Types of Percussion Drums

Updated July 20, 2017

Percussion drums come in many shapes and sizes. There are recreational, ceremonial and professional uses for drums. They are also used for health, wellness and group empowerment. For recreation, live bands utilise one drummer with a drum kit to provide a foundation beat. Professional marching bands utilise multiple percussion players using different types of drums and percussion to provide a rhythm. Tribal groups throughout the world use different drums and beats for ceremonial purposes. Wellness professionals utilise the power of group drumming and drum circles to facilitate healing in the participants.

History of Percussion Drums

Percussion drums of some sort have existed since 6000BC. Originally drums came about from anything that could be hit together to make a sound. This could have been rocks, wood or animal bones. Certain drums were used in medieval Europe to send instructions to infantry units during war. Indigenous tribes and native Americans used drums for spiritual purposes. Animal skins were used for early drum heads and bones and sticks were used for striking.

Recreational Percussion Drums

Drums used for entertainment make up recreational drums. Percussion drums of this form are usually used together in the form of a drum kit or set. A drum set is made up of a number of different types including a bass drum, snare and toms. A bass drum is sometimes called a kick drum. The kick drum is struck by the foot with a kick drum pedal. A snare drum has a signature snapping sound when struck. This sound is made by a thin device made of wires which is attached to the bottom head of the snare drum. Toms come in different sizes and produce different tones when struck. These drums are all struck with drum sticks. These sticks are made with wood or nylon tips and come in varying thicknesses. Recreational drummers play in nightclubs, festivals, weddings, private parties and more.

World Percussion Drums

World percussion drums encompass the many different types of drums used around the planet. They are often used in tribal ceremonies, celebrations and in spiritual capacities. Types of drums used in Africa include the djembe, jembe, Bata, Boma, tama and talking drum to name a few. There are many types of Latin percussion drums which include congas, bongos, timbales and hand (frame) drums. All drums of this type are built in many different sizes and produce different tones. Most have a top and bottom head. Some heads are fixed and some world percussion drum heads are tunable. Gathering drums are used by many tribal groups for ceremonial purposes. Drum heads are usually made with animal skins. Other types of world percussion drums include steel drums, tubanos, taikos, doumbeks to name a few.

Professional Percussion Drums

Professional percussion drums are used by orchestras and marching bands. These groups play drums which include the kettle drum, tenor drums, bass drums and snares. The kettle drum, also called by the Italian name timpani, is the biggest of the drum family and produces low frequency tones that resemble thunder. Tenor drums are also called quads and quints. Snares come in many different shapes, sizes and tone and are sometimes used for cadences. Bass drums provide a low frequency foundation beat. Professional percussion drum lines are made up of multiple players and instruments and provide the foundation rhythm for the rest of the group.

Wellness and Group Empowerment Percussion Drums

Wellness and group empowerment percussion include drums from all different areas of recreation, ceremonial, world and professional percussion. These groups are made up of participants standing in a circle and are facilitated by a leader that guides and inspires the healing rhythms. These drum circles utilise different types of hand drums and other percussive instruments to provide healing rhythms and frequencies for the group. Drums used for empowerment and wellness include gathering drums, hand drums, tubansos and djembes of all sizes. Corporations, shamans, counsellors and drumming facilitators use drums to promote wellness.

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About the Author

Jeff Kaleth has been working as a corporate technical writer and computer engineer since 2008. He has experience developing procedural and task documentation, as well as translating technical needs into end-user documentation. Kaleth holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Indiana University.