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    Drum Glossary
    Definitions for Drums and Percussion

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    Emphasis placed on a particular note that gives it more stress than the others.

    acoustic drums - drums / drumsets that are void of electronic components. Usually made of wood or synthetic material only. And electronic drums are void of acoustic drums.

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    backbeat - a consistent rhythm that stresses beats 2 and 4 in common time. In other "common" time signatures, the backbeat will land elsewhere. For example, the backbeat lands on 4 and 10 in 12/8 time on the drumset.

    bass drum (kick drum) - the lowest pitched drum in a marching band or with a drumset.

    bata drums - a double headed, hour glass shaped drum originating from Nigeria. It later migrated to Cuba and eventually to the US. These drums can be played in the lap or with a strap around the neck.

    batter head - typically referring to a drumhead that has a coated surface. It's also a term referring to the "playing" side of the drum.

    bearing edge - the edge of the drum that the head sits on. Bearing edges are often sharpened to a smaller angle for greater attack, projection and evenness of tone.

    beat displacement - a term popularized in drumming over the last 10 years. It refers to permutation where all beats will move forward say, one eighth note. This method will create numerous variations of rhythmic possibilities on the drums.

    beguine - music incorporating a bolero rhythm.

    bells - an instrument that consists of tuned metal bars mounted on a rectangular frame such as the glockenspiel, xylophone or marimba.

    bodhran (bodhrán) - an Irish drum covered with goatskin.

    bo-diddley beat - this beat was popularized by Bo Diddley, the famous blues guitar player. It stems from early forms of Latin and afro-Cuban rhythms (clave) derived from their respective countries. This rhythm was also used for years as the playful music knock,"Shave and a Haircut",..."Two Bits".

    bolero rhythm - a slow ballad suitable for the bolero dance or similar music.

    bones - or castanets. A pair of wooden instruments that are held in the hand (between the thumb and forefinger) and are clicked together in rhythm.

    bongocero - a bongo player

    bongo drum or bongos - a pair of small drums that are connected in the middle and played with your hands. Very common in Afro-Cuban music and Latin percussion.

    BoomWhackers - long colorful tubes that produces various tones. Popular kid's percussion instrument common in musical education. Many elementary schools and junior high schools incorporate BoomWhackers into their music curriculum.

    boom (or boom stand) - An arm that extends from the cymbal stand to allow greater positioning around the drumset. Most drummers use it to bring the cymbals in closer to them.

    bossa nova - the bossa nova rhythm accompanies the famous bossa nova dance. It stems from the Samba and has it's origins in Brazil. Also applied to the drumset.

    brushes - brushes as they relate to drumming have wire bristles that fan out and are used mostly with traditional jazz drumming. Drummers that play brushes utilize "snaps" and "sweeps" to create a unique art form that we call "brush technique".

    buzz roll - one of the 40 drum rudiments. Often confused with the double stroke roll, it is played by executing multiple bounces in each hand and then speeding up. Other names for this roll are the "crush roll", the "press roll" and the "multiple bounce stroke".

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    cabasa - (or afuche) a Latin percussion instrument consisting of a round cylinder on a handle. There are metal beads (actually a chain) that surround the corrugated cylinder. It is held with one hand and rubbed with the other to create various rhythms.

    cascara - a Latin percussion pattern often played with the right hand on the side of a timbale. This rhythm can also be played on drumset.

    castanets - or bones. A pair of wooden instruments that are held in the hand (between the thumb and forefinger) and are clicked together in rhythm.

    cajon - a hollow wooden box that has the tone of a conga. Non-tuneable as it has no drumhead. Origin - Latin America

    cha-cha - a medium tempo, Afro-Cuban rhythm, as heard in Tito Puento's "Oye Como Va" song.

    chimes - long metal tubes that are struck with a special hammer. This percussion instrument is common in school bands and orchestras as well as symphonies.

    china (or china cymbal / china crash) - also referred to as a "pang" cymbal.

    chops - your technique or rhythmic vocabulary. Ex. "That kid has great chops on the drums!" Chops can refer to percussion performance on drumsets, marching percussion or Latin drums.

