About disclaimer Contact

Drumming Terms from A to Z – Everything You Need to Know

When becoming a drummer, there are so many terms to learn. A lot of them are straightforward, while others make you wonder who gave them those names. 

This guide will serve as an ultimate index for all terms related to drumming. If you’re unsure of what someone means when they’re talking about a particular drum-related thing, just revert to this list, and you should find what you’re looking for.


Accent – This refers to when you play a particular note louder on the drums than how you play the ones before and after it. You do this by hitting the drum or cymbal harder. 

Acoustic Drums – The main kind of drums that everyone knows of. They’re comprised of wooden shells, metal hoops, and lugs. Acoustic drums don’t have any electronic components. An acoustic drum set includes wooden drum shells and metal cymbals. 

Aluminum – A type of metal used for making drums. It’s mostly used for snare drums, and aluminum snares have very crisp tones with less sustain than other metal snare drums. 

American Grip – The standard way that most drummers hold their sticks. It’s when you hold the sticks at 45-degree angles and utilize both your wrists and fingers to get different movements.

Attack – A term used to describe the sound of drums and cymbals. Drums and cymbals with more attack have an emphasis on high frequencies, while drums with less attack have more blending qualities.


Backbeat – A set rhythm established within a groove. It determines the timing of a groove, and most backbeat rhythms fall on beats two and four of every measure. 

Ball Joint – Part of a particular type of cymbal stand or tom arm. Ball joints have a ball with a metal attachment that allows you to rotate the cymbals and toms around to get comfortable angles. 

Bar – A section of music that holds a certain number of beats. Once those beats are played, the next bar starts. It’s also referred to as a measure. Most bars in drumming have four quarter note beats, but it changes depending on the time signature. 

Bar Line – A line in musical notation that separates every bar/measure. When you see a bar line, the following note is always beat one of the next bar. 

Batter Head – The drumhead that goes on the top side of a drum. It’s called the batter head, as it’s the drumhead that gets struck by your sticks. 

Basket – The top section of a snare drum stand. It has three basket arms that you stretch out so that they support the snare drum. All the basket arms have rubber tips at the end so that the snare drum isn’t resting on metal pieces. 

Bass Drum – The biggest drum in most drum setups. It rests laterally on the floor, and you use a bass drum pedal to play it. It provides the deepest tone out of all the drums. 

Bass Drum Pedal – A piece of gear that attaches to the bass drum to allow you to play it. Bass drum pedals are made up of a pedal, beater, cam, drive system, and base plate. 

Bearing Edge – The part of a drum shell that meets the drumhead. You get bearing edges on both the top and bottom of a drum shell, and the angle of the bearing edges affects how the drum sounds. 

Beater – The part of a bass drum pedal that strikes the bass drum. You get various types of beaters, including plastic, wood, felt, rubber, and metal. 

Beech – A type of wood used to make drum shells. It’s a strong wood that gives the drums a bit of low-end emphasis. This results in fat tones from the drums. 

Bell – The raised center part of every cymbal. Bells of ride cymbals are played the most, but you can strike the bell of any cymbal to get a short and bright sound. 

Birch – Another wood used for making acoustic drums. It gives the drums bright and punchy tones, making birch kits very good for live settings. They project very well. 

Blast Beat – A type of groove used in metal music. It involves playing very quick 16th notes with your drums and cymbals. 

Boom Arm – The top half of a boom cymbal stand. It’s the arm that lets you mount a cymbal to it, and you can angle it in various ways. You can also get separate boom arms to mount around your cymbal stands and drums. 

Bossa Nova – A Latin drum groove used in Bossa music. It involves lightly playing the hi-hat while you play a clave rhythm on the snare and repeated doubles on the bass drum. 

Bow – The surface of a cymbal. When playing the cymbal on the bow, you get a mellow resonating tone. The ride cymbal gets played on the bow the most out of any cymbal type. 

Bronze – A material used to make metal snare drums and cymbals. The tone you get is very warm and dark. You’ll only find very high-end snare drums made from bronze. 

Breakdown – A section in a song within metal music where the instruments play together without singing. It usually comes near the end of a tune, and musicians will often play solos within them. 

Brushes – Types of drumsticks that are mainly used for jazz drumming. They have hard plastic handles and a group of metal thistles to strike the drums with. 

