Drums are among the oldest and widely used instruments of all time. Drums are the most basic and effective expression of rhythm and seemingly every culture around the world has their own unique version of the instrument.
This article will cover a list of 28 drums that range from snare drums and floor toms to the djembe and pandeiro. After reading this you will have a comprehensive idea of many different styles of drums and may ultimately be inspired to purchase one as well.
While this list covers quite a large amount of drums, it only scratches the surface of countless drums and percussion instruments from cultures all over the world.
Table Of Contents
The drum kit is extremely popular in Western music and probably what comes to peoples’ minds when they hear the word ‘drums’. The image above features all the basic components: kick drum, snare, rack toms and floor toms. We will not be covering cymbals as this is a drum-only article, but a drum kit typically features a ride cymbal, crash cymbal and a hi-hat.
2. Kick Drum
The heartbeat of the drum kit. The kick drum, played with a foot pedal, works in conjunction with the snare drum to keep the basic beat of the groove.
3. Snare Drum
The snare drum is the provider of the classic high-pitched ‘pop’ sound you hear when a drum kit is being played. The drum has a band of metal snares pulled tight over its bottom head and that is what gives it the signature ‘pop’ sound.
4. Rack Toms
Tom drums can be thought of as occupying the middle range, between the low-end kick drum and the high-end snare. Racks are positioned atop the kick drum, with rack tom stands commonly built into the kickdrum’s body.
5. Floor Tom
A floor tom is simply a larger rack tom that stands on its own, opposite the snare drum and on the other side of a player’s kick drum leg. The floor tom provides a lower mid-range tone.
Rototoms are additional tom drums a player will add to their drum kit for better melodic range. These drums are typically positioned on a stand with three rototoms of different sizes on it. They do not use traditional drum shells, rather a hollow metal frame and they can be quickly tuned by twisting the drum heads, with no drum key needed.
An electronic drum kit has all the same components of an acoustic kit but, if not played through headphones or an amplifier, is nearly silent. This kit is perfect for someone practicing or rehearsing in a sound-sensitive place.
Bongos are a small pair of open-bottomed handrums. They are of Afro-Cuban origin, and are commonly played with them on the player’s lap, or on a stand, and struck with their lower knuckles near the palm.
Congas are extremely similar to bongos, with Afro-Cuban descent as well, and can be viewed as a larger version of them. Congas also typically come as a pair, commonly mounted on a stand and played with the same hand technique as bongos.
The cajon is a box-shaped instrument of Peruvian descent that is played by sitting on top of it and slapping either the front or rear side with the hands and fingers. This is a versatile percussion instrument that is commonly used as a fill-in for a gig where a drum kit isn’t feasible.
11. Barril De Bomba
The barril de bomba is a Puerto Rican drum used for the rhythmic bomba dance music. It is traditionally made from a rum barrel, with a goatskin pulled over the top tight and the player striking the head like it’s a bongo or conga.
The bata is a lovely instrument that originated in Cuba, to be used for Santeria practices. It has a unique hourglass shape with one end much larger than the other. Unlike bongos or congas, both ends of the bata have a drum head on them, so both sides can be played simultaneously.
A tabla is a pair of drums, differing slightly in size and shape, that originate from the Indian subcontinent. They are in a similar vein as bongos, in that they are typically played with one hand on each drum.
The smaller one is more high pitched and plays more melodically while the larger one is more of a kick drum in terms of utilization.
The doumbek is a hand drum of middle-eastern origin. It is part of the goblet drum family, a general style of drum that refers to its shape bearing resemblance to a goblet.
It is a compact hand drum that is portable and slightly hourglass shaped, with the top being much thicker than the bottom.
It is typically placed under the player’s arm or leg and played with quick and light strokes.
The darbuka is another goblet drum, like the doumbek, and they share a middle-eastern origin. The darbuka is thinner at the neck and more compact, giving it a higher pitch and lighter weight. This one in particular has a beautiful silver finish that will look great in any ensemble.
The udu is a wonderful instrument that originated in Nigeria. It is essentially a clay water jug, with a hole in the center that when struck produces a bass sound.
The player will use both of their hands with the udu on their lap, and the pitches of their groove will change depending on where they strike the drum.
