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A drum is a musical instrument in the percussion family, technically classified as a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a "drumhead" or "drum skin", that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with parts of a player's body, or with some sort of implement such as a drumstick, to produce sound. Drums are the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.
The shell almost invariably has a circular opening over which the drumhead is stretched, but the shape of the remainder of the shell varies widely. In the western musical tradition, the most usual shape is a cylinder, although timpani, for example, use bowl-shaped shells. Other shapes include a frame design (tar), truncated cones (bongo drums), and joined truncated cones (talking drum).
Drums with cylindrical shells can be open at one end (as is the case with timbales), or can have two drum heads. Single-headed drums normally consist of a skin or other membrane, called a head, which is stretched over an enclosed space, or over one of the ends of a hollow vessel. Drums with two heads covering both ends of a cylindrical shell often have a small hole somewhat halfway between the two drumheads; the shell forms a resonating chamber for the resulting sound. Exceptions include the African slit drum, made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, and the Caribbean steel drum, made from a metal barrel. Drums with two heads can also have a set of wires, called snares, held across the bottom head, top head, or both heads, hence the name snare drum.
On modern band and orchestral drums, the drumhead is affixed to a hoop (also called a "rim"), which in turn is held onto the shell by a "counterhoop", which is then held by means of a number of tuning screws called "tension rods" (also known as lugs) placed regularly around the circumference. The head's tension can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the rods. Many such drums have six to ten tension rods.
Drums are usually played by the hands, or by one or two sticks. In many traditional cultures drums have a symbolic function and are often used in religious ceremonies. The sound of a drum depends on several variables, including shape, size and thickness of its shell, materials from which the shell was made, type of drumhead used and tension applied to it, position of the drum, location, and a manner in which it is struck.
Within the realm of popular music and jazz, "drums" usually refers to a drum kit or a set of drums, and "drummer" to the actual band member or person who plays them. Drums are played by percussionists whose skills can be called for in all areas of music, from Classical to Heavy Rock, and all points in between. Many drummers are also adept at playing both the drum set and a set of hand drums for added musical variety.
In the past drums have been used not only for their musical qualities, but also as a means of communication, especially through 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. Throughout Sri Lankan history drums have been used for communication between the state and the community, and Sri Lankan drums have a history stretching back over 2500 years.
The oldest known drums are from 3000 BC.
- Aburukuwa traditional drum from Ghana
- Blast Beat
- Double drumming
- Drum and bass
- Drum beat
- Drum kit (also known as drum set or trap set)
- Drum machine
- Drum replacement
- Hand drum
- Hearing the shape of a drum
- List of drummers
- Musical instrument
- Musical notation for drums
- Practice Pad
- Percussive Arts Society
- Taiko Japanese drums
- Geta Bera
- Drumtopia Drum News- Drumming news, drum tab search and a directory of drum resources.
- Drummer World- A large collection of online drum clinics as well as drum videos.
- Drumming Styles - Drum notation for various drumming styles.
- Virtual drums - A virtual drumset