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Glossary of Terms - Drum kit / Drumset

Paul Marshall 1999


  • Drumset / Drum Kit - A collection of different percussion instruments generally including but not limited to bass drum, operated with a foot pedal, snare drum, cymbals, and toms. It is generally meant to be played by one person, although at times can be played by more than one.

  • Snare drum - the drum that generally sits between a player's legs. A Snare drum is constructed, from a cylindrical 'shell' constructed from wood, metal or plastic.  Drum heads of mylar, kevlar or natural skin are stretched across both openings of the drum's shell.  snare drum head sizes generally vary from 10" to 14" and depths from 3" to 12".  The bottom of the drum is home to a set of wires that resonate when the top head is struck giving the distinctive snare sound.  Snare drums are generally played with sticks or brushes, however mallets and rods (collections of smaller sticks) are also used.  

  • Toms/Rack Toms -  The small to medium/large drums that are mounted on top of, or to the side, of the Bass drum(s), sizes generally vary from 6" rack toms to 18" Floor toms in varying depths. There are no hard and fast rules as to tom numbers and placement. Some drummers play with no toms whatsoever. Toms/Rack toms have both batter and resonant heads.  Concert toms have a batter head only.  Rototoms are toms with a single head and no shell they are tuned normally but the pitch can subsequently be changed by turning the drum around a central threaded bar which tightens or loosens the tension on the head over the bearing edge.

  • Bass drums - for purposes of this document, the largest of drumset items will be termed the bass drum. It is commonly referred to as 'kick drum' or simply 'kick', especially in the arena, so as not to confuse it with bass guitar during mixing, recording, etc.  The bass drum is mounted with the head vertical to the floor and is hit by a pedal operated beater.  Head sizes generally vary from 28" down to 16"  although drums on either side of this range are not unknown.

  • Cymbals - Circular discs (except rocktagons) of metal alloy that are shaped by various processes to provide an instrument that provides emphasis, texture, or effect.  Cymbals are played with the implements described at snare drums.

    I Hope this is useful

  • Paul


Glossary of Drum parts - Mike Radcliffe 1999

  • Drum Head-- round membrane which stretches across a drum to produce sound.

  • Batter head-- or the TOP head: this is the head that is struck with the stick.

  • Resonant head-- or the BOTTOM head: the head that controls the drum's resonance.

  • Rim -- metal hoop used to hold the head. Tension rods go through the holes and into the lugs to tension the head.

  • Tension Rod-- the bolt that goes through holes in the rim, used to pull the head down across the bearing edge, and tighten or loosen for tuning.

  • Lugs -- The metal casings attached to the drum into which the tension rods screw to tune the head. (When discussing tuning, 'lugs' and 'tuning rods' are often interchanged.)

  • Bearing Edge-- the edge of the drum shell where the drum head lays. Like the part of a pot where the lid sits.

  • Hoop-- large rim for a bass drum; usually made of wood.

  • Zero-ring-- An O-shaped piece of plastic the diameter of a drum used to slightly muffle it, by laying on top of the head. Can be cut out of old heads or purchased.

  • Snares -- Wires stretched across the resonant head of a snare drum which vibrate when the batter head is struck.

  • Throw-off - Adjustable mechanism on snare drum that determines

    a. the degree of tension on the snare wires or

    b. if they are in contact with the resonant head of the snare drum or not.

  • Drum Key-- A small T-shaped, wrench used to turn tension rods. Most often keys and rods are square-headed. Older keys and rods may be slotted


Drumset Equipment and Hardware - Paul Marshall 1999

  • Bass Drum Spurs - Adjustable legs with rubber or spiked feet that are attached to either side of the front of the bass drum to stabilise the drum, raise the shell off the floor to allow for resonance, and to counter slippage when playing.

  • Bass Drum Pedal - Foot pedal operated by drummer to hit bass drum.  Pedal used generally by dominant foot.

    Beater. The part of the pedal that hits the bass drum head, constructed individually or in a combination from wood, plastic or felt, mounted on a metal rod (shaft) fixed to the pedal body.

    Footplate. Hinged part of the pedal pressed on by the drummer's foot.

    Tension Unit - Spring unit with adjustment to control the degree of resistance against the pressure exerted on the footboard by the drummer. Controls the degree of recoil. Spring tension varies greatly between drummers

    Drive Unit - Usually either a chain, metal strip or man-made strip that connects the footplate to the beater holder.

  • Double Bass Pedal - As above but with a second pedal at the sub-dominant (Hi Hat) foot, allows drummer to play with both feet using 2 beaters. Pedals are connected by a bar that transfers the motion from the sub-dominant pedal to the main beater unit.  Normally used in place of a second Bass drum taking up a fraction of the space.

  • Hi-Hat Stand - Pedal operated stand that holds two horizontal cymbals, the bottom cymbal being stationary and the top cymbal movement controlled by pedal movement.  Pressing on the pedal brings the cymbals together, relaxing pressure separates the cymbals

    Tension Unit - Spring operated adjustment to control the degree of resistance against the pressure exerted on the footboard by the drummer. Controls the degree of recoil to open position.

    Footplate - as bass drum

    Rod - Thin metal rod running from tension mechanism at base of stand through cymbals up to top of stand.

    Clutch - attachment for securing top cymbal to moveable central rod

  • Remote Hi Hat - Same principle as Hi-Hat but cymbals on open/closing unit can be placed anywhere on the kit due to cable running from pedal to remote spring mechanism, rod & stand.  The shorter the cable the less resistance & more accurate action.

  • X-Hat - Hi-Hat with fixed degree of closure, no pedal adjustment available.

  • Snare Drum Stand - Low stand onto which the snare drum is placed.

    Basket / cradle - Three armed holder into which the snare drum is placed and secured.

  • Tom Holder - Attachment for holding toms.  Fitted to either:

    Bass Drum - Clamp fitted to Bass drum shell to allow stands to be mounted directly onto or into the drum

    Tom stand - Tom stand with tom holder fitted to top

    Other stand - Tom holder fitted into a clamp attached to a  stand already holding another item

    Drum Rack - Tom holder fitted into collar on drum rack

  • RIMS / ISS - Tom mounting system whereby the tom is attached to the tom holder via a clamp that is attached to the rim of the drum instead of the shell.  This gives a more 'accurate' tone because of minimum interference inside the shell and with minimum attachments to the shell which otherwise interfere with the resonant characteristics of the drum.

  • Cymbal stands - Straight or boom adjustable stands to hold cymbals and other equipment.

    Straight Stand - Cymbal stand with vertical adjustment only

    Boom Stand - As straight stand but with additional joint allowing significant horizontal adjustment of a boom arm onto which the cymbal is placed.

    Cymbal Extension - Fits on top of another stand allowing more than one cymbal to be mounted on the same stand.

  • Drum Rack -  Framework that surrounds or sits in front of the drummer onto which the drum kit except the bass drum(s), floortom(s) and snare drum can be mounted.

    Rack mounts - Collars fitted to rack to allow cymbal stands / tom holders to be accurately placed

  • Memory Locks - Fitted to tom holders and cymbal stands to allow accurate re-positioning when setting up the drum set
  • Clamps - Ancillary hardware fitted to pre existing tom or cymbal stands to allow further holders or boom arms to be attached.

  Hope this is useful