Instruments | Drum Kit | Percussion

The drum kit is a collection of drums and cymbals played in all styles of rock, pop, jazz and blues. It is also widely used in urban music across the world, such as Afrobeat and reggae.

Drum-Kit Construction

A typical drum kit comprises a bass drum and hi-hat cymbal played with foot pedals, a snare drum, two or three tom toms and suspended cymbals. The drummer sits on a stool. A right-handed player will play the bass drum with the right foot, the hi-hat pedal with the left foot, and will place the snare drum immediately in front of them between the knees, with the tom toms arranged from left to right in descending order of pitch. The suspended crash cymbal is placed by the hi-hat and the suspended ride cymbals are placed over the tom toms.


The drums are constructed like the orchestral snare drum and bass drum. The bass (or kick) drum (45–60 cm/18–24 in diameter and 35–45 cm/14–18 in deep) is placed on the floor with the playing head vertical. The pedal is clamped to the hoop of the drum. It has a chain or spring action and bounces back after being struck. The outer head of the drum may be decorated with a logo, and the cavity of the drum is often filled with absorbent material to deaden the sound. Two tom toms are mounted on a stand on the bass drum, and the largest tom toms, or floor toms, stand on the floor on legs. The tom toms are unpitched (20–45 cm/8–18 in diameter, 18–40 cm/7–16 in long), and are usually tuned to sound lower than the snare drum.


The hi-hat cymbal comprises two matched cymbals (30–35 cm/12–14 in diameter) on a stand operated by a foot pedal. The lower cymbal is stationary and lies facing upwards. It is not normally struck with the stick. The upper cymbal faces downwards and is clamped to the stand so that it moves as the foot pedal is depressed. The upper cymbal can be played in a closed or open position, notated + and o respectively, making a short or a sustained sizzling sound as the two cymbals vibrate against each other. A typical jazz or swing rhythm exploits this feature of the cymbal.

Other Cymbals

Rhythms are played on the ride or bounce cymbal (45–52 cm/18–21 in diameter), which is designed to have a clean articulation and a dry timbre. Crash cymbals (20–40 cm/8–16 in diameter) are used for single crashes in solos and drum fills, and are built to have a more brilliant ringing sound with a pleasing mix of overtones.

Drummers often customize their kits to include extra drums and cymbals. These might include: the Chinese or pang cymbal (35–40 cm/14–16 in diameter), which has an upturned rim and imitates a Chinese gong; the splash cymbal (15 cm/6 in diameter); and the sizzle cymbal. In the late 1970s and the 1980s, drummers of stadium-rock...

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Source: The Illustrated Complete Musical Instruments Handbook, general editor Lucien Jenkins


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