hole placed in the side of the drum shell of a two-headed
drum to allow air to move in to and out of the shell. Research has shown
that size and placement of the vent can have a noticeable effect on a drum’s
sound. A drum with a lot of venting will sound 'dry'. A drum with no vent will
lack depth and have overtones that are difficult to control.
Fine tuning of a drum to bring it into tune with itself. Drum heads
should be tensioned equally at each tension lug to voice properly. This
is especially important with two-headed drums where the heads
interact with each other. See Tap Tuning.
One of several sounds made by a ride cymbal. As the cymbal
is played, an undertone may emerge that sounds a bit like seashore, ‘roar
of the crowd', or white or pink noise. Also see Build, Swell.
A specialized two-headed frame drum found in eastern North
American aboriginal cultures. The drum has a small amount of water in it, the
theory being that sound travels better over water.
A drum tone that is short and lacking in low and high frequencies as well
as resonance. Usually the sign of a very slack head.
Wet Paper Bag
An unattractive wet sound (e.g. ‘splat’) that results from having
too little tension on the drum head. This also makes the drum difficult
to play and hampers projection.
Whipped Cream Roll
A buzz roll executed by rotating the wrists as if whipping
cream in a bowl. Yields a smoother sounding roll, especially at slower tempos.
White Man Blues
A term sometimes applied to county & western music. There are parallels
in that county music was born of working class whites writing songs about their
lot in life.
A flat gong, visually similar to a flat ride cymbal,
that has complex overtones and long sustain.
A wooden block, not surprisingly. Not as popular as they once were, these
blocks of tone wood have slots routed into them to improve tone
At one time all drum counter hoops were wooden. In the second
quarter of the 20th century, metal hoops took over. In the past decade or so,
there's been a renewed interest in wooden hoops. Unlike the tall, thin rims
of historical drums, today’s wood hoops are generally made from hard woods and
are about as thick as they are high. Tend to produce a warm, fat,
well-controlled sound. Also see Woody.
Resembling the tone of a wood instrument. Metal snare drums,
for example, have a certain amount of high-pitched ring and overtones,
whereas wooden snare drums have less of both and sound warmer, i.e. ‘woody’.
A secondary shallow-shelled bass drum mounted in front of the
main bass drum. Can add more resonance, bottom end and
‘punch’ to a bass drum. May be fitted with an internal
A fusion of western popular music and non-western styles. For example, a
popular tune that includes instruments and rhythms from African music.
A term that loosely refers to non-western music -- i.e. anything that did
not originate in Europe or North America. The definition is further obfuscated
by the practice of blending music styles from different cultures.
A general term to describe percussion instruments that are not from the
western music tradition. The variety of instruments is extensive as most
cultures have a number of traditional instruments: hand drums, gongs,
cymbals, Gamelan gongs, Taiko drums, temple drums, talking drums, ceremonial
drums, singing bowls, and all manner of shakers, clackers, and more. See World
X - Y - Z
One of the oldest companies in existence, Zildjian has been making fine cymbals
for nearly 400 years. In 1618, the name Zildjian was given to Avedis, an
alchemist, by Sultan Osman II in recognition for the unique bronze that
Avedis created. The name means cymbal maker. Avedis Zildjian III moved the
company to the US in 1928. (In 1982 the Zildjian brothers, Armand and Robert,
went their separate ways. Armand took over Zildjian, and Robert opened the
Sabian cymbal company in Canada.)
In 1865, the Avedis Zildjian cymbal company passed to Kerope
Zildjian, who began to label the company’s products ‘K Zildjian’. Shortly
before Kerope’s death in 1910, his son, Aram Zildjian, opened a second factory,
calling it Avedis Zildjian. K Zildjian continued to make cymbals until
its works and artisans were reacquired by A Zildjian in 1968 and moved
to North America.