Understanding the Basic History of Drums

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					Understanding the Basic History of Drums

Percussion, or hitting one object with another to make
sound, is one of the oldest means of instrumental noise
making. In ancient civilizations and primitive tribes of
peoples, striking hollowed out logs was perhaps the
earliest form of percussion.

That musical group has grown and developed over time
to include a vast array of instruments. But perhaps the
instrument most connected with the instrumental
family of percussion is the drum.

What is a Drum?
Drums have their own unique history outside of the blanket history of percussion because a drum is
designed fundamentally different from the logs and rocks and things that the ancients were pounding
on to make noise. A drum is constructed by stretching a membrane across a hollow base.

                                                           It is the membrane, now synthetic but
                                                           traditionally made from animal skin, which
                                                           produces the actual sound of a drum when
                                                           struck by a mallet or stick. Different textures
                                                           and degrees of tightness to which the
                                                           membrane is stretch will determine the tone of
                                                           the drum.

                                                           True drums then, not simply logs, have likewise
                                                           been in existence for centuries. As early as
                                                           5500 BC drums were in use in ancient China
                                                           and Africa and records of drums being used by
                                                           the native peoples of Chile has been found
                                                           dating back thousands of years

Wartime Drums
Other early civilizations and primitive tribes from around the globe also used drums within their own
cultures. This use was mainly for shamanistic rituals or other religious ceremonies or for use in battle or
the preparation for battle.
The use of pre-battle rituals is especially prevalent among the early tribes of peoples. War dances and
ceremonies making extensive use of drums can be found in most early tribes the world over.

Celebrations of victory in battle likewise employed widespread drumming for these peoples. And as the
world progressed the use of drums continued to revolve around warfare.

                                            The modernizing colonial armies of western powers during
                                            the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used drums
                                            directly on the battlefield to a great extent. The picture is
                                            easily remembered in most minds of a line of troops with
                                            muskets facing a similar but opposing line of soldiers and
                                            inevitably in this memorization is found a man beating on
                                            the drum.

                                            This was because the drums of the massive western armies
                                            were used as a form of communication between the
                                            generals and their soldiers. Even amongst the chaos of
                                            battle a rhythmic drum could be heard and therefore orders
                                            could be issued based upon the variations of that rhythm.

Music and Drums
Out of religious ceremony and wartime necessity
evolved the entertainment drum that we recognize
today. Developing to its modern form in the 1930s in
the musically rich city or New Orleans, a standard drum
kit comprising different styles of drums and symbols
arranged together in a way that allows for one musician
to play multiple kinds of drums at once was born.

These modern compositions of drums used through the
centuries have even lead to the creation of sound bite
drum samples. Drum samples are recorded drum beats,
rhythms, and sounds that are sold to those who are
interested in the music without the musician.

If you enjoyed learning about the history of drums, you may be interested in learning more about
graphic arts. Many successful musicians today have become designers and otherwise involved in the

They find that becoming involved in graphics arts helps them find a more practical way to apply their
skills to the real world. Look into a graphic arts program today to see if it is a good fit for you.

Photo Credit: pippoapg, -RejiK, dbnunley, & B Rosen via PhotoPin cc

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Description: Drums are an integral part of our music experience in today's world, but where did these instruments originate and what were they used for in the past?