Percussion & Drumming Glossary

The biggest drumming glossary all in one place! And always more being added!

This glossary will tend to stay away from super general musical terms and try to only focus on percussion-related terminology, or words needed or used to describe percussion terminology and instrumentation. (For example “Quarter Note” will not be listed, but “BPM” will be included as it’s needed to identify the term “Beat.”) Most rudiment names will also not be included as there is a rapidly ever-increasing number of them and it would eclipse the rest of this list. Many percussion instruments themselves will be included in this list, but it will certainly be an inexhaustive list. Enjoy this long list of percussion words and terms that’s always growing! Contact me if you think a term should be included so that this list may be expanded and more accurate.

Percussion & Drumming Glossary:







Drumstick size longest on market at 16.25″-17.25” long
Drumstick size thickest for non-marching music at 16.00″ long
Drumstick size thicker than 5A at 16.00”-17.00” long
4/4 Time
See “Common Time”
Drumstick standard size at 16.00” long
Drumstick size thicker than 3A at 16.00” long
Drumstick size is very thin at 15.00”-15.75” long
Drumstick size longer than 7A at 16.00”-16.50” long
An accent is a note that is played at one dynamic level higher than the written dynamic marking. Some marching groups use two defined heights with the louder one being for accents and anything unaccented being played at the lowest level possible (also see “Taps”).
Accessory Percussion
See “Auxiliary Percussion”
Acoustic Drums
Acoustic drums are any drum instrument that is not digital or electronic. Acoustic drums use the air to transmit sound waves to the listener or to the microphones.
Acrylic Tip
This is an additional drumstick bead covering molded to the drumstick’s playing end which can give it a different sound, tone, and timbre.
Afro Cuban
Afro-Cuban is a style of music that comes from both African and Cuban rhythms, instruments, and melodies.
See “Cabasa”
An agogo is a bell-style instrument from Nigeria and is used in Afro-Caribbean music.
Air Drumming
Air drumming involves no drums and no drumsticks. People air drum by flailing their arms in the air as if a drum set was in front of them, usually when listening to music they enjoy, sometimes with expressive drum sounds.
American Grip
The American style drumstick grip is a blend between the French grip and German grip. The backs of the hands and knuckles angle slightly downward toward the ground.
Antique Cymbals
See “Crotales”
Arounds is a term in marching tenor drumming where the music is played using more than one drum. When learning a tenor drum part the rhythm is played first on one drum before finally moving the melody around the pitched drums later. This movement is referred to as arounds because the hands move around the drums. Arounds can also refer to the different exercises involving moving around the tenor drums in multiple ways or patterns during drumline warmups.
An audible, in drumline, is like a visual but instead you use your voice. This is similar to subdividing, or dutting, because often times the audible keeps time during the rests, but it does not have to.
Auxiliary Percussion
Auxiliary percussion instruments tend to be smaller accessories that can be hung on a rack. Small cymbals, triangles, tambourines, wood blocks, toms, can all be auxiliary instruments. These can be thought of as tertiary, or even background instruments in the percussion world where the melody and harmony have the focus, auxiliary provide the effect.
Similar to a shekere but smaller. Made from a gourd with beads woven around the hollow percussion instrument.
The backbeat on drumset is where the snare drum accented hits are based on the second and fourth beats of the measure. This creates a very moving groove or pattern used in many popular styles.
A backstick is when a note is played with the butt of the drumstick, most often found in marching snarelines. Snarelines tend to struggle sometimes to be as interesting as tenorlines or basslines so they need to add as many flourishes as possible to get attention while tenors and basses just have to play their written part to be visually appealing. This is most obvious when the snares, tenors, and basses are playing in exact unison and the tenors are especially cool just by playing the part as written across multiple drums! Backsticks are closely related to visuals, see “Visual.”
Ball Joint
A ball joint, or ball and socket joint, is a mechanism that allows a tom tom arm or cymbal arm to rotate in practically 360 degrees. It is popular on many drumsets and drum hardware accessories. Yamaha drums was one of the first drum companies to popularize this mount.
The bar, or barline, is the visual representation of the beginning and end of a measure on a sheet of music. Music has multiple barlines and they are defined by the time signature.
The top of a snare drum stand is sometimes referred to as a snare drum basket. The metal cradle that holds the snare drum.
Bass Drum
A bass drum is typically the biggest drum on a drumset or in a drumline. This drum provides the low end of the sonic range and is the drum that you’ll feel vibrate your chest. On drumset this drum is played with a foot pedal and in marching band the drum is hung vertically in front of the performer’s face as they reach out to play each side of the drum (both heads are batter and resonant heads).
Bass Drum Beater
This beater is what is attached to the bass drum pedal to make contact with the bass drum head of a drumset. Beaters can be made of felt, wood, plastic, or many other materials.
Bass Drum Pedal
This pedal is what is attached to the bass drum of a drumset and is played using one foot.
Bass Pedal Spring
This spring allows the bass drum pedal to rebound back off the bass drum head in order for the foot to press the pedal and play the drum again. The tighter the spring the more rebound the drummer can use but the harder it will be to press the pedal.
Bata Drums
A double headed, hourglass shaped drum originating from Nigeria. It later migrated to Cuba and eventually to the US. These drums can be played in the lap or with a strap around the neck.
Batter Head
This is the head that is hit by the drumsticks. Think of it as the head that is battered by the sticks.
See “Drumline”
Beads are the playing tips of drumsticks. These can be wood or covered in acrylic or plastic. Practice tips use foam to dampen the sound. The shape of the bead can change the sound quality and timbre.
Bearing Edge
The bearing edge of a drum shell is the top tapered brim that the drum head contacts. The angle of this edge is important for sound quality, tone, resonance, and timbre.
A beat divides most measures into equal parts, this is a unit of time and is the most fundamental component to counting music. A measure of 4/4 time signature has 4 beats.
Beat Displacement
This refers to permutations with all rhythms moving forward as a group (as if to copy/paste). Displacement of an eighth-note makes the entire groove sound one eighth-note ahead.
Music incorporating a bolero rhythm.
The bell of a cymbal is the small inflated portion at the center surrounding the mounting hole. This part of the cymbal gives a high pitch cutting sound that drumset players utilize with accents or as the focus of an auxiliary groove. Bells can also refer to a percussion instrument held in your hand, see “Handbells.” A bell can also be as large as a house and are chimed for hours of the clock or during church.
See “Glockenspiel”
Blast Beats
A blast beat is a drumset pattern created by playing a drum, usually the snare drum or even ride cymbal, as fast as possible. This is most commonly done with 16th-notes and is often performed on heavy metal tracks.
Bo-Diddley Beat
A beat that was created and popularized by Bo Diddley, a famous blues guitar player. It stems from an early form of Latin and afro-Cuban rhythms such as the Clave.
The bodhran is an Irish hand drum. It’s round with a cylindrical frame and it is covered with an animal skin head.
Bolero Rhythm
A slow repeating rhythm that is ballad-like.
See “Castanets”
Bongo drums are two attached drums of slightly different diameter with calfskin or synthetic drum head material stretched to create a medium to high pitch. These drums are played by hand, and sometimes with sticks.
Someone who plays the bongos.
Boom Cymbal Stand
A boom stand, or boom arm, is a cymbal stand that can bend perpendicular to the vertical portion of the upright tripod. This allows the cymbal to be placed in very specific places on the drumset and may be easily manipulated without moving the base of the cymbal stand.
These fun instruments are long brightly colored tubes that are pitched. Used for music education, primarily, these tubes are hit on the floor or legs to create a melody.
Bossa Nova
Brazilian style of music that is influenced by jazz and samba. The word means “new trend” in Portuguese.
Bougarabou Drum
A West African drum shaped like a cone very similar to the djembe.
The bow of the cymbal is closest to the edge, it is used to play ride rhythms on larger cymbals.
Beats Per Minute. How many beats occur within one minute, which defines the tempo of a piece of music (usually the quarter note gets the beat unless otherwise stated).
