The Story of the Drum Sets

The moment your eyes lay on a set of drums, chances are, you’ll immediately start thinking about music. That’s understandable given how our generation has learnt to associate drum kits with upbeat tempos. If you didn’t know already, drums have been a part of people’s musical conquests for many decades now, in various cultures and traditions. Apart from the music, drum sets have been an important part of military and religious practices. Stick till the end to know a concise the story of drum sets and much more.

You can also read: Types of Drums: The Complete Guide

The History of Drum Sets

Before the drum sets we know and love today came into being, there were individual pieces played by percussionists. So, if in a 1800s’ orchestra piece, there was a need for a triangle, bass drums, and cymbals, three individual artists would be hired to play. It was in the mid-1800s when the very first drum pedal came into being, powering a drummer to play every piece of the percussion by themselves.

Soon after that, cymbals and similar percussion pieces with strong sound effects were added. Musicians began combining numerous drums to form into one and using their hand-held drumsticks to play the percussion bits.

The development of jazz music followed the introduction of drum sets. Ever since them, drums have been an inseparable part quality music all over the world.

Generally, a standard modern drum set comprises of 4-6 drums: bass drum, snare drum, and 2-4 tom-toms. There can also be a ride cymbal, one or many crash cymbals, and a hi-hat in the it. Each of these instruments have their own origin story.

The History of Individual Percussion Pieces

The History of Individual Percussion Pieces
Photo By: Francis Miller

Snare drum

Originally, the snare drum coupled with a wind instrument was used in wars. The development of drums fueled the development of their snare version and their use in military occasions. Snare drums got a more sophisticated look in the late 1800s, and this was when the adjustable snare drum stand was brought to the market. Before that, the player needed to hang the drum over their shoulders to play the percussions.

Bass drum

The bass drum was insanely popular in the 1700s as a European musical instrument. Soon after, it migrated to America and foot medals were added to enable drummers to play multiple percussion elements simultaneously. However, the early foot pedals needed the drummers to reset after every strike.

Lastly, in 1909, William Ludwig, a drummer rom Chicago developed the first foot pedal driven by springs, and that revolutionized drum sets in general, leading to the final design of today’s drum kits.


The roots of the hi-hats go back to the “clanger,” a kind of cymbal which had to be struck using a metal arm linked to the foot pedal. Later, it transformed into a “snowshoe” consisting of two boards shaped like feet with cymbals facing the same direction. Shortly after that, some tweaks here and there were made to make the “low-hat” more comfortable to use; basically the drummers would be able to generate sounds without exerting exceeding force. 

Tom Toms

Although originally known to Native American instruments, the tom toms have been found to bear resemblance to instruments invented by the Chinese. It gets its unique name from when it was used to refer to a kid’s toy drum.


Cymbals started off as instruments for military and religious purposes, but gradually turned into musical pieces after people recognized the pleasant sound they are capable of producing. The history of drum sets wouldn’t be complete without cymbals. The Zildjian started creating cymbals in America in the 19th century.

The Common Kinds of Drum Sets

The Common Kinds of Drum Sets
Photo By: Richard Ecclestone

Whether you’re a novice or seasoned musician, you’ll surely know at least one of two types of drum kits found in today’s market. The electronic and acoustic are amongst the most popular thanks to their unique features.

Acoustic Drum Kit

The drummer is allowed great level of control with the acoustic drum set. It helps them learn and try drum rolls as well as other drumming techniques better. As this drum set produces quite a loud sound as is, there’s no need for an electronic amplifier for band rehearsals or small gigs.

Acoustic drums are naturally heavy and large. Every percussion piece has to be linked to the stand correctly to ensure no bolt or screw falls out while performing. From cymbals to bass drums, this drum set usually comes in a bunch of sizes, which is why it’s the ideal choice for musicians who crave the raw drumming experience.

Electronic Drum Kit

It’s safe to say that the electronic drum set is amongst the most advanced musical innovations ever; not to mention one of the most needed. With this, the drummer can practice with earphones, causing lesser noise pollution in general. Most brands also make sure to include some in-built tracks to help beginners get the hang of playing along alongside an audio recording feature for the professionals who want to make music.

The electronic drum sets are compatible with a bunch of apps and software to allow musicians to access to a variety of resources, from guides to sound recording settings. In addition, these drum sits feature easy-to-use model control so drummers can adjust the tone and volume without any fuss.


The history of drum sets and long and diverse, with many interesting and eventful sections along the way. Apart from the electronic and acoustic drum kits, there are many more drum kits. However, as you go through each type, you’ll slowly realize that despite the constant innovation, drum kits still boast a very similar setup to their original forms. As the world in music just keeps growing, it is worth to peek into the backstory of different instruments to tell us about their journey and how they became a part of the musical industry.

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