Understanding all the parts of a drum set will help you learn things quicker. It will also help you buy new pieces of gear, as you’ll be able to identify which parts of your kit need to be upgraded over time.
We’re going to show you all the components of a drum set, all the way down to the finer details of shell construction. We’ll also explain a few differences that you may find with each part.
After reading through this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of your instrument.
- 1 Drum Shells
- 2 Parts on the Drum Shells
- 3 Cymbals
- 4 Hardware
- 5 Final Thoughts on Parts of a Drum Set
When you hear the word drum shells, it refers to all the big drums that you find in a drum kit setup. A standard drum set typically consists of five drum shells, and it’s referred to as a 5-piece kit. It includes a bass drum, snare drum, two rack toms, and a floor tom, and they can be made from a variety of woods.
The bass drum is the largest drum shell that sits on the floor. It lays longways, and it rests against two legs that secure it to the floor at the back. Many drummers also refer to it as a kick drum.
A bass drum pedal gets secured to the front of it, and that pedal gets used to play it with your foot.
Bass drums have the deepest tone out of all the drum shell types, and they’re also one of the most important parts of a drum kit setup. Without a bass drum, you can’t have a drum kit.
Snare drums provide a complete opposite sound to a bass drum, as they have sharp and attacking tones.
In a drum kit setup, a snare drum gets placed between your legs. It’s generally the drum that gets played most often, along with the bass drum.
Snare drums rest on a dedicated snare drum stand, and many drummers opt to use more than one snare drum in a setup. It’s also very common for drummers to build snare drum collections and swap them out in their setup to achieve certain sounds for songs.
The toms are the rest of the drums that get placed around the setup. A standard 5-piece drum set has three toms, with two sitting above the bass drum and one resting on the floor.
The toms above the bass drum are called rack toms. These range in size, and their depth determines how much resonance they have.
The tom that rests on the floor is called a floor tom. It’s the largest tom in a drum setup, and it has the deepest tones with the most resonance. Floor toms are held up with three floor tom legs.
Many drummers prefer using two floor toms and only having a single rack tom.
Parts on the Drum Shells
Let’s look a bit deeper into what makes up drum shells. It’s good to know all the components as they affect tone and tuning. These components often go unnoticed, but they’re what heavily determine the overall quality of all drum shells.
Bearing edges are found inside drum shells, and they’re the parts of the wood where drumheads meet the shell.
Different drums have varying bearing edge types, with the type of bearing edge being determined by its angle.
Sharper angles give drums more power, attack, and resonance. Flatter angles control the drum tone a bit more, giving you a mellower sound.
The most common type is 45-degree bearing edges. After that, you may find roundover and 30-degree bearing edges.
Counterhoops are the metal hoops that get placed on all the drum shells. These hoops allow you to fasten the drumheads to the shell, but they also control a bit of the tone of each drum.
The main types of hoops are triple-flanged and die-cast hoops. Triple-flanged hoops are the most common, as they can be found on all entry-level, intermediate, and pro drum sets.
Die-cast hoops are found on more premium kits. They’re heavier, and they give a bit more attack in the drum tone.
Tension rods are all the small screws that fasten the counterhoops and drumheads to the drum shells. These are used to tune the drums.
The tighter the tension rods are, the higher-pitched the drums will sound and vice versa. High-end drum sets tend to have more durable tension rods, but the differences in quality are rarely as big as they are with other components of drum shells.
On toms and snare drums, the tension rods can only be tightened with a drum key. The tension rods on bass drums are larger, and they can be tightened by hand.
Drumheads are the skins that attach to the top and bottom of all the drum shells. These are what you hit to make a sound.
On the top of a drum shell, the head is called a batter head. The bottom head is referred to as the resonant head. Both heads work together to give the drums their sounds. The top head controls the tone of the initial impact of a stick, while the bottom head controls how long the tone rings for.
Drumheads need to be replaced regularly as they wear out over time. You also get a wide variety of drumheads on the market that will give you drums certain tonal qualities.
Cymbals are all the metal discs that get placed above the drums. Cymbals are used to keep time, play accents, and create resonant sounds for different drum parts.
Hi-hats are the unique cymbals that sit just next to the snare drum. They always come in pairs, with the bottom hi-hats typically being slightly heavier than the top ones.
They’re connected to a hi-hat stand that allows you to use a pedal to control how tightly they’re closed together. When they’re tight, you play them to get a short sound. When they’re open, their sound gets more resonant and aggressive.
Hi-hats are an essential part of every drum set. Like the snare and bass drums, you won’t have a drum kit without them.
Crashes are arguably the most recognizable cymbal. Most drum kit setups have more than one crash, and they get placed anywhere around the setup where a drummer feels comfortable playing them.
Typically, the first crash is placed next to the first rack tom. This allows you to play it easily by moving your dominant hand from the hi-hats to the crash.
The second crash usually gets placed somewhere next to the ride cymbal. The first and second crashes will have different sizes, with larger crashes having deeper tones.
Some crashes have holes in them. Those are called trash crashes.
Ride cymbals are the largest and heaviest cymbals in a drum kit setup. They’re placed on the side of your dominant hand in a standard setup, meaning the ride would be on the right side of the kit if you’re right-handed.
Ride cymbals have the most resonant tones out of all the cymbals, and they get played the most on their surfaces. Drummers will play the ride cymbal instead of the hi-hats when they’re looking for more sound to fill spaces.
The ride is arguably the most versatile cymbal type, considering that many drummers use them as crashes too. Lighter rides work fantastically as crash cymbals, while heavier rides sound way too aggressive and overbearing to be crashed on.
