Accents – Emphasis placed on a particular note that gives it more stress than the others. Accents are played usually to compliment other musicians in the band, or to spice up the current beat. Accents require stick control and are great to practice.

Afro-Cuban – A type of Latin drumming that includes influences from Africa and Cuba. This style of music involves many of the Latin patterns, such as the Clave, Cascara, and Tumbao. There are many different types of Afro-Cuban music out there, so make sure you sample every style!

American Grip – Holding the drumsticks in matched grip style, with palms facing down. Elbows should be relaxed at your sides, and the sticks should make a 45 degree angle. Very popular style of grip for rock drumming.


Backbeat – A consistent rhythm that stresses beats 2 and 4 in common time. In other “common” time signatures, the backbeat will land elsewhere. For example, the backbeat lands on 4 and 10 in 12/8 time on the drumset.

Baião – An up tempo style of Latin music that is usually played with lots of energy. This groove is derived from the north east of Brazil. The Baião has a distinct bass drum pattern that drives the beat forward. A very catchy beat that is easy to dance to!

Bar – A bar is a term used in music theory. A bar is a measure of time decided by the amount of beats in the time signature. If the time signature is 4/4, then the bar would consist of 4 counts. Here is an example of a bar of music.

Bata Drums – A double headed, hourglass shaped drum originating from Nigeria. It later migrated to Cuba and eventually to the US. These drums can be played in the lap or with a strap around the neck.

Bass Comping -To add accents or hits to a pattern or groove with your bass drum. See “Comping.” Bass drum comping is done in all sorts of music, however the term is most popular in jazz music. Check out some examples of bass drum comping here!

Bass Drum (Kick Drum) – Usually the biggest and lowest pitched drum on the drum set. The bass drum is played with your feet with the use of a pedal. The bass drum is played to drive the beat, and usually offers more of a pulse than tone.

Bass Drum Pedal – The bass drum pedal is the device used to kick the bass drum. The bass pedal is made of a foot pad, spring, and a beater. Click for a complete diagram of the bass drum pedal.

Bass Pedal Spring – This spring is located on the bass drum, and is placed vertically on the side of pedals. The spring is what sets the tension of the pedal itself. Tightening this spring will give the beater much more bounce to its movement, while loosening it will allow it to move a lot smoother. This is a very important part of the bass drum pedal that is often ignored. Make sure you are replacing your springs every so often to keep the effectiveness of it up!

Batter Head – The batter head of a drum is the side in which you hit, and it usually has a coated surface. There are two heads on a drum: The batter and the resonant. The batter head can be many different styles of skin. It can be coated, 2-ply, single ply, pinstriped, or more. The batter head uses different types of skins than the resonant heads.

Beat Displacement A term popularized in drumming over the last 10 years. It refers to a permutation where all beats will move forward say, one eighth note. This method will create numerous variations of rhythmic possibilities on the drums.

Bearing Edge – The bearing edge is the edge of the drum that the head sits on. Bearing edges are often sharpened to a smaller angle for greater attack, projection, and evenness of tone.

Beater – The beater is the piece of a bass drum pedal that drives into the bass drum. This is a head that is attached to a rod that is attached to the top of your bass drum pedal. There are many different types of beaters: There are felt beaters, wood beaters, plastic beaters, and multi-function beaters. Each has their own sound.

Beguine – Music incorporating a bolero rhythm.

Bells – An instrument that consists of tuned metal bars mounted on a rectangular frame such as the glockenspiel, xylophone, or marimba

Bembé – A more difficult style of Latin music played in the time signature of 6/8. Usually played at faster upbeat tempos. Also known as a Nanigo.

Bo-Diddley Beat This beat was popularized by Bo Diddley, the famous blues guitar player. It stems from early forms of Latin and afro—Cuban rhythms (clave) derived from their respective countries. This rhythm was also used for years as the playful music knock,”Shave and a Haircut”,…”Two Bits”.

Bolero Rhythm – A slow ballad suitable for the bolero dance or similar music.

BoomWhackers Long colorful tubes that produces various tones. Popular kids’ percussion instrument, and common in musical education. Many elementary schools and junior high schools incorporate BoomWhackers into their music curriculum.

Boom (Boom Stand) An arm that extends from the cymbal stand to allow greater positioning around the drumset. Most drummers use it to bring the cymbals in closer to them.

Bossa Nova – Bossa Nova is a Latin style of music that has a distinct bass drum pattern that accompanies the famous Bossa Nova dance. It stems from the Samba and has its origins in Brazil. This style of music is played at a slower tempo. The Bossa Nova is usually one of the easier Latin patterns to learn; however it is still quite tricky. You will hear the Bossa Nova in background music and elevator music.

Bossa Nova Clavè – This is a Latin pattern that is played with the Bossa Nova groove. This Clavè pattern is very similar to the Son Clavè; it is only different by one eighth note. The reason for this is so it fits into the Bossa Nova groove easier. This is a 2-bar pattern that can be played in two directions: 2-3 and 3-2. There are 5 notes in this pattern.

Bongo – The bongo is a hand drum that has a distinct tone and sound to it. These drums are usually smaller in size, and should not be mistaken for congas. These are wood drums that are usually covered with the skin of an animal and are played with your hands. The bongo usually comes in a connected pair and is very popular in Latin and Afro-Cuban music.

BPM – Also known as Beats per Minute. The BPM is a term that identifies the tempo of a song. The BPM determines how many beats there are per minute of play. If the tempo is set to 120 BPM, then there are 120 quarter note beats per 60 seconds. The BPM is very important for all musicians, not just drummers.

Broken Up Beats – Drum beats that are played with odd patterns instead of constant strokes. Most beats you can hear a constant pulse on the ride cymbal or hi hat, however broken up beats take that feel away. By changing the pattern of your hi hat or ride cymbal, you are adding a totally different unique sound to the groove. Check out some broken beat patterns here!

