Written by Austin Hennen Vigil
The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments and is considered the most important component of the rhythm section of a band; essentially, it is the backbone. Dozens of different types of drums in many shapes and sizes exist today.
Drums are the world’s oldest musical instrument, and while the technology in drums has improved over centuries, the basic design of the drum has virtually remained the same for thousands of years. Here are ten facts about the drums you may not be aware of:
- The oldest drum to be discovered is the Alligator Drum. It was used in Neolithic China, and was made from clay and alligator hides. The Alligator Drum was often used in ritual ceremonies, and dates back as early as 5500 BC.
- The longest recorded drum session/marathon by an individual is 122 hours, 25 minutes and was accomplished by Kunto Hartono in Malang City, Indonesia from December 27th, 2011-January 1st, 2012.
- Ludwig Drums founded the first workable bass drum pedal system in 1909, paving the way for what became the modern drum kit.
4. The modern drum kit was made popular in the 1920s in New Orleans in the Vaudeville (theatrical genre of variety entertainment) era.
5. Drumming burns more calories in a half hour than cycling, hiking, and weight lifting in the same amount of time.
6. The world’s largest drum kit has 813 pieces and it took 36 years to build! It was built by Dr. Mark Temperato who is working to expand it to 1,000+ pieces.
7. The drum kit can be divided into four main sections including: the hardware (drum stands, pedals, and cymbal stands), the extensions (chimes, tambourines, cowbells), the shells (toms and bass drum), and the breakables (stool, snare drum, cymbals, sticks/brushes, and bass drum pedal(s)).
8. Drums played a major role in medieval and Renaissance Europe. The snare drum and its relatives were used in the infantry to send coded instructions to soldiers. They were also used in ancient Africa and India to send messages over long distances between villages.
9. In the 1980s, electric drums became very popular. Many people thought that they would make traditional drum kits obsolete or extinct. However, most drummers still prefer acoustic kits, and this has been the case since the existence of electric drums.
10. Drum shells are made from different woods, and each wood has different characteristics. Maple has a warm and resonant sound; birch has a slightly more aggressive sound with less resonance; mahogany and oak produce higher volume drums. The plies (layers of wood) make a difference as well. Thinner plies make the drum more resonant, which means that it rings more after being struck.
I hope you enjoyed the article, please feel free to comment if you have more interesting facts about the drums that I may have missed!
Austin Hennen Vigil is a marketing intern at Sheet Music Plus, and holds a degree in Business Marketing from Arizona State University. Austin has been playing the guitar since age 10 and has been in a rock band with Joey Armstrong, drummer for the band “SWMRS” and the son of Green Day frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong.