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Brief History of Modern Drums

26 January 2019

Drums! Originating from an old German word, tromme, this percussive bad boy sits at the very core of modern music. As musiconline , we take a closer look to the history of modern drums.

Like almost everything, history of drums starts at Mesopotamia as well. Records indicate that the very first percussive instruments are used for religious rituals and scaring enemy troops in battlegrounds.

Some even seek the origin of drums in animal kingdom. One school of thought implies the characteristic movement of gorillas - chest punching - is a form of percussive action and can be considered as 'primal drum playing'.

You may find it funny, but hitting objects and showing aggression is a method for expressing dominant position in animal kingdom. We, as humans, are not so different in ways of using percussive instruments for power play.

From BC 6000 to AD 1500, drum sound is mainly shaped by the cultural activity of Middle East and Asia, which are ahead of other cultures especially in terms of ceremonial events and religious practices.

African immigrants play an immensely important role in drums history, starting from 16th century. Although the initial reason for their relocation to Europe is shameful and against humanity, the mixture of Renaissance atmosphere with African origins formed the main character of modern drums.

Percussive instruments in general are used by nations and military units as a proof of power and civilization for the era. This motivation of proving to be stronger inevitably led authorities to put more emphasis on drums and percussive instruments are started to be used for orchestral purposes.

After millions of deaths, endless suffering and shameful war crimes, 20th century is the first time we see modern drums thanks to Vaudeville! Speaking of French terms... There is also an alternate naming for drums: 'Batterie', originating from the French verb 'battre' meaning 'to hit'.

It is fair to say that Jazz and Rock music played the critical role for the rise of drums. How genres are differentiated from each other and why do they exist is a whole different topic which we have already covered. Feel free to check our most recent post on music genres !

One can add infinitely many elements to a drum set but, it is fair to say that a drum set is formed by six main parts: kick, a tom, snare and a trio of crash-hat-ride. Of course there is no written rules about it. However we would like to point out almost every well known drummer has a set of 20+ elements.

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