Any of a class of percussion instruments consisting of a frame or hollow vessel of wood, metal, or earthenware with a membrane of hide or plastic stretched across one or both ends. Drums are usually sounded by striking the membrane with the hands, a stick, or pair of sticks. They are among the oldest instruments known and exist in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They include slit drums made of wood, steel drums made from oil containers, and a majority group of skin drums.
Tuned drums Most drums are of indeterminate low or high pitch and are used as rhythm instruments. The exceptions are steel drums, orchestral timpani (kettledrums), and Indian tabla which are tuned to precise pitches. Double-ended African kalungu (‘talking drums’) can be varied in pitch by the player squeezing on the tension cords; higher tension over the playing drumhead results in a higher pitch. Frame drums, including the Irish bodhrán and Basque tambour, are smaller and lighter in tone and may incorporate jingles or rattles.
Orchestral and military drums Orchestral drums consist of timpani, tambourine, snare, side, and bass drums. The bass drum is either single-headed (with a single skin) and producing a ringing tone, called a gong drum, or double-headed (with two skins) and producing a dense booming noise of indeterminate pitch. Military bands of footsoldiers play snare and side drums, and cavalry regiments use a pair of kettledrums mounted on horseback for ceremonial occasions.
Pop and jazz drums Drum kits have evolved from the ‘traps’ of Dixieland jazz into a range of percussion employing a variety of stick types. In addition to snare and foot-controlled bass drums, many feature a scale of pitched bongos and tom-toms, as well as suspended cymbals, hi-hat (foot-controlled double cymbals), cowbells, and temple blocks. Recent innovations include the rotary tuneable rototoms, electronic drums, and the drum machine, a percussion synthesizer.
Traditional Irish Music
Musical instruments in Africa
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