If you’re interested in learning drums, you’ve probably learned a little bit about the drums that make up a drum kit. When it comes to percussion instruments, however, there are so many other different types of drums.
The world of drums and percussion is enormous, and it’s such an intriguing ground for exploration. This article describes various types of drums, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list, as that would be a very lengthy write-up!
This article, however, will capture your interest, and perhaps prompt you to venture out and add some new sounds and instruments to your drumming adventure. Here’s a table of contents for finding your way around this guide:
Let’s begin our journey on some familiar ground, and explore some different types of drum sets.
Acoustic Drum Set
You’re probably most familiar with this type of drum set, but there are lots of variations in size and configuration.
Power/Rock: These sets generally have 12, 13, and 16-inch toms, and a 22 x 18-inch bass drum. The snare may vary in size, but it’s typically 5 ½ or 6 x 14″. They have a deeper tone and more volume due to their larger sizes.
Fusion: These sets are typically sized as follows: 10, 12, and 14″ toms, with a bass of either 20 or 22 inches x 18 inches. They aren’t quite as thunderous as their rock-sized counterparts, but they allow for quicker playing due to their faster response.
Jazz Drums: These are supposed to be quick and light, and the toms usually have the same diameter as the fusion toms—but with shallower depths, and the bass drum is markedly smaller; usually 18” x 14”.
Virtual and Electronic Drum Kits: Electronic drum sets give you access to an unbelievable library of sonic options. Over the years, their “brains” have become more advanced. You have a wide array of sounds with samples from top-of-the-heap kits. Additionally, you have capabilities of percussion and beyond. These kits are available in range from very basic to professional. They have the ability to work with interactive software and apps to provide everything from tutorials to packs of sounds.
Triggers: I would be remiss not to visit the world of triggering, which allows you to reap the benefits (feel and resonance) of your acoustic kit and the brains of the V-kit by adding triggers, which touch the heads of your drums and relay signals to a module (brain) to add to your sonic capabilities. They can be particularly handy in recording/live applications to enhance and clarify your sound or to provide backing tracks.
Auxiliary Drum Sets: These are a complete playground for the adventurous. They can include elements from the whole spectrum: drums, bells, blocks, triangles, chimes, etc. Auxiliary drum sets are for solo applications or bands, often in addition to a drum set.
See Also: The Best Brands for Drum Sets
While you play hand drums by hand, some work well with mallets or “tippers.” They come from across the globe; each type of hand drum has a distinctive pattern and playing technique.
Congas: These tall, Cuban drums typically come in groups of two or three. Conga drums come in three different sizes: quinto (small), conga/tres dos (medium), and tumba (large).
Bongos: Bongo drums are Afro-Cuban, small, and often played in conjunction with the congas. If you’re bilingual, you have an advantage when it comes to pronouncing their names! The smaller drum is the “macho” and the larger drum is the “hembra.”
Tabla: You can play these Indian drums with the heels of your hands and your fingertips. The small, wooden drum is the tabla, and the larger, metal drum is the dagga.
This is actually a pretty broad family, with different types of drums from all over the world.
Pandeiro: A Brazilian instrument played with the fingers, thumbs, and palms on the head, along with the fingers/thumbs on its platinelas (jingles).
Tambourine: A close cousin to the pandeiro, the tambourine is from various regions, and has smaller jingles—called zils. There is much more to playing this instrument than mot people think.
A tambourine may or may not have heads, and it may or may not be tunable. A tambourine can have single or double rows of jingles. There are many other similar drums from different parts of the world.
Bodhran: This Irish/Celtic frame drum can be played by hand or with various types of beaters, known as tippers. Bodhran drums may or may not be tunable.
Goblet Drums: This is a family of drums that get their name from their shape. A darbuka, which hails from the Middle East, is an example of a goblet drum.
This is another broad family of hand drums, so let’s look at some of the most well-known drums.
Djembe: The djembe is a very popular hand drum from West Africa. It may be rope-tuned or mechanically tuned (Westernized). They may have goatskin heads (shaved or not) or synthetic heads.
Talking Drum: To play the talking drum, place it under your arm and squeeze the rope while you hit the drum. Use a striker to alter the pitch.
Udu: The udu is a clay-based drum from Nigeria. Variations of the udu may have one or two chambers.
To play the udu, strike the larger hole with your palm, or use your fingers on the body.
Marching band drums supply the voice for the band. Here are some of the most commonly used marching band drums, they can be mounted on harnesses or stands.
Related Article: How to Become a Drum Major
Marching Snare: The marching snare drum is quite different than the snare used on the drum set. It’s much deeper and the head is made of Kevlar. The marching snare can hold very high tension.
Multi-tenor: The multi-tenor drums come in several configurations, most commonly sets of four to six. They’re the higher pitched melodic voices of the battery and are typically played with sticks or mallets.
They may have small, tightly tuned accent drums, known as spocks or shots (among other names).
Bass Drum: The bass drums are the lowest pitched drums in the battery and come in several sizes that allow for melodic runs along the line.
Front Ensemble: The front ensemble/pit is stationary on the field and has a wide variety of percussion instruments like the marimba, xylophone, glock, vibes, bass drum, drum set, and timpani, as well as hand/frame drums and auxiliary instruments.
We have covered several different types of drums, but we have still only scratched the surface of the world of percussion instruments. From drum sets, hand drums, and marching band drums, there’s something for every aspiring musician.
What types of drums do you want to learn about? Let us know in the comments below!