History of Drums

Drums fascinate a lot of us, the way they give life to music seem so beautiful. Have you ever wondered how drums evolved?  Have you ever sought to know the details about the history of drums?  You’re right on track. Just take a peep into this article and your appetite will be adequately whetted!

Digging deep into history

  • Drums- which may be said to be the oldest equipment of mankind-date way back to 5500BC. The history of drums can be traced to the Neolithic culture in China, where drums were crafted and fashioned from natural objects such as alligator skins. The beautiful knowledge of the making of this kind of drums spread to Asia subsequently. In 3000 BC, there came into the scene the Dong song drum, in the northern parts of Vietnam. This was assembled by the Bronze Age Dong Son culture.
  • Counting back in history, from 1000-500 BC, drums entered into the communicative phase and were employed by Sri Lanka and African people in communication between various communities and states which stretches over long distances. The Tako drums which were fashioned in Japan arrived in China as at 500BC.
  • The African drums traversed Rome and Greece from 200-150 BC. Drums also spread to Europe from Africa, Asia, India and the Middle East at 1200AD. Due to the occurrence of the slave trade, in 1500AD, African drums spread to America.
  • Also, to ensure effective and easy communication between the commanders and troops, various popular percussion instruments such as the Monk bells, Jingle bells, long drums, tumbrels, and tabors were put to use in the European military – 1600AD.
  • The first snare drum in the history of drums was fashioned out in 1650 AD and the Bongos drum became a major feature the Cuban folklore Music, to enhance entertainment.
  • In 1820, which was known to be the classical period, the snare, gong, kettle drum, marimba, tambourine, and a whole lot of other drum kinds were employed in the performances of complex musical pieces by musicians who were known for their expertise.
  • The drum set and foot-pedaled drums made their grand entrance in drum history by 1890 AD. The drum set was improved upon and by 1904, the first professional drum set evolved. In 1909, the foot-operated bass drum was made by Ludwig & Ludwig co.
  • The Hi-hat stands which constituted part of the drum kits were made in the 1920s and in 1930, the beautifully constructed four-piece kit became so popular that it spread far and wide.
  • In this era, a drummer named Ben Duncan, together with some other individuals, brought up a standardized arrangement of one bass drum, a snare, a raised tom-tom and a floor tom-tom; this added more beauty to the usage of drums. In the 1940s, Louie Bellson who was a drummer brought about the double bass drum kit, drum sets grew larger in the 1960s and in 1973, and the first electric drum set was constructed by the man named Karl Bartos. This amazing discovery further beautified music.
  • A Swedish group adopted the Blast beat from metal band Sepultura and coined it into the Blast beat drumming technique which was known to be an invention by them. Up to the early 2000s drums have been an essential part of musical bands and music, adding more spice and beauty to music.

Modern drum setting

Painting a picture of the modern rock drum set-up ( a kit), the snare drum serves as its major feature, which is usually played in accordance to time-in the flow of the music. The snare drum possesses a network of wires, located on a skin stretched over its bottom. These networks of wires are responsible for the sharp sound the snare drum gives. In conjunction with the snare drum, the bass drum-which sits beside it-, is played via a foot pedal.

Kits also possess tom-toms which can be one or more. These tom-toms can be mounted or floor –seated. The mounted toms are usually positioned above the bass drum, or via specially designed stands, while the floor-seated toms possess their own stands and don’t require special placements or support. The tom-toms usually come in different diameters and depths and they are known to give additional sounds.

Cymbals, which also come in various sizes and types-crash and ride-are important features in the kit. They provide a solid foundation for beats. Hi-hats are made up of two cymbals stacked upon one another. It possesses a special stand and a foot pedal, for easy operation by the drummer. The pedal makes it easy for the cymbals to be rhythmically separated and clanged.

The Sound

The key things to note about the sonority of drums are:

  • The drum shell, depending on its type, shape and construction is a major contributor to the sonic properties of a drum.
  • The type and tension of the drumhead play an important role in the caliber of sound produced. Double-ply drum heads are heavier and thereby produce a dampening effect to high-frequency harmonics but drum heads with white coating produce less separate pitch.
  • When the material on a drum-head is tight; where there is increased tension, a higher sounding pitch is produced. When the Heads of the tom-tom are inverted, a tuning can be done to them to produce varieties in sounds and tonicity.

Types of drums

There are several types of drums; listing a few, we’ve got; Bass drum, Conga, Dong son drum, Goblet drum, frame drum, Snare drum, Tambourine, Talking drum, Steel drum, Slit drum, tom-tom drum, Timpani drum, Tamborim, Side drum, Pahu, Hand drum and a host of others.

Uses of drums

Drumming is a beautiful art that has diverse uses. It has been used in historical times, for warfare in different areas. In the military, it was useful in synchronizing the marching soldiers. On the battlefield; drums were used to communicate commands of attack and retreat amongst others. It is used by different cultural practices as a spiritual route in prayer and also as a means of entertainment. Drums have so far been known to tint music with excellence- I know you agree with me totally!