A Complete Guide to Drum
The punch-like strong sounds or the slow and steady beats that keep you from walking straight, the drum is an important musical instrument that makes up every music ensemble. Drums can be of different varieties – they could be vintage, modern, tight or loose; They could be used for rock and roll, for marriage celebrations, to please a deity or to play classical music!
The fact that drums are one of the most primal musical instruments makes them even more interesting. It allows them to be more versatile, as every region and every music style has a special drum that captures the essence of their culture.
Drums are often considered to provide cathartic release or may be used as a spiritual pathway. In countries like India and continents like Africa, drums have been far and long displayed as an instrument of therapeutic use. That’s how diverse they are!
Drum – An Introduction
It’s already known that drumming has been around for centuries. In fact, it is perhaps the first musical instrument that was ever created. Drum is a percussion instrument, which means that the sound is produced when the beater strikes or scraps the instrument.
Drums, of any kind or variety include at least one membrane and a drumhead or a drum skin. This skin is designed to stretch over the shell. So, when the player’s hand or a stick is used on it, the shell produces sound. The resonance head underneath the drum is typically tuned to provide a specific sound and can have a lower pitch than the top of the drum head.
Different types include a box drum, which is shaped like a cube, bass drums that produce the lowest tones and rock drums that are used for rock bands and artists. Indians have produced and created a number of drums as well, including Tabla, Khol, Maram, Ghumot and Dholak, Dholki.
The drums that are used in India and around the world are all specialities and usually reflect the culture of a country or the region where they were created. They can be played individually, such as a Dholki or in groups, like Tabla. Sometimes, there may be more than two drums, such as in rock band drum kits.
The Development Of The Drum
It’s true that the concept of drums is as old as mankind and these instruments produce sound when the stretched membrane on its body is struck. They have a hollowed inside, which creates music through vibration. Here is a brief history of drums.
- Drums originated centuries ago. It is believed that the first drums were created during the early man period and before civilization became formalized.
- The oldest drums date back to 4000 B.C. and originated in Egypt. Archaeological excavations and studies indicate that the drums were first made using alligator skins and were found in Neolithic cultures of China. These drums were used for ritual ceremonies.
- The initial design included the cymbals. These were the drums that were originally used in China and Turkey and were made from metal.
- The first recorded use of drums l is from 500 century B.C. In fact, according to Sri Lankan history and archaeological evidence, drums were used for communicating between tribes. The pattern and the sound would indicate a unique kind of message.
- The earliest versions of bass drums or the large drums that produce indefinite pitch were also created during this period. Indians used these kinds of drums to pass on different messages, to alert people about the war or to provide information that the king or an emperor had arrived.
- While it is not known as to who invented drums in particular, it is a popular notion that the Indian version of the drum known as Tabla was first developed in Cairo, Egypt.
- However, the Taals or the hand rhythms that are used to play Tabla have been developed since the Vedic period in India. This indicates that Indians already had a musical instrument similar to the Tabla.
- Drawings at Bhaje Caves in Maharashtra reveal that the Tabla had been used in the country before 200 B.C. It was used in courts and for classical Indian dances.
- India is also credited with the development of Tambourine. These originated a few centuries later. The tambourines were designed as a piece of entertainment. They could be played by stroking or shaking the jingles or by striking them sharply. The drum was developed to please the kings and provide entertainment in the king’s court.
- Tabla, an Indian styled drum has a story as well- it is believed that poet and musician Amir Khusro had created the modern version of the Tabla during the 13th However, this isn’t verifiable.
- Since 100 B.C. India has been using the Dholak and Dholki as well. These instruments bear a striking resemblance to the modern day bass drums. But unlike bass drums which are usually sounded for wars, for military parades and other purposes, Dholak and Dholki are used for celebration.
- These kinds of drums allow combination of bass and treble with low pitches, which makes them perfect for Bhangra, Kirtan, Praying and Qawwali among other purposes.
- Different versions of drums have been designed over the centuries. In fact, drum is the only musical instrument that has over a 100 recorded styles. This includes electronic drum as well, which is majorly used by Western bands. These drums have sound modules and electronic synthesizers that allow more diversity in terms of sound creation.
- Today, Indian drummers use drums from around the world. While the Tabla and Dholak are quite important in the Indian culture and the country has maestros in the field, it does have other drummers who have carved a niche for themselves in Western drums and drumming styles.
Construction Of A Drum
Despite the fact that drums around the world are so different and unique, they still bear the same basic design and construction.
- The shell is the most important part of any drum and it is circular or similar to a round shape. The circular open has a drumhead that’s stretched. In different regions, the shape of the drumhead is cylinder, bowl – shade or other framed designs.
- The drums that have cylindrical shells are usually open at one end, such as Dholki or they can have two drum heads. However, the ones that have a single head have a hollow vessel, whereas the drums with two heads have a small hole between the two heads which forms a resonating chamber that results in sound.
- In band and orchestral drums, the drumhead is placed over the opening of the drum. Then, tension rods are placed evenly across the circumference. This, along with the shape, shell size, thickness, and material of the drumhead and striking velocity or angle affects the use of the drum.
- Before the use of tension rods, drum skins were attached using rope systems. This is still evident in the design of the Tabla, which is tuned by hammering a disc in place around the drop.
- Other construction is still varied and usually unique to different styles off the drum.
Exploring Different Types of Drum
Over the course of thousands of centuries, drums have evolved, been invented and recreated in different styles over and over again. Let’s explore some different types of drums.
- Acoustic Drums – These are the most common form of western drum sets that are available in power/rock drum kits, fusion drum kits or as jazz drums. They are made using different kinds of wood or may feature steel, including the snare, bass and tom drums.
