February 29, 2024

Percussion instruments, including drums, have been an essential component of nearly every musical genre for centuries, spanning several countries. From the first gourd-made drums to the contemporary computerized drums, the history of drums has represented a wide variety of musical styles.

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When Were Drums Invented?

Chinese relics show that percussionists were using alligator leather drums as early as 5500 B.C., and ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures all included depictions of drums at social gatherings and sacred ceremonies. Studies indicate that hand drums and beater drums evolved at the same time.

Who Produced the First Drum?

In general, music historians do not attribute the invention of any certain drum to any one person. Drums have evolved throughout decades of creation, just like most other musical instruments. The same applies to the instruments used to beat drums, such drumsticks and felted mallets.

A Brief Overview of Drums throughout History

Ancient drums from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa date back thousands of years. Ancient Chinese relics, Sumerian and Mesopotamian bas-reliefs, and Greek and Syrian bas-reliefs all contain the drums and cymbals that form the basis of the modern drum set. All around the world, people have made drum heads out of animal skins.

Origins of percussion instruments: Among the earliest known examples of percussion instruments are ivory flutes made from mammoth bones found in present-day Belgium. These instruments, which are idiophones and are thought to have developed approximately 70,000 B.C., produce music through the vibrating of the entire instrument.

Origins of the frame drum: The drums played by contemporary drummers are descended from ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian musical instruments. The frame drums employed by these tribes were the forerunners of the 20th-century snare drum and tom-toms. The narrow wooden frame has the drum heads extended over it. After the drums were built, every culture created its own unique drum sounds and drumming techniques.
The background of traditional drumming Europe’s drum heritage dates back to early Middle Eastern cultures. The timpani, or kettle drums, used in European classical music are most likely derived from Egyptian and Turkish customs. The origins of the classical bass drum may also be traced to the Ottoman Empire.
The five-piece drum set that impacted American jazz and rock music originated with European classical instruments. The kick and double bass drums heard in modern popular music originate from classical bass drums. Snare drums used by drummers in rock, pop, and jazz come from marching band side drums.
It is likely possible to trace the roots of the modern five-piece drum kit back to New Orleans in the early 1900s, when jazz performers like Warren “Baby” Dodds assembled a drum set using classical instruments. Some of these instruments needed to be modified, such as the bass drum: In classical music, the drummer utilizes handled mallets; in popular music, the drummer uses a bass drum pedal. The foot pedal as we know it was invented by William F. Ludwig of the Ludwig Drums business.

Are You Curious About Drum Shredding?

Get a MasterClass Annual Membership, get your sticks, and discover your beat with the help of GRAMMY-nominated percussionist Sheila E., dubbed the “Queen of Percussion,” and her special instructional videos. Once you’ve mastered the congas and timbales, expand your musical horizons by studying with other legendary musicians like Herbie Hancock, Timbaland, Tom Morello, and others.