Buzz Roll – A technique where you constantly press your sticks into a snare drum to create a consistent buzzing sound. The other name for it is a drum roll.


China – A type of cymbal that has rounded edges and a trashy sound. These cymbals are used in settings where aggressive tones are needed. They’re a staple for metal drummers. 

Choke – When you grab a cymbal after striking it to stop the tone from resonating. Grabbing the cymbal stops it from vibrating, and that kills the sound. 

Chops – A modern drumming term that refers to musical ideas behind the kit. When a drummer is playing chops, it means they’re stringing together different patterns to create impressively busy grooves and fills. 

Clutch – A small piece of gear that you attach a top hi-hat cymbal to. It latches onto the rod of a hi-hat stand to allow you to keep the hi-hats closed or open. 

Common Time – A widely used phrase to describe 4/4 time. It means that there are four quarter note beats in every bar. 

Compact Kit – An acoustic drum set with shell sizes that are smaller than usual. The small shells create a small drum kit setup that works wonderfully for playing in small venues where there isn’t much space on stage. Compact kits are also excellent for kids

Comping – The term used for playing snare patterns in jazz music that support or match whatever an instrumentalist is playing. While you keep a ride swing going with your right hand, you play comping patterns with your left. 

Copper – Material used for creating metal snare drums. It’s a very dark shell material, but the tones from copper snares are typically quite warm. They’re often used in orchestras. 

Counterhoop – The metal hoops that go on the top and bottom of drum shells. They lock the tension rods in place and keep everything together. 

Cowbell – A metal percussion instrument that many drummers set up with their drum sets. You can never have too much cowbell in a song. 

Crash cymbal – A cymbal that makes an aggressive tone when you hit it. Drummers typically play them at the end of drum fills. 

Cymbals – The metal discs that go with acoustic drum sets. They’re either made from bronze or brass, and they play a huge role in establishing the overall sound of a drum kit. Read about different types of cymbals here.


Die-Cast Hoops – Special counterhoops used for drums that are heavy and add a lot of attack to the drum tones. 

Double Bass Drum Pedal – A bass drum pedal with two beaters. It’s used to play quick bass drum patterns. 

Double-Braced Hardware – Drum and cymbal stands with sturdy legs that have two metal beams. 

Double Stroke Roll – A type of rudiment where you play two right-hand strokes followed by two left-hand ones.

Downbeat – This refers to when you play the main beats of a bar. In a bar of 4/4, the downbeat falls on beats one, two, three, and four. 

Drag – A rudiment where you play two quick strokes followed by a strong stroke with the other hand.

Dragging – This refers to when you’re falling behind the pulse of a song. 

Drop Clutch – A special type of hi-hat clutch that allows you to tighten and loosen it by dropping a lever. 

Drumhead – The plastic material that goes on the top and bottom of every drum shell. 

Drum Key – A small metal tool used to tighten and loosen tension rods and other parts of drum hardware

Drum Module – The brain of every electronic drum set. It’s the interface where you control all the sounds and features. 

Drum Set – The term used for drums, cymbals, and hardware when they’re positioned in a setup. 

Drum Solo – When you play drums alone without any music. The usual point of a drum solo is to impress a crowd, though many songs also have drum solos in them.

Drumsticks – The sticks used to play the drums. They’re typically made from hickory, but some are made from oak or maple. 

Drum Tech – Someone who goes on the road with a famous drummer to set up and tune their drums before every show. They’re in charge of all their gear needs. 

Dynamics – This refers to the different volumes of playing the drums. 

DW Drums – A drum brand based in the US that makes high-end sets.


Edge – A term often used for the outer side of a cymbal. You get aggressive tones when playing the edge. 

Electronic Drums – A set of drums comprised of rubber or mesh pads and a drum module. The module controls what sounds come from the pads, and you’ll hear those sounds through an amp or headphones. 

Effects Cymbal – A unique cymbal that breaks the mold of what you’d expect from a standard crash or ride. Some of them have holes in them, while others have weird structural designs. 

Endorsement – When a drummer enters a business relationship with a brand. The brand gives them good deals or free gear, and the drummer gives the brand exposure when they play that gear.


Feathering – When you lightly tap the bass drum while playing jazz.

Feel – A quality that drummers have that allows them to play great-sounding grooves.

Fill – A group of notes played together around the drums that lead into a new section of a song. 

Flam – A rudiment where you play both hands together, but one comes down just before the other. 

