30 Interesting Facts About The Drums
Drum kits are the rhythmic leader of a band, including groups performing live with or without backing tracks and set tempo. Drummers are often described as ‘band leaders’ in the rhythmic sense.
Drumming may be the oldest form of music, based on the simplicity of striking an object but also the crucial factor in our human make-up; the ability to hold the rhythm. Some of our animal cousins show an ability to hold rhythm too; take the Bonobo who can sync with faster rhythms by jumping on a drum (No drummer jokes please!). Drumming has been with us longer than any other form of music and has played a part in the development of our species. It has led from cultural pride to mind-blowing musical talent. Let’s enjoy lots of facts about this amazing section.
1. As Aged As An Alligator
Drums began as bowls or shells of pottery or wood, covered by a membrane made of animal skin. Some of the oldest drums ever found are from China and are around 7000 years old. These were skinned with an alligator flesh membrane and bashed with a stick. Though no physical evidence is available, it seems likely that Homosapiens and other Great Apes have enjoyed drums for longer than this.
2. Lucky Museums
Throughout the world, there are historical examples of beautiful drums. Take Aboriginal American examples, covered in rich artistry depicting cultural life. Also, the Congo’s Bulup (dance drum); a hyde covered, the tall body of carved wood showing human and patterned imagery.
3. Try Saying That Whilst Drumming
The Drum is technically described as part of the ‘membranophone’ family, a group where the sound is created by striking a stretched membrane.
4. Fall In Line
Drums have always been used to create a reliable marching speed and motivational impact for soldiers. China seems to have another world record for the earliest example of this, dating from the 7th century BC. For a modern version, please check out the Royal Marines Corps of Drums at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017. This shows a truly spectacular example of military drumming discipline and group skills.
5. One Drummer Is Enough
The regular drum kit began to develop in New Orleans during the 1910s and 1920s as part of the ragtime genre. This began as a means of simplifying the need for various individual percussion players, replacing them with a single instrument/musician.
6. Your Stick Is Backwards
The world of music is home to many unsolved disputes. One disagreement amongst drummers in the 20th century is how to best hold the sticks. Incredible virtuoso players like Dave Wheckl argued for the traditional grip, similar to that seen in marching bands. Alternatively, there’s the matched grip, used by most modern players. There are many convincing opinions in the debate, some stating the benefits of the two types based on the musical genre and personal experience. Take your pick.
In music technology ‘the big three’ is used to describe the key elements of the kit; Kick, Snare and Hi-Hats. They take a primary position on live and recorded input stages. In studio setups, the big three are regularly recorded with two mics for quality of tone.
8. The Neighbours Got Angry
In 2015 Canada’s Steve Gual produced the Guinness World Record for longest marathon drumming session for an individual. Gaul drummed for 134 hours and 5 minutes!
9. Drums That Blow Your Ludwig Off
The first usable kick-drum design was created by Ludwig Drums in 1909. The kick drum is the bass aspect of modern kits and works closely with the bass guitar in certain genres. It’s really impressive to see the accuracy of kick drum use at its best. The genre of Heavy Metal music gave birth to the double kick drum and loads of great examples of this can be found online.
10. The Agents Of “I Can’t Be Bothered To Set This Up”
The largest set of drums in the world belongs to Dr Mark Temperato and consists of 340 pieces, youch. The largest group of drummers ever recorded took place in…have a guess? Yes, China where Hong Kong, in 2007, saw the assembly of 10,045 drummers all at once.
11. Don’t Hug...Or Smell Me
Drumming and/or drummers have been labelled in many ways for example, are they really musicians? (Joke). One thing that makes complete sense is the physical effort necessary to play, particularly in upbeat genres. We won’t get into ‘calories destroyed by the hour’ but drummers work hard.
12. A Long Route Across The Sea
Baby Dodds, Zutty Singleton and Buddy Rich are famed drummers of early jazz. Art Blakey is another, being a father of the modern bebop style. He lived a long life of musical contributions, dying in 1990. One of his most curious roles was playing for a Muslim jazz band called the 17 Messengers. This occurred during 2 years of travelling in West Africa in the 1940s. He was in search of his religious roots, taking the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina. After several years he returned to his former performance name and stopped practising as a Muslim.
13. Did It Go Down Like Led?
How should you hit your drums? You could use sticks in various forms, brushes and mallets for symbol use and hot rods for a lighter touch. Hands are associated with playing the percussion unless you’re from the band Led Zeppelin and love showing off on your regular drum kit. In the track Moby Dick, John Bonham plays a lengthy solo using his hands. It sounds fairly dull on the recording until you realise there are no drum sticks involved.
14. Listen, Don’t Touch
Depending on your level of appreciation for friendly human touch, you should either worry or be elated on the 10th of October. This is ‘Hug a Drummer Day’. If you’re an introvert drummer and keep receiving creepy hugs from people you barely know, allow us to apologise on their behalf.
15. I Find Your Constant Metal Drumming So Relaxing
As well as a great physical workout, drumming can also increase the use of the brain. Science has shown that drumming improves many mental issues such as anxiety and depression. It has also been linked with an increase in calm and relaxation. Nice!
One basic drumming skill that opens up to a huge range of possibilities is the ‘paradiddle’. Let’s look at 8 beats per bar with ‘R’ meaning right hand and ‘L’ meaning left hand. In a bar of pure singles, the drummer will play (RLRL RLRL) or vice versa. In a bar of paradiddles, the drummer will play singles followed by repeats (RLRR LRLL) and so on. Have a practice!