Brooms – A style of drum stick that consists of many smaller sticks bundled together. These are similar to brushes, except instead of using many wires; brooms use a certain amount of smaller wood sticks. There are many different sizes and varieties of brooms, each with its own place. Brooms are used to get a unique sound out of a drum set that is usually quieter than sticks.

Brushes – A stick that is made of thin wires brustles that fan out and are used mostly with traditional jazz drumming. The wires on a brush can be extended and hidden in the handle when not being played. Brushes give the drums a very unique feel to them. Brushes are often used for softer styles of music like jazz and ballads. Drummers that play brushes utilize “snaps” and “sweeps” to create a unique art form that we call “brush technique”.

Buzz Roll One of the 40 drum rudiments. Often confused with the double stroke roll, it is played by executing multiple bounces in each hand and then speeding up. Other names for this roll are the “crush roll”, the “press roll,”  and the “multiple bounce stroke”.


Cajon – A hollow wooden box that has the tone of a conga. Non-tunable as it has no drumhead. Origin: Latin America

Casabasa (Afuche) – A Latin percussion instrument consisting of a round cylinder on a handle. There are metal beads (actually a chain) that surround the corrugated cylinder. It is held with one hand and rubbed with the other to create various rhythms.

Cascara – Literal term means shell, however this is a popular Latin pattern consisting of 2 bars. This pattern can be played in 2 directions and is best played at faster tempos. This pattern is widely used in all sorts of Latin styles and is usually played with the right hand on the side of a timbale, on the ride cymbal bell, or on the cowbell.

Castanets (Bones) A pair of wooden instruments that are held in the hand (between the thumb and forefinger) and are clicked together in rhythm.

Cha Cha – A medium/slow tempo, Afro-Cuban rhythm, as heard in Tito Puento’s “Oye Como Va” song. Based around the Cha Cha dance, it is usually driven by the cowbell on the drum set.

Chimes – A group of cylindrical rods that are hung close together. When played with a special hammer, chimes make a high pitched sound common in school bands and orchestras as well as symphonies. The sound is made from the chimes hitting each other when brushed. The chimes are used mainly for softer styles of music, since they are not a loud instrument.

China Cymbal (China or Pang Cymbal) – A cymbal that looks like it is inverted. The China Cymbal makes a very raw sound that is fast and powerful. China cymbals have their outer edge bent upwards to limit the amount of ring it has. This cymbal can be played upside down to save on stick damage. China cymbals are used mostly in rock and heavier styles of music.

China Kang – A smaller cymbal version of a China cymbal. These are like splash cymbals with its edge curved upwards to give it a quick attack sound. A mixture of a splash and china cymbal.

Chops – Your technique or rhythmic vocabulary. Ex. “That kid has great chops on the drums!” Chops can refer to percussion performance on drum sets, marching percussion, or Latin drums.

Clavès – A pair of small (usually around an inch and half thick), hand-held wood blocks that have a high pitched sound when struck together. When hit, they have a distinct sound that travels through most instruments to mark clavè in Latin music. Sometimes the percussion instrument is made from synthetic material.

Clavè Pattern – A Latin pattern that is used in most Latin and Afro-Cuban music. The Clavè pattern is a 2 bar pattern consisting of 5 notes. The Clavè can be played in two directions, as a 2:3 clave (ex: 1 2,1 2 3) or a 3:2 clave (ex: 1 2 3,1 2). There are many different variations of the Clavè pattern. There is the Son Clavè, the Rumba Clavè, the Bossa Nova Clavè, and the 6/8 Clavè. Each one is a little different; however all are used in the same form. Once the song starts, the clave will not change. Latin American countries often clap their hands to clavè during the music.

Click Track – A pulse that is used to keep time for musicians. Click tracks are also known as metronomes, as they provide the same use. A click tracks tempo is determined by the Beats per Minute, also known as the BPM. Drummers should practice with click tracks regularly to develop their sense of time.

Common Time – The time signature 4/4, indicating 4 beats to the measure with the quarter note receiving the beat. This is called common time since the majority of music and counting patterns are based around the 4/4 time signature. On sheet music, they may not display the time signature 4/4, they may just show a “C”, which stands for common time.

Comping – Playing shots, accents, and hits to compliment the other musicians in a band. Comping is done in all styles of music, and is meant to accent the melodic instruments when they are soloing or playing certain pieces. You can use comping exercises on your hi hats, bass drum, snare drum, or cymbals.

Conga – Hand drums with African/Cuban origin that offer a distinct tone similar to bongos and Djembes. These are wood drums topped with a skin of an animal hide. Congas are usually larger drums with a long body. Shaped like a barrel, it sits on the floor or on a stand and can be played sitting or standing. It has a head on one side only. The conga is the “middle” drum of a typical conga set of drums. The congas are very popular in Latin and Afro-Cuban music.

Cowbell – A small, hollow bell used to make a rhythmic sound popular in Latin and rock styles of music. Originally used by herdsmen to keep track of their livestock, the cowbell has a unique tone that funks up any groove. Cowbells can come in many different sizes and have many different tones.

Crash Cymbal (or Crash) – A cymbal that produces a sharp, loud sound that is used in every style of music. Crash cymbals are made in many different sizes (but generally come in sizes 15″ to 18″), styles, and thicknesses, and can make many different sounds. Crash cymbals can be used for accents (a drummer will use this cymbal to emphasize a certain beat or accent beat one of the new measure), or to drive the beat. This cymbal has more sustain than a ride cymbal does.

Crescendos – Raising the volume of a beat for certain duration of time. Crescendos are used to build energy and transition songs from one style to the next. Crescendos take a lot of control with your dynamics, something every drummer should be aware of.

