Drum Yoda








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.


Richard Best
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


12-bar Blues
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.

16-bar Blues
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 phrases.

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.)

Ad Lib
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.

Air Lock
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.

Ashtray Hand
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 Cymbal.

A type of bronze made from 12% tin and 88% copper. Not as common as B8 or B20.

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.

Back Beat
In 4/4 or common time, striking the snare (usually) on counts 2 and 4. This sets up the rhythm and adds tension.

Back Phrasing
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.

Backstick/Back Sticking
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 rudimental drumming.

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.

Basel Drumming
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 bass lines.

Bass Drum
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.

Batter Head
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.

Bearing Edge
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.

Bell Bronze
See B20, Bronze.

Bell Cymbal
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.

Bell Tree
A stack of small graduated cup-shaped bells. Played with a stick by dragging it top to bottom to produce a glissando.

Black Dot
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.

Blast Beat
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 bombs.

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 Man”.

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.

Bossed Gong
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 roll).
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 use.

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.

Break Beat
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 break dancers.

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, Timbre.

Brilliant Finish
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 appearance.

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 Undertone).

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.

Butt Plate
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 Roll.

Buzz Roll
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.

Calf Skin
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.

Cannon Toms
Extreme power toms.

Carbon Fiber
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.

Cast Cymbal
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.

Cast Hoop
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.

Chain Drive
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’.

Chimes/Tubular Bells
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 Swish Knocker.

China Boy
See China Cymbal.

China Splash
A confusing category that includes a number of styles of small splash cymbals. Authentic Chinese cymbals produce a distinctive glissando effect.

Chinese Drum/Tom
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.

Chow/Chau Gong
The classic gong, mostly flat with turned over edges. Often have a ‘bulls-eye’ pattern on the playing surface.

Clash Cymbals
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

Click Track
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.

Cocktail Drum
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.

Common Time
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.

Concert Toms
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.

Consolette/Rail 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.

Controlled Sound/CS
See Black Dot.

Cosmetically Hammered
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.

Counter Hoop
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.

Cow Bell
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.

Cradle Position
See Traditional Grip.

Crash (Cymbal)
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 Cymbal.

A cymbal that is deemed suitable for both ride and crash work.

Usually a reference to a snare drum that has a short, sharp, high-pitched attack.

Cross Matching
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.

Cross/Criss-Cross Tuning
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.

Custom Drums
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 bright overtones.
2. To ‘defeat’ another player, as in “I can cut him any day!” which means “I can play much better than him.”

Cut Time
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.

Cymbal Choke
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 visually.
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.

Cymbal Cleaner
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.

Cymbal Clutch
A device that holds the top cymbal of a hi-hat assembly. Also see Drop Clutch.

Cymbal Pack
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.

Cymbal Smith
A craftsperson who specializes in making cymbals. It takes many years of training and apprenticeship to attain the rank of cymbal smith.

Cymbal Weight
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 stick sound.

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.

Direct Drive
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.

Disco Beat
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 beats.

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.

Double Bass
1. A two bass drum set-up.
2. Double bass drum pedal set-up.
3. Another name for an upright acoustic bass.

Double Bummer
See Rock Knockers.

Double Headed
 A drum that has both top and bottom heads. See Resonance, Resonant Head.

Double Pedal
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.

Double Time
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.

Double-stroke Roll
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.

Down Beat
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 Family.

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.

Drop Clutch
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 pedal.

Usually taken to refer to membranophones, although certain instruments that lack a ‘skin’ are often called drums, e.g. log drum, tongue drum.

Drum Break
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 Corps
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.

Drum Fill
See Fill.

Drum Head/Skin
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.

Drum Mat
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 drum tone.

Drum Rack
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.)

Drum Screen/Booth
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’.

Drum Set/Kit
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.

Drumming Circle
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.

Duple Time
A time signature that has two beats to the bar.


Earth Cymbal
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.

Effects Cymbal
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’.

Electronic Drums/E-Drums
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.

Ensemble Notes
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.

EQ Ring/O-ring
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

Essential Rudiments
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 Families.

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, EMAD.

Extended Kit/Set
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.

Fat Back
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 back.

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 brush work.

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.

Field drum
See Parade Drum.

Fill/Drum Fill
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.

Finger Control
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.

Flanged Hoops
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.

Flat Ride
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.

Flea Bite
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.

Flesh Hoop
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.)

Flight Case
Heavy-duty shipping case built to withstand the rigours of air travel and extensive touring.

Floating Shell
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.

Floating Snares
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.

Floor Tom
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.

Fly Swatter
See Brushes.

Foam Ring
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.

