Basic Drum Kit Components

Drums are probably the most varied of musical instruments because take your pen and your desk, start hitting the desk with the pen and there you have it. While this may not strictly be a drum, who would really care if it sounded good? This principal enabled lots of cultures to build very different drums, and drums were around way before any type of guitar or mandolin was even thought about, the first known drum is from somewhere around 3000 BC.

All drums consist of some sort of membrane that is stretched over a hole that opens into a sound hole. So we can safely say that in most cases the membrane is circular but the actual body that encloses the soundhole may have different shapes. It may be a cylinder, or a cone even. In some cases there are two membranes on the drum, you can play either side.

You play a drum with your hands or some sort of stick called the drumstick. These were traditionally made of wood, and even now most are, but some high tech carbon ones are also available.

Drum Kits

Mostly when talking about drums we are referring to a drum kit. A traditional all-round starter kit consists of the following items:

Bass Drum

Also called a kick-drum, this big fat drum stands upright and is operated with your foot. It gives a very low, very powerful sound and is used to underpin some rhythmic ideas. It is available in many varieties, usually the important thing is how wide the diameter is, as this changes the sound. As with all drums it is also important what material it is made out of. Some musicians stuff pillows and blankets into the body to muffle the sound a bit for home use.

Floor Tom

The floor tom is a cylindrical drum that is placed on a stand. It is the second lowest sounding drum in this virtual kit of ours. It is played with the drumstick, although to obtain some sounds some drummers may use their bare hands from time to time.


The toms are like smaller versions of the floor tom. They are mounted onto a pole that is placed into the base drum for support. They have a considerably higher pitch than the base drum and floor tom and are used for some crafty rhythmic work sometimes. On advanced sets you may find four toms, but on basic sets two is enough.


The snare has a very recognizable, higher pitched and different sounding sound. The reason for this difference is that some curled steel wires are placed underneath the drum. When the drummer hits the membrane the chords vibrate against it. It is customary to allow a muffled and an unmuffled setting to be adjusted on the drum. The snare is probably the part of the drum that is used most in every song. The snare is used much more with drumsticks because of the sound formation technique but of course there are no rules in music.


The hi-hat is also a very frequently hit part of the kit. It is used very often for giving a base rhythm and does a great job at this because it is technically not a drum at all because the sound is formed by a metal sheet, therefore this is an idiophone. The sound can be varied greatly due to the fact that it can be used in an open state, where the sound rings off, or in a closed state that makes the sound very punctual and quick. You operate the state with a pedal and you can close the two pieces as much as you like, so in between open and closed you have infinite possibilities.

Ride Cymbal

Usually only referred to as a ride, this great big idiophone is used for gentle rhythmic colorization and some rock underpinnings because it has a very good, decaying sound. It can be hit either on the body, giving a longer decay or the bell, giving a much shorter, punchier sound. This is usually the largest of the cymbals and many variations exist. Cymbals are very sensitive to the diameter and outline of the metal. There are many types of rides, like the china for example.

Crash cymbal

This is a must for any rock band. This is the part of the drum that gives that loud crash sound when hit. It is used to bring some motion into the rhythm or indicate some sort of closure or start. Again, it is very sensitive to the size and contour so be sure to look out when you buy one

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