Cross Stick – To hit your stick on the rim of your drum to create a unique sound that is similar to a wood block or cowbell. Cross sticking is where you place the tip of your stick on the drum head and drop the stick onto the rim. A lot of drummers call this a rim shot, however they are completely different. Cross sticking patterns are popular for softer styles of drumming.

Crotales (or Antique Cymbals) – Percussion instruments made up of small (10 cm wide) bronze or brass disks. They have a range of two octaves and a sound that resembles tuned bells.

Cuica A Latin percussion instrument that have a sound that resembles a dog barking.

Cymbal – A thin and round plate consisting of many different kinds of cymbal alloys (usually a copper/bronze disk) struck with a drumstick to ride or emphasize beats. Cymbals are a modern percussion instrument that is played in virtually every style of music. There are hundreds if not thousands of different types and sizes of cymbals. From hi hats, crashes, rides, splashes, chinas, and many more.

Cymbal Bell – The center of the cymbal in which it is the thickest. The center of most cymbals has a thick rise that has a different, higher pitch sound to it. When struck, these have a distinct sound that cuts through most instruments in the band. The cymbal bell is great for accents and hits during a beat.


Decrescendos – Bringing the volume of a song, beat, or feel down in a duration of time. These are the opposite of crescendos, and are great to bring down the energy level of a song. This takes control of dynamics, and is something every drummer should practice.

Djembe – Hand drums that offer a distinct tone when played. These are African drums that are usually carved out of wood and are topped with an animal skin. These are similar to bongos; however they can range from small sizes to very large sizes. Djembes are shaped like an hourglass.

Double Bass The use of two bass drums with a drum set. Double bass drumming can also be played with a twin or double bass pedal and just one bass drum.

Double Bass Drum – Incorporating two bass drums into your playing. Double bass drum playing is very popular in progressive rock, heavy rock, and heavy metal, however the double bass drum can be used in all styles of music. You can incorporate double bass drumming by using a double bass pedal, or using two bass drums. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Double Bass Pedal – A twin pedal that strikes both beaters on the same bass drum, consisting of two beaters and two foot pedals. These are joined together to allow you to incorporate double bass playing without having to buy a second bass drum. Double bass pedals are used more often than double bass drum setups. Most commonly on drum sets and with rock drummers.

Double-Stroke Roll One of the standard 40 drum rudiments. The double stroke roll is played with 2 individual strokes in each hand.

Doumbek A middle eastern drum commonly found in countries such as India, Pakistan, Morocco and Egypt. Shaped similar to a djembe drum. Usually made of metal or ceramic. Only 1 drumhead on top.

Downbeat – The “main” pulse as it relates to the rest of the measure. If you have 8 eighth notes in a bar of 4/4 time, beats 1, 2, 3 and 4 would be considered the downbeat. The “and” of 1, “and” of 2, “and” of 3, and “and” of 4 would be the upbeat.

Drag – One of the 40 essential rudiments. The drag rudiment consists of two consecutive notes played with the same stick. You can play it either RR or LL. This rudiment is very similar to the Diddle.

Drop Clutch – A specially made hi hat clutch that allows the top cymbal to drop when you hit a lever on the side of it. This drum accessory is useful with double bass drumming.

Drum – A cylindrical instrument made of many different types of wood, metals, and plastics. Usually topped with a skin or head on both ends. The tone of a drum is distinguished by the size, depth, and thickness of the drums body, as well as the tightness of the drum head.

Drum Break – A pause in the song where the drummer gets a chance to play a small fill or pattern. Also known as a drum fill, breaks are used to transition songs from one part to the next. Drum breaks are a time for drummers to express themselves by adding their own creative touch to a song. Watch out though, because it is very easy to lose the tempo.

Drum Dampeners – Devices that are placed either inside the drum, or on the drum head itself to muffle the sound of the drum. Dampeners are used to minimize the resonance in a drum. These are also known as mufflers, and are very popular to be placed inside of bass drums. Some common forms of this are pillows, blankets, drum rings, and drum gum.

Drum Fill (or Drum Break) – A pause in the song where the drummer gets a chance to play a “filler” or phrase or pattern to be played between different sections. A fill is a certain pattern that a drummer plays to either transition the song, or accent certain parts. Drum fills give the drummer a chance to express themselves, and add their own level of creativity to the song. A drum fill can be as simple as a couple of tom tom hits or a blistering, machine gun-like burst of notes. Drum fills can range from 1 beat to 8 measures (or more) in length.

Drum Head (or Skins) – The covering that stretches over the top and bottom of a drum to produce its sound. There are two drum heads for every drum, a resonant head, and a batter head. Drum heads are tightened over the top of the drum by tension rods, and can be tightened or loosened to change the pitch of a drum. There are many different types of drum heads: Coated, clear, 2-ply, pinstripe, and more. Drumheads are made of animal skin and synthetic plastics.

Drum Gum – A form of drum dampening that is placed on top of the drum head. Drum gum is a small sticky jelly that is stuck on top of a drum head to take away any access overtones. Most drummers use this for their snare drum or their larger toms.

Drum Key – A wrench-like tool that adjusts the tension rods of a drum. This is an important piece to have, as it’s the key (literally) to tuning your drums.

Drum Kit – The set up of your drums. A drum kit can range in any size, from massive drum kits including multi bass drums and many toms, to small drum kits including a single bass drum and snare. A drum kit is also known as drums, drum set, drum set up, and kit.

Drum Machine – A drum machine is an electronic instrument that contains drum sounds and sometimes other musical instruments and sounds. It is programmed to play rhythm patterns and aids musicians in time keeping and music production. Drummers are able to use drum machines to figure out beats and patterns and to practice along with them.