Foot Plate
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.

See Lo-Boy.

Found Objects
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, Eight-To-The-Bar.

See Four-On-The-Floor.

Frame Drum
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.

Free Strike/Gladstone Technique
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.

French Roll
A roll executed by playing exactly three strokes per strike with each hand.

Front Line
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.

Fusion kit
An industry term for a 5-piece set: bass, snare, two mounted toms and one floor tom. Also see Configuration.


Ghost Note/Ghosting
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.

Gladstone System
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.

Glue Ring
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
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 drums.

Gock Shot
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.

Gong Cymbal
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.

Gong Drum
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.

Grace Note
A note that is played slightly before and softer than the next note. See Cheese, Flam.

Gravity Blast
A gravity roll used as part of a blast beat.

Gravity Roll
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.

Gut/Catgut Snares
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.

Hand Cymbals
A pair of matched cymbals attached to handles or straps and played by slapping the cymbals together. Used mainly in orchestras and marching bands.

Hand Drum
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 sticks.)

Hand Hammered
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.

Hang (Drum)
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.

Hanging Tom
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.

Heavy Metal
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.

Hybrid Cymbal
A cymbal that has both lathed and unlathed areas. Each area would have a subtly different sound and stick feel. See Dual-tone, Lathing.

Hybrid Rudiments
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.

Indefinite Pitch
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 'co-ordinated dependence'.

Indie Music
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).

Inharmonic Partials
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.

Irrational/Irregular Rhythm
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.

Jazz Ride
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 sixteenth feel.


Kettle Drum
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 see Tympani.

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 Fibreglass.)

Keyboard Percussion
See Mallet Instruments.

Kick Drum
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, Unlathed.

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.

Layered Drumming
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.

Linear Drumming
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.

Lion Cymbal
Another name for china-type cymbals.

Lion Gong
See Wind Gong.

Melodic percussion instrument with tone bars made from stone. See Mallet Instruments.

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 sticks.

Long drum
Antiquated name for a bass drum. See Side Drum.

Long Roll
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
See B8.

Low Tom
A floor tom, or a rack tom positioned like a floor tom.

Lug Clearing
Tuning a drum so that the tone at each tension lug is identical. See Tap-tuning, Voicing.


Machine Hammered
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 cymbals.

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.

Mama Dada
A user-friendly term for the long or double-stroke roll.

Marching Drum
See Parade Drum.

Matched Grip
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.

Melodic Toms
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.

Mercatto Stroke
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.

Metric Modula­tion
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 time.

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.

Middle Eight
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.)

Mounting Hoop
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.

Muffling Rings
Same as EQ-rings or foam rings.

Music Therapy
“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 discreet practice.

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.

Nickel Silver
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.

Nylon Tip
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.


Ocean Drum
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).

Odd Meter
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.

Off Beat
Refers to notes placed between the main counts. In the case of eighth notes [1-&, 2-&, 3-&, 4-&], the ‘&’ would represent off beats. See Syncopation.

See Hydraulic.

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.

Open-Close/Drop-Snap Technique
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, Vamp.

Overhang pedal
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 Cymbal Cleaner.

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.


Pang Cymbal
A cymbal that has a flat portion at the outer edge of the bow. Makes a distinctive ‘pang’ sound. Also see Chinese Cymbal, Flange.

Paper Thin
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.

Parade/Rudimental Sticks
Visually similar to regular drum sticks, rudimental sticks tend to be much thicker, with a heavier bead and are often made from lighter woods.

Parade/Marching Drum
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.

Parallel Strainer
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 or inharmonic.

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.

Perceived Pitch
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.

Piatti Musicali
 Italian for 'musical plates', i.e. cymbals.

Piccolo Snare
A snare drum that is a standard diameter but is fairly shallow, e.g. 4” x 14”; 3” x 13”. Also see Firecracker.

Pick-up (Beat)
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.

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.

Pipe Drum
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.

Playing Time
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 see Cross-Rhythm.

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 rhythmic displacement.

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 check out.

Pop Tune
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.

Popeye Syndrome
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.

Power Tom
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.

Pretensioned Head
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 sounds.

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.

Rack Tom
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 instruments.

Remote/Cable Hi-Hat
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 Bass Pedal.

Resin Shells
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.

Resonant/Reso Head
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.

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 & Blues.

Rhythm Section
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.

Rhythmic Displacement
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-&.

Ride (Rhythm)
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.

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.

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 sets.

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.

Rock Knockers
A drum stick that has no taper and no bead. Essentially a stick with two butt ends, hence the alternate term double bummers.

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, etc.

