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How Many Types of Drums Are There?

Drums are some of the oldest types of musical percussion instruments and are played either by hitting them with a drumstick or the hands. Hundreds of different types of drums exist. Most consist of a membrane stretched over a frame of some sort, although some types, such as tongue drums, are made from wood. Categories of drums include cylindrical, goblet, frame, kettledrums, and tongue drums.

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Cylindrical Drums

As their name implies, cylindrical drums are cylinder shaped and generally have two drumheads. The bass drum found in most drum sets is a cylindrical drum that is played by hitting it with a beater attached to a foot pedal. Marching bands use another type of bass drum. Conga drums and bongo drums have only one drumhead and are played with the hands. Congas come in sets of two to four. Bongo drums are a pair of short connected drums with one drum larger than the other.

Goblet Drums

Named for their shape, goblet drums are widely used throughout Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. Commonly called the doumbek in America, goblet drums go by many names, including tonbak and doumbek.

Frame Drums

Frame drums are usually circular in shape and wider than they are high. Made from wood, they have a rawhide or synthetic drumhead. Frame drums are some of the oldest types of drums in existence. The Irish bodhran is one example of a frame drum. Others include the Bendir, Ghaval, Riq, Tar, and Tambourine.


Also called timpani, kettledrums are shaped like large kettles and are made from brass or copper. Timpani have a deep sound and are tunable. Modern timpani use food pedals or levers to adjust the tension across the drumhead, which changes the sound. Timpani are available in five size ranges.

Tongue Drums

Invented by the Aztecs, tongue or tone drums were originally made from hollow logs. The slit drum is an African version of the tone drum. Modern tongue drums are made from wood and resemble boxes. The tops of the boxes are cut to create an opening and several tongues. When hit with a mallet, the tongues produce different tones.

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About the Author

Karen S. Garvin has been a professional writer since 1988, when "Dragon" magazine published her first article. Her recent work includes encyclopedia entries on historical subjects. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and is pursuing a master's degree in European history. Her interests include photography, science, history and Steampunk.

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