Drum Module – The brain of an electronic drum kit. The drum module is the device that stores all the different drum samples for an electric kit. This is what all of the electric pads gets plugged into to complete the drum set.

Drum Set (or Drum Kit) – The set up of your drums, consisting of generally 4 to 5 drums or more. A drum set can range in any size; from a massive drum set including many drums, to a small drum set including a bass and snare drum. 5 piece drum sets are most common but some play smaller drum kits and a few player drum sets with up to as many as 20 drums.

Drum Skin – See “Drum Heads.”

Drum Solo (or Solo) – A rhythmic break in the song where the drummer gets to shine. Ala “Wipeout”.

Drumsticks Sticks used to play a drum or set of drums. Popular models for drumset are ProMark, Vic Firth, and Vater. There are also numerous specialty drumsticks.

Drum Tabs – Tabs for drumming. A short hand style of writing drum music. Tablature.

Drum Tech – One who sets up and maintains a drum set (or set up) for another drummer. Usually famous drummers or those that play with name bands have their own drum tech. A drum tech is usually very knowledgeable about drums and can tune and tweak them to their maximum sound potential.

Drum Tuition – Lessons taken by drummers to further their education in drumming. Drum tuition can be taken in many forms, either by a personal instructor, or by video lessons. Make sure you check out all forms of drum tuition before you choose which one works best for you!

Drumline – A section comprised of only drums and percussion.

Dynamics – Playing soft to loud on the drums.


Effects Cymbal – A style of cymbal designed to create a distinct sound. Effects cymbals range in a variety of shapes and sizes that give off different kinds of sounds and feels. Effect cymbals can be played in all sorts of different music styles.

Eighth Note Rest – A rest or break from playing for the duration of an eighth note. 8th note rests take place of an 8th note and are located in the middle of the staff.

Eighth Notes – A note played for one eighth of the duration of the whole note. Eighth notes include a stem with one flag attached. Eighth notes are one of the most common notes played by drummers.

Electronic Drums – The opposite of acoustic drums. Drums that are synthesized. They work off of electricity and use a sound source or brain module. Common electronic drums companies are Pintech, Roland and Hart Dynamics.

Endorsement – When a company (usually a manufacturer) endorses an individual through free or discounted merchandise and/or advertising.


Fatback A thick 2 and 4, slightly behind the beat backbeat with a lot of soul. Common in funk and blues drumming.

Fill – Short for drum fill. See “Drum Fill.”

Finger Cymbals – A pair of tiny cymbals mounted on the hand and played by striking together. Common in belly dancing and mid-Eastern music.

Flam – A flam is one of the oldest rudiments and part of the original 13 created by N.A.R.D. This rudiment is played with both sticks, and is designed to make a full sound using two strokes. This rudiment can be played both left and right hand dominant, and can be incorporated into beats, fills and solos. Consists of one soft ghosted note played just before the main note, creating a “flam” effect.

Flam Tap A flam followed by one tap or stroke. One of the 40 drum rudiments

Flam Paradiddle A paradiddle that starts each four note grouping with a flam. One of the 40 drum rudiments emphasizing the flam.

Floor Tom The deepest tom (generally) on a standard drum set. It sits upright on 3 legs. In the last 20 years drummers have also mounted their floor toms on cymbal stands.

Foot Pedal The accessory that depresses the bass drum or hi hat cymbals.

Forte Play the drums loud. In sheet music, it’s abbreviated as ‘f.’

Fortissimo Play the drums very loud. In sheet music, it’s abbreviated as ‘ff.’

Four-Four Time (or 4/4 Time) – Time signature indicating 4 beats to the measure where the quarter note receives the beat.

Frame Drums Drums that consist of a head stretched over a narrow framed skeleton. Simple in design but capable of many types of sounds.

French Grip – Holding the sticks close together with your palms up. This style of stick grip is matched grip, and uses your fingers to control the bounces of the sticks. Very popular for speed drumming and lighter styles of music.

Fulcrum Point – The balance point of a drum stick. The fulcrum point is the point where the drum stick will get the most bounce when dropped. In order to get the best results from your stick grips, you need to be pinching the stick at the fulcrum point.


Germanium Grip – Holding the sticks in matched grip with your palms facing down. Elbows should stick out a little, and the sticks should make a 90 degree angle. This is a common style for marching bands, and offers a lot of power for each stroke.

Gig Bag – A padded bag designed specifically to hold and carry instruments. These are important, as they can help move instruments and protect them from potential damage.

Ghost Notes (or Ghost Stroke, Grace Note) – A note that is played extremely quiet, and felt more than it is heard. Ghost notes are quieter notes played in between the regular notes. These are played at lower volumes to be almost hidden behind the beat. These are used to spice up a boring pattern and to add a new dynamic to the song.

Glockenspiel An instrument that contains tuned metal bars mounted on a rectangular frame. The glockenspiel is played with mallets.

Gong Cymbal – A very large suspended cymbal played with a large felt mallet to produce a large shimmering sound. A very unique sounding cymbal originally from Japan. Gongs must be warmed up before hit. They are usually hung from an apparatus that sits behind the drum set. Gongs are not usually played in rock music, as they are more of an effect cymbal.

Gourd – A hollowed out gourd that is corrugated and played with a stiff metal rod. It creates a “zip” type of sound often heard in Latin music.

Groove A term used to describe the way a beat feels when it not only has a steady tempo, but “feels” incredibly good within the music. Can be applied to any style of music whether playing percussion or drum set.

Guaguanco An Afro-Cuban rhythm stemming from the rhumba.


Hand Bells Hand-held tuned bells that are sounded by shaking them.

Hand Drums – Drums played with the hands such as congas, bongos, djembes, etc.

Heads – See “Drum Heads.”

