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A drum kit can take many different forms and combinations. A basic kit however, is made up of a few general components. These include the bass drum (also known as the kick drum), snare drum, floor tom tom, 1 or 2 small tom toms (or also known as mounted toms or rack toms) hi hats, a ride cymbal and a crash cymbal.

This basic kit set up can be used for many different styles of music but depending on the player, the style of music or the piece of music, various drum and percussion pieces can be added or removed from the set up. The size of each drum can vary as well depending on the music style and sound required.

For the purpose of introductory lessons on a kit, this is the basic kit set up that will be used.

The parts that make the whole
Every piece in a drum kit, that is drums and cymbals, play a role in the creation of a rhythm and pattern. Rhythms can be played on any single piece or combination of pieces.

Aside from musical expression, dynamics and rhythmic elements, the pieces that make up the basic drum kit all have a general purpose in the drum pattern, rhythm and musical structure.

  1. Hi- hats

Hi-hats are a pair of cymbals, one inverted to the other, on a stand with a foot pedal that when depressed and released, will pull down or allow lifting by the internal spring, the top hi-hat cymbal. The hi-hats can be played by the foot pedal or with sticks. They can be played with sticks in the opened or closed position.

In some rock rhythms, the hi-hat is predominately keeping time or the beat count and not a substantial part of the rhythm itself. In other patterns it is an essential part of the structure of the rhythm.

The accented hi-hat pattern in a funk rhythm for example, is crucial to the basic feel of the rhythm. (Drum lessons will teach you about accents; what they are and how they are used in feels and patterns).

  1. Bass drum

The bass drum is the foundation of the rhythm. 

In a basic 4/4 rock song the bass drum beat can be in pretty much the same place in each bar right throughout the song on the 1st and 3rd beat or on each of the 4 beats. This produces a constant driving feel behind the rhythm.

The bass drum in a thrash metal tune for example, can be played in 16th beats to produce a wall of sound.

The bass drum, however it is played in whatever genre of music, is a critical element in creating the overall rhythm along with the bass guitar. Played together with the bass guitar, in so many songs, become a single sound and drive the rhythm and feel of the tune.

  1. Snare drum

The snare drum is basically the center of and central to a drum kit. It provides a predominant part of a drum pattern and in rock and other forms of music, provides what is called the ‘back beat’. The snare also creates critical rhythm elements and 'fills' within a tune.

The snare drum is so named due to the fact it has a ‘wire’ (actually a number of wires that look like a set of stretched springs joined together at both ends to a flat bar) tensioned across the bottom head. When the snare drum is struck on the batter or top head, the wires vibrate against the bottom head and produce a sizzle sound. The tension on the wire can be varied to produce a soft sizzle or a loud crack when the drum is struck.


  1. Tom toms

Aside from particular rhythms and patterns, the mounted and floor tom toms are commonly used to supplement rhythms and provide ‘fills’ in a tune.

  1. Crash cymbal

The crash cymbal is generally used to provide accents to sections of patterns. Usually placed at the start or the end of a passage.

  1. Ride cymbal

The ride cymbal is used to create a feel or rhythm as an alternative to the hi-hat.

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