17. Now Where Did I Put My Drum Kit
We’ve heard the term ‘membranophone’, the official family in which drums sit. ‘Suitcase’ was once upon a time, another way of describing a drum kit. Hilariously, you can actually buy entire drum kits based on the suitcase kick drum design.
18. Does Everybody Like A Technical Drummer?
Most of us have heard the ‘rumoured’ John Lennon quote on the playing skills of his bandmate Ringo Starr, you know “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world…Let’s face it, he wasn’t the best drummer in the Beatles”. This seems like classic and hilarious humour between lads, whether it’s true or false. To pay Ringo Starr his dues, people like Dave Grohl said wonderful things about him, using the phrase “Ringo was the king of feel”. We agree.
19. Affordable And Really Unaffordable
When looking for an entry-level kit in 2020/21 check out brands like Pearl who produce their Export Kit new for around £700. For young beginners, look online for second-hand deals. Just to spin it around, as if money was no object, check out a Pearl Masterworks kit and also brands like DW or Sonar. Around £8000 will get you a high-end kit, which for the novices amongst you, does not include stands, symbols, snares and so on. Just that beautiful tone!
20. Everyone Has Their Own Taste
Many peculiar factoids can be linked to drumming. The last example in this section shows the varying ways to reassemble and play your drum kit. Many drummers have come up with strange approaches like having your symbols behind you or alternating to a stand-up position. Our personal comic favourite is the super relaxed, drummer on the floor setup. We’ll leave that to your imagination.
Electro Drumming – another huge range of musical genres and instrumentation. From Drum ‘n’ Bass to Alternative styles, bands like Kraftwerk, New Order, Air, Massive Attack, Sampha, the list goes on and on and on. Let’s get into it.
1. Ich Bin Ein Erstaunlicher Deutscher Sprecher
The German band Kraftwerk take the title of the most iconic electronic music group. They began their journey in the 1970s being self-described as “robot pop”, putting out groundbreaking tracks like ‘Autobahn’. Wolfgang Flür produced an interesting drumming technique on tour with the band in 1976. He triggered pre-recorded drum patterns by blocking lasers in his self made ‘laser drum cage’. Lasers!
2. Something That's Good For Us
If you were born in the early 1980s, you came about in the time of lovemaking music. A great example of this comes from Marvin Gaye in his track ‘Sexual Healing’. This is one of the first tunes to popularise the use of Roland’s TR-808 drum machine (now available in updated form as the TR-08 Rhythm Composer). Probably best to ignore the ultimate demise of this music star, though check out those vocals and brilliant electronic drumming. And sorry for the sense of irony in this section.
3. Get These Back To The Jungle
There is a huge list of varying types of Electronic Dance Music including the hilarious ‘Happy Hardcore’. This style was ridiculously fast and basic, giving a simple and ‘happy’ alternative to Jungle. This genre was at its height in the 1990s and can be associated with youth dominated scruffy but funny cultural exploration.
4. Shell-Suit Of The Musical World
The first electronic drum kit was made in 1970 by the Moody Blues drummer Graeme Edge and we’ve also heard of the efforts of Kraftwerk. The first full kit with marketability was produced in 1978 by The Simmons Company, who later in 1981 produced a top-selling system, the Simmons SDS-5. This had a huge influence in the 1980s but ultimately faded away due to the preference of the drumming world i.e. “can we have our real drums back?”.
5. Moby Slow Down
Extratone is the world’s fastest genre of music, creating pieces with extremely high tempos. This is only possible with the use of digital technology. The artist Moby created one of the fastest tracks ever recorded named ‘Thousand’ which had the tempo of 1015 BPM! Bare in mind that regular dance music tracks are between 110-130 BPM.
6. Je Parle Mal Français
Next, we move onto the astonishing group Air from France. This band shows a great example of electronic prowess meeting analog tone and sentiment. This can be said about all aspects of their music and in drumming they use a lovely mixture of drum machines, sampling and regular kits. They are one of many bands in the ’90s and 00’s showing that lovely link between analog and digital. Their albums, Moon Safari, Talkie Walkie and 10,000 Hz Legend are must listens!
7. Roland and Alesis seem to dominate the world of add-on drum samplers
In particular, the Roland SPD-SX has flowed in beside the regular kit in modern music. This helps drummers attain the best of both worlds, digital and analogue. They can also form the rhythmic background of live performances, adding metronome to in-ear monitors throughout the band.
8. This One’s For You Irritated People
The ultimate glory of electronic drumming is the relative peace and quiet that come with. Having said that, the play of the pedal action on electronic kits can create quite an irritating noise through the floorboards. Obviously, this doesn’t matter if you’re in a mansion or personal recording studio. Any noise will ultimately be worth it.
9. You Spent How Much?
As with most things, the range in price difference for electric drum kits is huge. The common brands are Alesis, Roland and Yamaha. One worth looking at on the lower end of the skill is the Alesis Nitro, selling for around $400 (£300). Right at the top of the scale, and it hurts the wallet to consider it, is the Roland TD-50KV which varies in price online but will set you back at least $7000 (£6000).
10. Will Old School Drumming Die?
We’ve been trying to ascertain who’s been victorious in the battle between regular or electronic drums. Old school instruments obviously still dominate in live performance, perhaps due to the lack of development in the interface between drummer and drum velocity etc. However, in recording scenarios the use of modern techs such as virtual drummer software and realistic sampling are starting to dominate. Let’s enjoy the melding of these two descriptions, combining the old and the new.
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