Hi Hat – A set of two cymbals that are placed on top of each other on a stand that open and close together and are operated by a foot pedal. The hats are locked onto this stand so you can control the opening and closing of them with your feet. Hi hats are one of the most widely used cymbals in music, and are generally used on the left side of a drum set (for right handed drummers).

Hi Hat Clutch (or Clutch) – The drum set accessory that holds the top cymbal of the hi hat cymbals in place. The hi hat clutch locks the hi hats closed when using double bass or other pedals that do not allow you to place your foot on the hi hat pedal. The clutch is placed above the hats and has a switch that you can press with your stick while you are playing. This locks the hi hats closed. Double bass drummers use this to be able to play different bass drum patterns while having the hi hats closed.

Hi Hat Comping – Adding accents or hits to a pattern or groove with your hi hats. See “Comping.” Hi hat comping is done in all sorts of music; however the term is most popular in jazz music. Check out some examples of hi-hat comping here!

Hi Hat Stand – A stand designed to hold the hi hat cymbals. The bottom hat rests on the stand, while the top hat is locked onto a moving rod that is controlled by your foot. The foot pedal allows the drummer to have complete control of their hi hats. Hi hat stands can have 2 or 3 legs in order to accompany a slave double bass pedal.

Hoop – The round metal or wooden disc that holds the drumhead onto the drum. Lug casings are then fastened to hold the hoop in place.


Kettle Drums (or Tympani) – A very large drum made of copper or brass. Most often used in orchestras and symphonies. This drum has a foot pedal that is attached to the head mechanism. When the foot pedal is depressed, the kettle drum makes a unique, “boing” type of sound.

Kick Drum Another word for “bass drum”. This is the largest drum on a typical drum set and it sits on the floor.


Latin Drumming – A style of drumming that involves many specific patterns, grooves, and instruments revolving around Latin music. Latin drumming has a distinct sound to it. Congas, cowbells, wood blocks, tambourines, and clavès are all Latin specific instruments used in this style. Latin drumming uses patterns like the Cascara, Clavè, and the Tumbao to create its feel.

Lick – A drum lick or short drum fill. A lick can also be a quick “riff” or fancy beat.

Linear Drumming – Linear drum patterns refers to beats or fills that incorporate stickings not usually played together. When played no two limbs line up. This is where you never play your snare and hi hat or bass drum together. This creates a totally unique sounding pattern that has become very popular in today’s rock and modern music.


Mallets – A type of drumstick used to strike a percussion instrument; particularly a bell instrument such as the marimba or xylophone. Mallets can have fabric, rubber, plastic, or wood tips and create unique sounds on the drum set. Mallets are usually used for creating cymbal rolls and gong hits.

Mambo – A common Latin style of music that has a very distinct bell pattern. The mambo pattern can be played on the cowbell or ride cymbal. It is a 2 bar pattern that can be played in 2 directions.

Manhattan Cymbals – A thin cymbal that has a distinct ring to it. Manhattan cymbals are bright and rich. They have a long lasting sound that is usually used for softer styles of music like jazz. There are many cymbals created in the Manhattan style, like the ride, hi hats, and crash.

Maracas – Hand held percussion instruments that are like shakers. They can be any shape or size, and are filled with beans, seeds, or pebbles. These produce a texture like sound for any song. Widely used in all sorts of Latin styles, up beat or not!

Matched Grip – Holding the drumsticks the same way in both hands. Both left and right hands are gripping the stick identically. Mirroring the left and right hands when holding a drumstick. There are many types of matched grip: French grip, American grip, and Germanium grip.

Marimba – An instrument that consists of a large frame holding wooden resonator bars. This musical instrument is played with mallets.

Measure – A measure is a term used in music theory. A measure is a space of time decided by the amount of beats in the time signature. If the time signature is 4/4, then the bar would consist of 4 counts. Here is an example of a measure of music.

Merengue – An upbeat Afro-Cuban rhythm style of Latin music usually played at faster tempos with the snare drum turned off. This is also a very popular form of dance that is practiced all across the world.

Metronome – A device used to keep time for musicians, playing a click track at a certain tempo. Metronomes measure time in BPM (beats per minute) and can be set to any tempo. Some metronomes can be set to play 8th notes, 16th notes, triplets, and more. Most metronomes are electronic/digital now, meaning they can be plugged into amps or headphones. A popular “middle of the road” metronome setting is: Quarter note = 120 bpm.

Mics Short for microphones. A piece of equipment that turns sound waves/vibrations into electronic energy that can be amplified or recorded.  Drum mics are microphones used for drums, specifically.

Moeller Method – A technique used for enhanced stick control. The Moeller method uses certain stick grips and strokes that maximize the bounce from the stick. The control of these bounces allow you to play faster than ever before. Professional drummers are very familiar with this technique.

Moeller Stroke – A special way to hit the drum to maximize the bounce on your stick. The Moeller stroke is taught within the Moeller method and has a distinct motion to it. Similar to a whipping motion, the Moeller stroke gives you much more power then before.

MoonGel – Damper pads that stick to the surface of drums and cymbals to damper unwanted resonance.

Mozambique – A rhythm from Africa commonly used in Afro-Cuban or Latin music. The Mozambique has a distinct bell pattern that is not very hard to play. This pattern can be played at faster tempos or slower tempos and can be used in beats or solos. Legend Steve Gadd popularized this rhythm in the 80’s as he mixed it with pop music.



N.A.R.D. National Association of Rudimental Drummers. This was the rudimental body prior to Percussive Arts Society (PAS).

Notation – Referring to music notes on sheet music

Note Value – The duration of time you play a certain note for. The value of a note determines how long you play the specified note for. For example, quarter notes have a quarter note value, meaning you play for one quarter note. Drummers practice note value exercises to help develop control of their sticks.


