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100+ Drum Terms: A Beginner’s List

Drumeo Team  /  Nov 1, 2023

Whether you’re a new drummer or you’re looking to brush up on your knowledge, this glossary of terms will help you get familiar with modern lingo and feel more confident behind the kit.

You probably aren’t here to browse through over 100 words about drumming, so get that Ctrl+F (or ⌘+F) going and find the definitions you’ve been confused about!

  1. Accent: A note that is played louder or with more emphasis than others.

  2. Acoustic Drum Kit: A traditional drum set that doesn’t use electronic amplification.

  3. Attack: The initial sound of a drum or cymbal when struck.

  4. Auxiliary Percussion: Additional percussion instruments used alongside the main drum set, like cowbells, woodblocks, or shakers.

  5. Backbeat: The strong accent on the second and fourth beats in 4/4 time, typically played on the snare drum.

  6. Barking: A technique where slightly open hi-hat cymbals are struck on the edge immediately before they’re closed, producing a sharp, barking sound.

  7. Bass Drum: The largest drum in a kit, played with a foot pedal.

  8. Bearing Edge: The edge of a drum shell where it contacts the drumhead.

  9. Beater: The part of a bass drum pedal that strikes the drumhead.

  10. Bell: The rounded top of a cymbal that produces a distinct, sharp sound.

  11. Blast Beat: A drumming technique that involves rapid alternating strokes on the snare and bass drum, common in extreme metal genres.

  12. Boom Stand: A type of cymbal stand that features an adjustable arm (boom) to allow for more flexible positioning of cymbals around the drum kit.

  13. Brushes: A pair of wire brushes used for softer drumming sounds.

  14. Buzz Roll: A drum roll produced by allowing the sticks to bounce several times on the drum head. Also known as a ‘multiple bounce roll’.

  15. China Cymbal: A type of cymbal with an upturned edge, producing a trashy sound.

  16. Choke: Grabbing a cymbal after striking to stop its sound abruptly.

  17. Chops: A slang term used to refer to a drummer’s technical skill, agility, and rhythmic vocabulary on the drum set.

  18. Clave: A rhythmic pattern used as a tool for timing in various music styles.

  19. Click Track: An audio pulse used to maintain a consistent tempo. May be used interchangeably with ‘metronome’.

  20. Clutch: A mechanism attached to the top cymbal of a hi-hat stand used to tighten or loosen the cymbals and control them with the foot pedal.

  21. Common Time: A time signature of 4/4 (four beats per measure with each beat represented by a quarter note), the most widely used time signature in Western music.

  22. Cowbell: A hollow metal percussion instrument often mounted on a drum kit.

  23. Crash Cymbal: A cymbal used to create a loud, crashing sound.

  24. Cross Stick: Technique where the stick is laid across the drum and struck against the rim.

  25. Cymbal Stacker: An accessory that screws onto a cymbal stand, allowing drummers to stack multiple cymbals vertically in a limited space.

  26. Cymbal Stand: A metal stand specifically designed to hold a cymbal.

  27. Dampening: Reducing overtones and sustain on a drum, usually with gels or pads.

  28. Die-Cast Hoop: A type of drum hoop made from a mold, known for its durability and focused sound.

  29. Displacement: Shifting a rhythmic pattern or beat by a certain number of subdivisions or beats within a measure. This changes where you feel the downbeat and can add complexity to the arrangement.

  30. Double Bass: Using two bass drums or a double pedal for rapid bass drum playing.

  31. Double-Braced Stand: A stand that has two sets of metal supports making up each leg (instead of one) for better stability and durability.

  32. Double Stroke Roll: A rudiment consisting of two strokes per hand, alternately.

  33. Double Time: Playing at twice the speed of the original tempo, often used to increase the energy and intensity of a musical passage.

  34. Downbeat: The first beat of a measure, often emphasized and serving as the primary pulse or rhythmic anchor in a piece of music.

  35. Drag: A rudiment consisting of a double grace note (two quick, quiet strokes) played just before the primary stroke, creating a dragging sound effect.

  36. Drop Clutch: A special hi-hat clutch that allows drummers to disengage and drop the top hi-hat cymbal by hitting the clutch with a stick, useful for maintaining a closed hi-hat sound while playing double bass drum patterns.