    clave (clave') - A rhythm made up of a 2 bar phrase played as 2:3 clave (ex: 1 2,1 2 3) or 3:2 clave (ex: 1 2 3,1 2). Once the song starts, the clave will not change. Latin American countries often clap their hands to clave during the music.

    claves - percussion instrument; a pair of cylindrical wooden sticks (usually around an inch and half thick) that are clicked together to make a high pitched sound marking clave in Latin music. Sometimes made from synthetic material.

    clutch - or hi hat clutch. The drumset accessory that holds the top cymbal, of the hi hat cymbals, in place.

    common time: 4/4 time, indicating 4 beats to the measure with the quarter note receiving the beat.

    conga - or conga drum. A drum with African/Cuban origin that is played with the hands. Shaped like a barrel, it sits on the floor or on a stand and can be played sitting or standing. It has a head on one side only. The conga is the "middle" drum of a typical conga set of drums.

    conguero - one who plays the conga drums.

    cowbell - (or bell)

    crash - or "crash cymbal". A cymbal used for accentuation. A drummer will use this cymbal to emphasize a certain beat or accent beat one of the new measure. They generally come in sizes 15" to 18"

    crash cymbal
    The cymbal played that's used for emphasizing a certain beat in the song. This
    cymbal has more sustain than a ride cymbals does.

    cymbal - a copper/bronze disk struck with a drumstick to ride or emphasize beats. With the hands. Two cymbals can also be played together such as in a marching band or hi-hat cymbals on drumsets.

    cuica - a Latin percussion instrument which sound resembles a dog barking.

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    double bass - the use of two bass drums with a drum set. Double bass drumming can also be played with a twin or double bass pedal and just one bass drum.

    double bass pedal - a twin pedal that strikes both beaters on the same bass drum. Most commonly on drumsets and with rock drummers.

    double-stroke roll - one of the standard 40 drum rudiments. The double stroke roll is played with 2 individual strokes in each hand.

    downbeat - the "main" pulse as it relates to the rest of the measure. If you have 8 eighth notes in a bar of 4/4 time, beats 1, 2, 3 and 4 would be considered the downbeat. The "and" of 1, "and" of 2, "and" of 3, and "and" of 4 would be the upbeat.

    drag - one of the 40 standard drum rudiments.

    drop clutch - a specially made hi hat clutch that allows the top cymbal to drop when you hit a lever on the side of it. This drum accessory is for use with double bass drumming.

    drum fill - a "filler" or phrase to be played between different sections of a song. A drum fill can be as simple as a couple of tom tom hits or a blistering, machine gun-like burst of notes. Drum fills can range from 1 beat to 8 measures (or more) in length.

    drumhead - the covering or membrane that stretches over the drum to produce it's sound. Drumheads are made of animal skin and synthetic plastics.

    drumline - a section comprised of only drums and percussion.

    drum machine - a drum machine is an electronic instrument that contains drum sounds and sometimes other musical instruments and sounds. It is programmed to play rhythm patterns and aids musicians in time keeping and music production. Drummers are able to use drum machines to figure out beats and patterns and to practice along with them.

    drummer - one who plays the drums (duh)

    drum set - consisting of generally 4 to 5 drums or more. 5 piece drumsets are most common but some play smaller drumkits and a few player drumsets with up to as many as 20 drums.

    drum solo - a rhythmic break in the song where the drummer gets to shine. Ala "Wipeout".

    drumsticks - sticks used to play a drum or set of drums. Popular models for drumset are ProMark, Vic Firth, and Vater. There are also numerous specialty drumsticks.

    drum tabs - tabs for drumming. A short hand style of writing drum music. Tablature.

    drum tech - one who sets up and maintains a drum set (or set up) for another drummer. Usually famous drummers or those that play with name bands have their own drum tech. A drum tech is usually very knowlegeable about drums and can tune and tweak them to their maximum sound potential.

    doumbek - a middle eastern drum commonly from countries such as India, Pakistan, Morocco and Egypt. Shaped similar to a djembe drum. Usually made of metal or ceramic. Only 1 drumhead on top.

    dynamics - playing soft to loud on the drums.

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    electronic drums - the opposite of electronic drums. Drums that are synthesized. They work off of electricity and use a sound source or brain module. Common electronic drums companies are Pintech, Roland and Hart Dynamics.

    endorsement - when a company (usually a manufacturer) endorses an individual through free or discounted merchandise and/or advertising.