Octobans Elongated drums with heads on the playing side only, with 8 drums per set.

Off Beat Similar to “upbeat”. The beats that are not stressed. This word is also used to describe a musician that may play out of time.

Odd Time Referring to an odd or uneven time signature (not 4/4), such as 7/4 or 5/8.

Orchestra Bells Bells consisting of tuned metal bars mounted on a rectangular frame and played with a mallet.

Ostinato – A musical rhythm or phrase that is repeated over and over again.


Pandeiro – Tambourine. A round hoop (usually wooden) with metal discs or jingles attached. Common in Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music.

Pang-Pang Cymbal – See “China Cymbal”

Pans (or Steel Drums) – Large oil drums that have had the tops cut off and hammered into a tuned percussion instrument. Common in the Caribbean Islands. Played with mallets.

Paradiddle – A rudiment considered one of the more important of the 40 drum rudiments. Played with two sticks to develop independence with your hands, the paradiddle the 8 note pattern R L R R L R L L, with accents on the first beat of each group. This rudiment can be played in beats, fills, and other patterns to spice things up. One of the most popular rudiments to learn.

PAS Percussive Arts Society. The governing body over all things drumming. They hold a popular annual convention once a year called PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention).

Pattern Generator – An electronic or computerized device or program that generates a multitude of rhythms.

Percussion Clef The staff commonly used in percussion (as opposed to bass clef) where it is not necessary to notate pitched instruments.

Percussion Instrument An instrument that is struck with your hands or an object such as a drumstick or mallet. Examples include a drum, cymbal, tambourine, bell, triangle, etc.

Permutation A term popularized in drumming over the last 10 years. It refers to beat displacement where all beats will move forward say, one eighth note. This method will create numerous variations of rhythmic possibilities.

Phrasing How drum beats are distributed by the player around the drums in context to the song or drum solo.

Piano Dynamic marking meaning “soft.” In sheet music this is indicated with “p.”

Pianissimo – Dynamic marking meaning very soft. In sheet music this is indicated with “pp.”

Piccolo Snare – A type of drum that is thin and tuned very tight. This drum includes snare wires on the bottom to give a very tight cracking sound to it. Piccolo snares are popular in all styles of music and offer a higher tone than regular snare drums.

Polyrhythm – Playing 2 different time signature patterns over top of each other. A polyrhythm includes two distinctly different time signature grooves, played on top of each other to create a unique beat. Polyrhythms are very difficult to play, and can easily be played wrong. Make sure you fully understand what a polyrhythm is before attempting them.

Practice Pad – An imitation drum designed to feel and act like a drum without the sound. These are made so drummers can practice without making a lot of noise. Practice pads are best used for stick control and rudiment practice, however there are full practice pad drum sets. Something every drummer must have.

Pulse – The consistent “heartbeat” of a rhythm.

Punk – Punk drumming. Loud, aggressive, fast, agitated. Often accompanied by mohawks.


Quadruple Time 4/4 time or time signature equaling 4 beats to a measure. Quad meaning “4”.

Quads – Consisting of 4 drums and often played in marching band or drumline.

Quarter Note – A note played for one fourth the length of a whole note. Quarter notes usually indicate the pulse of a groove. Quarter notes have a stem, but no flag. Quarter notes are what you usually hear on a metronome.

Quarter Note Rest – A rest or break from playing for the duration of a quarter note. Quarter note rests take place of an quarter note, and are located in the middle of the staff.

Remote Hi Hats – Hi hats that are placed on a stand that can be mounted anywhere on the drum set. The foot pedal is connected to a wire that allows you to place it where ever you want. These are very popular for double bass drummers and drummers who have no room for a regular hi hat stand.

Quints – Consisting of 5 drums and played in marching band or drumline.

Quinta (or Quinto) The smallest conga drum.


Rack Tom Toms mounted to a drum set.

Rain Stick A long hollowed out piece of wood that is filled with beads or pebbles. When turned upside down it makes the sound of rain falling. This instrument is often used in band and orchestra for special percussion effects.

Resonant Head – The drum skin that is located on the bottom of the drum. The resonant head is usually a thinner drum skin, and is usually tuned differently then the batter head. Some drummers prefer to leave the resonant head off of the drum.

Rest – Duration of time where nothing is played. Rests can be short or long depending on the notation of the rest. You will see rests in almost all sheet music, so be sure you know what they look like, and how to count them.

Rhythm – The manipulation of strong and weak beats to create a flowing and/or syncopated pulse.

R.I.M. (or R.I.M. System) – A device that allows for isolation mounting. It will isolate the toms or drums and allow for greater sustain and natural tone from the drum.

Ride Cymbal – A larger cymbal that is usually a standard on most drum sets. This cymbal is designed to maintain a rhythm rather than add shots or accents. This cymbal is often thicker, and placed on the opposite side of their hi hats. The ride cymbal offers a higher tone then crash cymbals, and is used in all styles of music. There are many types of ride cymbals: Rock ride, Manhattan Ride, Studio ride, and more. The ride is called a “ride” because it is the primary cymbal that you “ride” much of the time while playing a standard beat.

Rims – The part of a drum that sits over top of the drum head. Drum rims sit on the drum and are tightened onto the drum with tension rods. This is what provides the pressure on the drum skin which changes the tuning of the drum. Rims can be made from metal alloys or different woods. Each drum has 2 sets of rims, one for the batter head, and one for the resonant head. Playing the rim of a drum gives you a unique sound that can be used in all sorts of music.

Rim Shot – An accented stroke produced by hitting the snare head and snare drum rim at the same time. The effect is a louder, punchier sound or backbeat. A rim shot is usually played at higher volumes to create a loud accent.

