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What Are the Different Types of Percussion Kits?

Percussion kits come in a dazzling variety, each with its unique timbre and purpose. From the comprehensive drum set to the compact bongo, the orchestral timpani to the eclectic cajón, these instruments form the heartbeat of music. Dive into the world of rhythm and discover how each kit can unlock a new dimension of sound. What will your rhythm be?
Erik J.J. Goserud
Erik J.J. Goserud

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.

Bongos are part of a hand percussion set.
Bongos are part of a hand percussion 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.

A drum kit is common in rock, jazz and pop music.
A drum kit is common in rock, jazz and pop music.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main categories of percussion instruments found in a percussion kit?

A snare drum will be part of most percussion kits.
A snare drum will be part of most percussion kits.

Percussion kits typically include instruments from two main categories: pitched and unpitched. Pitched percussion instruments, like xylophones and timpani, produce distinct musical notes and are used for melody and harmony. Unpitched percussion instruments, such as snare drums and cymbals, do not produce specific pitches and are often used for rhythm and accents in music.

Can you list some common instruments included in a standard drum kit?

A low pitched blast block is commonly found in Latin percussion kits.
A low pitched blast block is commonly found in Latin percussion kits.

A standard drum kit, also known as a drum set, usually comprises a bass drum, snare drum, one or more tom-toms, a hi-hat, and a couple of cymbals such as a ride and a crash. This setup allows for a versatile range of sounds and is a staple in many genres of music, from jazz to rock.

What percussion instruments are typically found in a concert percussion kit?

In a concert percussion kit, you'll find a wide array of instruments designed for orchestral or ensemble settings. These may include timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, tambourine, triangle, marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, and various auxiliary percussion instruments like woodblocks and cowbells, each contributing to the rich tapestry of sounds in concert pieces.

How does a world percussion kit differ from a standard drum kit?

A world percussion kit includes instruments from various global musical traditions, offering a diverse palette of sounds. Unlike the standard drum kit, which is rooted in Western music, a world percussion kit might feature djembes, congas, bongos, tablas, cajóns, and other culturally specific instruments. These kits are often used to add unique rhythmic elements to music from different parts of the world.

Are electronic percussion kits a good alternative to acoustic kits?

Electronic percussion kits are a versatile and space-saving alternative to acoustic kits. They offer a range of programmable sounds, can be played with headphones for quiet practice, and are easily integrated into digital recording setups. While they may not fully replicate the acoustic experience, they are a practical choice for many situations, especially where volume control or a wide variety of sounds is needed.

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    • Bongos are part of a hand percussion set.
      By: ILYA AKINSHIN
      Bongos are part of a hand percussion set.
    • A drum kit is common in rock, jazz and pop music.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      A drum kit is common in rock, jazz and pop music.
    • A snare drum will be part of most percussion kits.
      By: amfroey01
      A snare drum will be part of most percussion kits.
    • A low pitched blast block is commonly found in Latin percussion kits.
      By: Harry Lewkowicz
      A low pitched blast block is commonly found in Latin percussion kits.