Brief History of the Evolution of Drums, by Steve Benedetto

The drum has a rich history. Possibly the oldest instrument known to man, and technically known as membranophones (any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by way of a vibrating stretched membrane), the drum dates back to when humans learned how to communicate with one another. It was literally a form of speaking a language. Their 'drum set' was nothing like ours; instead of an elaborate multi piece setup, it was mostly likely a hand drum created out of of a membrane or skin stretched over a cylinder with an open end like a shell. First struck with their hand and then later, with a stick to produce a sound.

The first historical record of the drum dates back to 6,000 B.C., but Mesopotamian excavations found small cylindrical drums that are dated 3,000 B.C. Drums are found all over the earth, and most ancient civilizations incorporated some sort of music into their daily lives, whether it was for religious ceremonies, rituals or other parts of their social lives, including signals and war or battles. For centuries, the hand drum was most prevalent, but then different types of percussion instruments came along. The cymbals were originally made in ancient China or Turkey, but they were also used in Egypt and Israel, dating all the way back to 1,100 B.C. The first modern snare drum goes back to medieval times, first appearing in Europe back in 1300. After, the bass drum was created in 1400, which was bigger/lower pitched than the snare and thought to have been brought to Europe by the Turks.

For a while, drums remained unchanged for years, but as more people started to explore the world, including Africa and Cuba, they found new types of drums, including the bongo drum in the 1800's. As far as drum sticks, there’s a bit of evidence of early man using them in ancient days, but mostly hands were used back then to make the beat. Some of the earliest known drum sticks date back to 1,300 and were used in playing Tabors, which were snare drums made from wood. But then in the 1800's, drum sticks evolved and were commonly made from ebony and used for military drums. Nowadays, they are primarily made from a form of wood.

Before modern times, various percussion instruments were played by different people, but as music evolved, this way become quite expensive for an entire band. This prompted many attempts to try and consolidate all the drum-related instruments so that they can easily be played by just one person, which is how the modern drum set came to be.

Marching bands and musicians from the jazz era needed one percussion instrument and this led to the foot pedal-operated bass drum in 1909 by Ludwig & Ludwig Co. This was the first time one’s hands were free to do other things, which only continued the experimentation for various drum set-ups.

In the 1930's, dance bands became popular and a drummer called Ben Duncan figured out a standardized arrangement using one bass drum, snare and then a raised tom-tom combined with a floor tom-tom to create the modern drum set, which later became known as a drum 'kit'.

It was the beginning of a new age in drumming and this set-up forever changed how drums are played. By the 1960's, modern drum kits were perfected, which had more cymbals and bass drums. In 1976, the first electric drums came out, even though this kit didn’t produce a quality sound like we have now, the idea would spark a totally new type of direction for drumming. From there, the industry only looked to improve modern electric drumming space, which is what we see now.

Drums have come a long way from single hand drums and have evolved just as people have. But the history of drums is never lost upon those who are passionate about the instrument.

If you are interested in unique drumming content, feel free to check out our blog.  

Have an awesome day!

Brief History of the Evolution of Drums, by Steve Benedetto Brief History of the Evolution of Drums, by Steve Benedetto Reviewed by Respectful Beats™ on Monday, December 18, 2017 Rating: 5

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