Roll (or Drum Roll) – A technique drummers use to produce a constant sound on a drum. Rolls (single stroke, double stroke, 5 stroke, etc.) help make up the 40 drum rudiments, and can be played on any drum or cymbal.The most common roll is played on a snare drum and is played in all styles of music. In notation, a roll is shown by a strike through the stem of a note.

Roto-Tom A mounted, shell-less drum that changes pitch when rotated.

Rudiment – Rudimentary beats used to create independence between the two hands (and feet) in drumming. These set of patterns are played and combined to create different beats, fills and solos, and can be manipulated around the drumset. Rudimental drumming develops drum stick control, speed, and endurance. There are currently 40 drum rudiments (or standardized drum rudiments). Some of the most popular are the single stroke roll, the double stroke roll, the paradiddle, the flam stroke, and the triple stroke roll.

Rudiment Solo – A solo consisting of numerous drum rudiments and often utilized in drum competitions by drumlines.

Ruff -A single stroke with one hand accompanied by two lighter strokes with the opposite hand just preceding it. Notated like a grace note, except the grace note is two sixteenth notes instead of an eighth note. One of the thirteen original rudiments.


Salsa – A generic musical term describing a wide range of up-tempo Latin American music and dancing. Salsa emerged on the New York club scene in the early 70’s and revolves around a high energy dance style of music. Salsa drumming would consist of the many Latin rhythms made up of traditional Latin clavè.

Samba – A fast paced Latin style of music that is designed to create positive energy. The Samba is very similar to the Bossa Nova, however it is played at much faster tempos. One of the more popular Latin styles.

Sanford Moeller – The man responsible for creating the Moeller Method. Sanford Moeller was a drummer in the late 1800’s who took inspiration from army corps drummers to develop a method of playing the drums where you could maximize your control on your sticks and develop faster chops. To this day, his method is practiced by professionals all over the world.

Second Line Drumming – An Irish style of drumming that involves side drums or deep snare drums. Upbeat Latin patterns and beats played together create a salsa style groove.

Shaker – Any percussion instrument that can be shaken. Usually a hollowed out container filled with beads or pebbles.

Shekere – A large hollow gourd surrounded by woven beads. Common in Afro-Cuban music.

Shuffle – A style of drumming played with a triplet feel. The shuffle is played in popular styles of music like blues, classic rock, and jazz. The shuffle feel can be played on the hi hats, the ride cymbal, or double bass to drive the pattern. Check out this unique style of music here.

Side Drum – A snare used in Irish drumming.

Single Stroke Roll One of the most important of the 40 drum rudiments (R L R L, R L R L), as it helps make up all the others.

Sixteenth Notes – A note played for the duration of 1/16 of a whole note. This note value is usually played quicker than the rest since it is small value. In drum notation, a sixteenth note has a stem and two flags.

Sixteenth Note Rest – A rest or break from playing for the duration of a 16th note. 16th note rests take place of an sixteenth note, and are located in the middle of the staff.

Slave Pedal – On a double bass pedal, this is the foot pedal with no beater attached to it. The slave pedal is played with your weaker foot. Most slave pedals will react differently than the main pedal, however adjustments can be made.

Slit Drum  A hollowed out log or slab of wood cut on top in a manner in which it can be played melodically with mallets.

Snare Buzz – A sound created by vibrations on the snare wires on your snare drum. Snare buzz happens when you have a lot of excess noise either from the band or your own drum set. Drum dampeners can help distinguish this, however every snare will buzz with the right frequencies.

Snare Drum – One of the most important and common drums in a drum kit, in marching bands, and in drumlines. The snare drum is a drum similar to other drum,  however on the bottom of the resonant head there are snare wires that are stretched across. These wires give a cracking sound to the drum, and this crack creates the pulse of most beats and patterns. There are many different types of snare drums that have different tones and sounds. The standard size is usually 14″ diameter by 5 1/2″ in depth, but  it can vary greatly.

Snare Comping – Playing shots, accents, and hits on the snare drum to compliment the other musicians in a band. See “Comping.”

Snare Wires (or Snares) – A set of metal coils stretching across the resonant head of a snare drum that give the snare drum its “buzz” sound. The snare wires are connected to a clutch that can tighten or loosen the tension on the drum, which changes the sound.

Soca – Short for Soul Calypso, the Soca is a powerful style of Latin music that is designed to get people dancing. The Soca is 16th note based, and is always played up tempo.       

Songo – A unique style of Latin music that is played with a linear feel. Another popular style that has a very fun sound to it. The cowbell and ride cymbal bell are used to drive the beat of a Songo.

Splash Cymbal (or Splash) – A smaller cymbal that produces a higher pitched sound with a short sustain. Small in diameter, these usually range from 6” to 14”, and are used mainly for accents and shots.

Stack Cymbals – 2 cymbals placed on top of each other to create a short rhythmic sound. Stack cymbals were recently made popular by progressive rock artists like Mike Portnoy. Stack cymbals usually consist of a China kang on top of a splash cymbal; however you can experiment with different kinds to create different sounds.

Staff – The set of horizontal lines and spaces in which notes are placed on sheet music. A staff is also known as a measure or bar.

Steel Drum (Pans) – Large oil drums that have had the tops cut off and hammered into a tuned percussion instrument. Common in the Caribbean Islands. Played with mallets.

Sticks – Drumsticks

Stick Twirling – Twirling the drumsticks for showmanship on stage (or to your friends).

Stick Grip – The style one holds the drum stick. There are many different types of stick grips: Traditional grip, American grip, Germanium grip, French grip, and Matched grip. There are certain ways to grip the stick for desired sounds and styles as well as ease in playing, so make sure you know the correct way to hold your drumsticks.

Sub Kick – A small amplifier that sits in front of a bass drum. This drum shaped microphone plugs into the sound board and amplifies the low ends of a bass drum. These look like small drums that are placed in front of a bass drum.