See “Drum Brain” or “Tenor Brain”
A drum from Ghana that is shaped like a cylinder that creates a low bass sound. This can be played as a hand drum or with a beater / stick.
Brushes are an alternative playing implement to drumsticks. Brushes are much lighter that sticks and can be played in a variety of different ways, styles, and techniques. Brushes are very popular in Jazz drumming.
Burton Grip
Burton grip, named after Gary Burton, is a four-mallet grip consisting of two mallets being held in each hand. This grip is typically used for playing the vibraphone.
Buzz Roll
A buzz roll, or press roll, is a multiple bounced stroke on a drumhead that blurs the articulation of the attack such that it seemingly creates a continuous tone without seams. Buzz rolls are the opposite of open rolls, or rolls that would be used by a traditional marching band or drum corps.
This is a Latin hand percussion instrument with metal beads that freely rotate around a metal cylinder.
This percussion instrument is typically made of a wooden box with a very thin playing surface. The top corners have snare wires attached and the center creates a low end bass sound. The instrument is played by hand most of the time and utilizes a slapping technique. This instrument is popular in flamenco music.
Caption Head
A percussion caption head, or percussion director, is the staff person or teacher in charge of coordinating the percussion section, usually found in a marching band. This person sometimes writes the percussion music and will speak to the judges about percussion at contest critiques with his percussion staff members.
The drum carrier is the device used by marching percussionists to hold the drum to their body while freeing up their hands to play it. Most modern carriers have several adjustment points to make it comfortable while also allowing for the most mobility while playing and moving around the drill field. Most carriers today go over both shoulders and can extend down to the lower back to support the spine.
A cascara is a Latin rhythm usually played on the metal side of the timbale.
Drum cases are plastic, wood, or metal boxes that protect individual drums or cymbals during transport between shows.
This is a hand instrument comprised of two small wood, or plastic, domes mounted on a stick that can clack together. Sometimes these domes are mounted on a flat wood board.
A mid-tempo Afro-Cuban rhythm.
Chalice Drum
See “Goblet Drum”
See “Tubular Bells”
China Cymbals
China cymbals are different than standard crash cymbals and they’re also different than gongs as well. These cymbals create several overtones when struck giving a much fuller sound while also creating some dissonance.
Chops is a term for a drummer’s ability to not only play fast, but play accurate and in verbose styles. It can also refer to their ability to read complicated sheet music rhythms well. Most of the time this term is casually used to describe a drummer’s speed.
Claves are a cuban wood cylindrical instrument, played in pairs, that create a cutting high frequency tone. The Clave rhythm is an asymmetrical groove comprised of a 2+3 or a 3+2 rhythm found in many Latin and Afro-Cuban songs.
A click can refer to either clicking the drumsticks together or clicking a drumstick on the rim of a drum, usually called a rim click.
Click Track
A click track is a dedicated channel heard while recording drums to keep them exactly in time. The click is referring to the metronome. See “Metronome”
A device used to hold the top cymbal onto a hihat stand. See also “Drop Clutch”
Coated Head
A coated drumhead is a batter head that incorporates a very thin film or layer on top that is rough to the touch. This texture creates a warmer tone and timbre and helps articulate brushes when sliding across the drumhead.
Cocktail Kit
Cocktail kits are drumsets that a played while standing up. They are also used for their economic space requirements as the floor tom doubles as the bass drum since the resonant head of the floor tom becomes the batter head for the bass drum using a specialty bass drum pedal.
Common Time
Common time is the opposite of cut time and is synonymous with the 4/4 time signature. Common time is so called because of how common it is used across all genres of music. Common time is symbolized by the uppercase letter C.
Conga drums are similar to bongo drums but are drastically bigger in size, both diameter and especially height. Congas are made of tapered wood shells with a animal skin head stretched on top as the batter head and the bottom open, the long drums serve as resonators. The two drums are different sizes and are attached and mounted on a tall stand.
Someone who plays the congas.
A cowbell is a metallic percussion instrument that’s open on the large end and tapered toward the top where the handle is found. The cowbell is struck by a wooden or sometime metallic stick or mallet. Some cowbells have beader attached internally as you’d typically find on a farm, these cowbells are played by shaking them in the air.
Crash Cymbal
A crash cymbal is the most common type of cymbal. These cymbals are suspended from a stand and are typically hit loudly at the end of drum fills, or at moments of big impacts. Crash cymbals are medium to large in size. This cymbal is referred to as a suspended cymbal in concert and orchestra.
Crash Cymbals
Crash cymbals are two handheld matching cymbals that are crashed together to create a loud culmination or arrival moment. The two cymbals are held by straps using impossible-to-tie crown knots! (Just kidding, they really aren’t that hard!)
Crash/Ride Cymbal
A ride/crash cymbal is a multi-use cymbal that is small and light enough to use as a crash cymbal but also big and heavy enough to play as a ride cymbal. This cymbal is popular with drummers who are looking to save money and avoid buying two separate cymbals.
Crescendo is the term used to refer to music getting louder evenly over a duration of time. Often you’ll find dynamic markings on both sides of the crescendo for reference.
Cross Stick
Cross stick technique is when a drumstick is used nearly flat on the drum and the rim is struck to create a light but cutting sound. The palm of the hand is used as a resonating chamber to enhance the sound’s quality and vibrance. Cross stick can also refer to when a stick is pressed against the drum head and the other stick then hits it to create a wooden click that is supported by the lower frequency of the drum underneath.
A crossover is typically found in marching tenor drumming, but does occur elsewhere in percussion, where one hand physically crosses over the other to play a drum.
Crown Knot
The knot used to tie straps to crash cymbals.
Small thick cymbals connected to a backing board and arranged by pitch, similar to a glockenspiel.
A friction drum from Brazil. A stick is placed through the center of the drum’s head and, using the hand to create friction, it reverberates through the drum.
Cymbals create the high frequency bright metallic effects in percussion music. These round concave disc-like metallic instruments are made from a very specific bronze and copper alloy and are mounting on stands or held by straps. These can be played by using sticks, mallets, or even by hand! Cymbals can create different sounds on their different parts such as the bell, the bow, and the edge. Popular cymbals include ride, crash, splash, China, hihats, and suspended cymbals. Gongs are also a similar type of instrument.
Cymbal Bell
See “Bell”
Cymbal Felts
Felts are placed directly under and over the cymbal when mounting on stands. The bottom felt prevents the metal from touching and hard surfaces underneath it such as the sleeve or stand. The top felt prevents the cymbal from touch any hard surfaces directly above it such as the wing nut.
Cymbal Seat
The seat can be a seperate piece or can be combined with the sleeve. The standalone seat is a metal washer that holds the bottom felt and inner sleeve in position to receive the cymbal when mounting. The seat holds the full weight of the cymbal.
Cymbal Sleeves
Cymbal sleeves can be stand-alone plastic inserts or can be combined with the cymbal seat. A sleeve covers the metallic post of the cymbal stand that the cymbal slides down. Covering the post prevents any metal on metal rubbing when the cymbal is struck which would cause buzzing as the cymbal reverborates.
Cymbal Stacker
A mounting device that allows multiple cymbals to be mounted on top of one another.
Cymbal Stand
The cymbal stand is a metal tripod that holds the cymbal in place. These can be straight stands or boom stands. Sometimes cymbal arms or boom arms by themselves are referred to as cymbal stands even though they only clamp to an existing stand.
See “Goblet Drum”
See “Goblet Drum”
See “Goblet Drum”
The length of time for the instrument’s sound to totally dissipate.
Musical phrases that decrease in volume over a set duration.
See “Goblet Drum”
See “Secondary Stroke”
Die Cast
This refers to a metal part or metal drum being formed by a cast which is filled by pouring molten metal inside. Die cast metal rims are very popular on drum sets.
See “Beat Displacement”
A West African hand drum made of wood with animal skin stretched across the large top.
