What is a Trap Set?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Often referred to as a drum kit, the trap set is a collection of drums and accompanying percussion instruments that can be easily played by a single drummer. Generally, it can be loaded into a few cases that can easily be carried by one person, and require only a minimum of set up time before the drum set can be played.

The basic trap set includes a bass drum that is accompanied by two tom toms that are usually mounted on top of the bass drum. It is not unusual for a snare drum to also be included as part of drum kits. One of two hi hat sets of cymbals complete the basic trap set. The bass drum and usually at least one set of cymbals are usually played with the use of a foot pedal, while drumsticks and brushes are used to play the remaining drums and cymbal.

There are several other percussion instruments that may be used to enhance basic trap sets. Chimes, wood blocks, and cowbells can be added to the basic equipment, allowing the drummer to create rhythm tracks with additional layers of sound. The additional percussion elements included with expanded drum kits usually attach to the drums in some manner, although they may also be freestanding.


The trap set has long been a favorite choice for quartets and other small musical groups that contain less than ten members. The most popular musical quartets of the 1960s tended to rely upon it for just about all the percussion needs required by the rock and roll performances of the day. At times, the components of the basic trap set were augmented with use of such percussion instruments as tambourines or maracas. Along with rock groups who placed a heavy premium on producing a quality sound on stage, jazz musicians also tended to make great use of the trap set. Often, there was an emphasis on the use of the cymbals and the snare drum to create the right beat for a jazz composition.


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