Floor Tom – The second largest drum in an acoustic setup. It’s the tom that you set up on the floor next to the snare drum. Floor toms always have three metal legs. 

Foot Plate – A metal plate found underneath a lot of bass drum pedals. It makes the pedal feel a lot sturdier to play. 

Four-on-the-floor – A groove where you play the bass drum on every quarter note beat of the bar. 

French Grip – A way of holding your sticks where your palms face each other. This grip has you mostly incorporating your fingers to play strokes.


German Grip – A type of grip where you face your palms downward and mostly use your wrists to play strokes. 

Ghost Note – This refers to when you lightly tap a drum to get a softer note. 

Gig – Another name for a performance. 

Glassy – A descriptive word for cymbals. Glassy cymbals have shimmering tones that are high-pitched. 

Gretsch Drums – Another drum brand based in the US. Most Gretsch kits have vintage appeal to them. 

Groove – Another word for a drumbeat. It also means that a drummer is good when they have an excellent sense of groove. 

Gong – A very large suspended cymbal that you play with a big mallet.


Half-time – When the backbeat of a groove moves to only beat three instead of being on beats two and four. 

Half-time Shuffle – One of the most famous half-time drumbeats. Bernard Purdie, John Bonham, and Jeff Porcaro were the main drummers that created it. 

Hammering – A technique used to improve the overall sound of cymbals. Cymbals that are hand-hammered have the best tones. 

Hardware – The collective term for all the stands used to hold drums and cymbals in place. 

Hi-hats – The two cymbals that get placed to the left of a snare drum. They’re used the most when playing drum grooves. 

High Tom – The first tom in a setup. It’s typically positioned right above the snare drum. 

Hybrid Rudiment – An unofficial rudiment that’s made up of a combination of different official.



Independence – The term used to describe control over all your limbs when playing the drums.


Jamming – When you play drums with other musicians. 

Jazz Ride Pattern – The most common pattern used in swing jazz. It’s when you play one quarter note followed by two swung eighth notes on the ride cymbal.


Kick Drum – Another name for a bass drum. Many people find it easier to say. 

Kevlar – A strong material commonly used for marching snare drumheads.


Lathing – The process of removing material from the surface of a cymbal. Unlathed cymbals have an earthy appearance. 

Lick – A popular word used for a drum fill or pattern. 

Linear Drumming – When grooves or fills are played with no limbs hitting a drum at the same time. 

Ludwig – One of the oldest drum brands. It was one of the first drums to pioneer the modern drum set as we know it. 

Lugs – The metal parts of a drum shell that house the tension rods.


Mallets – Sticks with felt balls at the tips. They’re mostly used to play swells on cymbals. 

Mahogany – A wood used for drum shells that gives them warm low-pitched tones. 

Mapex – A popular drum brand that is known for creating drums with mixed wood shells. 

Maple – The most popular wood used for drum shells. The tones are well-balanced. 

Matched Grip – The overall term used for holding your sticks facing outward. 

Metric Modulation – When you use a repeating rhythm to switch tempos. 

Metronome – A tool that gives you a pulse. You can change tempos and use it to practice. 

Mid Tom – The rack tom that gets placed between the high tom and floor tom. 

Moeller – A common drumming technique where you get multiple strokes from a single arm movement. 

Muffling – When you add dampening to drums to control their overtones. 

Mylar – The most common material used for making drumheads. Mylar drumheads have very natural rebound, and they allow the most tone from drum shells.


Notation – Drum notes written down on music sheets. 

Nylon Tip – Plastic tips that go on drumsticks. Nylon tips sound brighter on cymbals than wood tips.



Oak – A wood type used for drum shells. Oak drums have very rich tones with plenty of musicality. 

Odd Time – Music played with an odd time signature. A good example would be 7/8.

Offbeat – This refers to notes that land in between the main beats in a bar. For example, an offbeat groove would have you playing accented hi-hats on the “and” counts in a measure. 

Open-Hand Drumming – When you play drums on a right-handed setup with your left hand on the hi-hat and right hand on the snare. 

Ostinato – A repeating pattern. Drummers often play ostinatos with their feet while 

Overtones – The unpleasant ringing tones that come from a drum when it hasn’t been tuned properly.


Paradiddle – A rudiment that combines single and double strokes. 