Djun Djun
A West African low sounding drum that is similar to a djembe but played with a stick or mallet.
Double Bass Drum
Double bass drums literally two bass drums on a drum set. A double bass kit refers to the two independent bass drums played by single bass drum pedals by each foot.
Double Bass Pedal
A double bass pedal refers to a bass drum pedal with an extension arm allowing a second pedal to play a single bass drum.
Double Braced Hardware
This refers to hardware with a pair of metal braces on each leg of the tripod. Double braced hardware is more sturdy than single braced hardware and can more easily hold heavier items such as drums or cymbals.
Double Stop
A double stop refers to both drumsticks hitting the drum head at the exact same time from the exact same height. Note: this is different from a flam.
Double-Stroke Roll
See “Open Roll”
See “Goblet Drum”
Down Stroke
A downstroke refers to the action of hitting a drumhead with a downward motion. This is the opposite of an upstroke.
The downbeat refers to the primary notes in a measure divided evenly in most time signatures. The downbeat is also used by musicians to indicate the first count of a measure.
A very common drum rudiment where a bounced stroke precedes a primary stroke by the opposite hand.
Drop Clutch
A drop clutch is similar to a regular hihat clutch except it can allow the top cymbal to disconnect and fall flat onto the bottom cymbal. This device is often used to free up a drummer’s foot to play a double bass drum or pedal.
A drum is a cylindrical instrument often made of wood or metal. It has a drum head stretched across one, or both openings. A drum is played using drumsticks or simply by hand.
Drum Beat
A drum beat can mean the sound a drum makes and also the rhythm that is being played on the drum.
Drum Brain
The control center for an electronic drumset or electric drum. The brain sets the sound samples for each drum as well as all the extra settings needed by the electric kit.
Drum Case
See “Case”
Drum Four
Drum four is the biggest drum on a set of marching tenor drums. Often times this drum is 13″ or 14″ in diameter.
Drum Head
See “Head”
Drum Key
See “Key”
Drum Kit
See “Drum Set”
Drum Lessons
Contact me for lessons here!
Drum Lick
See “Lick”
Drum One
Drum one is fourth biggest drum on a set of marching tenor drums. Often times this drum is 8″ or 10″ in diameter).
Drum Rim
See “Rim”
Drum Roll
A drum roll is a two handed rudiment that can be played using a buzz (press roll) or an open bounced stroke (open roll). If you say “drum roll please” out loud it will usually cause the people around you to chaotically bang on the furniture as haphazardly as possible.
Drum Rudiment
See “Rudiments”
Drum Set or Drumset
A drumset is a collection of drums and cymbals arranged around a centralized point where the drummer sits. This usually includes a bass drum, snare drum, tom toms, crash cymbal, ride cymbal, and hihat along with all the mounting hardware necessary.
Drum Solo
A drum solo is a most commonly found on drum set where the drummer performs a musical passage or phrase completely alone. Sometimes the drum solo is accompanied by long sustained notes by other instrumentalists where the drums is the primary focus for an extended period of time. A drum solo can also refer to a marching band or drum corps production where the percussion sections are the only ones playing. In this case you might usually see individual section solos within the overall drum solo, aka percussion feature.
Drum Sticks
Specialty implements used to play the drums. Sticks are shaped in a specific way to include parts such as the bead, neck, shaft, and butt.
Drum Tabs
Drum tabs are like guitar tabs in that they are a simple coded way to write out a drum part. Drum tabs are commonly found online where the guitar part has been written for a song and the drum part has been added to supplement it. This is similar to sheet music.
Drum Tech
A drum tech is a hired person who sets up a drum set, tunes the drums, and repairs them. A drum tech knows all the specific needs of the performing drummer in terms of placement of drums as well as during the performance. A drum tech also tears down and maintains the drums after a show.
Drum Three
Drum three is the second biggest drum on a set of marching tenor drums. Often times this drum is 12″ or 13″ in diameter.
Drum Throne
This is the seat that a drumset player sits on behind a drum kit. Usually these are small circle shaped cushioned stools but can be lavishly comfortable seats as well!
Drum Two
Drum two is the third biggest drum on a set of marching tenor drums. Often times this drum is 10″ or 12″ in diameter.
A drumline is a section of multiple marching drummers and is a main section of a marching band or drum corps. Typically composed of snare drums, tenor drums, pitched bass drums, and sometimes crash cymbals and flub drums. Sometimes referred to as the battery, the drumline keeps the marching in time.
A drummer is someone who plays the drums!
See “Goblet Drum”
See “Goblet Drum”
Dummy Hat
This type of hihat mount does not require a pedal. This cymbal arm holds the two hihat cymbals together permanently without the need of a foot. This is similar to a cymbal stacker.
See “Subdivide”
Dynamics are the volume levels found in the music. Most marching groups with define the dynamics using heights in increments of three inches per dynamic level.
See “Electronic Drums”
Effects Cymbal
An effects cymbal is usually a small splash cymbal or a cymbal with an interesting sound. These are cymbals that are secondary and are not played as a primary element of a drumset as the hihats, crash, and ride would be. These cymbals tend to spice up the drumset or song.
Egg Shakers
Egg shakers are similar to maracas but are shaped like a chicken egg and are sometimes dyed in fun colors. The small pellets inside create a nice texture when played by hand. These are good musical education tools.
Electronic Drums
Electronic drums are the opposite of acoustic drums. These drums are entirely digital in sound and use physical drum pads that a drummer hits with drum sticks. These drumsets allow for a pure signal with no noise created during recording. These are sometimes called electric drums.
Ewe Drum
This is a hand drum from West Africa that is tuned by peg and is played by hand or a stick.
A very thick backbeat with snare drum on counts two and four.
Feet can refer to the small pegs or thin metal protrusions that are found on the bottom of a marching snare drum to prevent the snare wires and snare mechanism from touching the ground when the drum is not being worn.
Felt Mallets
Felt mallets are some of the softest materials used as drum implements. Felt mallets are often coated in a felt cover or ring so that the articulation is reduced greatly and the sound is much lighter.
A fill, or drum fill, is a series of drums that lead the music into the next phrase. Usually fills are comprised of most tom toms on the drum set, but any part of the drumset can be used. Sometimes longer fills can be played across multiple measures, and even longer fills can be sometimes considered short drum solos.
Finger Cymbals
Finger cymbals are tiny metal cymbals that use elastic straps to wrap around a percussionist’s fingers. These produce a fine delicate sound when they are grazed together.
A flam is a drum rudiment where a single grace note is played just ahead of a primary stroke by the opposite hand. The duration between the grace note and primary stroke can be modified based on the style of drumming such as concert or marching. Note, this is different than a double-stop.
Flam Tap
This is a drum rudiment where a tap is added after the flammed note, by the same hand as the primary stroke. This is similar to Inverted Flam Taps where the tap is played by the opposite hand as the primary stroke.
Flipping a drumstick in the air is a type of visual. See “Visual”
Floor Tom
Floor toms tend to be the biggest tom toms on a drum set, they are usually too heavy to mount on a rack so they require legs to hold them up from the floor. Floor toms tend to have three legs that can independently adjust in height.
Floor Tom Legs
Floor tom legs are the vertical posts on which the floor tom shell clamps onto. The base of the legs are flared outward to give a bigger footprint and lower the center of gravity for stability.
Flub Drum
A flub drum is a marching drum that is a mix between a tom tom and a bass drum. Played horizontally like a snare drum these drums have a mid voice.
Foot Pedal
A device used to play a percussion instrument with a foot rather than a hand. Bass drum and hihat pedals are popular on drum sets while some mallet instruments also use a pedal to adjust the sound of their instruments such as piano or vibraphone.
Foot Plate
This is the flat part of the pedal that the foot rests on, lowering this plate activates the pedal.
Four Drum
See “Drum Four”
Four Mallet Grip
A four-mallet grip allows a performer to utilize two implements in a single hand. This allows mallet instruments to play four-note chords as opposed to just two notes at once.