Rope Tension
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, Hammering, Lathing.

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.

Roundhouse Fill
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.

Rudiment Families
The standard rudiments are now grouped under five specific families according to sticking type: single stroke, double stroke, paradiddle, flam, and drag.

Rudimental Drumming
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, PAS.

Rudimental Grip
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 rhythms.

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.

Scratch Roll
An exaggerated buzz roll generated by pressing hard on the sticks in short bursts. Sometimes considered a technical flaw, but can be effective if used sparingly.

Sculptured Gong
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.

Seamless Shell
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 Jazz.

Secondary Beats
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.)

Shell Pack
1. A set of drum shells drilled and ready for finishing and assembly.
2. Modern term for a drum set minus stands and cymbals.

Shell Sizing
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.)

Shell, Drum
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 begins.

A rhythm loosely based on a dotted eighth and sixteenth. One of the three core rhythms found in popular music, especially country and blues.

Side Drum
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.

Signature (Series)
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. See Endorser.

Silver Dot
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.

Single Headed
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.

Single Tension
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 drums.

Sizzle Cymbal
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 Knocker.

Skip Beat
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'.

Slunk/Slink Skins
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.

Small Tom
See Mounted Tom.

Snare (Drum)
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 Drum.

Snare Bed
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.

Snare Head
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.

Snare Release/Throw-Off
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.

Snare Strainer
Another name for a snare throw-off. When snares were made from gut, the strainer actually ‘strained’ and aligned the individual strands.

Snares/Snare Wires
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.

Sock Cymbal
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 knees.

Solid Wood
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.

Sound Bite
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.

Splash Cymbal
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')

Spun Formed
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.

Spun Metal
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, Spun Form.

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 shot.

Stack(ed) Cymbals
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.

Stainless Steel
While bell bronze is the standard metal for cymbals and gongs, some makers have had success with other metals, principally stainless steel and nickel silver.

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.

Standard Rudiments
See NARD, PAS, Rudiments.

Standard Time
See Common Time.

Star Tuning
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.

Stave Drum
Drum shell made of wood staves aligned vertically and glued, then machined. Also see Solid Wood, World Percussion.

Stay Hoops
See Glue Rings.

Steel Drum
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.

Stencil Cymbal
A cymbal that has been purchased from a cymbal maker and then labelled and marketed under the buyer’s brand.

Stick Shot
An accent played by pressing the bead of the stick into the head and striking the stick with the other stick.

Sticking Patterns
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.

Sub Kick
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.

Suspended Cymbal
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.

Suspended Drum
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.

Sweet Spot
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.

Swish Cymbal
A china-type cymbal with rivets.

Swish Knocker
A large china-type cymbal, usually 22", with many rivets installed in the ‘trough’. A favourite of Mel Lewis.

Swiss Rudiments
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 tambourine.

Another name for a wind gong.

Tap Tuning
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.

Temple blocks
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 minute (bpm).

Tenor Drum
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.

Tension Casing
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.

Tension Hoop
See Counter Hoop.

Tension Rod/Bolt
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.

Thrash (Metal)
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.

Thumb Roll
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.

Tiger Gong
A small gong, 8” to 15", that has a slight glissando. See China Splash.

Timbale Sticks
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 Beat, Rushing.

Time Keeping
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.

Time Signature
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.

Time, Playing
See Playing Time.

Tom Tom
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 the vagaries.

Tone Grooves
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.)

Tone Wood
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 playing area.

Toy Cymbals
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.

Trading Fours
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.

Traditional Grip
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, Drum Rack.

Trash Can Lid
An expression that is testimony to how much drummers like trashy sounding cymbals.

A distinctive cymbal sound produced by an abundance of midrange tones. Chinese cymbals and stacked cymbals are valued for their trashy tone.

Tricky Sticks
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 Sticking.

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.

Tuneable Tom
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 variety.

Tuned Percussion/Pitched Percussion
See Mallet Instruments.

Tuning Lug
See Tension Casing.

Tuning Rod
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 ratio.

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, Resolution.

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 symphony orchestra.

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 Notes.

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.

Up Beat
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”.

Vent/Air Vent
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.

Water Drum
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.

Whipping Technique
See Moeller.

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.

Wind/Lion Gong
A flat gong, visually similar to a flat ride cymbal, that has complex overtones and long sustain.

Wood block
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 and volume.

Wood Hoops
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 microphone.

World Beat
A fusion of western popular music and non-western styles. For example, a popular tune that includes instruments and rhythms from African music.

World 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.

World Percussion
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 Music.

X - Y - Z

Zildjian, A
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.)

Zildjian, K
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.