The invention of the drum set is as pristine as the evolution of humankind spanning centuries and thousands of years ago. The original design of this drumming device is still the same after many years of existence and usage, with little or no variation in structure, form, and acoustic effects. A drum set is merely an assemblage of drums and other percussion tools preferably on stands, and only one person can play them simultaneously. Some of the equipment needed for a complete drum kit includes various drums such as timpani, bongo drums, and cymbals, which are now part of the contemporary drum kit but who invented the drum set?
Before, answering this question, we want to know the various components of a typical drum. Drums are made of a drumhead, which is also called a drum skin with at least a membrane stretching or spreading over a shell, but the drummer usually strikes it with his hands or a drumstick depending on his choice. In most cases, beneath the top membrane lies a resonance head that can produce a low pitch sound. However, a drummer can play a single drum like the djembe while other drums are usually performed in collections of two sets or more for enhanced audio effects and entertainment.
Nowadays, there is an additional percussion instrument called the cymbal, which is always played in pairs. Some types of cymbals include ride cymbals, crash cymbals, hi-hat cymbals, and crash/ride cymbals accordingly. Most of the time, the cymbals are featured during various musical sessions like jazz bands, orchestra, marching troupes, and other percussion groups.
Before the development of the drum set, if an orchestra needed to combine multiple drums simultaneously, many drummers will be hired to play the individual drums accordingly. In the late eighteenth centuries, the drum set was firstly called a trap set, and the players were called trap drummers. These drummers began to use an overhang pedal in 1870, although their preference was double drumming whereby no pedals will be applied in playing multiple drums. Moreover, double drumming was initiated to enable only a player to play the snare drum and bass drum using sticks, but by tapping the foot on a lowboy, he can conveniently play the cymbal too, without hitches.
The introduction of this pedal system led to a revolution, and other inventors started making new inventions, and between 1904 to 1905 at New Orleans, a company called Dee Dee Chandler was able to gain freedom for using the hands in playing percussion devices, as he obtained a patent right for his pedal system. Therefore, drummers no longer played the bass drum with the foot but they were using their legs for the first time in the human history. Then, the bass drum was also regarded as “kick drum,” and it became the revolving point of every other musical equipment.
After this improvement in the musical industry, William Ludwig became the first man to invent the drum set in 1909, as he introduced the bass drum pedal enabling the percussionist to hit the central part of the membrane of the drum using a stick. This became the pivot of the contemporary drum kit. With the assistance of his brother, Theobald Ludwig, they founded Ludwig & Ludwig Co. and through this company they acquired the patent right for the commercial quality of the drum set pedal system.
According to the formation of a contemporary drum set, if you are a right-handed percussionist, the drum kit should be assembled in a way that a bass drum will be played by the right foot using a pedal that can move a felt-covered beater. There should usually be three toms such as rack tom 1, rack tom 2, and the floor tom that is played with brushes or sticks. You will also find a hi-hat cymbal, which is two cymbals mounting on a stand and the player will be hitting on them with a stick as he uses the left foot pedal to open and close them at the same time by pressing the pedal up and down. Moreover, even if he chooses not to hit them with the sticks by using the pedal alone, they can also produce sounds. Additionally, there should be one or more cymbals mounting on stands, and you can play them with those sticks accordingly.
Furthermore, the standard structure of a drum set should have a snare drum mounted or placed on a stand between the knees of the percussionist in a way that he can play it using the drumsticks. Brushes or rutes can also be used as drumsticks. You can play this drum kit while seating on the drum stool also called a throne. However, depending on the experience of the drummer, some of them may add more drums or even cymbals to the standard set. Some of these additional instruments may include double bass drums, gongs, and many other percussion instruments while other drummers may also be involved in offering lead vocals and backup vocals as the case may be.
Over the years and throughout human history, drums have been used in several ways such as in societal settings, events, cultural and traditional rites, and even religious ceremonies to display various emotions and information to those concerned as occasion demanded. In most cases, some drums are depicted as “talking drums” connoting the human attribute of having vocal abilities for communication purposes. Such drums are found in Africa, especially in some communities of Sri Lanka where they are used in expressing several tones of speech such as anger, grief, fear, joy, etc.
Even in the military, drums are used for motivating the troops and in setting the pace for their marching parade. For example, the tàigǔ drums are used by Chinese soldiers for issuing orders and announcements.
Several religions employ the act of drumming for prayers and other spiritual passages to their gods and deities. A music therapist uses the instrumentality of the drum in bringing mental, physical, emotional, and social relief to his patients.
After series of innovations and improvements, William Ludwig invented the drum set through his patented bass drum pedal that was made to enable percussionist to hit the central part of the membrane of the drum using a stick.
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