Four on the Floor
This phrase refers to playing only the four downbeats on the bass drum during a groove in common time on drumset. This groove can be simple but is very driving and popular in dance music.
Fours is a term used by marching bass drummers often when playing 32nd notes. The term refers to playing a fast grouping of four single strokes.
Frame Drum
This is one of the most ancient instruments in the world. A large wide head with a much shorter shell, or frame.
Free Floating Shell
A free floating drum shell has no mounting hardware or screws attached to it, it is undisturbed. The tensioning system avoids mounting to the shell directly.
French Grip
A French drumstick grip is a way of holding the drumstick so that your hands are turned over so that the thumbs are facing up. This grip is used by timpani players.
Front Ensemble
See “Pit”
The fulcrum is the point at which a lever pivots, in drumming this is often found to be in the wrist or where the fingers meet the drumstick. The drummer’s fulcrum will move based on how far the implement is traveling and can be as far up as the elbow (or more).
A Brazilian metal rattle instrument similar to a maraca.
Garfield Grip
A crash cymbal grip used to disperse the weight of the cymbals across the entire hand.
German Grip
German grip is a drumstick grip with the back of your hands remaining flat (or parallel to the playing surface).
Ghost Note
Ghost notes are similar to taps but can be even softer, barely glancing the drum head. Ghost notes are mainly inserted for the drummer to feel the groove more and have much more to do with timing and sound.
This is a metallic pitched instrument played with mallets that is very high in frequency. Sometimes abbreviated to glock.
Goblet Drum
A middle eastern drum shaped like a goblet. Popular in many countries such as India, Pakistan, Morocco, and Egypt. Made of metal or ceramic with a single drum head on top played by hand.
A gock drum is the smallest drum or drums on a set of marching tenors. This drum is also called a spock or shot drum. A gock block is similar to a woodblock but not made from wood. The gock block has a great projection and cutting sound so it is often used to keep musicians in time, especially on the marching band field.
A gong is a cymbal hung vertically on a stand that is played with a large specialty gong mallet. Gongs range in size and can be the biggest cymbals in percussion. Gongs have many overtones and will vary by size and manufacturing techniques.
A hollowed out gourd is used as a percussion instrument and can be played with a metallic rod that slides along the ridges on its side creating a unique ratcheting sound popular in latin music.
Grace Note
A grace note is a soft low note preceding a louder primary stroke by the opposite hand. Grace notes occur just slightly before the accent note and add thickness and texture to a musical phrase. See also “Flam”
A grip is a specific way to hold the drumsticks or mallets. There are many types of grips and they have all been developed to serve a specific purpose
A groove, or drum groove, is a pattern played by the drummer that gives a song it’s feel or specific rhythm. Grooves help energize a song and give it direction. Being ‘in the groove’ is similar to being ‘in the pocket’ meaning the rhythm is exactly in time and feels right in the sweet spot.
A drum rhythm used in a rhumba, from Afro Cuban music.
See “Gourd”
A half-time feel changes the way a song sounds to the audience. Often the snare drum changes from a back beat pattern to hitting on count three once per measure. Half time is also when a marching band performs during a football game.
Hand Bells
Hand bells are small ringing instruments held in the hands that produces a nice warm metallic sound. Oftentimes multiple performers will create a full octave of pitches by standing in a line holding two hand bells each.
Hand Drums
Hand drums are any drum with a drum head that can be played without the use of an implement such as a drumstick. Hand drums can use implements to produce sound as well, but are primarily struck by the fingers, palm, or fist.
Hand Percussion
Hand percussion instruments differ from hand drums as hand percussion tends to refer to percussion held in the performers hands such as maracas, claves, or shakers. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Hang Drum
A hang drum is a hand percussion instrument that is domed and rests on the percussionist’s lap. Using the fingers to slap hammered concave sections of the instrument creates warm harmonic sounds that can be used to create wonderful and relaxing melodies.
See “Carrier”
See “Hihat”
A head is any type of membrane stretched over an opening to create a playing surface for a drum. Some heads are organic such as animal skin like goatskin or cowhide. Most drum heads are manufactured in a factory from a combination of materials.
Headless Tambourine
This is a tambourine without a membrane stretched across its opening. This style of tambourine is played by slapping the frame with the hand or body.
See “Dynamic”
A hihat, or hi-hat, is set of two cymbals mounted so that their edges are touching. These are usually mounted on a hihat stand that allows for them to be opened or closed with a foot pedal giving the performer a variety of sounds.
High Tom
A high tom is the highest pitched tom tom on a drum set, or in a concert tom setup. This drum is written higher on the staff in sheet music as well. High toms are most often mounted.
Hihat Stand
A hihat stand is a specialty stand that allows the hihat cymbals to be attached and controlled using a foot pedal. Pressing the pedal down closes the cymbals together while lifting the foot will open the cymbals and spread them apart.
A hoop is a wood or metal ring that gives even tension to the drum head. Tension rods are spaced evenly around the hoop and tightened into the lugs mounted on the drum’s shell and the hoop is squeezed down around the edge of the drum head. Hoops are very common on bass drums for example.
Hybrid Drum Set
A hybrid drum set, or hybrid kit, is a drumset that consists of both acoustic and electronic drums. A hybrid kit would be recorded with traditional microphones as well as digitally through the use of a brain module that the electronic drums are connected to. This setup gives the best of both worlds and allows for a traditional drumset sound with some extra intricate electronic sounds or triggers available on demand.
This is a mounting system usually found on tom toms, though not as popular as traditional mounts. Mounting with this system attaches the stand directly to the rim of a drum which allows the shell to reverborate freely and give the drum a higher quality sound. This is similar to a free floating shell.
Idiophones create sound through the vibration of their bodies after being hit with the hand or implement.
Independence is a term used to describe being able to play different rhythms on different drums simultaneously. It is part of the coordination process for a drummer to grow their independence to be able to play 2, 3, or more drums and rhythms at the same time.
Jungle Kit
A jungle kit is a small drumset that fits inside itself while traveling. The bass drum usually doubles as the case and the other drums and cymbals all fit inside each other like a nesting doll.
See “Timpani”
Kevlar Head
A kevlar head is a type of marching snare drum head that can withstand higher tensions and higher velocity drum strokes. Similar to a mylar head but made using different compounds.
A drum key, tee key, T-key, or just key, is a tool used to add or remove tension from a standard drum head through the use of tension rods. Marching drums use a high tension key that has longer arms which gives more leverage while tuning at higher tensions.
Kick Drum
See “Bass Drum”
Kidi Drum
A drum played with sticks in the same family as a conga drum. Tuning pegs are used and the bottom of the drum is solid rather than open.
Kids Drums
Kids drums, or junior kits, are drums designed for a smaller performer and are often used in music education.
Latin Drumming
Prominent rhythms from Latin America define this style of drumming. Many different styles of drumming are included in the term Latin drumming.
Latin Drums
Drums used in Latin drumming. These instruments are from the Afro-Cuban and Latin-American cultures.
Legato Stroke
A legato stroke is a smooth uninterrupted motion from the starting height of the drumstick and rebounding back up from the drum head. The motion of a legato stroke is seamless and utilizes the drum’s rebound unlike the staccato stroke. Legato strokes are sometimes referred to as upstrokes.
A lick, or drum lick, is a short phrase or passage that is created by a drummer and is usually quite catchy or cool. Often drummers will show each other interesting drum licks that they’ve learned or wrote for their music.
Linear Drumming
This is a type of drumming that is common on a drumset. Linear drumming means that no two drums or cymbals are played at the exact same time, so the drum groove is created by playing individual instruments across the measure. Often times linear grooves are repeated patterns or even ostinatos.
Log Drum
This instrument is played with beaters and uses a hollowed out body, traditionally made from an actual log, with different size slits cut into the top to create varying pitches.