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    - a thick 2 and 4, slightly behind the beat backbeat with a lot of soul. Common in funk and blues drumming.

    fill - short for drumfill. See drumfill.

    finger cymbals - a pair of tiny cymbals mounted on the hand and played by striking together. Common in belly dancing and mid-Eastern music.

    flam - one of the oldest rudiments and part of the original 13 created by N.A.R.D. One soft ghosted note is played just before the main note, creating a "flam" effect.

    flam tap - a flam followed by one tap or stroke. One of the 40 drum rudiments

    flam paradiddle - a paradiddle that starts each four note grouping with a flam. One of the 40 drum rudiments emphasizing the flam.

    floor tom - the deepest tom (generally) on a standard drum set. It sits upright on 3 legs. In the last 20 years drummers have also mounted their floor toms on cymbal stands.

    foot pedal - the accessory that depresses the bass drum or hi-hat cymbals.

    forte - play loud

    fortissimo - play the drums "very loud"

    four-four time (or 4/4 time) - time signature indicating 4 beats to the measure where the quarter note receives the beat.

    frame drums - drums that consist of a head stretched over a narrow framed skeleton. Simple in design but capable of many types of sounds.

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    ghost note or ghost stroke - a note that is played extremely quiet. Similar to a grace note.

    glockenspiel - an instrument that contains tuned metal bars mounted on a rectangular frame. The glockenspiel is played with mallets.

    guaguanco - an Afro Cuban rhythm stemming from the rhumba.

    gourd - a hollowed out gourd that is corrugated and played with a stiff metal rod. It creates a "zip" type of sound often heard in Latin music.

    gong - a large suspended cymbal that is struck with a large felt mallet. It has it's roots in the orient.

    groove - a term used to describe the way a beat feels when it not only has a steady tempo, but "feels" incredibly good within the music. Can be applied to any style of music whether playing percussion or drumset.

    Tell your friends about our drum glossary. Tons of terms and definitions for drums!

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    hand bells - tuned bells that are held in the hand and sounded by shaking them.

    hand drums - drums played with the hands such as congas, bongos, djembes, etc.

    heads - drumheads

    hi-hat - the two cymbals on a stand that open and close together. They are operated by the foot. Generally used on the left side of a drumset (right handed drummers).

    hi-hat clutch - the device that keeps the top hi hat cymbal attached to the rod.

    hoop - The round metal or wooden disc that holds the drumhead onto the drum. Lug casings are then fastened to hold the hoop in place.

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    kettle drums - or tympani. A very large drum made of copper or brass. Most often used in orchestras and symphonies. This drum has a foot pedal that is attached to the head mechanism. When the foot pedal is depressed, the kettle drum makes a unique, "boing" type of sound.

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    kick drum - another word for "bass drum". This is the largest drum on a typical drumset and it sits on the floor.

    Latin drums - hand drums of Latin American and/or Afro-Cuban culture.

    lick - drum lick or short drum fill. A lick can also be a quick "riff" or fancy beat.

    linear drumming - linear drumming refers to beats or fills that incorporating stickings not usually played together.

    log drum - slit drum.

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    mallet - a type of drumstick used to strike a percussion instrument; particularly a bell instrument such as the marimba or xylophone.

    mallets - ("I play mallets") referring to those instruments played with mallets such as the marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, or steel drum.

    mallet instruments - see mallets

    maracas - a hollowed out gourd on a stick (rattle). Usually filled with seeds or pebbles. Another simply designed instrument but capable of many different types of sounds through various skillful techniques used by the drummer.

    merengue - an upbeat Afro-Cuban rhythm.

    metronome - a metronome is a clicking electronic device that sets tempo for a rhythm or song. It measures time in BPM (beats per minute). A popular "middle of the road" metronome setting is, quarter note = 120 bpm.

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    mics - short for microphone / drum mics, microphones for micing drums

    marimba - an instrument that consists of a large frame holding wooden resonator bars. This musical instrument is played with mallets.

    mozambique - a rhythm from Africa commonly used in Afro-Cuban music. Legend Steve Gadd popularized this rhythm in the 80's as he mixed it with pop music - Paul Simon's "Late in the Evening".

