Thursday, July 31, 2008


Drums are among the oldest musical instruments, found throughout the world and in a great variety of shapes and sizes. A drum normally consists of a skin or other membrane, called a head, which is stretched over an enclosed space or over one or both ends of a hollow vessel. Exceptions include the African slit drum, made from a metal barrel. Drums are usually played by the hands or by one or two sticks. In some non-Western cultures drums have a symbolic function and are often used in religious ceremonies. They are sometimes used in sending signals. The talking drums of Africa can imitate the inflections and pitch variations of a spoken language and are used for communicating over great distances.

Many drums used in Western societies are of African, Arabic, or Turkish Origin. The Kettledrum was introduced into Europe during the Crusades. The European tabor derived from an African instrument and sometimes called a tambour, was a small drum played with the right hand, while the left hand fingered a 3-hole flute. Across its center, the labor often held a snare, which produced a strong vibration and sustained the sound between beats.

The modern symphony orchestra employs a variety of drums. Kettledrums are the most common, the bass drum, tenor drum, and snare drum, or side drum, are also sometimes used, along with tambourines and bongo drums on occasion. Among these, only the kettledrums produce sounds of definite pitch, which is adjustable. The tenor drum is a large deep drum with two heads that is played with wooden sticks. The larger bass drum, also with two heads, stands upright on its side and is struck with felt padded sticks. Bongo drums are small single headed drums stuck with the hands and usually played in sets of two or three. The tambourine is a shallow single headed drum with metal jingle inserted into the frame.

Drums are also used in large numbers in military and marching bands. Traps, an assortment or drums and other percussion devices played by a single performer, have been a standard feature of dance and jazz bands since the early part of the 20th century.

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