Drums Anatomy – Parts of a Drum Set Explained

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Written By Will Fenton

Founder of MidderMusic. From numerous bands to stints working in music shops, read more about me on the 'Here's My Story' page!

Are you thinking about taking drum lessons and you want to explore more about the instrument?

You’ve come to the right place!

In today’s article, we will talk about the parts of a drum set.

To be more precise, we will name all the parts of the typical five-piece drum set and explain their function.

Parts of a Drum Set

A five-piece drum set is by far the most popular drum set. 

The number ‘five’ is referring to the number of drums in the kit – so cymbals and a hi-hat stand are not included.

To give you a better idea of what it looks like, here is a five-piece drum set diagram:

Five-piece drum set diagram.

The five-piece drum set is the most common configuration that provides rhythmic foundation for many music genres.

Also, it’s compact yet it gives you a good tonal diversity, and that’s why it’s so popular among beginning drummers as well as professional drummers.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at all the drumset names. 

1. Snare Drum 

Snare drum

One of the most important drum parts is a snare drum. It’s the center of a set up, and it’s often used to keep the beat in a piece.

It’s a rather shallow drum, and it produces a sharp, bright sound. This short staccato sound is produced thanks to its stiff wires that are held under tension against the lower skin.

These suspended snare wires are connected via a snare strainer. This device also allows you to alter the tension of the wires and switch them on or off. 

The shell of a snare drum is usually manufactured from metal or wood. The inner ply of a shell has a significant effect on the sound, while the material for exterior ply is selected mostly for aesthetic reasons.

Generally, wooden snares provide a warmer sound and metal snares are often louder and brighter. The depth of a snare affects the sound too – larger drums are usually louder.

All in all, a snare drum is an integral part of a drum set, and understanding how it works is essential for every drummer. 

2. Bass Drum (Kick Drum)

Bass Drum (Kick Drum)

Bass drum is also one of the essential pieces of a drum set. It’s also the largest drum in a drum kit.

A bass drum is also a deepest-sounding drum part. It produces a note of low definite or indefinite pitch.

It’s usually cylindrical and around 22” in diameter. It has a depth of about 16”, but you can also purchase a different variety.

The diameter of a shell affects the pitch – a wider bass drum produces a lower note. However, the size doesn’t affect the volume, and musicians often choose it based on convenience or aesthetics.

On the other hand, the shell’s material does have an influence on the sound. For instance, wooden materials sound warmer than plastic.

There are also two skins on a kick drum – a batter skin (hit with a drum pedal) and a resonator skin (faces the audience.)

In many cases, a bass drum is used to mark or keep time. For example, marching bands use it to produce tempo. 

Either way, the bass drum is usually hit on the 1st and 3rd crotchet of a bar, played using a foot pedal (bass drum pedal or a kick drum pedal.) That being said, this part of a drum should be positioned on the floor in front of your dominant leg.

3. Hi-Hats

Hi-Hats

The next drum set name parts you should know are hi-hats.

In short, hi-hats is a combination of two cymbals and a pedal mounted on a metal stand. And that’s why they’re called hi-hats (high hats) – they are high compared to the low boys that were made in the 1990s.

The cymbals come in different sizes, but they are mostly produced with a diameter of around 14”.

They can be played with a foot pedal or by striking them with drum sticks. Either way, they produce a short, crisp sound referred to as a ‘chick’. Compared to other cymbals, it’s a rather high-pitched sound. 

In general, hi-hats can be used in many ways. You can clap together with your left foot, use the pedal to keep the cymbals closed together, or use your foot to keep them partly open. You can also create a crash tone which is known as splashing.

Moreover, you can strike different parts of the cymbal and produce a brighter or a longer-lasting note. 

Experienced drummers usually experiment with distinct hi-hat techniques. For example, Phil Rudd (AC/DC) accentuates the hi-hat hit on each beat and plays it softly in between.

4. Toms 

Toms 

These components of a drum set look similar to the bass drum. 

They are smaller though – they usually range between 6” and 20” in diameter. Jazz drum sets often have toms with shells ranging from 10”, 12” and 14” in diameter, and rock drummers use a set with a 12”, 13” and 16” in diameter. 

They are also called tom-toms, and they were added to the standard drum kit in the early part of the 20th century.

Tom drums are now an important part of drums anatomy. They are used to add fills between tempo changes or different parts of a song.

In regards to tone, they sound deeper than the snare. However, the pitch is not as low as the bass drum. The note they produce can resonate longer though.

Some toms have both a batter skin and a resonant skin, but the latter isn’t always used. 

When it comes to the tom drums parts and setup, most drum kits include a hi, mid, and a floor tom. The mid and hi toms are usually mounted on a frame above the bass drum. And since they have different positions, low and floor toms require a different set up.

