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What Are the Different Drum Parts?

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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2016
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A basic five-piece drum set consists of a snare drum, bass drum, rack tom, floor tom, and a cymbal. Each drum can be broken down into five basic parts. Three of the largest drum parts include the shell, the head, and the rim. The remaining drum parts include the tension rods and the lugs.

Every drum has a basic shell, which is the hollow, cylinder-shaped body of the drum. It is the most readily recognizable of all the drum parts. Generally, it is made of wood, acrylic, or a composite, but in some instances, it is made of metal or carbon fiber. The material that the shell is made from can greatly affect the sound and tone of the drum. Each shell has a small hole in it, called the vent hole, which allows air to escape when the drum is struck, which in turn improves the resonance of the instrument.

The head is also easily identifiable among drum parts. Typically made from a flexible synthetic plastic, the drum head stretches over the cylindrical opening on the shell. Most drums have a head on both the top and the bottom of the body. The top head, sometimes called the batter is the part that a drummer strikes when playing the instrument. The bottom head is there for resonance and is usually thinner than the top head.

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Metal or wooden rings called the rims or hoops are the drum parts that hold the heads in place. Snares and toms generally have metal rings, while bass drums often have wooden rings. Drummers can adjust and tighten the rim using a series of metal rods along the sides of the shell, called tension rods. There can be anywhere from five to ten tension rods on a drum, and they are usually held in place by metal brackets called drum lugs. Drum lugs are actually attached to the shell of a drum and appear in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some drums also have mounting devices attached to the bottoms, which allow the drums to be secured on stands and angled to suit the drummer's needs. Most drummers play their instruments using drumsticks or, as in the case of bongo drums, their hands. Drummers, however, do not play bass drums with sticks or their hands. Instead, they strike bass drums using foot pedals with cushioned mallets attached. The foot pedal is not usually attached to the bass drum itself, but it is still considered to be an integral part of the instrument.

Various types of drums have other specialized drum parts. For instance, a snare drum has thin wires running across the base of the batter head. These wires, which are attached by a special bracket and operated by a lever on the outside of the drum, give the snare its distinctive sound. As another example, most bass drums do not have tension rods. Rather, drummers adjust the tension with a specialized bracket called a claw hook, not normally seen on either the snare drum or the toms.

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