Music started with the most primitive of instruments – our bodies.
Beating on things to create sound began in the early of stages of human development, where people beat their own bodies or stomped the ground to express emotion or accompany dancing.
Drums have the power to elicit such strong emotions, whether they’re part of a marching band, a rock band or an orchestra. So this week we’re going behind the scenes to learn more about this amazing instrument and it’s history.
The earliest ‘modern’ drum
The earliest drums ever found date back to 5500BC, and although technology has refined and improved modern drums, they still have the same basic structure of the very first ones. Neolithic cultures in China stretched alligator hide over a clay shell and used them in religious and spiritual ceremonies, as well as in war to invoke fear in the enemy and synchronise the marching of soldiers.
Use of drums spread across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but it wasn’t until the Renaissance period that they became popular in Europe. Armies copied the use of the drums in battle and when they returned from war, they introduced them to the European population. From here, they became widespread across Europe being used in music playing a central rhythm role.
The foot pedal
In the late 1800s it was common to have several drummers in one band – a player for the snare drum, cymbals, and bass. However, as most musicians were working in theatres, the pit area where they performed was becoming smaller, so bands were looking to reduce numbers as well as costs. During this time, a drum pedal was developed enabling one drummer to play two drums at once, but it had to be pushed up and down manually so was a tiring and awkward way to play.
In 1909 that all changed when the Ludwig Company created the first spring loaded food pedal. Drummers could not only play drums and cymbals, but as they now played sitting down they were also able to play faster and longer. The invention paved the way for what would become the modern drum kit.
The first drum kit
During the early 20th century, the Ludwig Company offered one of the first drum-sets ever offered consisting of a bass drum, snare drum and cymbal.
In the mid-1920s drummers realised the potential and began experimenting with adding different sounds such as triangles, cowbells, and tambourines. Few of these “noisemakers” survived, however the tom-toms and the more muted hi-hat have stood the test of time.
Drums go mainstream
Gene Krupa is one of the most important figures in the history of drumming. He established the drums as a solo instrument with his energetic and fast playing. More importantly, in the 1930s he was instrumental in designing what would become the modern drum kit with what was called a “Stripped Down Kit”. He used a combination of parts consisting of a bass drum, snare, two toms, hi-hat and three cymbals.
Drums go loud
As music evolved and rock’n’roll came on the scene, so too did drum kits. In the 1970s they became louder to match amplified instruments like electric guitars. They began taking the bottoms off drums, adding more parts and experimented making drums from different materials to project the sound further, particularly large rock concerts became mainstream. concerts.
Although modern drum kits look complicated, not a lot has changed in the design themselves, or the basic kit design since the 1940s. It’s fundamentally still stretched skin (although these days synthetic!) over a hollow tube. However, todays drum kits offer far more options than ever before. Every drummer can have their own custom drum set with their choice of different types and sizes of drums, toms, snares and cymbals.
- Kunto Hartono holds the record for the longest drum session at 122 hours and 25 minutes
- Drumming burns more calories than cycling in the same amount of time
- Drumming is good for your brain! Researchers says the benefits are similar to meditation
Want to learn more?
You can read more about the benefits of learning the drums as an adult on our blog post here.
Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about drum lessons at IWIM, please email us here.