  37. Drum Fill: A short drumming pattern that fills a gap between musical phrases or introduces a new section.

  38. Drum Key: A tool used to tune drums and adjust certain drum equipment.

  39. Drum Roll: A rapid succession of drum strokes that create a sustained sound.

  40. Drum Set: A collection of drums, cymbals, and other percussion instruments arranged for convenient playing by a single drummer. Also known as a ‘drum kit’.

  41. Drum Tab: A form of musical notation specifically for drums that uses text and symbols to represent different drum and cymbal hits. Short for ‘tablature’, it’s easier to read than traditional drum notation.

  42. Drum Tech: Short for ‘drum technician’, this is a professional responsible for setting up, maintaining, and tuning a drummer’s equipment.

  43. Dynamics: The volume variations in playing, from soft to loud.

  44. E-Drum: Short for electronic drum.

  45. Electronic Drum Kit: A drum set that uses electronic pads and triggers.

  46. Fanning: A technique where the drummer rapidly opens and closes the hi-hat cymbals while alternating strokes between the top and bottom.

  47. Flam: A drumming technique involving two strokes close together – a grace note that precedes the primary note.

  48. Flanged Hoop: A type of drum hoop with a flange, used to influence the drum’s tone and sustain.

  49. Floor Tom: A large, low-tuned tom drum that stands on legs and is typically part of a drum kit.

  50. Four on the Floor: A pattern where the bass drum is hit on every quarter note beat in 4/4 time.

  51. Ghost Note: A note played very softly, almost inaudible.

  52. Gong: A large, flat, vertically suspended cymbal – typically played by striking it with a mallet – it produces a loud, sustained, and sometimes explosive sound, commonly used in symphonic and Asian music.

  53. Gong Drum: A large, single-headed drum that produces a deep, resonant sound, similar to a gong but played with drumsticks or mallets.

  54. Grip: The way a drummer holds the drumsticks.

  55. Groove: The rhythmic feel or swing in music, especially in the context of a drum pattern. Can also be used synonymously with ‘drum beat’.

  56. Half-Time: A rhythm that feels half as fast as the song’s main beat.

  57. Hardware: The metal stands and fittings on a drum kit.

  58. Heel-Toe Technique: A bass drum pedal technique that involves alternate use of the heel and toe to play fast rhythms.

  59. Hi-Hat: A pair of cymbals mounted on a stand, played with a foot pedal.

  60. Hi-Hat Clutch: A device that secures the top cymbal of a hi-hat to the rod.

  61. Hi-Hat Stand: A stand that holds the hi-hat cymbals.

  62. Hoop: The circular metal or wooden ring that holds and stretches the drumhead over the drum shell, influencing the drum’s sound and tension.

  63. Hybrid Drums: A combination of acoustic and electronic drum components.

  64. Independence: A drummer’s ability to play different rhythms and patterns with each limb simultaneously.

  65. In-Ear Monitor: A personal earphone monitor – basically advanced ear buds.

  66. Kick Drum: Another term for the bass drum.

  67. Lathing: The process of machining spiral grooves into a cymbal, which affects its sound characteristics like tone, sustain, and volume.

  68. Lick: A short and distinctive, memorable rhythmic pattern or phrase that can be used as a musical ornament within a drumming performance.

  69. Linear Drumming: A style of drumming where no two drums or cymbals are struck simultaneously.

  70. Lug: A tensioning device attached to a drum shell.

  71. Mallet: A type of drumstick with a large, soft head, used for swells or muffled hits on cymbals, marching drums or timpani.

  72. Metronome: A device used to keep a steady tempo.

  73. Moeller Method: A drumming technique that involves a whipping motion that lets you play faster and more relaxed.

  74. Muffling: Reducing the resonance of a drum using various materials.

  75. Odd Time: Time signatures that are not divisible by two or three and result in rhythmic patterns with an odd number of beats per measure (like 5/4 or 7/8).

  76. Ostinato: A repeating rhythmic or percussive pattern that creates a foundation over which you can play other things.

  77. Overhead Mics: Microphones placed above the drum kit to capture the overall sound.

  78. Paradiddle: A basic drumming rudiment alternating between single and double strokes (RLRR LRLL).

  79. Pedal: A lever operated by the foot, as in bass drum or hi-hat pedals.

  80. Percussion Clef: A symbol of two vertical bars that indicates that lines and spaces on the staff represent drum and cymbal sounds instead of musical pitches.

