Drum Anatomy: Learn the Parts of a Drum

parts of a drum

From the average observer, drums don’t seem like the most robust or technical instrument that exists, especially acoustic drums, but this fascinating instrument actually has many intricacies worth knowing.

Understanding the parts of a drum is valuable knowledge to have for many reasons. From chatting with other musicians and drummers and understanding how to tune and alter drums to what makes drum tones differ and how drums are built – use this guide to become an educated drummer!

Drum Shell

Arguably, the most important part of any drum is the drum shell. Traditionally, drum shells were made of wood, but over the years metal, brass, copper, steel, acrylic & other types of drum shells started being manufactured, especially for snare drums. When it comes to toms and bass drums these are almost always built with wood, although there are some exceptions on the market like A&F Drums.

When looking at drum shells there are a few things to pay attention to including the type of wood or material, the dimensions of the shells, the number of plies used to build the drum shell and the shell finish. All of these factors play an important role in how a drum will sound.

Drum Hoop / Drum Rim

edge and rim of drum

The drum hoop, also known as the drum rim, is the metal or wooden ring that holds the drum head onto the drum shell. Drum hoops are on all drums from snares and toms to bass drums. It plays a crucial role in maintaining tension and shape, influencing the drum’s overall sound. Hoops come in various models such as triple-flanged and die-cast, each affecting the drum’s resonance and sensitivity differently.

Drum Lugs

drum lugs

Drum lugs, located on the outside of a drum shell, are the small, usually threaded nuts that secure the tension rods to the drum hoop and shell. They are essential for adjusting the tuning of the drumhead and, consequently, the drum’s pitch. 

There are typically 6, 8 or 10 lugs on every drum shell. Lugs come in diverse designs and materials, contributing to the overall aesthetic and functionality of the drum.

Tension Rods

Tension rods are threaded metal rod bolts that connect the drum hoop to the lugs. They are threaded from the top of the drum, through the drum hoop and into the drum lug. Tension rods and lugs are often talked about one and the same, but in reality they are separate parts. 

By tightening or loosening the tension rods, drummers can fine-tune the drumhead tension, affecting the pitch and responsiveness of the drum. A drum key is used to tighten or loosen tension rods to achieve a desired sound.

Drum Key

Drum keys are used to tune drums by tightening or loosening the tension rods around a drum shell. They can also be used to adjust other hardware like kick pedals.

It’s always a good idea to have an extra drum key in your car, drum bag or somewhere easily accessible!

Snare Wires

snare wires

Snare wires, located on the bottom side of the snare drum, consist of thin metal strands stretched across the bottom (resonant) drum head. These wires vibrate when the drum is struck, creating the distinctive snare sound. Drummers can adjust the tension of the snare wires to achieve the desired snare response. Using a snare throw off, snare wires can be disengaged causing the snare drum to sound like a tom.

Thow Off

snare throw off

The snare drum throw off is a mechanism that controls the engagement and disengagement of the snare wires. Drummers can quickly switch the snare on or off using this lever, providing versatility in sound during a performance.

As mentioned below, throw offs can be found on toms as well, it’s just not commonly found on modern drum sets.

Drum Muffler

big fat snare drum

A drum muffler is a device used to control the resonance and sustain of a drum. It can be a built-in feature or an external accessory. Drum builders like Ludwig used to build drum mufflers inside the shell of toms. This is commonly found on vintage kits like this Ludwig kit from the 60s. Similar to snare drum wires, drum mufflers can be disengaged with a throw off. 

Nowadays, there are many external muffling/dampening accessories built by drum brands like Big Fat Snare Drum (pictured above), Moon Gels, etc. that allow drummers to muffle drums. These are usually placed on the top (batter) drum head to alter the sound of drums.

Kick Spurs

Kick spurs, also known as bass drum spurs, provide stability to the kick drum. These are retractable metal legs attached to the bass drum, preventing it from sliding or rocking during playing. Adjustable spurs allow drummers to customize the angle and position for optimal stability.

The design of kick drum spurs has evolved overtime, but the fundamental purpose of this feature remains the same – to keep the bass drum from sliding around while playing.

Drum Head

drum head

The drum head is the membrane stretched over the top and bottom of a drum shell. It comes in various materials, thicknesses, diameter and colors all influencing the drum’s tone and resonance. Drum Heads are easily removed or installed by loosening the tension rods around a drum.

A few staple drum head brands include Remo, Evans & Aquarian, but there are many more to choose from.

Bearing Edge

The drum bearing edge is a critical yet often overlooked component of a drum’s construction. It’s likely overlooked because it’s generally hidden by the drum head. It refers to the rim of the drum shell where the drumhead comes into direct contact with the shell. This edge plays a pivotal role in shaping the drum’s overall tone and responsiveness. Bearing edges come in various profiles, each influencing the drum’s sonic characteristics.

Read the full guide on bearing edges to learn more.

Tom Mount

The tom mount is a hardware piece used to attach tom drums to the bass drum or a dedicated tom stand. Some drum sets include a tom mount on the bass drum, others don’t. There are various mounting systems, such as the classic Y-mount or the ball-and-socket type. Proper placement and adjustment of the tom mount contribute to a balanced and ergonomic drum setup.

Tom Legs

Tom legs, or floor tom legs, support the floor tom and maintain its stability. These are adjustable to change the drum’s height and angle, allowing drummers to find the optimal position for their playing comfort.

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