The world of drumming is an incredible thing. There are so many rhythmic instruments out there, with drum kits naturally being one of the most popular.
In this guide, we’re going to show you several different types of drums. We’ll elaborate on a few special types of drum sets, and then we’ll branch out into a few world percussion instruments.
Standard Drum Sets
A standard drum set includes a set of drum shells, hardware stands, and a bunch of cymbals. Most people think of a basic 5-piece drum set when talking about kits, and that would have a single snare drum, two rack toms, a floor tom, and a bass drum.
Drum sets are made from a variety of woods, with the most inexpensive drums being made from hardwood or poplar. Higher-quality drums are made from birch, maple, walnut, mahogany, or beech.
Snare drums are also made from those woods, but metal snare drums are very common as well. These are made from steel, aluminum, brass, copper, or bronze.
There’s no limit to how many cymbals a drum kit can have, but every cymbal will need its own stand. Typically, drummers like to have two crashes, a pair of hi-hats and a ride cymbal (though there are many types of cymbal for different sounds and effects). That’s the basic setup that you’ll find on most drum kits.
In the gigging world, it’s more common to see drummers using 4-piece setups. These only have one rack tom, and the ride cymbal is placed a bit closer to the center of the kit.
Here are a few good standard drum sets options:
Compact Drum Sets
Compact drum sets are kits with smaller drum shells. They’re designed to be more portable than standard kits, making them good options for playing gigs. They’re also excellent kits for young kids to learn to play on.
A standard drum set has sizes like this:
- 14” snare drum
- 10” high tom
- 12” mid tom
- 16” floor tom
- 22” bass drum
A compact drum set has sizes like this:
- 13” snare drum
- 10” high tom
- 13” floor tom
- 18” bass drum
Compact drum sets can have the same cymbal setups as standard drum kits. You just need to position the cymbals in a way that doesn’t interfere with the drums.
Here are a few good compact kits:
Jazz Drum Sets
Jazz drum sets have the same shell makeup as standard and compact kits. Most compact kits are used as jazz drum sets anyway. However, there are certain kits that have more resonance and tonal richness, and that’s what makes drummers use them in jazz settings.
A typical jazz drum set has this sort of setup:
- 14” snare drum
- 10” or 12” rack tom
- 14” floor tom
- 18” or 20” bass drum
Jazz drum sets also typically have larger cymbals. It’s very common for jazz drummers to use more than one ride cymbal, giving you the appearance of a small kit with giant cymbals.
Traditional jazz drummers will put single-ply heads on their kits so that they bring out the most tone from the drum shells.
Here are a few good jazz drum kits to check out:
Acrylic Drum Sets
Acrylic drums are a category of their own, as the shell material is very different from the woods and metals from standard drums. They’re made from acrylate polymer, which is a kind of plastic. The drums are transparent, giving you a cool, see-through appearance.
These drums sound massive, and they’re fantastic drums to use in live gigging settings. They’re great for both their visuals and sound qualities.
They were first made popular when John Bonham used an acrylic kit when drumming for Led Zeppelin.
Acrylic drums are only a good idea if you play styles like rock, metal, punk, and pop. If you play something mellower, the loud sounds from the drums will be too overbearing.
While most acrylic drums have clear finishes, some have colorful finishes that are still transparent. The kit that John Bonham used was orange and red, and it looked epic.
One of the coolest things about acrylic drums is that you can shine lights through them to get interesting lighting effects. That’s another reason why they’re such a good option for live gigs.
Here are some good acrylic drum kit options:
Busking Drum Sets
Busking drum sets are small makeshift kits that can be easily transported around. They’re used to play in areas like side streets and subways. Compact kits are often used as busking drum sets, but there are a few kits designed to be even smaller and more portable.
The Tama Cocktail Jam is an excellent example of a busking set. It’s designed to fit in a single bag, and all the drums almost stack on top of each other when it’s set up. You can even play it while standing.
The Toca Percussion Kickboxx Suitcase Drum Set is another good example. It’s a suitcase that has been transformed into a small drum set. It’s so easy to carry around and then set up to play anywhere.
A lot of busking drummers get buckets, pots, and pans to make makeshift drum sets. Bucket drumming has actually become its own entity.
Electronic Drum Sets
Electronic drum kits recreate the feel and design of acoustic kits, but they’re powered digitally. They include a drum module that triggers different sounds from a set of mesh or rubber pads. Most electronic drum kits replicate the setup of a standard 5-piece drum set.
Alesis, Roland, and Yamaha are the big three brands that produce amazing electronic drum sets, but there have been more and more good options from competing brands being released recently.
Most e-kits are a lot smaller than acoustic kits, so they have the benefit of lower volume as well as smaller setups.
The downside of electronic kits is that they need to be amplified to be heard. While you could take an acoustic kit into an open field and play as much as you want, an electronic kit would require an extension lead for power and an amplifier to hear what you’re playing.
Here are some fantastic electronic kits to check out:
World Percussion Drums
World percussion refers to drums that originate from different countries. A lot of them are used in popular music, so they’re very commonly found in different music stores.
Here are a few world percussion drums with short descriptions:
Djembes – Djembes are African drums that have a long wooden shell with a drumhead made from animal skin. Some are rope-tuned, while others have synthetic drumheads and lugs that are similar to the ones found on acoustic drums.
Congas – Congas are Cuban drums with deep depths as well as tones. They’re very tall, and most percussionists play them in pairs. They’re used as the bass notes in a percussion rig.
Bongos – Bongos are also from Cuba, and they’re often paired with congas. They’re a lot smaller, and they produce short punchy tones. They always come in pairs, as the two congas are connected by a bridging hardware piece called the center block.
Taiko drums – Taiko drums are large drums from Japan. They have plenty of tradition behind them, and players use large mallets to play them while standing.
All orchestras have a percussion section, and percussionists have a wide variety of drums that they play. Timpani are the largest orchestral drums. They’re tunable drums that are played with mallets. They produce huge sounds.
Orchestral drummers also use snare drums that are sometimes a bit different from the standard snare drums found on acoustic kits. The same goes for the bass drum. A bass drum in an orchestra is a large drum that gets played on one side using a mallet.
Tongue Drums and Handpans
Tongue drums and handpans are relatively new drums compared to everything else listed. They became popular in the early 2000s, and they’ve become drums that many people use for meditative purposes.
Both have similar designs. They’re metal objects that you can place on your lap, and each one has a different musical scale that has been built into it. You tap different parts of the drums to get notes.
Handpans are a lot bigger, and their tones are richer and more detailed. Tongue drums are a lot cheaper, and you can play them with small mallets.
Final Thoughts on Types of Drums
The amazing thing about drums is that if you can play one of them, the other types are fairly easy to pick up. You should try out all the different types of drums if you can. You can play some amazing things on all of them.
Most people are either referred to as drummers or percussionists. If you play the drum set, you’re a drummer. If you play the other types of drums, you’re a percussionist. We’re all musicians, though!