  81. Pocket: The great-feeling groove or rhythm created by a drummer when they play in a way that is tightly synchronized with the rest of the music.

  82. Polyrhythm: The simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms.

  83. Practice Pad: A small pad used for quiet drum practice.

  84. Quintuplet: A group of five notes played in the space of four.

  85. Rack: A metal frame used to mount various drums and cymbals.

  86. Rack Tom: A smaller tom drum, typically mounted above the bass drum.

  87. Resonant Head: The bottom head of a drum, which resonates with the top head.

  88. Ride Cymbal: A large cymbal used for playing steady, articulate patterns, typically with the tip of the drumstick.

  89. Rim: The edge of a drum on which the drumhead is stretched.

  90. Rim Click: Striking the rim of a drum with a stick to produce a click sound.

  91. Rim Shot: Striking the drumhead and the rim at the same time for a loud accent.

  92. Roto Toms: Drums with no shell that are tuned by rotating the drumhead.

  93. Rudiments: Fundamental drumming patterns used as building blocks for more complex rhythms.

  94. Sample Pad: A practice tool or electronic trigger pad that plays a sample when you hit it.

  95. Shell: The body of the drum.

  96. Shell Pack: A set of drums without the hardware.

  97. Shuffle: A rhythmic feel characterized by a ‘triplet’ feel, common in blues and jazz.

  98. Side Drum: Another term for a snare drum that may refer to a secondary drum in a kit with the snares off.

  99. Single Stroke Roll: A drumming pattern of alternating left and right strokes.

  100. Sizzle Cymbal: A cymbal with rivets or chains that create a ‘sizzling’ sound.

  101. Snare Drum: A drum with a ‘snare’ of wires under the bottom head that produce a sharp, cracking sound.

  102. Snare Stand: A stand specifically designed to hold a snare drum.

  103. Splash Cymbal: A small, thin cymbal used for quick, splashing sounds.

  104. Stick Bag: A bag used to carry drumsticks, brushes, and mallets.

  105. Stick Control: The ability to accurately and effectively use drumsticks.

  106. Subdivision: Dividing a measure of music into smaller rhythmic units.

  107. Swing: A style of drumming that emphasizes a triplet feel.

  108. Syncopation: The accentuation of offbeat rhythms or the placement of accents on weak beats or subdivisions.

  109. Tambourine: A handheld percussion instrument consisting of a circular frame and pairs of small metal jingles.

  110. Tempo: The speed at which a piece of music is played.

  111. Tension Rod: A rod used on drums to adjust the tension of the drumhead, which changes the pitch and sound of the drum.

  112. Throne: Another term for a drum stool, which is a seat designed specifically for drummers.

  113. Throw-Off: A mechanism that allows the drummer to engage or disengage the snare wires from the bottom of the drum, significantly altering its sound.

  114. Time Signature: The notation indicating the number of beats in each measure (top number) and the type of note that receives one beat (bottom number).

  115. Timpani: A deep, resonant ‘kettle drum’ that consists of a large copper bowl with a drumhead stretched over the top, played with mallets.

  116. Tom: A cylindrical drum with no snares, used in drum kits.

  117. Trigger: A device used in electronic drumming to convert physical hits into electronic signals.

  118. Triple Stroke Roll: Three consecutive strokes with each hand (RRRLLL)

  119. Triplet: Three notes played in the time of two.

  120. Tuning Key: Another term for a drum key.

  121. Upbeats: The beats that occur in between the main beats of a rhythm, often serving as a syncopated or rhythmic lift.

  122. Velocity: The force with which a drum or cymbal is struck.

  123. Wing Nut: A type of nut with extended, wing-like projections that can be tightened or loosened by hand to secure or adjust various drum hardware components, like cymbal stands or tom mounts.

  124. Wood Block: A block of wood used as a percussion instrument.

  125. Wrap: A decorative covering on drum shells.

Edited by Sam Landa, Content Marketing Manager at Drumeo

Drumeo Team - We're professional, award-winning drummers and drum teachers, coaches, recording artists, and content specialists who are passionate about drums and helping drummers around the world. This post was written and/or edited by Aaron Edgar, Sam Landa, Brandon Toews, Jared Falk, Dave Atkinson, or another pro on our team (which has a combined 1000+ years of drumming experience). Are you looking for inspiration, education, and support to take your playing to the next level? Join the Drumeo community today!

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