The djembe is one of the most common and versatile hand drums out there. Its roots are in West Africa, most likely from Mali. It is a loud drum, so loud that you can easily take a solo on it in a percussion ensemble.
The body is carved of hardwood in a shape somewhat similar to the doumbek and darbuka, with a rawhide drum head on top typically made of goatskin.
18. Talking Drum
The talking drum is one of the more unique instruments on this list and is a fascinating drum. It has its origin in West Africa, and has many strings all around the sides that can be used to change the drums pitch.
When playing, it is held under your arm and the harder you squeeze, the higher pitch your drum will sound. This control of pitch can be shockingly melodic and is known for its ability to mimic sounds of the human voice.
It can be played with your hands, but traditionally a curved wooden stick is used to beat the drum head.
19. Marching Snare Drum
Marching snare drums are the most iconic of the marching drums, as the snare line is always positioned up front and that signature sharp pop from the kevlar drum heads never fail to make people think of high school and college football games.
They are either carried via strap or full harness, depending on the style of marching your ensemble does as the strap is for bands that march in a high-knee style.
There are also several rock artists like Jack White who always has a marching snare in his drum kit.
20. Multi-Tenor Drums
21. Single-Tenor Drum
The single-tenor drum, or often just called a tom, is a less common but phenomenal piece to any marching drumline. They are more commonly found in HBCU-styled marching bands rather than corps style.
They can either be worn with a strap like a snare drum or a shoulder harness that turns them on their side like a bass drum. They occupy the low-middle sound range, between the multi-tenor and bass sections.
22. Bass Drum
The bass drum section occupies the low-end frequency and is the heartbeat of every marching drumline.
They are worn on a player’s chest with either a fabric or metal harness and are played with thick mallets. They are the loudest instrument, and their sound will carry well out of the football stadium.
A bass drum section is also composed of different sized bass drums, with the smaller ones being higher pitched. This is so the bass section can do melodic runs with the differently tuned drums, also called tonals.
23. Concert Snare Drum
The concert snare is a key piece in a symphony as it is the most clearly heard and typically has the most rhythmically complex parts. It sounds more like a snare on a drum kit than a marching snare, as there is more “snare” and fuzz on a concert snare for softer rolls, rather than the ultra-clear pop from its marching counterpart.
24. Concert Bass Drum
The bass drum is another staple of any concert percussion section and has a key role to play in most symphonic pieces. They are typically positioned as it is in the image above, elevated on a wheeled stand and tilted at an angle.
It is also always positioned directly to the left of the snare drum. It is played with the player holding a heavily padded mallet in their right hand, and their left palm laying on the edge of the drum head to control the muffling as you play.
A concert bass is truly meant to be felt rather than heard, as it can be extremely loud. They are mainly used to emphasize big moments in a piece where there may be a cymbal crash or gong hit, or playing soft quarter notes during a concert march.
Timpani are another key piece to a concert percussion section. They blur the line between drum and melodic instrument as each drum is tuned to a different note and the notes are often changed while playing in real time with a foot pedal on each timpani drum.
They can be subtle or extremely dominant in sound, depending on what the music requires. They are played with small mallets and take a skilled percussionist to play them on advanced symphonic pieces.
A frame drum is a drum that’s head is wider than its body is deep. These are one of the oldest styles of instruments in human history and the tambourine is by far the most popular example used in modern music.
The tambourine is a frame drum with metal jingles affixed on the body that can be played in a variety of ways across many different genres of music. It has origins in Africa, the Middle East and Greece.
It can be attached to a drum kit and hit with a stick, played with a hand or shaken in a latin ensemble, or rolled via the ‘thumb roll’ technique in concert settings.
A pandeiro is a frame drum from Brazil that is similar to the tambourine in appearance and practice, but has several key differences.
Not only are there less jingles, but the shape of the jingles is more cupped, meaning the instrument produces a drier and more muffled sound, with far less sustain and resonance than a tambourine.
The bodhran is a frame drum of Irish origin that, unlike the previous two, contains no jingles at all. It is also played with a small double-sided beater, called a tipper, rather than your hand. It is played in a seated position, with the drum resting vertically on the player’s thigh.
One hand is holding the back of the drum head through the hollow side, while the other hand plays the bodhran with the tipper.