Low Tom
A low tom is simply a lower pitched larger tom tom usually found on a drum set or a concert tom rack. Lower toms are written on the lower staves of percussion sheet music. Low toms can sometimes be mounted or can be floor toms as well.
This term is sometimes a misnomer because drummers tend to refer to tension rods as lugs. Lugs are actually the housing that is often screwed into the shell of the drum that receives the tension rod. The tension rods are twisted into the lug in order to create tension on the drum head.
Mallet Instruments
Mallet instruments are any percussion instrument that is commonly played with mallets. These usually refer to instruments like the marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, or xylophone.
Mallets are the implements used to play mallet percussion instruments. Mallets are typically thin wood sticks with large balls of yarn or felt wrapped around the tip to create a softer playing surface. However, some mallets are hard and can be made of wood or even metal to create bright articulations from the instrument. Some drums are also played using mallets.
A mambo is a Cuban style of rhythmic music and dance.
Maracas are hand percussion instruments that have hollow spheres at the top that contain beads which create a nice textured sound when shaken. These are often played in pairs using both hands.
Marcato Stroke
A marcato stroke is a loose term and lesser-known than legato and staccato strokes. The word marcato simply means ‘marked’ so usually a marcato stroke is accented. The stroke would be played louder and more forcefully than a legato note. Some groups define marcato notes to be two heights above the written dynamic (much like an accent is one height above the written dynamic level).
Marching Percussion
Marching percussion refers to any percussion instrument that is typically found within a marching band or drum corps. Traditionally, all marching percussion instruments were worn and carried around the football field including marimbas, and timpani. Today the front ensemble is home to the largest of the stationary percussion instruments that are no longer carried around the field. These are still usually referred to as marching percussion instruments and they do have to remain mobile as the pit needs to still get on and off the field quickly.
A marimba is one of the largest mallet instruments in percussion. This multi-octave wood instrument contains some of the lowest notes in the melodic percussion world and uses large resonators to resonate the vibration of the pitched wooden bars.
Marking Time (Mark Time)
Marking time refers to a marching percussionist’s feet moving in place while they play. Marking time helps keep their music in time even when they are not moving around the field. Drummers play to their feet which means that their feet hitting the ground is their metronome and the hands use the feet to stay in time.
Matched Grip
Matched grip is a form of drumstick grip where both hands hold the sticks the same way, and as such they match. This is most often used to differentiate marching snare drum grips between traditional (a non-matched grip) and matched grip.
This instrument is also called a thumb piano and uses various pitched metal prongs that stick up from a wood base allowing them to be plucked by the thumbs. This instrument is quite popular in Zimbabwe.
Melodic Percussion
Melodic percussion is similar to mallet percussion, but also includes drums that are pitched. Many melodic percussion instruments do not cover a full octave but are still considered melodic percussion. Some examples of melodic percussion instruments are marching bass drums, marching tenor drums, concert tom toms.
These are percussion instruments that utilize a stretched drum head or animal skin as a batter head and played with sticks or the hands.
A faster rhythm from the Afro-Cuban style.
A metronome is a device that keeps perfect time and tempo for a performer to practice and rehearse with. Most metronomes today are digital, or even just apps, and they beep or flash with the chosen tempo. Metronomes are sometimes referred to as click tracks when recording.
Mid Tom
A mid tom is a tom tom that is pitched in the mid-range and is scored in the middle of the staff in percussion sheet music. Usually mid toms are mounted.
Modified Musser Grip
See “Stevens Grip”
Moeller Method
The Moeller method or Moeller stroke is a type of drum stroke that flows freely without interruption and involves lifting the stick in a whipping motion leading with the wrist. Named after Sanford Moeller.
This is a substance that is slightly sticky and gel-like which adheres directly to a drumhead and dampens it enough to reduce the ringing overtones and shortening the decay. This is similar to an O-ring. Moongel can also be used on cymbals.
A traditional Afro-Cuban rhythm popularized in some American 1980’s pop songs bringing it into popularity around the world.
This is possibly the oldest drum type in the world still being used today. The drum has two faces on either side and sometimes flour or water is added to lower the pitch of the instrument.
A muffle dampens the sound of a drum. This can be through the use of an external device such as a felt pad, or simply by gently resting the fingers on the drum head while playing. Note: a muffle is different than a mute. This is also similar to a spank, though a muffle occurs while playing the notes.
Multi Toms
See “Tenor Drums”
Musser Grip
A Musser grip is a four mallet grip that allows two mallets to be held in one hand. This grip allows for four-note chords to be played on mallet instruments often found on marimba. This grip differs from the Stevens grip in that it does not necessarily turn over the back of the hand while playing.
A mute, or drum mute, is a device that completely deadens the sound of a drum allowing for next to no drum sound to be produced. Mutes are often used for practicing or when trying not to be loud. A mute can also be created by pressing the fingers or hand hard into the drum head when playing a note, sometimes this is written into drum notation. Note: a mute is different than a muffle. A muffle dampens the sound while a mute completely deadens it.
Mylar Head
A mylar head is a type of marching snare drum head that can withstand higher tensions and higher velocity drum strokes. Similar to a kevlar head but made using different compounds.
National Association of Rudimental Drummers. This was the rudimental body prior to Percussive Arts Society (PAS).
Natural Sticking
Natural sticking is a defined sticking that drummers default to in the absence of a written sticking (see “sticking”). Natural sticking is helpful in that it keeps the hands from playing an uncomfortable amount of notes in a row.
An African drum shaped like a barrel. This drum sits on the floor and is played using wooden beaters.
Percussion notation is slightly different than standard notation in that each place on the staff signifies a different instrument. Most often cymbals are placed above the staff, toms and snare are placed within the staff, and bass drum is placed below the staff. When writing for concert instrumentation each instrument is typically separated onto different sheets of music so that each line does not have to be labeled individually. Percussion notation also includes different uses of note-heads and stems. For example, slashes on the stem indicate a roll, or an open note-head could indicate a crossover on marching tenor drums. An ‘X’ for a note-head typically indicates a rimshot.
Notched Grip
A notched grip can be found on some drumsticks or mallets and helps the drummer with control of the fulcrum while playing. A notched grip also helps with comfort and ergonomics when using large-handled implements such as bass drum mallets or a gong mallet.
Number 1
Drumstick size 16.75” to 17.25″ long
Number 2
Drumstick size 16.00″ to 16.50″ long
Number 3
Drumstick size 15.50″ to 17.00″ long
Number 5
Drumstick size 16” long
Number 7
Drumstick size 15.00″ to 15.75″ long
Number 8
Drumstick size 16.00″ to 16.50″ long
Number 9
Drumstick size 16.00″ to 16.50″ long
Nylon Tip
See “Acrylic Tip”
An o-ring is a plastic or paper ring that circles the perimeter of a drum and usually hugs up against the rim. This ring eliminates any overtones and ringing sounds as the drum would naturally decay. This shortens the sound and makes it more crisp with sometimes a slight loss in quality.
Exaggeratingly long toms with no bottom head, these drums are quite small in diameter, usually only six inches. The depth of the drums can range from 18″ to 24″ or more! These drums are often found as auxiliary drums on a drumset since a smaller standard tom would sound very thin, octobans make up for that with their long resonating shell.
Odd Time
Odd time can refer to any time signature that is not 4/4. Typically this term is in reference to an uneven meter such as 5/8 or 7/8, but is not limited to those.
Off Beat
This is the opposite of downbeats in that the off beat is played on the ‘and’ counts between the downbeats of a measure. This is sometimes called the ‘up beat’.
One Drum
See “Drum One”
Open Roll
An open roll is a type of drum roll where the individual pulses are played open and clearly. This is sometimes called a double-stroke roll because each downstroke creates two notes, a primary note and a secondary note. Open rolls are common in the marching percussion activities.
An ostinato is a repeated musical phrase that is played multiple times, sometimes through multiple phrases. Sometimes an ostinato is referred to as a phrase that continues over a barline and repeats asymmetrically with the meter.
