Thinking about learning how to play the drums? As with any new musician, getting to know your instrument is essential to your progress and success. For drummers in particular, it’s not just one instrument – it’s a whole set! The typical five-piece drum kit is the most traditional, although there are many variations to it that more advanced players can create. The types of drums you should be familiar with, however, are:
The bass drum or kick drum
The rack toms
The floor tom
Each of these drums comes in specific sizes, but of course any drum can be customized based on the drummer’s needs and style. For now, we’ll just discuss each drum in detail.
The snare drum is at the center of a five-piece drum kit. It is the drum that produces that rolling buzz sound that you hear during a performance, and it’s also the drum that when struck with a stick produces that loud crack.
A snare drum’s “shell” is what gives it that distinctive tonal sound. The shell is usually made from metals, such as aluminum, bronze, brass, or stainless steel. Wooden shells are also available, made from maple, birch, beech, mahogany, and bubinga.
The Bass or Kick
The bass or kick drum is the largest drum in the kit. The bass drum produces the thump sound when you use your foot on the drum’s kick pedal. This is the drum that the drummer keeps time with, and is used on the first and third beats when playing most types of rock music. The bass drum can take on a more harmonious part when applied in jazz music or combined with other parts of the drum set.
Bass drum shells can be made of metal, but in most cases they are manufactured from wood products such as maple, heartwood birch, mahogany, and cherry.
The Rack Toms
In a five-piece drum kit, there are two toms that are mounted over the kick drum via a piece of hardware called a tom holder. In most cases, the tom holder is inserted through the top of the bass drum, but over the years different kinds of hardware have been used to support rack toms, actually separating them from the bass drum.
Rack toms are constructed of many of the same materials as for the bass and snare drums, and they usually come in 12- and 13-inch sizes, but you can also get custom-mounted toms that can range in size from 8 inches to 14 inches.
The Floor Tom
The floor tom is a larger version of a rack tom. Floor toms can either be suspended with a heavy cymbal stand or a dedicated floor stand.
The other way that a floor tom can be set up is by three thin tubular feet that are inserted through the floor tom via hardware that’s attached to the tom itself. Like the other drums, the floor tom’s shell can be constructed from either wood or metal materials.
Drum Kit Variations
Not all drummers are created equal, and neither are their kits! Taking a look at drum set-ups, you’ll find that some drummers have set-ups that only have one rack tom, while other sets might have two kick drums along with two floor toms and even a suspended bass drum.
Drum kit set-ups can also vary depending on the type of music that you play. Some jazz drummers use very basic kits with a four-piece set-up, or sometimes even a three-piece set-up, while some drummers have kits that include over 20 drums for special performances.
Working With a Drum Teacher
To really master all of these types of drums, the best thing that you can do is to take private drum lessons with a qualified teacher.
A well-versed teacher can take you through the steps that you’ll need to play the drums properly, including learning how to grip the sticks, how to practice effectively, proper posture, and more. Some of the most familiar names in the world of drumming had a formal background of drum lessons to help them build a solid foundation. We’re talking about names such as Peart, Krupa, Lang, Colaiuta, and Famularo to just name a few!
Who knows – maybe someday you can be the inspiration for a whole new generation of drummers, just as these performers inspire you! With a great teacher guiding you along, you’ll be set up on the right track.
Photo by Audio-Technica