Let’s face it – music (especially musical notation) has a LOT of language dedicated to understanding how to perform it. Music requires a shocking amount of specialized language to communicate how to play what notes and when, at what pitch, volume, and rhythm, and depending on the instrument and the complexity of the individual piece, it can seem like so much gibberish if you are unfamiliar with the right terms. Even something we might think of being relatively straightforward, like percussion instruments, has a wide range of musical terms, and just plain slang, that all drummers really should know. Fear not!
We will get to deciphering some of the basic terms and instruments that aspiring drummers will want to keep in mind when it comes to making music. Drummers and non-drummers alike should read on below!
No, not the hammers from Harry Potter! (Those are Bludgers, by the way) – Beaters are the collective term for the objects you hold that you perform the drums with. Mallets, wire brushes, and yes, the classic drumsticks. As there are a wide variety of percussive instruments, there are a wide variety of beaters to perform with, with each offering a unique kind of sound.
The Drum Grip is the specific manner in how you hold your drumsticks or beaters. The two main forms of a drum grip are the traditional grip and the matched grip. With a traditional grip, you hold the drumstick in your right hand like it was a wand, and the stick in your left hand as if it was a fork.
With a matched grip, you hold both drumsticks like a wand, with your palms facing down usually, and pressing the stick between your index finger and thumb at a point called the ‘fulcrum’. The matched grip comes in three variants – the French, German, and American style.
With the German grip, you hold the sticks with your palms facing down and pressing with your wrists for greater power and volume.
The French grip requires you to hold the drumsticks with your fingernails pointing up and your palms facing each other, allowing you more fine control over the drumsticks themselves.
The American grip is similar to the German grip but involves turning your hands to a 45-degree angle. This grip allows you to benefit from both plenty of power in your wrists and a decent amount of control in your fingers.
The Traditional Grip is most often used in military bands given the unique style of grip. This favors a drum that is offset to the side of the body, often how drums would be carried. With the traditional grip, the drumstick in your left-hand rests on top of the space between your index finger and thumb, usually gently resting against the side of your ring finger while pointing down to play. The fulcrum is formed by lightly pressing against the thumb and middle/index finger together. In your right hand, the drumstick is held like a wand, palm down.
Rudiments are various patterns performed on drums that when arranged in particular orders, create music. There are approximately 40 key rudiments that are the most popular, and are the basic building blocks that a drum performance is made of. Rudiments make for great practice for beginner drummers and are the starting point for creating drum lines.
Single Stroke Roll
Pretty much the most basic drum rudiment there is. The pattern is simple – R, L, R, L – where R means the drumstick in your right hand, and the L is the drumstick in your left hand. Each makes one stroke on the drum at a time. You can also lead L, R, L, R if you’re more comfortable as a left-hand dominant drummer. Increasing the tempo of the pattern creates the well-known ‘drum roll’.
Double Stroke Roll/Diddles
Double Stroke Rolls, also known as ‘diddles’, double the amount of strokes from a single stroke roll.
Following the above, the pattern would be R, R, L, L, R, R, L, L (or L, L, R, R, to begin if you are left-hand dominant).
Combining the Single Stroke Roll and the Double Stroke Roll, you can create a rudiment known as Paradiddle. A basic example of the paradiddle is the following pattern, using the above R-L guide: R, L, R, R, L, R, L, L. Once you have this paradiddle down, you can start with variations on it to perform all kinds of unique patterns in your music.
Simply put, the groove is the name for the overall rhythm of the music you are playing, and determines the ‘time’ for the music.
A drum fill is essentially a section of music that the drum plays to help transition between various sections of a song, such as from the verse to the chorus or bridge.
The snare drum is one of the more common kind of drums. This drum is fairly common in your typical drum set, as well as marching bands. The snare part of the snare drum is a series of wires on the bottom side of the drum that gives it the unique sound, and the drumheads are often made from mylar. The bottom head of the snare drum is often thinner to improve the vibration sound of the drum when struck.
Cymbals are bronze or copper metal disks that you can play by striking with a drumstick or crashing them together, either independent of the ‘beat’ or to help maintain the beat such as with ‘ride cymbals’ in a marching band.
Polyrhythm is a section of music that makes use of two separate time signatures. For instance, a time signature may call for playing a 4/4 rhythm on a snare drum while also performing at a 3/8 rhythm on a kick drum at the same time.
The timpani, also known as kettle drums, are most often used in large orchestra settings. Usually made of either copper or brass and have a deeper pitch than most other drums.
The bass drum is usually the largest drum in a drum set and is the lowest pitched drum. In a drum set, the bass drum can also be called a ‘kickdrum’ as it is played using a foot pedal that ‘kicks’ the drum.
When used as part of a marching band, it is struck on either side with a large mallet beater. Bass drums add a unique sound dimension and are often used to help maintain the beat when used in an ensemble ground.
The tempo refers specifically to the timing of the song, the overall beat and speed of it. The tempo is usually measured in BPM or beats per minute. Playing the drums requires a great sense of the beat and maintaining a steady tempo when playing a song, as the drums are primarily used to help guide the overall rhythm of a song. By practicing the drums, you can help build your ‘internal clock’ that helps you play to the beat, a useful skill for any musician.
Where the drummer sits because a drummer is truly band royalty. Also known as the drummer’s stool, and can be used for keyboard or piano players as well.
Now that you’ve got a good grasp of the basic terms and lingo of the drummer’s world, you can feel much more confident in your musical journey. When you are ready to dive deeper into the world of
percussion instruments, head on over to ashthorpe.com and browse our selection of top-quality instruments at affordable prices you are sure to love.