A popular Brazilian hand drum made by attaching jingles to a wood frame and shaking it.
See “China Cymbal”
See “Steel Drums”
A paradiddle is a fundamental percussion rudiment that consists of four notes played in the sequence right, left, right, right (then four more with the opposite sticking). Paradiddles usually have accents on the first beat. This rudiment is popular in almost every style of drumming and helps create a certain feel for a musical phrase. On drumset, timpani, and marching tenors specifically, a paradiddle will help navigate the drums to help avoid shifts.
Percussive Arts Society. The governing body over all things drumming. They hold an annual convention called PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention).
Pattern Generator
This is similar to an electronic brain, but instead it also creates drum patterns, beats, or grooves and saves them.
See “Foot Pedal”
Percussion Caption Head
See “Caption Head”
Percussion Clef
A musical staff dedicated to percussion instrumentation. See “Notation”
Percussion Instrument
A percussion instrument is any instrument that is played by striking. This can be by hand or implement and includes the piano since the piano strings are struck internally by a hammer.
See “Beat Displacement”
Phrasing is how the drum music works within a context, such as a song, or a solo. Phrases can be established by measures but phrasing can refer to how the notes are structured within the measure or phrase itself.
A piano is a percussion instrument that is played with fingers on keys. The depressed key will trigger a hammer to strike a string that creates the full iconic sound.
Piccolo Snare
This is a snare drum with a very short shell depth, usually about three or four inches. The diameter is typically about 13″ and thus creates a full snare sound with a very short decay and often a higher pitch.
The pit is a location of instruments that are stationary or out of the way. In marching percussion the pit is comprised of large percussion instruments that do not move around the field. The pit is most often located at the front of the field but can sometimes be found at the back or off to the side. A pit in theater refers to the sunken location for all musicians that perform the music during a theatrical production. This type of pit will include all instruments, not just percussion.
single ply double ply heads or also shells too
The pocket is similar to a groove where the drummer fits in perfectly. Sometimes the pocket exists on the backside of the beat (not late, but learning backward figuratively), this gives the music grounding and traction and will also help with arrival moments.
A polyrhythm is when one or more musicians play two rhythms at once. Most often this is referred to as playing a duple and triple feel overtop of one another (sometimes referred to as ‘two over three’ or ‘three over two’ polyrhythms.
Popcorn Snare
See “Soprano Snare”
Practice Pad
A practice pad is a soft gummy portable surface mounted on a wood or plastic base that allows a drummer to hit without creating loud noises. Some pads are definitely loud though, even when made with the softest materials. Some other pads are meant to feel like an actual drum, such as a marching snare drum, and as such need to be harder which makes them quite loud. Some other pads use ball bearings inside which mimics the sound of a snare drum while still being much quieter than an actual drum.
Practice Tips
Practice tips are similar to practice pads but are simply rubber coverings you can put over the beads of the drumsticks. Practice tips allow you to play quieter and practice on almost any surface. These are not as popular as practice pads.
Press Roll
See “Buzz Roll”
Primary Stroke
A primary stroke is the initial stroke of an open roll. The primary stroke creates the first of two notes when playing this style roll (the secondary stroke being created using the back fingers). During an open roll the arm creates one smooth up and down motion while the secondary strokes are performed utilizing the drum’s rebound and the back fingers before the primary upstroke.
Puffy Mallets
See “Felt Mallets”
A pulse is similar to the metronome and marking time. The pulse is where the tempo is derived in a musical ensemble and is usually created by the percussion, but not always. In marching band and drum corps the pulse is established by the furthest back musical section since the speed of sound will cause problems if the pulse is derived toward the front of the field. This is why most often you’ll find the drumline to be the furthest back section on the field.
Punk drumming is characterized by hard-hitting or thrashing and tends to be loud without as much regard for sound quality. The punk style in general is very anti-rules and does not conform to any standards, this is why you see disregard for established techniques in the punk genre, which makes the sound very interesting and is not a bad thing.
See “Tenor Drums”
The smaller of the two conga drums.
See “Quinta”
See “Tenor Drums”
RIMS System
See “ISS”
A rack refers to the mounting system of a drumset or accessories. Usually this is a metal frame on which ball joints are attached to correctly position and angle a drum, cymbal, or auxiliary instrument.
Rack Tom
A rack tom is simply a tom that is mounted as opposed to a floor tom which is not.
Rain Stick
This is a hollowed out tube with beads and baffles inside. When inverted the beads strike all the baffles on the way down and the resulting sound is similar to rain hitting the ground.
Rare Time Signatures
Rare time signatures are similar to odd time signatures but goes deeper. In short, 4/4 is written such that there are four quarter-notes per measure. This can also be written as 8/8 since there are also eighth eighth-notes in the measure. Triplets can work the same way and the same measure can be written as 6/6 meaning there are six quarter-note triplets per measure. Rare time signatures would be something like 5/6 which would indicate only five quarter-note triplets in a single measure. Or perhaps 14/12 which indicates there are fourteen 12th notes (eighth-note triplets) in a measure. See the drumline warmup called “Slow-Fast” for a real-world example of a rare time signature. Rare time signatures are discussed in more detail in the book Quadratics. Also see my article on rare time signatures!
Remote Hihat
A remote hihat, or remote hat, is a mounted hihat arm that is not directly above the connected pedal. This is accomplished with the use of a cable, similar to a bike brake cable. Often the remote hat is placed on the opposite side of the drum set which allows for open hand playing.
Resonance is an object’s natural vibration and is usually caused by sound waves. Sometimes a percussion instrument uses a resonator or resonation chamber to amplify resonance (like the resonators on a marimba or even the shell of a drum). Sometimes even the hands can be used as resonation chambers like when playing a cross-stick on snare drum, or when properly holding claves.
Resonant Head
This is the drum head that is not hit with the drumstick or hand. The resonant head is the opposite of the batter head. The resonant head reverberates the sound and pressure waves from the batter head, through the shell of the drum, and out to the audience.
Resonators are used to amplify the natural resonance of a percussion instrument. See “Resonance”
A rhythm is a grouping of note values that create an interesting pattern or sound structure often over the course of a measure, phrase, or song. Some rhythms are spread apart and are sometimes referred to as ‘slow’ while other rhythms are very close together and are referred to as ‘fast’ even if the tempo is not changed. Sometimes it requires more chops to play fast rhythms.
Ride Cymbal
A ride cymbal is usually the largest cymbal found on a drum set with a big sound. This is called a ride because drummers will use it to ride the rhythm of the groove as an alternate to the hihat. Ride cymbals also have very distinct sounding bells and they can be very high pitched and piercing which cut through the mix.
The rim of a drum is what dispurses the tension evenly around the perimeter of the drum head. Tension rods are pulling down the edges of the rim which tightens the drum head against the shell.
Rim Check
See “Rim Click”
Rim Click
A rim click is simply tapping the rim of the drum with the implement rather than the drum head itself. This is most often notated using an ‘X’ on the sheet music.
A rimshot is played by simultaneously hitting the drum head and drum rim together with the implement. Rimshots are loud high pitched cutting sounds that add color and accentualizes a piece of music. Rimshots can be damaging to the ear drums. Rimshots should be used like a spice in cooking, too much spice and it will ruin the dish!
See “Drumroll”
Roto Toms
Roto toms are pitched toms typically mounted in groups of three. These tops consist of only a drum head and rim with no shell. Roto toms get their name due to the fact that you can change individual drum pitches by rotating the tom in a circle.
Rudiments are a set grouping or sub-grouping of notes and rhythms. The drumming community as a whole has defined 40 standard drum rudiments that are deemed essential. Other rudiments are created by drummers to create fun grooves or patterns but are not typically as well-known as the 40 essential rudiments. Hybrid rudiments are so-called because they combine two or more standard rudiments into a single grouping.
See “Drag”
Sabar Drum
An African peg tuned drum played using a stick.
A generic term for many different styles of Latin music.
A Latin and African style of music that is created with a variety of Latin instruments or on a drumset.
