About the Drums

A drum kit (also known as a drum set or trap set) is a collection of drums, cymbals, and sometimes other percussion instruments (cowbell, wood block, chimes, or tambourines, for example) arranged into a single, compact set playable by one drummer. Along with these instruments are different forms of "hardware," stands, pedals, and other accessories that keep the instruments in place and make them playable.

Playing the drums looks deceptively simple. On the most basic level, it entails striking the drums with a drumstick, brush, or simply your hand. In the case of a bass drum, you use your foot to press down a pedal, which strikes the drum for you. However, drummers must posses an unbelievable amount of coordination and sense of rhythm. Producing a consistent and multifaceted beat takes multitasking and a keen ear for music.

Different music styles use the drum kit' components in different ways. For example, in most rock music generally uses the bass drum and snare drum and like loud beats. Jazz, on the other hand, likes cymbals, hi-hats, and a brushed snare drum, creating more mellow sounds.

Drums kits are specialized according to the drummer. Musical style, personal preference, and financial resources all play a part. Drummers have developed a particular percussion notation to signify which drum kit components are needed for a particular song.


Drum kits first developed in the 19th century when individual drummers were encouraged to play as many percussion instruments as possible due to budget and space constraints in theaters. Up until then, drums and cymbals were played separately, like orchestras still do today. Initially, drummers played the bass and snare drums by hand, but in the 1890s, they started experimenting with bass drum foot pedals. It wasn't until 1909, when William F. Ludwig perfected the pedal system, that modern drum kits became popular.

Between this time and the '30s, drum kits exploded in popularity--and size. All kinds of contraptions were added on to them. Jazz musicians were some of the first to utilize this new invention, adding hi-hat stands to the mix. Drums sets got the name "trap kits" from this early era when there were a number of instruments attached to it. Drum consoles had a "contraptions" tray used to hold a number of small pieces like cow bells and whistles, which was shortened to "trap" and thus "trap kit."

During the '30s, Gene Krupa streamlined drum kits down to four basic pieces: bass, snare, tom-tom, and floor tom. He also used rim-mounted cymbal holders. This is the modern-day standard widely used today.

Modern Advancements

By the 1980s, drummers like Bill Bruford and Neil Peart were adding more drums and cymbals to their kits and using electronic drums. Double bass pedals were developed to play on one bass drum, eliminating the need for a second bass drum. Since the 1990s and 2000s, some drummers in popular music and indie music have reverted back to the Gene Krupa-style of smaller drum kits.