Patina – The layers of dirt and grime that form on cymbals after a while. Patina changes how cymbals sound, with many drummers preferring those sounds to the original. 

Percussion Clef – The clef used to indicate that percussion notes are being written in bars of notation. 

Permutation – When you move rhythms around in a bar to create different grooves from the same idea. 

Phrasing – This refers to how you play groups of notes together. You can phrase things differently to get slightly different sounds. 

Piccolo Snare – A snare drum with a shallow depth and high-pitched tone. 

Pitch – This refers to how high or low sounds are. 

Plies – All drum shells are made up of wood plies. 

Polyrhythm – When you play two different rhythmic ideas simultaneously. 

Porthole – A hole in the resonant bass drumhead to allow you to place a drum mic inside the shell. 

Practice Pad – A rubber pad that you can practice patterns and techniques on without making a loud noise.


Quintuplets – When you play five notes in the space of two.


Rack – A metal structure that you mount your drums and cymbals on. 

Resonant Head – The bottom drumhead of every drum. It controls how long a drum resonates for. 

Ride Cymbal – Typically the largest cymbal in a setup. You place it to the right of the floor tom and mid tom, and you play it when you want more sustain from your grooves. 

Rimshot – When you play the rim and snare head at the same time to get a powerful sound. 

Rudiments – Essential patterns that every drummer should learn and master. They’re the building blocks of everything you play on the drums. 

Rushing – When you play ahead of the pulse of a song instead of in time with it.

Rute Sticks – Plastic or wood sticks that are used when you don’t want a lot of volume from your drums. They’re made up of dozens of thistles.


Shell – The common name for a single drum.

Shell Pack – A set of drum shells to buy that doesn’t include hardware or cymbals. Most intermediate and pro kits come as shell packs. 

Single Stroke Roll – A rudiment where you alternate your hands over and over. 

Sizzle Cymbal – A cymbal with rivets drilled into it so that it resonates for much longer than it typically would. 

Snare Drum – The main drum in a drum set that has snare wires and a throw off to allow it to make a unique sound. 

Snare Wires – The wires that rest at the bottom of a snare drum to give it its iconic sound. 

Splash Cymbal – A very small crash cymbal that makes a high-pitched sound. 

Spurs – The spikes at the bottom of drums that have legs, like the bass drum and floor tom. 

Stacked Cymbals – Cymbals placed on top of each other to give you a short and punchy sound. 

Sticking – The term that refers to what patterns you play with your hands and how they alternate. 

Stick Twirl – When you twist your drumstick around to look cool. Drummers often do these when playing live to add to the vibe of a show. 

Subdivision – This refers to how notes are broken up in a bar. The most common subdivisions are eighth notes and sixteenth notes. 

Sustain – The term referring to how long a drum or cymbal rings for. 

Swell – When you continuously strike a cymbal and increase in intensity to get a powerful yet warm sound.


Tempo – The term for how fast a metronome beats in a song. 

Tension Rods – The screws that lock counterhoops and drumheads in place. You tighten them to tune drums. 

Throne – The most popular name for the chair that drummers sit on. 

Throw Off – The lever on a snare drum that controls whether the snare wires or tightened or not.  

Traditional Grip – When you hold one stick by facing your palm upward and resting the stick between your ring and middle finger. 

Transcription – When drum parts are written down on notation. 

Triggers – Small pieces of gear that you clip onto drums and connect to a module to play electronic sounds from an acoustic kit. 

Triple Flanged Hoops – The most common kind of counterhoops used for drums. 

Triplet – Three notes played in the space of two. 

Tuning – When you adjust the lugs of drums to tighten the drumheads to achieve certain sounds.


Upbeat – The beat just before beat one of a new bar.


Vamp – A part in a song where the musicians repeat the same lines until someone indicates that they can continue. 

Virgin Bass Drum – A bass drum that doesn’t have a tom mounting system drilled into it. You need to mount the toms to cymbal stands when using one.


Wingnut – The twisting metal pieces on cymbal stands and drums that lock components into place. 

Wood Hoops – Counterhoops made from wood instead of metal. They give earthier tones.


X-Hats – Auxiliary hi-hats that are placed somewhere other than the usual hi-hat spot in a drum setup.


Yamaha – A popular drum brand that sells both acoustic and electronic drum sets.


Zildjian – A very well-known cymbal brand and one of the oldest companies in the world. 

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.