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Different Types of Drums – The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Are you just starting out in the drumming world? Perhaps you’re already drumming but want to expand your repertoire or just get hip to the lingo. Whatever your goals, we’re here to learn about the amazing variety of different types of drums out there.

Drums give us a beat and bring people together. Furthermore, they are a major part of music and have a special place in the ceremonies of every culture around the world. On top of that, drumming is primal – and drummers are cool!

From drum kits to hand drums to some mammoth instruments…

The world of drums is a lot broader than you may think. In this article, we’re going to talk about the components of a standard drum kit, how they fit in, and how they can be used on their own. We’ll look at the most used individual drums, and then we’ll round things out with a tip of the hat to the latest technology.

Ready? 1-2, 1-2-3-4!


Different Types of Drums in a Drum Kit

Different Types of Drums in a Drum Kit

The standard drum kit, also known as a trap kit or a set, was born in the 1920s. It was the result of innovations in jazz music and the trend away from big orchestras with several percussionists towards smaller bands with single drummers. The general construction of a trap kit has more or less solidified. So, let’s break it down for you one time.

Bass Drum

Also known as the kick, this is the big drum that sits on the floor and handles the bass boom. You play bass drums using a pedal with a beater attached. Several styles, like metal, will include a double bass pedal which has two beaters that you play with both feet. Plus, there are a few kits with two bass drums.

Snare Drum

A snare drum is just a drum with snares on it. Although, not the kind you’d use to catch a rabbit. Modern snares are sets of coiled wires pressed tightly to the bottom head of the drum and vibrate against it when the drum is struck. As a result, this gives you a loud, tight, snappy sound to contrast with the bass drum’s boom.

Looking for a quality snare drum? Then take a look at our reviews of the Best Snare Drums you can buy.


AKA tom-toms are tuned drums, usually with both top and bottom heads. Rack toms can be mounted on top of the bass drum or a special tom rack. Floor toms are bigger and have more boom. They have legs to let them stand on the floor. A typical 5-piece drum kit, like the Ludwig Accent Drive Blue 5-Piece Drum Kit, will have a bass, snare, and three toms.



While cymbals aren’t drums, they’re still essential pieces of modern drum kits and are worth a mention. Hi-hat cymbals are mounted on a stand with a foot pedal. They sit horizontally facing each other like a sandwich. You play the top cymbal and can open and close the pair using a foot pedal. Other cymbals sit on their own stands.

Ride cymbals, such as the Meinl 20″ Ride Cymbal – HCS Traditional Finish Brass, are thick and heavy and make a pingy sound. They’re used for keeping rhythm. Crash and splash cymbals do what their names suggest.

Crashes are bigger and make loud, washing explosions of sound. Splashes are smaller and thinner and give bright accents to your drumming.

Want to upgrade your cymbals? Then our reviews of the Best Cymbal Packs on the market will be a very useful read.


The reason why a drum set is called a trap kit is that early players set up a tray full of different noise-making con-TRAP-tions like bells, woodblocks, slapsticks, horns, and whistles on their kits.

These days, the range of contraptions on drum kits is extensive. They can include woodblocks, cowbells, chimes, bells, tambourines, and more cowbells.

Looking for a quality drum set?

Then check out our comprehensive reviews of the Best Beginner Drum Set,the Best Jazz Drum Sets, the Best Portable Drum Kits, the Best Drum Set for Kids, and the Best Cheap Beginner Electronic Drum Sets Under $500 currently o the market.

Marching With Drums

Marching With Drums

Marching bands deconstruct the drum kit and return the pieces to individual players. The bass drum is put on a harness that goes over the player’s shoulders, such as the Ludwig LF350W White Parade Marching Bass Drum Sling. The drum sticks out from the player’s belly and is struck on both sides with mallets.

Marching band snare drums are also called field drums but are slightly different than normal snare drums.

But, what is a field drum?

These were used for signaling and motivating soldiers on the battlefield in the past. They’re deeper and louder than your average drum kit snare drum. Check out the Pearl MJS1007/CXN33 10″x7″ Junior Marching Snare Drum and Carrier, which is 7 inches deep compared to a regular 5 inches for a kit snare.

A rack of toms is reimagined as tenor drums in a marching band. This is usually a rack of four to six drums in different tunings that mounts on a harness that goes over the player’s shoulders.

Some marching bands, and many orchestras, use timpani or kettle drums…

These big drums sit upright and are played with soft mallets. They have pedals that tighten or loosen the tension on the drum heads. Allowing the player to set them to different notes or even bend pitches.

