A drum kit (also drum set, or trap set) is a collection of drums, cymbals and often other percussion instruments, such as cowbells, wood blocks, triangles, chimes, or tambourines, arranged for convenient playing by a single person (drummer).
The individual instruments of a drum kit are hit by a variety of implements held in the hand, including sticks, brushes, and mallets. Two exceptions include the bass drum, played by a foot-operated pedal, and the hi-hat cymbals, which may be struck together using a foot pedal in addition to being played with sticks or brushes. Although other instruments can be played using a pedal, the feet are usually occupied by the bass drum and hi hat, and as a result the drummer often plays in a seated position. Percussion notation is often used by drummers to signify which drum kit components are to be played. A full size drum kit without any additional percussion instruments includes a bass drum, floor tom, snare drum, tom-toms, and a variety of cymbals including hi-hat cymbals, a ride cymbal and one or more crash cymbals. The exact set-up is dictated by the type of music played and the drummer's personal preferences. For example, in most forms of rock music, the bass drum, hi-hat and snare drum are the primary instruments used to create a drum beat, whereas in jazz, ride and snare patterns tend to be more prevalent and the hi-hat is played with the foot.
History and development
Drum kits are infants of the Vaudeville era. Pecuniary and theater space considerations demanded that fewer percussionists covered more percussion parts. In military and orchestral music settings, drums and cymbals were traditionally played separately by one or many percussionists. The bass drum, snare drum, cymbals and other percussion instruments were played by hand. Circa 1890, experimentation with foot pedals began. Liberating the hands for the first time, this evolution saw the bass drum played (first standing) with the foot of a percussionist and became the central piece around which every other percussion instruments would later revolve. Ludwig-Musser, William F. Ludwig Senior and his brother Theodor Ludwig founded the Ludwig & Ludwig Co. in 1909 and patented the first workable bass drum pedal system, paving the way for what was to become the modern drum kit
By World War I drum kits were characterized by very large bold marching bass drums and many percussion items suspended on and around them, and they became a central part of jazz music, specifically (but not limited to) dixieland. Metal consoles were developed to hold Chinese tom-toms, with swing out stands for snare drums and cymbals. On top of the console was a "contraption" (shortened to "trap") tray used to hold whistles, klaxons, and cowbells, thus drum kits were dubbed "trap kits." Hi-hat stands appeared around 1926.
Drummers who perform in concert venues often have a variety of equipment cases to transport the drums, cymbals and hardware. Performers who play local gigs may only have relatively inexpensive padded cloth bags or thin plastic cases. Professional touring drummers who have to ship their drums will typically have heavy-duty road cases that will securely hold and protect the equipment during transport. Professional drummers may also carry their own drum microphones with them to shows, to avoid situations where a venue has only substandard equipment. Dynamic microphones, which can handle high sound pressure levels are usually used to close-mic drums while condenser mics are used for overheads and room mics. Some drummers who have their own mics have a set of drum-mounted mics, an approach which eliminates the need for mic stands and reduces set-up time. In some styles of music, drummers may also use electronic effects on drums. In some situations, drummers use noise gates that mute microphones below a threshold volume. This allows the sound engineer to use a higher overall volume for the drum kit, because it reduces the number of "active" mics which could feed back.
In some styles or settings, such as country music clubs or churches, the drummer may use a plexiglass screen to dampen the onstage volume of the drums. Many drummers who play in different venues carry carpeting or mats to prevent the bass drum from slipping on a wooden floor. Some drummers use an insulation-style filling or foam in the bass drum to lessen the "ringing" sound. Drummers often use a variety of accessories when they are practicing. Metronomes and beat counters are used to develop a steady rhythm. Drum muffling pads may be used to lessen the volume of drums during practicing.
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