How Drums Have Evolved Since Their First Use

2018 07 12

Drums have been an important musical instrument for hundreds of years in many countries around the world. Over time the structure of the drums has changed.

In Africa and South America, primitive bass drums were made by stretching animal skins over a wooden frame; Aboriginal tribes in Australia would also make they out of reptile and animal skins stretched over hollow logs.

Drum heads today are mainly constructed of plastic and are attached to the shell by means of a ring that is called a hoop which is attached by tightening a set of tuning bolts.

The First Drum Kits

It was at the end of the 19th century that the first drum kit originated. The idea is believed to have been that of the drummer Dee Dee Chandler who came up with a system in which one person could play a drum set. Before this time several people would have to be involved in playing different a set.

He came up with an ingenious way for a single individual person to play the bass, snare and cymbals, which meant that you no longer needed a team of people forming the rhythm section of a band or orchestra. Chandler also devised a way for a person to play the bass using a foot pedal - a very important invention.


The first pedals that were used with the bass drum were made of wood and so had to be manually put back into their original position. This was of course a major limitation. This was overcome when spring loaded pedals were invented in 1910. Ball bearings were later introduced to further improve on the movement. By 1950 it had been improved even further, with it now being built into the frame. This enabled better and finer movements to be made. The drive mechanism for the pedal was later changed in 1970 in New York, instead of a spring and ball bearing, a chain was used. The chain and gear mechanism was used instead, which was to become very popular in later years.

Bass & Snare Drums

Bass drums were also modified for various uses. For instance, holes were drilled in them to amplify the sound when struck. Legend has it that this trend actually began in a recording studio where they wanted to record a louder sound. More common in rock music rather than jazz, bass drums today also have many air holes in order to produce a better and clearer sound. This modification is also seen in the snare and tom-toms.

The first snares were invented in medieval Europe and were made of wood. Today not only can you find wooden ones, but you can also find them made of metal and aluminum. The type of material used has a strong influence on the sound that is produced, with metal drums ringing clearer and louder and wooden ones being warmer and more rounded. As we can see there has been a great deal of evolution in materials and the structure of drums.