Swing – In drumming it refers to the swing cymbal rhythm or what the old masters would call “spang-a-lang”. This rhythm and variations of it are the driving force behind swing (jazz) music.

Syncopation – Adding emphasis on certain notes to liven up a beat or rhythm. Regular beats with the same accents can get boring, but adding syncopation changes the feel by adding accents to places where you would not expect.


Tam-Tam – Gong.

Tambour A hollowed out frame drum. It consists of a drumhead on one side.

Tambourine – An instrument consisting of small metal jingles that make a short high pitched sound. These are usually played with the hand, however you can add them to any drum set.

Tango – A more elegant and classy style of Latin music. The tango utilizes the snare drum as it incorporates many common rudiments like the flam, drag, 5 stroke roll, and 9 stroke roll. The tango is an easier style to start out with.

Temple Blocks A set of tuned wood blocks played with mallets or drumsticks.

Tempo The speed of the rhythm or song.

Tension Rod – Screws that fit through the rim of a drum, and get screwed into the lugs of a drum. Tension rods are what hold the drum head and rim onto the drum. These also control the tuning of the drum — by tightening and loosening them, you change the tension on the skin.

The Pit Non-marching section of the band where students play percussion instruments such as the marimba, the triangle, tambourine, sleigh bells, finger cymbals, and timpani. Sometimes, there are also extra snare drums, bass drums, and even drum sets in this area of the field.

Thirty-Second Notes – A note played for the duration of 1/32nd of a whole note. These are usually played at very fast tempos, and take 32 notes to fill the time of a whole note.

Throne – A stool the drummer sits on. These are very important for drummers to use correctly, as the height and settings of the drum throne can make a big difference to their playing. There are many types of thrones with many different areas to adjust.

Tie – A curved line used to join two notes together. These are usually tied together with a drum roll. Ties are used with brushes and drum rolls, and look like a curved sideways bracket between two notes. A tie can sit on top or below the notes.

Timbales – Shallow single headed drums that are tuned very high. These are smaller than tom toms, and are used mainly for melodic drumming and Latin drumming. The heads on a Timbale are usually tuned very tight.

Time Signature – A fraction that determines how many beats are in each bar and at which note value they are played in. For example, a 7/8 time signature would mean there are 7 eighth notes per measure. A time signature says a lot about the beat.

Tom-Tom (or Tom) – A single drum producing a certain tone that’s skinned on both ends and placed around the bass drum. Tom-Toms can range in all different sizes and can be tuned in any style. One of the most common drums on a drum set, and most commonly played with drum fills.

Traditional Grip – A style of holding your sticks in which your dominant hand uses American grip, while your weaker hand holds the stick upside down. The stick is held you’re your palm facing up, with the stick between the middle and ring finger. This is most popular with jazz drummers because you get a totally different feel on the drumstick.

Train Beat – A beat that resembles a train sound. It is played with consecutive 16th notes on the snare drum and accentuated to sound like a train. Common in country music but also used in rock and pop.

Triangle – Another one of the many percussion instruments used for special effects. It is a metal bar actually bent in the shape of a triangle and struck with a small metal mallet.

Triplet – Group of 3 notes together in which the value of the original note is divided by three. Triplets are played in the same time signature and tempo as regular notes, but with a different feel. Triplets are identified with a small number “3” above the group of notes on sheet music. These can be subdivided many different ways. Ex. quarter note triplets, 8th note triplets, etc.

Transcription – The result of transcribing a piece of music. Translating music into readable notations.

Tumba (or Tumbadora) – The largest of the typical 3 conga drums family.

Tympani (Timpani, Kettle Drums) – A very large drum made of copper or brass. Most often used in orchestras and symphonies. This drum has a foot pedal that is attached to the head mechanism. When the foot pedal is depressed, the kettle drum makes a unique “boing” sound.


Udu Drums  – Oblong drums made of clay. It has a hole on top that resonates the sound when the drum is struck with a hand.


V-Drums – Electronic drums created by Roland. V-drums are the most popular type of electric drum set on the market. V-drums stand for virtual drums.  See “Electronic Drums.”

Vibes (Vibraphone) Similar to a xylophone but having metal bars and resonators that are driven by a motor. This motor helps to create vibrato sound. Played with mallets.


Wing Nut – A nut that screws on to the top of a cymbal stand to secure the cymbal on the stand. Wing nuts are very important, as they prevent the cymbal from flying off the stand. Wing nut tension is also important, as it can affect the sound and life of a cymbal.

Wood Blocks – Wood cubes that are hollowed out to create a certain tone. Wood blocks are percussion instruments that can be played in all styles of music, however they are most popular in Latin music. The sounds of wood blocks change depending on the size and thickness of the blocks.

Woofer – An acoustic drum that sits in front of a bass drum to amplify the low ends of the bass drum. Similar to a sub kick, the woofer is not played. Woofers are not plugged into anything. They are usually the same diameter of the bass drum and look like an extension to the bass drum.

World Drumming – Drumming that incorporates rhythms from around the world, utilizing world instruments originating from their prospective countries. Examples would be Afro-Cuban rhythms, Indian rhythms, Caribbean rhythms, and so on.


X-Fill – A popular fill named by Jared Falk. This fill is very effective and unique as it moves across the toms and snare of the drum set in a smooth fashion that looks impressively hard.

X-Hat –  A set of hi hats positioned in a remote place on the drumset.

Xylophone (or Bells) A musical instrument consisting of metal or wooden bars that are tuned and played with mallets. Common in musical symphonies and orchestras.


Zero Ring (or “O” ring) – A thin “donut” shaped ring made out of plastic. They are placed around the perimeter of the drums to control overtones or unwanted resonance.

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