See “Sweeps”
Scratch Track
A scratch track is one of the first tracks to be recorded when tracking drums. Usually a scratch track is not intended to be in the final mix but is used as a framework for musicians to listen to while recording their individual takes. This allows the individual instruments to be recorded without each member of the group in the studio at all times.
Secondary Stroke
A secondary stroke or secondary note is the note following a primary stroke in an open roll or double-stroke roll. The secondary stroke utilizes the rebound of the drum head to initiate another downstroke in rapid succession. These are not bounced notes, but they utilize the bounce for the intermediate upstroke in order to play the quick second downstroke. The arm makes one stroking motion while the stick plays two strokes. Also referred to as diddles.
Set is a command given by a drum major or staff member of a marching band. This command means that the members of the band are to stand still and at the ready position for the count-off to begin. Set is also considered a position of attention, ‘Set Position.’
Set Position
See “Set”
This is any percussion instrument that is shaken such as an egg shaker or maraca. These are almost always filled with beads or pebbles.
A gourd instrument that is hollowed out and covered in a net of beads that is then shaken with both hands.
The shell of a drum is usually made of wood or metal and is the attachment point for lugs and other hardware. Shells have a bearing edge cut on the rims which seat the drum heads. Shells also usually act as a resonator for the instrument’s sound to reverborate toward the resonant head or opening at the bottom.
Shell Pack
A shell pack is a set of drums that can be purchased all at once. Usually this refers to a rock pack or a jazz pack where the sizes of the drum shells are slightly different for each style of drumming.
A shift is usually an awkward motion where one hand has to move out of the way of the other in order to play a part. Shifts are found when playing melodic percussion such as timpani, marching tenor drums, and mallet percussion.
See “Rimshot”
Shot Drum
See “Gock”
The shoulder of a drumstick is where the taper meets the main shaft of the stick. Using the shoulder of the stick on a cymbal’s edge is typical for a crash while on a drum the shoulder is used on rimshots. The bow of a cymbal is sometimes referred to as the shoulder and is where the ride cymbal is most often played. Playing the shoulder of the drumstick on the shoulder of the ride cymbal gives a very distinct thick sound that has lots of energy.
A shuffle is a drum rhythm or pattern that is broken down into distinct sections or subdivisions of a measure. The groupings are usually comprised of triplets and is similar to a swing pattern.
A shutoff or snare shutoff is the device that controls the snare wires on a snare drum. A shutoff allows the snare wires to be connected or disconnected from the bottom drumhead which changes the sound of the drum greatly.
Side Drum
See “Snare Drum”
See “Drumhead”
See “Strap”
Slit Drum
See “Log Drum”
See “Snare Wires”
Snare Basket
See “Basket”
Snare Buzz
Snare buzzing is different than a buzz roll. For the roll see “Buzz Roll.” Buzzing is typically an undesirable sound caused by the snares of a snare drum when the bottom head resonates in frequency with another instrument’s sound in the room, sometimes even within the drumset itself (like a tom tom). To alleviate the buzzing you can either shut the snares off using the shutoff, or tune the bottom drum head differently to avoid any overlap in sonic ranges or frequencies around the drumset or external instrumentation.
Snare Drum
A snare drum is one of the most popular instruments in the drumming community. The drum is defined by having snare wires span the diameter of the bottom head which rub against it as it resonates causing its signature snare sound. Snare drums are the heart of the drumset.
Snare Side Head
A snare side head is the drum head that is on the bottom of a snare drum (the same side as the snares, thus snare side). This bottom head is the resonating head of the drum.
Snare Strainer
The snare strainer is group of components that mount the snare wires under the snare drum. Sometimes just called snares. These wires give the snare drum its signature sound.
Snare Wires
Snare wires are literally the wires that are mounted under the snare drum. Snare strands come in groupings of 12, 16, 20, and 24 most commonly, but some can be as large as 42. Wires can be made of metal or other synthetic materials. The wires have to be fairly durable because they are stretched fairly tightly across the diameter of the drum when engaged.
Soprano Snare
A soprano snare is similar to a piccolo snare but the diameter is also small. A soprano snare is typically 8 to 10 inches across and has a depth of 4 to 5 inches. These drums are usually mounted as auxiliary drums and are not a primary instrument on a drumset.
See “Swing”
A spank is a term often found in the marching tenor world where the bottom drum is played with a rimshot quickly followed by the opposite hand’s fingers deadening the sound. This is similar to a muffle, but the actions are independent, not simultaneous.
Spinning your sticks is similar to flipping them. Spinning the sticks is a visual.
Splash Cymbal
A splash cymbal is a small cymbal usually no bigger than 12″ wide. These cymbals are also known as effects cymbals and can add color to the overall mix with their short decay and cutting frequencies.
Split Part
Split parts are most common in marching bass drum sections where each individual plays just a portion of the full staff of music. This is also found in hand bells.
Spurs are usually found on a drumset’s bass drum to prevent it from sliding away from the drummer. Spurs are sharp nail like feet that dig into the carpet or rug to lock the drum in place, but on hardwood floors these spikes can retract and allow for the rubber feet to make contact with the ground.
Staccato Stroke
A staccato stroke is the opposite of the legato stroke because it does not utilize the natural rebound of the drumstick off the drum head. A staccato stroke is one that is squeezed immediately after making contact with the drum head so that the drumstick stays as low to the drum head as possible after playing. This enables the efficient use of taps following accents in drum music. Staccato is a term that simply means short, or short sound. Staccato strokes are sometimes referred to as downstrokes.
Stack Cymbals
Stacked cymbals are usually referred to as two or more cymbals laying directly on top of one another and facing the same direction most of the time, unlike a hihat. Playing the cymbals this way creates a nice crunchy sound and when using a good combination of cymbals and size can be very pleasurable in the mix of the song. Stacking cymbals can also refer to mounting two or more cymbals on a single cymbal arm even if they don’t touch.
I just made this one up (along with one other term) so other websites don’t steal or copy my glossary! This glossary is for PRFB.net and you may disregard this term!
Stationary Percussion
See “Pit”
Stave Drum
A stave drum, or stave shell, is a drum that is made using two or more woods cut into staves and alternated vertically (sometimes horizontally) across the body of the drum. Stave shells allow the drum to utilize two different wood properties combined, though they are mostly for looks.
Steel Drum
Steel drums are made from metal barrels and are hammered into multiple pitches per drum. These drums are played using special mallets and are popular in the Caribbean Islands.
Stevens Grip
This is a more popular term for a modified Musser four mallet grip. The Stevens grip allows for the percussionist to comfortably hold two mallets with each hand and reach larger intervals mainly on marimba.
Stick Click
See “Click”
Stick Tape
See “Tape”
Stickings are indicators under percussion sheet music to tell the drummer what hand plays which notes. By default, if there is no sticking, something called natural sticking is used (see “natural sticking”).
See “Drum Sticks”
Straight Cymbal Stand:
A straight cymbal stand is a tripod that holds a cymbal directly over the base of the stand. These cymbal stands are less forgiving when placing the cymbals around a drumset but are usually cheaper than boom cymbal stands.
Straps are found on crash cymbals to hold each cymbal by hand without affecting the sound. A drum sling is sometimes referred to as a drum strap and is the traditional strap of fabric that encircles the drummer onto which the marching snare drum is attached with.
Subdivisions are ways of breaking a measure or beat down into more isolated sections, typically by count. However, in the marching activity subdividing means to say aloud vocally where the beat is, most of the time with the word “dut.” Dutting, as it’s sometimes called, is an audible that helps keep multiple people in time prior to the musical entrance by subdividing audible duts together before playing together. This can be most important from the back of the field as the entrances from the back need to be slightly anticipated which may feel unnatural to most musicians.
A subkick is a bass drum microphone that is placed in tandem with a standard bass drum microphone. The subkick is designed to capture very low end frequencies that regular mics can’t detect.
A Brazilian bass drum played with beaters.