- Electronic Drums – With an unbelievable library of sonic options, electronic drums are now widely popular. They are advanced and have capabilities beyond percussion musical instruments. They basically have pads that represent acoustical drums and these pads can imitate almost any sound.
- Auxiliary Drum Sets – A mix of bells, drums, blocks, triangles, chimes and a variety of other musical instruments, these drums are basically hybrid and go beyond mere drumming. They are often used for solo applications in bands.
- Hand Drums – Hand drums have actually evolved from the oldest styles of drums. They include Congas, which are popular Cuban Drums, Bongos that are Afro – Cuban and small along with Tabla which is played with the heels of hands and fingertips.
- Frame Drums – These are the broadest family of drums and include a variety of drums that can be easily held in ones hands. They include the Pandeiro, which is a Brazilian drum played with palms and thumbs, and the Tambourine, which can be hand in the palm and played using fingers and heels of the hand or Goblet drums.
A Reflection Of The Indian Culture
The fact that drums have been around for hundreds and thousands of centuries make them a bridge that takes us closer to our past. Indian culture in particular has thrived through the use of traditional and modern drums.
In traditional cultures, drums have had a symbolic function. For instance, some drums were used to sound alarm when an emperor arrived or when a city was under siege. Similarly, hand – held drums and Tablas have been used for centuries to appease people or to entertain the kings.
Drums have been used in music therapy as well. The tactile nature of drums and their extreme versatility makes it easier for them to be used by a wide variety of people to express themselves.
The drums are reflective of Indian culture. They showcase our flamboyance and our love for artistic things. They show our vigour and colour.
For instance, use of drums can depict how we love to dance and celebrate. They also represent how weddings are important for us. That’s why they are played so often during the marriages.
Drums are pivotal part of Indian culture. Apart from entertainment, they have been our source of connection during religious ceremonies. Even today, a variety of religious ceremonies, including Ganesh Chaturthi are incomplete if a drum isn’t played. Overall, they are our divine connection to the deity, our source of entertainment, our medium of joy, a symbol of vibrancy and a representation of power.
A number of Indians have taken drumming to new heights. India has produced a diverse range of drummers who play different instruments to perfection.
Zakir Hussain: An Indian Tabla Player, Zakir Hussain is one of the most famous drummers in the world. He is revered for his exponential talent and his ingenuity. Born on March 9, 1951, Zakir Hussain is an Indian Tabla Player and a musical producer who has performed all over the world. Hussain plays Hindustani Classical Music, Jazz Fusion and World Music to perfection. Awarded Padma Shri in 1988, Zakir Hussain has presented Indian drumming styles to the world. He has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, the highest award given by US to traditional artists and musicians.
Sivamani: A Percussionist from Chennai, Sivamani plays a number of instruments and has special expertise in drumming.
While he has performed at a number of concerts and is also known for sharing centre stage with Billy Cobham, the man received widespread recognition when he became the lead percussionist for Indian musician A.R. Rahman. Since then he has impressed the world with his refined drumming skills.
Darshan Doshi: A young, enthusiastic drummer, Darshan Doshi is a musician who works with Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy as a rhythmist. He had received recognition when he became the youngest leading drummer of India in 1997. The drummer does live performances for different concerts and live recorded television shows.
Pete Best: Born in Madras, Pete Best is one of the leading Indo – British musician and the original drummer for The Beatles from 1960 – 1962. He played several instruments during his time and achieved popularity because of his soft demeanour. He is also considered to be one of the best drummers in the world.
Apart from playing for The Beatles, Pete has played for other bands as well and given several solo performances over the years. After a few years of working as a drummer in the industry, he dropped out to work as a civil servant for 20 years. He now lives with his wife and kids.
A number of accessories and parts of drum set are mentioned below.
- Snare drum stand
- Spurs and tuning screws
- Snare tensioner
- Bass Drum Legs
- Badges and Mounts
- Drum Rack
- Drum pedals
- Floor Tom
- Rack Toms
- Cymbal Stands
- Hi – Hat Stands
- Drum throne
- Drum Cases
- Individual Drum Pads
- Drum Triggers
- Drum Heads
- Drum Sticks
- Electronic Cymbal Pads
- Drum Amps
- Drum Kits
These accessories are used in conjunction with each other. For instance, dampening gel could be used for percussion, whereas American classic Drumsticks can be gift packaged and given to someone who loves using the stick to create wonderful music. Otherwise, you would need a stand to mount snare drum.
Similarly, bass drum is played with a pedal and you might need an extra one. Similarly sticks are needed for one or more cymbals, which make them easy to use. Basic kits can also have other components such as shells, extensions, hardware, toms, bass drums and electronic drums that could be used without a hassle.
Records For Drum
Several Indians have made their country proud by holding following records and titles.
Largest Percussion Ensemble: 15,000 Indians played traditional drums for 15 minutes and have set the record for largest percussion ensemble. These drummers wore traditional Assamese attire and played Khol drum in Titabar, India. This record was made in 2013. With this record, the Indian team had broken the earlier record of 10,102 people performing together.
Drums Kumaran: India’s youngest drummer, Drums Kumaran was born on January 23, 1997 and holds drumming record for drumming non – stop for 50 hours. His achievement earned him a place in the Asia book of records. The record was made in 2014.
In a Nutshell
A member of the percussion group of musical instruments, drums have basic designs that have remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years. In classical and non – classical sense, India has produced some famous drummers like Sivamani, Darshan Doshi, Pete Best, Zakir Hussain and A.R. Rahman. The country is slowly and steadily adopting modern types of drums for musical expression.
Drumming can be therapeutic in nature. Children with musical inclination can learn drumming. It is an excellent musical instrument, which can promote better motor skills and cognition in children.
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