Evolution Of The Drum

The drum is an instrument as ancient as the humankind. It has evolved from being a hollowed out piece with a stretched membrane over it and tuning pegs to modern drum kits that comprise of snares, bass drums, foot petal, cymbals, tom toms and so forth. This was done to produce sounds the traditional drum couldn’t. So we can speculate that the first ever made drum is the original beat.

As much as the drum is used as an instrument, in ancient cultures it was also used as a communicator. This type of drum was mainly made of wood as the hollowed out part and animal skin as the membrane. Messages were sent between members of the tribe through it and it was also used during rituals as a link between our world and that of the spirit.

traditional drum
Burundi Drummer

It was believed its vibrations crossed the veil that separated humans with the world of their ancestors as it altered consciousness when struck in a mood of song, dance and communion. Emotions of joy, sorrow, grief, reverence were imparted with the rhythm of this instrument. It is said that before the drum was created, a ritual was performed on the animal selected to have its skin used as a medium for communication to enhance its purpose as a bridge between worlds and to communicate as intended with the ancestors. Drumming was not only a musical experience but also a spiritual one. Another element of the drum was that of being a living mouth piece for the people’s problems. They used it to send their grievances to the spirit world for them to be addressed by their ancestors as its frequency and vibration were known to be those that they could understand. The drummer had to be someone who was receptive to the energies of the spirit world and also someone who understood the different drum patterns of the tribe’s deities. Some tribes still carry on these practices to this day and the drum is revered as a sacred instrument. Most ceremonies always include the drum.

In our modernity, almost all types of genres of music include drum patterns. According to Wikipedia, several factors determine the sound a drum produces, including the type, shape and construction of the drum shell, the type of drum heads it has, and the tension of these drumheads. Different drum sounds have different uses in music. Take, for example, the modern Tom-tom drum. A jazz drummer may want drums that are high pitched, resonant and quiet whereas a rock drummer may prefer drums that are loud, dry and low-pitched. Since these drummers want different sounds, their drums are constructed a little differently.

drum kit
Modern Drum Kit

Each type of drum head serves its own musical purpose and has its own unique sound. Double-ply drumheads dampen high frequency harmonics because they are heavier and they are suited to heavy playing. Drum heads with a white, textured coating on them muffle the overtones of the drum head slightly, producing a less diverse pitch. Drum heads with central silver or black dots tend to muffle the overtones even more. And drum heads with perimeter sound rings mostly eliminate overtones (Howie 2005).

There will surely be many new additions to the drum in the future and as far as we have explored, the drum remains an important instrument in the making of music.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. spencingt0n says:

    Good read, was hoping for more depth, but still pretty good none the less.

    1. four4beats says:

      thanks,but it wasnt the intention to get into depth of the subject. That would require lengthy research time as there is limited literature on the subject. Thank you for the encouragement.

    2. four4beats says:

      thank you for your comments, i was still trying to guage how much depth my readers require, lest it becomes too deep to understand. If I should see that they want the taps fully open, I shall do so.

    3. four4beats says:

      thank you for your comments, i was still trying to guage how much depth my readers require, lest it becomes too deep to understand. If I should see that they want the taps fully open, I shall do so.

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