The sustain of a note is the amount of time it takes for it to fully decay after being produced. Some percussion instruments have long sustains such as piano or vibraphone, while others have very short decays like snare drums or claves.
Sweeps are most common in marching tenor drumming where a double-stroke roll is moved all around the set of drums. To be a true sweep the primary and secondary notes of each stroke need to hit different drums. This creates a fast sounding flowing motion around the tenors and is usually a feature of a tenor drum solo.
A very specific rhythm on the drumset using the hihat or the ride cymbal. The swing pattern is helpful to identify a style a music by the same name, often also referred to as jazz.
Syncopation, or syncopated rhythms are patterns in phrases that utilize short breaks between a series or individual notes, often emphasizing off beats to add interest. Syncopated rhythms tend to be good for music education when learning to count a measure or when learning natural sticking.
A tabla is a set of two drums that’s very common in India. The set consists of a male drum that’s lower in pitch and a female drum that’s higher in pitch.
See “Drum Tabs”
Talking drum
A talking drum is a West African drum that has a drum head on each side connected by cords. The drum is held under the arm and as you squeeze the cords with the arm the pitch of the drum goes up. This is played with a mallet that’s shaped like an L
See “Gong”
This is a French word that translates to ‘drum.’
A tambourine is a round instrument with jingles embedded in the frame. A standard tambourine has a drum head that can be played with the hand or fingers. See also “headless tambourine”
A tango is a slow dance style music originating in South America. The dance is typically complex and is very close with the dance partner.
Tap Off
See “Tap”
Taps are the lowest height a drummer plays. This term is especially popular in marching percussion. In drumset taps are similar to ghost notes.
See “Stick Tape”
See “Goblet Drum”
See “Goblet Drum”
A teardrop is a specific shape of drumstick bead.
Temple Blocks
This instrument is similar to a woodblock or gock block. Temple blocks often come in a set of five sizes and have hollowed out cavities that create a wide and open sound that cuts through.
Tempo is the speed of a musical piece measured in beats per minute (BPM).
Tenor Drums
Tenor drums are a marching percussion instrument that consists of multiple toms tuned to different pitches. Some tenor sets have up to six drums while others can have only three or four.
Tenor Brain
Tenor brain is a way of thinking that usually comes with a slight eureka moment for the drummer. Tenor brain involves separating yourself for a typical ‘snare drum’ way of thinking and immersing yourself in the asymmetrical ‘arounds’ patterns and styles offered by the marching tenor drums.
Tension Rods
Tension rods are the screws that are turned with a drum key which changes the tension of a drum head. Tension rods are spread out evenly around the drum’s rim and screw into the lug that attached to the shell.
A tenuto line in drum music is a flat line above a note similar to an accent. Tenuto lines indicate that a legato stroke is to be used.
Three Drum
See “Drum Three”
This is a term used by marching bass drummers often when playing 16th-note-triplets. The term refers to playing a fast grouping of three single strokes.
See “Drum Throne”
Throw Off
See “Shutoff”
This is a pair of drums that have just one drum head each and metal shells. These drums are common in Latin music and are played with thin sticks.
The different sounds that are produced by different implements on the same playing surface, instrument, or head.
Time Signature
A time signature is the duration of a single measure based on the beats within it. A rudimentary way of thinking of time signatures is that the top number is the quantity of beats and the bottom number is the note value that gets the beat. In 3/4 there are three beats and the quarter-note gets the beat.
Timpani are large metal drums that are usually found in a group of 4 or 5. Each drum can change pitch with a pedal and often times these drums change pitch throughout a song.
A toaster is a percussion instrument played with forks as popularized by Heywood Banks. You may or may not be able to learn more here: ATwoSlotToaster.com
Tom Tom
Tom toms are drums that vary in size and can have batter and resonant heads or just batter heads. Toms are popular on drumset as well as concert settings and are even found in marching percussion called tenor drums.
Tom Tom Stand
A tom tom stand is a specialty drum stand that is made to mount multiple tom toms at once.
Tongue Drum
See “Log Drum”
Top Snares
Snare wires that are attached to the top drum head (the batter head) usually found on marching snare drums.
See “Flip”
See “Goblet Drum”
Traditional Grip
Traditional grip most often refers to a marching snare drum grip where the left hand is inverted and does not match the right hand. This grip is the opposite of matched grip. The traditional grip was created when the marching drum used a sling and the left rim of the drum was raised at an angle creating the need to turn the hand over to play it. Today most snarelines have flat drums but still employ the traditional grip. Traditional grip is also a form of four-mallet grip and is a rudimentary way to hold two mallets in each hand (sometimes referred to as cross-grip).
Trap Set
A trap set is a small efficient drumset with a very minimal setup. Usually this kit consists of a bass drum, snare drum, a tom or two, and a cymbal.
A triangle is a metal bar instrument bent into the shape of a triangle and played with a small metallic beater. A triangle is an effect instrument and has a sharp metal sound.
Tri Toms
See “Tenor Drums”
Tubular Bells
Tubular bells are tall metal tube-like instruments arranged like the keys of a piano but very tall. A pedal is pressed to let them ring and the tops of the bells are struck with a special hammer.
The largest conga drum of the three conga drum sizes.
See “Tumba”
See “Goblet Drum”
Tuned Percussion
See “Melodic Percussion”
Tuning a drum involved tightening or loosening the tension rods by turning a key tool clockwise or counter-clockwise at each rod. Drums can be tuned to certain pitches or are sometimes just tuned to specific intervals within a set of drums.
See “Spin”
Two Drum
See “Drum Two”
This is a seldom used term used by marching bass drummers often when playing 16th-notes. The term refers to playing a grouping of two single strokes.
See “Timpani”
A udu is a clay drum that is made in Nigeria. The pot-like drum has a hole on its side and a hole at the top of the neck. The holes can be covered by the hands or open while being slapped or hit for some incredibly unique sounds.
Up Stroke
The up stroke is when the stick is returning upward from the drum head. Typically an upstroke can specifically refer to a stroke where the stick ends higher after a note than it started.
See “Off-Beat”
See “Electronic Drums”
See “Vibraphone”
A vibraphone is a metallic mallet percussion instrument. The metal bars are dampened by a felt stopper until the pedal is pressed and the bars are free to ring out. Vibes are popular in jazz music as well as in marching band and concert band settings.
A vibraslap is an effect instrument that when struck it creates a loud sustained metallic rattle. This is a hand percussion instrument but can also be mounted.
Virgin Kick
This term refers to a bass drum on a drum set that has no tom mounting hole in the top.
A visual is something that can be performed but does not make a percussive sound. Visuals can enhance a performance but if done too much can also detract from it. Percussion is a very visual instrument already, so adding visuals to a performance can be like adding spices to a meal, not to be overdone. Visuals can be things like flipping or spinning the drumsticks as seen on drumset, or they can be much more intricate as seen in marching band and drum corps.
Western Grip
See “American Grip”
Wind Chimes
Wind chimes are tiny metal bars that are hung from a wooden beam by strings. These are played by hand and are a popular percussion effect instrument.
Wing Nuts
Wing nuts are the part of the cymbal stand that tighten to clamp the cymbal down to the desired amount. Wing nuts are also used to mount toms and racking.
Wood Block
A wood block is a type of handheld or mounted percussion instrument that is hit with a drumstick to produce a cutting high-pitch sound.
Wood Tip
Wood tips on drumsticks are the natural beads that do not have an acrylic coating. These are the most common types of drumstick tips.
World Drumming
This style of drumming incorporates many different styles from around the world and allows the drummer to have the freedom to explore different rhythms and sound combinations with the patterns they play as well as the instruments they use.
See “Dummy hat”
A xylophone is a wooden mallet instrument similar to a marimba but often higher in pitch. The bars of a xylophone are thinner than that of a marimba and many times are played with a harder mallet for a strong articulation.
See “Goblet Drum”
Zero Ring
See “O-Ring”

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