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    N.A.R.D. - National Association of Rudimental Drummers. This was the rudimental body prior to Percussive Arts Society (PAS).

    notation - referring to music notes on sheet music

    octobans - elongated drums with heads on the playing side only. 8 drums per set.

    off beat - similar to "upbeat". The beats that are not stressed. This word is also used to describe a musician that may play out of time.

    odd time - referring to an odd or uneven time signature (not 4/4), such as 7/4 or 5/8.

    orchestra bells - bells consisting of tuned metal bars mounted on a rectangular frame and played with a mallet.

    ostinato - a musical rhythm or phrase that is repeated over and over again.

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    pandeiro - tambourine; a round hoop (usually wooden) with metal discs or jingles attached. Common in Afro-Cuban and Brazillian music.

    pang - pang cymbal - See "china cymbal"

    pans - (steel drums) large oil drums that have had the tops cut off and hammered into a tuned percussion instrument. Common in the Caribbean Islands. Played with mallets.

    paradiddle - or single paradiddle. Considered one of the more important of the 40 drum rudiments. Played RLRR, LRLL with accents on the first beat of each group.

    PAS - Percussive Arts Society. The governing body over all things drumming. They hold a popular annual convention once a year called PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention).

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    pattern generator - an electronic or computerized device or program that generates a multitude of rhythms.

    percussion clef - the staff commonly used in percussion (as opposed to bass clef) where it is not necessary to notate pitched instruments.

    percussion instrument - An instrument that is struck with your hands or an object such as a drumstick or mallet. Examples include a drum, cymbal, tambourine, bell, triangle, etc.

    permutation - a term popularized in drumming over the last 10 years. It refers to beat displacement where all beats will move forward say, one eighth note. This method will create numerous variations of rhythmic possibilities.

    phrasing - how drum beats are distributed by the player around the drums in context to the song or drum solo.

    piano - dynamic marking meaning "soft"

    pianissimo - very soft

    polyrhythm - more than one rhythm or time signature being played at the same time, such as 3 against 2.

    pulse - the consistent "heartbeat" of a rhythm.

    punk - punk drumming

    Thanks for visiting our drum glossary where you can find terms and definitions for drums!

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    quadruple time - 4/4 time or time signature equaling 4 beats to a measure. Quad meaning "4".

    quads - consisting of 4 drums and often played in marching band or drumline.

    quints - consisting of 5 drums and played in marching band or drumline.

    quinta (or quinto) - The smallest conga drum.

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    rack tom - toms mounted to a drumset.

    rain stick - a long hollowed out piece of wood that is filled with beads or pebbles. When turned upside down, it makes the sound of rain falling. This instrument is often used in band and orchestra for special percussion effects.

    rhythm - the manipulation of strong and weak beats, creating a flowing and/or syncopated pulse.

    ride (ride cymbal) - the primary cymbal that you "ride" much of the time while playing a standard beat. It is usually larger than the rest at around 18" to 22".

    R.I.M. (or R.I.M. System) - a device that allows for isolation mounting. It will isolate the toms or drums and allow for greater sustain and natural tone from the drum.

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    rimshot - hitting the snare head and the snare drum rim at the same time. The effect is a louder, punchier sound or backbeat.

    roto-tom - a mounted, shell-less drum that changes pitch when rotated.

    roll - drum roll. Rolls (single stroke, double stroke, 5 stroke, etc.) that help make up the 40 drum rudiments.

    rudiments - rudimentary beats used to create independence between the two hands (and feet) in drumming. These drum beats can then be manipulated around the drumset. There are currently 40 drum rudiments (or standardized drum rudiments).

    rudiment solo (or rudimental solo) - a solo consisting of numerous drum rudiments and often utilized in drum competitions by drumlines.

    ruff - a single stroke with one hand preceded by two ghosted strokes in the opposite hand.
    A single stroke with one hand accompanied by two lighter strokes with the opposite hand just preceding it. Notated like a grace note, except the grace note is two sixteenth notes instead of an eighth note. One of the thirteen original rudiments.

