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What Are the Different Types of Percussion Kits?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated May 23, 2024
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Percussion kits can be categorized into a few basic groups: acoustic drum sets, electric drum sets, and hand percussion sets. The word kit can also be interchangeable with the word set. A percussion kit is a series of drums used in various combinations to carry a rhythm.

Acoustic drum sets usually consist of hardware including a snare drum, a floor tom, a rack tom, and a bass drum, which is also known as the kick drum. The basic cymbal setup is a crash, a ride, and hi-hats, but many drummers will use additional cymbals. Accessories like cowbells and wood blocks can be attached onto the cymbal stands or placed on stands of their own. Cymbal stands or drum racks can be considered part of the drum set.

An acoustic drum makes sound when it's hit and does not require amplification. For live concerts in medium to large-sized clubs and concert halls, microphones may be put on these drums for added amplification. It is not necessary to mic the drums in small rooms and practice studios. Drum set or drum kit are both appropriate names.

Electric drum sets are another category of percussion kits. These kits imitate acoustic drum sets. The skins are made of plastic, rubber, or mesh. When the musician hits the skin of the drum, it triggers a preprogrammed, prerecorded sound of the respective drum that is in use. For example, when the electric snare drum is triggered, a prerecorded hit from an acoustic snare will resonate. There are multiple channels or settings for electric drums for the drummer to obtain various tones and drum set sounds.

Great for practice, electric drum kits give the user total control of the volume. They can be plugged directly into an amplifier or PA system. These kits often come in a package with a kick drum, snare drum, cymbals, and anywhere from three to seven toms.

Hand percussion kits are made up of a series of congas, bongos, and other skinned percussion played with the bare hands. These kits line up any number of drums parallel to the musician's chest or at waist or belly level. Bongo kits are often a two-pack of drums: one lower-toned drum and one higher-sounding drum. Conga kits commonly include more drums and are sometimes played with sticks. World and reggae music largely embrace hand percussion kits as these genres are driven by such instruments.

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