Welcome to your new office, this is where you’ll be doing some serious amounts of practice, and every minute of it is building towards your skills as a Drummer. Here we’re going to talk about the names of Drums, how to set them up and a bit about what they do. We’ll be going into a lot more detail on each part later on, so this is just to get you familiar with what going on in front of you.
The Drum kit can be thought of as one instrument, just like a Guitar or a Violin, but in fact the drum kit is just a lot of separate instruments put together and played by one person, hence the name ‘Drum Kit’. Drums have been around for thousands of years but the ‘Drum Kit’ has actually only been around little more than 100 years.
As each individual drum and cymbal is an instrument in its own right, try to learn the capabilities of each one so that you understand your kit better. Once you understand what each part of the kit does, you can use them together to create very interesting rhythms and patterns.
The Snare Drum
When sat at the drums with your feet on the pedals, you will find right between your legs is your snare drum. On an acoustic kit it usually has a white coated head or ‘Skin’, which helps to give it its short sharp sound. Give it a hit and you should hear a short snappy sound similar to that of a whip or a gun-shot. When playing the rest of your kit you may notice that the snare drum sounds very unique and different to the rest of yours drums, and the reason for this is what also gives the snare drum kits name.
If you look on the underside of your snare drum you will see some metal wires that are stretched across, these are called ‘Snare Wires’ and when you hit the drum they vibrate to create that distinct ‘snap’.
On most snare drums you will find a leaver on the side which strains and releases the snare wires to alter the sound of your snare drum. When you turn the snares off, you will hear the sound of the drum changes and it becomes clear as to how the wires change the sound of the drum.
The snare drum is usually played on the back beat in grooves, and can be used as another interesting sound source during fills.
The Bass Drum
The bass drum is the big drum that is laid on its side on the floor. It is played using a bass drum pedal. When you push the footplate of the pedal down, it causes the beater to hit the bass drum creating the sound.
If you have just bought a new drum kit and this hasn’t been done already, it may be worth taking off one of the drum heads, placing a pillow or a duvet inside and then putting the head back on. This is commonly done to muffle the sound of the bass drum to give it a short and solid sound, which is ideal for most styles of music (with the exception of jazz in which we want more of an open bass drum sound).
If you have a fairly standard drum kit, all of the other drums on your kit are known as the tom-toms, or just ‘toms’ for short, which are usually positioned over the bass drum and around to your right, which go from a high pitch to a low pitch when moving from left to right. The ones positioned over your bass drum are also know as the ‘Rack-Toms’, and the one positioned to the right of the kit is also known as the ‘Floor-Tom’. These add colour to your drumming when playing grooves and fills.
You can have anything between two toms and four toms as a standard but you will see some guys with more or less depending on what songs they are playing. More toms mean you can play more dramatic and melodic fills, and give you a larger sound pallet, whereas less toms keep things simple, stop you getting distracted and make you more creative when using less gear. Personally, I usually use two toms during gigs as it saves space, shortens set up times and keeps me focused on the music, and when I am at home I use anything between two and five toms as I like having plenty of sound sources when coming up with new ideas.
The Hi-Hat is made up of two cymbals which are closed together by pressing the hi-hat pedal down with your left foot. You can also play the hi-hat with your sticks giving the hi-hat a wide range of uses, as if you hold the pedal down with your left foot and then hit it with a stick, you get a short taping sound from it, and if you lift your foot up from the pedal to bring the cymbals apart and then hit it, you get a loud open trashy sound.
There are plenty more sounds you can get from the hi-hat, and the best way to learn them is by watching others, and by experimenting yourself.
The Crash Cymbal
The crash cymbal when struck makes a crashing sound, hence the name ‘crash’. It is often used to start and end songs, and to signify changes and stabs in the music. It is a great way to end fills, and is great if you just want to be really noisy.
On a standard drum kit you will usually have one crash cymbal, but on larger kits you can have crashes positioned all around the kit, again for more sound sources, and also so that one is within easy reach at all times.
The Ride Cymbal
The Ride cymbal is the Large cymbal usually positioned to the right on the drum kit. The ride cymbal originates mainly from jazz music, but is now commonly used in all other styles of music as an alternative and and addition to what we do on the hi-hat.
We usually play the ride cymbal with the tip of the stick to get a nice soft sound from the cymbal, however you can also hit the ‘bell’ of the ride cymbal with the shoulder of your stick to get another commonly used ride sound.
That about wraps up our look at the parts of the drum kit, remember that each part of the kit has its own uses and roles within a piece of music, so spend some time really getting to know each part and how you can use it in your own playing.