5. Ride Cymbal

Ride Cymbal

We’ve covered the essential drum set names: snare drum, bass drum, and three tom toms. But we also need to mention cymbals.

The ride cymbal is usually the largest of the cymbals, with around 20” in diameter.

It’s positioned on the right-hand side of the drum set, above the floor tom. It’s played the same way you play hi-hats, just without the floor pedal. 

It’s usually made from a copper and zinc alloy, and it has a bell-shaped middle. So if you hit the edge of a ride cymbal, you’ll get a lower pitch ping. And if you hit the middle, you’ll get a bright tone.

However, the ride cymbal sounds deeper than the hi-hat, and it can sustain for much longer.

The sound it produces is also affected by the sticks you use. Wooden drum sticks produce a quiet, smooth sound, and nylon tipped sticks produce a brighter ping.

Either way, unlike crash cymbals, ride cymbals shouldn’t be struck with too much force.

6. Crash Cymbal

Crash Cymbal

In regards to the size, crash cymbals are somewhere between hi-hats and ride cymbals. They are usually around 16” in diameter.

Most crash cymbals are manufactured from copper, which gives them the loudness they’re known for.

Crash cymbals are much louder and brighter than other cymbals, and their notes can be sustained for a longer period of time.

They are positioned above the toms, and they usually come with a metal stand so they can be easily reached.

There are different crash cymbal techniques, so it all depends on your skills and style. But either way, you need to hit the crash cymbal pretty hard. 

After all, crash cymbals are used to enhance fills or build tension during the crescendo. 

You can also try a technique called riding the crash which allows you to tap out rhythms. It’s a similar style to playing hi-hats or a ride.

Experienced drummers use multiple crash cymbals in different sizes. For instance, rock and metal songs require more powerful sounds that can be produced with two or three crash hits.

7. Other Percussion Items 

As you can see in our labeled drum set in the beginning of the article, we’ve covered all the main parts of a standard drum set. 

However, there are other items and accessories that drummers like to use.

For example, there are more types of cymbals popular in different genres of music. 

 Other Percussion Items of a drum kit.

Splash Cymbal

You can use a splash cymbal to enhance your fills, riffs, and solos.

Splash cymbals are the smallest accent cymbals –  are around 8” in diameter. So in a way, the splash cymbal works as a tiny crash.

Crash/Ride Cymbal

As the name suggests, crash/rides cymbals are hybrids of crash and ride cymbals. 

It’s a slightly tapered cymbal, and it’s normally in the 18” – 20” range.

Crash/ride cymbals can be played as either a ride or a crash cymbal, or as a combination of the two. 

That being said, they are ideal for drummers who are on a budget. Basically, you would get two items for the price of one.

But experienced and professional drummers use a crash/ride cymbal as an additional part of a drum kit. It’s a convenient piece that can enrich your sound and performance.

China Cymbal 

China cymbals are distinct types of crash cymbals that produce a bright, powerful sound.

You can recognize them by an upturned rim edge and a bell-shaped center. But they come in different shapes and sizes. Some smaller models are only 8” in diameter.

China-type cymbals are used in rock and metal music, but you can also hear them in jazz and Latin songs. Depending on the technique you use, they can produce different sounds.

Stack Cymbal 

Some drummers also use stack cymbals – they stack two or more cymbals on top of each other.

That way, cymbals dampen each other. The result is a recognizable short crash sound.

So, by using stack cymbals, musicians get a tight sound that cuts through the overall sound. It’s an effective way of accenting certain fills or grooves. 

Cowbell

Cowbell for a drum kit.

Yes, this cowbell looks like a traditional cowbell used by herdsmen to keep track of their cows.

In a drum kit, the cowbell is a handheld idiophone that produces a clunky sound. 

It’s usually added to a drum kit via a wingnut or clamp, but it can also be set on a separate stand. 

Some musicians use multiple cowbells in different sizes, and that gives them more sonic diversity. In general, cowbells are mostly used in rock, salsa, and Latin genres.

Larger cowbells produce a lower-pitched sound. The type of the material you use also affects the sound. So it all depends on your style and the type of sound you want to produce.

Electronic Parts of a Drum Kit 

We also want to mention electronic drum set parts as they are becoming more and more popular.

Electronic drum pieces are very convenient for beginner drummers because they can be played at low volume. So if you want to practice drums at home, this might be a good solution.

Also, they are usually very light, so you can easily collapse them away and transport them.

Drum Anatomy – Parts of a Drum Set – Final Thoughts 

It’s time to wrap things up.

Hopefully, this article helped you understand how different drum parts work. 

Now you can continue your drum lessons with more knowledge and confidence! 

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