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    salsa - generic musical term describing a wide range of Latin American music and dancing. Salsa emerged on the New York club scene in the early 70's and revolves around a high-energy dance style of music. Salsa drumming would consist of the many Latin rhythms made up of traditional Latin clave.

    second line drumming - Irish style drumming involving side drums or deep snare drums.

    shaker - any percussion instrument that can be shaken. Usually a hollowed out container filled with beads or pebbles.

    shekere - a large hollow gourd surrounded by woven beads. Common in Afro-Cuban music.

    side drum - snare used in Irish drumming.

    single stroke roll - one of the most important of the 40 drum rudiments (R L R L, R L R L), as it helps to make up all the others.

    slit drum - a hollowed out log or slab of wood cut on top in a manner in which it can be played melodically with mallets.

    snare drum - one of the more common drums in marching bands and drumlines and the primary drum of a drumset. The "snares" are the wires on the bottom of the drum that give it that "buzz" sound. Standard size is usually 14" diameter by 5 1/2" in depth but can vary greatly.

    snares - the long wiggly shaped wires stretched across the bottom of a snare drum. These wires create a preferred buzz sound.

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    solo - drum solo

    splash (or splash cymbal) - a quick sounding cymbal with short sustain. Small in diameter generally from 6" to 14". Most typically 6" to 10"

    steel drum - (pans) large oil drums that have had the tops cut off and hammered into a tuned percussion instrument. Common in the Caribbean Islands. Played with mallets.

    sticks - drumsticks

    stick twirling - twirling the drumsticks for showmanship on stage.

    swing - in drumming it refers to the swing cymbal rhythm or what the old masters would call "spang-a-lang". This rhythm and variations of it is the driving force behind swing (jazz) music.

    syncopation - when a beat or a musical phrase is syncopated.

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    tabs - short for tablature (see drum tabs)

    tam-tam - gong

    tempo - the speed of the rhythm or song.

    tambour - a hollowed out frame drum. It consists of a drumhead on one side.

    temple blocks - a set of tuned wood blocks played with mallets or drumsticks.

    triangle - another one of the many percussion instruments used for special effects. It is a metal bar actually bent in the shape of a triangle and struck with a small metal mallet.

    the pit - The PIT, as it's called, is the non-marching section of the band where students play percussion instruments such as the marimba, the triangle, tambourine, sleigh bells, finger cymbals and timpani. There are also sometimes extra snare drums, bass drums and even drumsets in this area of the field.

    timpani - see tympani

    tom-tom (or tom) - a single drum. Also, mounted drums on a drumset, most commonly played with drum fills.

    train beat - a beat that resembles a train sound. It is played with consecutive 16th notes on the snare drum and accentuated to sound like a train. Common in country music but also used in rock and pop.

    triplet - a common polyrhythm that uses groups of 3 per beat. These can be subdivided many different ways. Ex. quarter note triplets, 8th note triplets, etc.

    transcription - The result of transcribing a piece of music.
    tumba (or tumbadora) - the largest of the typical 3 conga drums family.

    tympani - (kettle drums) A very large drum made of copper or brass. Most often used in orchestras and symphonies. This drum has a foot pedal that is attached to the head mechanism. When the foot pedal is depressed, the kettle drum makes a unique, "boing" type of sound.

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    udu drums - an oblong drum made of clay. It has a hole on top that resonates the sound when the drum is struck with a hand.

    vibes - or vibraphone. Similar to a xylophone but having metal bars and resonators that are driven by a motor. This motor helps to create vibrato sound. Played with mallets.

    vibraphone (or vibes) - Similar to a xylophone but having metal bars and resonators that are driven by a motor. This motor helps to create vibrato sound. Played with mallets.

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    world drumming
    - drumming that incorporates rhythms from around the world, utilizing world instruments originating from their prospective countries. Examples would be Afro-Cuban rhythms, Indian rhythms, Caribbean rhythms and so on.

    x-hat - A set of hi hats positioned in a remote place on the drumset.

    xylophone - or bells. A musical instrument consisting of metal or wooden bars that are tuned and played with mallets. Common in musical symphonies and orchestras.

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    y are there so many drummers?

    zero ring (or "O" ring) - A thin "donut" shaped ring made out of plastic. They are placed around the perimeter of the drums to control overtones or unwanted resonance.

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    Musical Terms and Definitions for Drums and Percussion

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