For each musician, there is an instrument, and some instruments may be a tad more…complicated than others, especially it comes to the drums. While guitarists must fuss around with amps and aux cords, the drummer is worrying about a dozen (if not more!) separate instruments and components for assembling a complete drum kit. What truly makes a drum set, however, is somewhat vague. There are many diverse components that make up a drum set, but interestingly, a drum set’s composition is often completely left up to the drummer. There are as many different ‘rum sets as there are percussion instruments, truly! Below we’ve dissected the individual components of a standard 5-piece drum set so you can better know your way around your drums, though the name is a bit of a misnomer – a ‘5-piece’ set has more than just five important parts! Read on and discover what really goes into a drum set!
First and foremost, the components otherwise known as “beaters”, and the parts of a turkey we all hanker for at thanksgiving time…the drumsticks! Usually made with wood, drumsticks can also be in the form of soft-headed mallets and even wire-brush-headed beaters. Drumsticks are held in a variety of grip styles and should be comfortable to grip in your hand with no loose splinters or visible cracks in them.
The Snare Drum
Ah, the classic snare drum! Also referred to as a ‘side drum’ wonderful, familiar “buzz” or “rattle” of a snare drum, simply called a “snare”, is due to the spiraled metal wires that are attached to the bottom of the snare drum. The wires can also be on the side or even the top of the snare drum, and a snare drum is usually played on a separate stand or attached right on top of the bass drum. It’s a bright, dynamic instrument that is ideal for practicing your rudiments.
The Bass Drum and Pedal
The big, beating, beautiful heart of the drum set – the Bass Drum. Also known as the kick drum, the Bass Drum is activated with a kick-pedal attached to it that creates a deep, booming sound that adds a great deal of depth to your drumming. The kick-pedal allows the drummer to strike the bass drum quite quickly and it often is played in concert with the snare drum to form the main ‘beat’ of a song. The bass drum is seated directly on the floor, and can also allow for other instruments like the snare drum or
tom-toms to be attached on top of it for easier playing. There’s more variety in a bass drum than you may expect in terms of tone, so feel free to explore the right kind of size and sound for you.
The Tom-Toms! Tom drums, also known as Rack Toms and Mounted Toms, are so named because they are traditionally mounted on top of a bass drum in a traditional drum set. You can also get Floor Toms that come with their own stand and can be moved around the set to better suit your playing needs. Tom drums have a deep, solid sound to them that’s easily iconic, and are ideal instruments for working on developing your drum fills.
Rack Toms and Floor Toms
Rack Toms and Floor Toms are traditionally smaller and larger in size than the other, respectively. A smaller tom drum is tuned to a higher pitch than a larger tom drum, giving you a unique range of sounds that can add wonderful effects to the music you create. Alternating a drum fill between rack toms and floor toms is a fantastic way to apply a dynamic sound to your drumming.
The Cymbals and Hi-Hat
The cymbals are a useful instrument for any drummer and are commonly included with most drum sets. For a drum set, you’ll often be looking at Hi-Hat Cymbals, the Ride Cymbal, and the Crash Cymbal, and they all provide unique dimensions of sound to help break up the occasional monotony of snare and tom drums.
The hi-hat cymbals are unique in that they’re operated by pressing on a foot pedal as well as by drumsticks, and produce a crisp, high sound when they crash together. This is achieved by a metal rod and clutch that goes through the middle of the two hi-hat cymbals, separated by about an inch of space, with the foot pedal used to activate them and bring the top cymbal down on the lower one.
For right-handed drummers, it is usually more comfortable to play the hi-hat cymbals with your right hand and the snare on your left, and vice-versa for left-handed drummers.
The Ride Cymbal
The Ride Cymbal is beloved to draw out a longer, resonating percussive sound that ‘rides’ over your music, with a mellowness to it unseen in the hi-hat or crash cymbal. You typically will see a ride cymbal placed just to the right of the snare drum, around the same height as the hi-hat, but you can adjust its placing to better suit the layout of your particular drum set.
The Crash Cymbal
When you need to make a change from a drum fill to the next part of the song, or you want to shake up your sound or rhythm, nothing beats the Crash Cymbal. While the hi-hat produces a sharper, if shorter sound, and the ride cymbal has a drawn-out, resonant quality, the crash cymbal provides a short, loud sound with plenty of punch. Ideally, you’ll keep your crash cymbal mounted on its stand with plenty of height so that when playing it you don’t end up striking the other instruments.
Where the drummer sits! The stool is rightfully called a throne because drummers are band royalty, obviously. You should consider a stool with a backrest, especially if playing drums can be physically discomforting for you. Your throne should be adjustable for height and feel both stable yet comfortable to sit in, allowing you to strike the drumheads easily and use your kick-pedal with plenty of force.
Some of the more important accessories include microphones for your drums, a pair of good quality headphones, and amplifiers and cords to go along with both. Recorders and a timer can also be good investments for an aspiring drummer who wants to listen to their music later or may need help with maintaining a steady tempo. You should also consider the potential for other instruments to add a new dimension to your sound, such as chimes or a tambourine.
For most drum sets, the maintenance you’ll need to apply to them is fairly minimal. For the various joints, sockets, and metal parts that move or tighten/loosen, you should keep a general-purpose lubricant and rags or wipes to keep them clean and smooth. For the drumheads, you really only need to worry about replacing them if you start seeing rips or dents in them. If your snare drum wires start getting bent or stretched, look to replace those soon. Otherwise, most things should be checked to make sure they aren’t loose or twisting unnecessarily.
While learning your way around a drum set can be intimidating at first, it’s best to keep in mind that a drum set is a versatile as you need it to be, and you know what the best layout for you will be once you start playing. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different layouts and instruments for your drum set, so you can create a sound that you love playing. When you’re ready to start drumming, head on over to ashthorpe.com to discover our wide array of percussion instruments, including drum sets designed for beginners and experienced players alike!