The bell in the center is another important part of any ride cymbal, as rides have large bells with sweet tones.
Splash cymbals have the same design as crash cymbals, except that they’re a lot smaller. Splash cymbals have high-pitched tones, and they don’t resonate as much as most other cymbals.
They get placed anywhere around the kit due to their size. They can be squeezed into small spaces.
Some drummers like to tighten splash cymbals on stands a lot so that they give an impactful tone and then fade away quickly. Other drummers tighten them enough for them to ring a bit longer.
The number of splash cymbals included in a setup depends on the drummer. Some drummers never use them, while others have up to five splashes spaced around their kit.
Chinas are unique cymbals with the most aggressive tones out of any cymbal type. They can easily be identified by their shape, as their edges are raised. It gives the appearance of cymbals that have been flipped inside out.
These cymbals are mostly used by drummers who play heavy music, but it’s quite common to see jazz drummers using them as well due to their highly unique sounds.
Some china cymbals are just as large as ride cymbals, while others are the same size as splash cymbals.
When two or more cymbals are sandwiched together on the same cymbal stand, it’s referred to as a cymbal stack. Drummers use stacks to get sharp sounds that cut off very quickly.
Stacks can be made with any cymbals that fit together nicely. All cymbals have varying shapes on the surface, so you need to find cymbals that comfortably match each other’s shapes.
Many drummers make their own stacks with cymbals they already own, but you can also get premade stacks from different drum brands. Some stacks are too unique to create on your own, such as the Smack Stack from Meinl.
Bells are the least used type of cymbals. They’re small, thick cymbals that produce very high-pitched tones that resonate strongly.
They only produce a single sound when you hit their surface. You can’t crash on them like you would with other cymbals.
Like chinas, they’re most commonly found being used by metal drummers. They were a lot more popular when they first came out, but the trend of using them seemed to die out after a few years.
You’ll still find them being used on drum kits every now and then, though.
Hardware refers to all the stands and parts that hold the drums in place. It’s also any metal accessories that you’ll find around a drum kit setup. Solid hardware is often what makes a drum kit feel sturdy to play on, increasing your perspective of quality with the kit.
Bass Drum Pedal
We briefly mentioned the bass drum pedal, explaining that it’s the device used to play notes with the bass drum.
To elaborate on it a bit more, it’s a pedal that has a beater and tension springs to control how tight or loose it feels. Higher-quality bass drum pedals have base plates beneath the pedal to make them feel more secure.
There are various designs in pedals that control how the beater connects to the pedal. You get chain drive, direct drive, and belt drive pedals. They all have different benefits regarding how smooth and effective they are.
Some drum kits have a double bass drum pedal. This kind of pedal has two beaters and a drive shaft that connects a second pedal. The second pedal extends to rest next to the hi-hat stand.
Basket stands are what snare drums rest on. They have a tripod base at the bottom and a tilter near the top that’s positioned underneath the basket arms.
The basket arms secure the snare drum in a way that allows it to resonate fully. Basket stands have various tilting mechanisms, but all of them achieve the same thing of setting the snare drum up at a comfortable angle.
These stands are also used to mount rack toms. They can be positioned next to the bass drum and raised high enough for rack toms to fit comfortably in them. This kind of setup only works when a kit has a single rack tom. If you place another basket stand on the other side of the kick drum, the rack toms will be too far apart.
The hi-hat stand is an essential part of a drum kit setup as it’s required to set the hi-hats up. It has a unique mechanism that lets you control how the hi-hats move with your foot on a pedal.
At the top of the stand, you have a thin hi-hat rod. The bottom hat rests facing upward on a cymbal felt while the top hat gets attached to the rod. The top hat must be attached to a hi-hat clutch so that it can be fastened to the rod.
The rod gets controlled by the pedal at the bottom. As you press it, the top hi-hat moves up and down.
The drum throne is what you sit on when playing the drums. Drum thrones are another essential part of a drum kit, as normal chairs don’t cater to the way a drum kit is set up.
Drum thrones have tripod bases, along with a cushioned seat that can be raised and lowered. There are varying types of height adjustment designs that you can find on drum thrones, with higher-quality ones having technical designs that make them a lot more comfortable to use.
There are also varying types of cushion options, with the two most common ones being round tops and motorcycle seats.
Straight Cymbal Stand
Straight cymbal stands are stands that have two sections that can have their height adjusted, along with a tilting mount at the top.
The tilting mount allows you to adjust the angle of the cymbals, but you’re fairly limited due to the design of these stands.
They’re typically used for cymbals that are easy to position, such as crashes and splashes.
Boom Cymbal Stand
Boom cymbal stands have an arm that can have its angle adjusted. They’re a lot more versatile than straight stands, giving you more options with your cymbal placement.
These are the preferred kinds of stands to use in a drum kit setup, as they make it easier to position your cymbals in a comfortable way.
However, they’re not as secure and durable as straight stands, so there are merits to using both.
When you buy a drum hardware pack, it typically comes with a mixture of straight and boom stands. Drummers tend to keep a mixture of them in case a straight stand would ever be more beneficial to use in certain setups.
Final Thoughts on Parts of a Drum Set
When memorizing the parts of a drum set, the most important parts to remember are the drums and cymbals. Getting into the deeper aspects of shell construction isn’t something you should worry about until you start buying high-end gear. It’s good to know all the parts, but not absolutely necessary.
It’s necessary to know about the drum and cymbal names as you’ll be told to play them when learning new things. If a drum teacher tells you to play the floor tom, you should know what and where that is.
We’ve found that most drummers learn about the anatomy of a kit very quickly, so keep running through all the names, and you’ll have them memorized in no time.