Individual Drums

The array of individual drums in the world is amazing and vast. Early humans played rhythms on hollow logs and brightly ringing stones. Then at some point, some clever cave folks stretched an animal skin over a hollow bit of wood or a pot, and the drum was born!

Individual drums can be played with sticks or by hand. Here are some of the most widely recognized drums in the world. These are all great instruments, and we’ll look at them in alphabetical order just so no one’s feelings get hurt.



Bongos are a pair of small and very tightly tuned hand drums connected together. They make great high-pitched popping sounds and are a standard in all sorts of Latin music.

Need some quality recommendations? Then check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bongos currently on the market.

Box Drums

Also known as a Cajon, a box drum is a wooden box with a slightly loose faceplate. The plate can make a nice boom down near the middle, but a loud snapping sound like a snare near the edge. Cajons are played by sitting on them and striking between your legs. Looking for one? Then take a look at our reviews of the Best Cajon Drums around.


Congas are long and beautifully curving drums that are the tenor voices to complement bongos. They have deeper tones but can still make pops and slaps by striking near the rims. Congas are normally played by hand but can also be used with sticks and mallets.

For more info, take a look at our reviews of the Best Congas you can buy.

Frame Drums

Tambourines, the Irish bodhran, and the Brazilian pandeiro are all frame drums. They’re basically just skin stretched over a wooden hoop. Furthermore, these drums are used to keep time, especially in karaoke situations!

Goblet Drums

West African djembes (forget trying to pronounce the ‘d’ – just say “jem-bay”) are the most well-known form of goblet drums. They have a big resonating chamber, the bowl of the goblet, and then a narrower stem that focuses the sound.

This allows djembe players to get nice big booms. But also some high-pitched slaps. They’re usually wood with goatskin stretched over the top. The Middle-Eastern Doumbek is another well-known goblet drum with a very tight, bright sound.

Hourglass Drums

Hourglass drums have two heads. You strike them with either your hands or with mallets. Generally, the two ends are tuned a step or two apart to get different voicings. The Nigerian bata drum and the Korean janggu are other good examples.

Steel Drums

Steel Drums

Jamaica’s famous steel drums, such as the Panyard Jumbie Jam Steel Ready to Play Kit, are made from oil barrels hammered into different tuned zones and have a unique, singing sound.

Likewise, Hang Drums, such as the “Lark Music” hand pan in D Minor 9 notes steel hand drum are a more recent innovation. Played by hand, they’re somewhere between drums and xylophones. For more great options, check out our reviews of the Best Hang Drums on the market.


A set of two drums, with a small wooden one called the tabla and a bigger metal one called the dagga. They’re played with high-speed finger mastery. As a result, they produce speech-like sounds found in both classical and modern Indian music.


Japanese drum troops use taiko drums which can be huge; in fact, the biggest drum in the world is a taiko drum which is 12 feet in diameter! These drums are battered with very thick sticks to produce thunder.

Electronic Drums and Triggers

Electronic Drums and Triggers

Modern technology has produced stick- or hand-triggered pads that can be programmed to make hundreds of different sounds. A normal electronic drum kit will have different pads set up on stands, much like a standard drum kit. However, there’s a module that controls how each pad sounds and responds.

Additionally, you can adjust the sound it will make. From standard percussion sounds to weird and wild synth sounds. Quality electronic drum kits, such as the Alesis Surge Mesh Kit, are responsive to the weight and speed of your strikes, producing quiet or loud sounds as needed.

Electronic drums kits…

You can find these with lots of pieces and racks, or as simple pads. For example, the Roland Octapad SPD-30 Digital Percussion Pad features 8 sound areas on a single unit. Therefore, you can play it on a table or your lap for space-saving convenience.

Triggers are just as interesting. This tech fits onto your regular drum kit, which you can program to trigger extra sounds or filters when you strike each drum. This can add all sorts of elements to your drumming, from weird effects to tightening up the sound quality.

Need to amplify your electronic kit? Then you’ll need one of the Best Electronic Drum Amps on the market.

Looking for some superb Drum Accessories?

Well, look no further. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Drum Thrones, the Best Drum Practice Pads, the Best Drumsticks, and the Best Drum Tuners you can buy in 2023.

Different Types of Drums – Final Thoughts

There are thousands of drums around the world. Unfortunately, we’ve only just scratched the surface in this article.

Some you play by hand, others with sticks. There are some that fit together into a drum set or an ensemble. Conversely, there are individual drums can only be played by a single master. Many drums are stationary. On the other hand, some drums are marched across fields or danced through special ceremonies.

Drums create rhythm, community, and fun. Likewise, they have been a part of life as long as there have been people on Earth. So, go ahead and pick one up, or a set, and get banging!

Until next time, may the beat go on.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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