A Synopsis of Drum History: The Beginnings of Percussion

Across eras and continents, percussion instruments such as drums are an integral part of almost every musical genre. A vast range of musical genres have been represented in the history of drums, from the first gourd-made drums to the modern computerized drums.

Read More: experimental percussionist

Drums Were Invented When?

Chinese artifacts indicate that drums made of alligator skins were played by percussionists as early as 5500 B.C., and drums are depicted in religious events and social gatherings in ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman societies. Research points to the contemporaneous evolution of beater drums and hand drums.

Who Made the Drum First?

Generally speaking, music historians do not give someone credit for the creation of particular drums. Over decades of invention, various drums gradually changed, just as most other musical instruments. The same holds true for tools used to beat drums, such felted mallets and drumsticks.

A Synopsis of Drums Throughout History

There are millennia of historical drums from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The foundation of the current drum set, drums and cymbals, may be seen in neolithic Chinese artifacts, relief sculpture from ancient Mesopotamian and Sumerian societies, and bas-reliefs from ancient Greece and Syria. People have used animal skins to create drum heads all across the world.

Origins of percussion instruments: Idiophones fashioned from mammoth bones discovered in modern-day Belgium are among the oldest known instances of percussion instruments. These instruments are idiophones, meaning they make sound through the vibration of the entire instrument, and are believed to have originated around 70,000 B.C.

Origins of the frame drum: Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian musical instruments are the ancestors of the drums used by modern drummers. These tribes used frame drums, which were the ancestors of the snare drum and tom-toms of the twentieth century. The drum heads were stretched over a shallow wooden frame. Each civilization developed its own distinctive drum sounds and drumming styles after those drums were constructed.
The history of classical drums Early Middle Eastern customs are the origin of Europe’s drum history. European classical music’s kettle drums, or timpani, most likely originated in Egyptian and Turkish traditions. The Ottoman Empire is also where the classical bass drum originated.
Origins of the drum kit: European classical instruments are the source of the five-piece drum kit that influenced American jazz and rock music. Classical bass drums are the source of the kick and double bass drums heard in contemporary popular music. Marching band side drums are the source of snare drums utilized by drummers in rock, pop, and jazz genres.
The origins of the contemporary five-piece drum kit may probably be traced to New Orleans in the early 1900s, when jazz musicians such as Warren “Baby” Dodds put together a drum set out of classical instruments. A few of these instruments, like the bass drum, required modifications: In popular music, the drummer uses a bass drum pedal to play the drum, but in classical music, the drummer uses handled mallets. William F. Ludwig of the Ludwig Drums company is credited as the sole inventor of the foot pedal as we know it.

Do You Want to Know More About Drum Shredding?

Grab a MasterClass Annual Membership, grab your sticks, and use GRAMMY-nominated percussionist Sheila E.’s (also known as the Queen of Percussion) exclusive instructional videos to find your beat. After you’ve mastered the congas and timbales, learn from other musical icons such as Herbie Hancock, Timbaland, Tom Morello, and others to broaden your musical horizons.