Effectively being our first and oldest musical instrument, drums have had an important role in human history, serving various cultural functions dating back tens of thousands of years.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the history of drum kits and how its use has changed through history.
Given that percussion instruments can be made out of just about anything (two rocks will suffice, for instance) it’s difficult to ascertain how long we have been playing them for musical purposes. In fact, the answer might be that music in some form predates modern evolutionary humans. Studies suggest that early primates used music as a means of communication before language existed, and it played a big part in helping to bind and unite groups together.
In terms of crafted drums that can more easily be compared to the modern instruments, we play today, the first date back to around 5500 BC. These small hollowed out cylinder-shaped drums were discovered in excavations in China, and others were dug up in the Mesopotamian region that date back to 3000 BC, significant discoveries that revealed a great deal about the people living in these parts of the world at these times.
Other evidence that suggests the importance of drums in ancient cultures includes various ancient instrument found in Peru, indicating drums like instruments being played by the indigenous people that were made out of gourd and timber.
Cymbals, which are made of metal, appeared on the scene much later given that they require a little more work to be constructed. Evidence suggest that they were used in 1100 BC in various parts of the world, including China, Turkey and Israel.
As well as being a form of music, drums have had various other cultural and social uses, as well as practical functions through history. Drums have been used extensively in the war for thousands of years, with evidence that they were used to help keep soldiers motivated and in time with their marching. They also served an important communicative function between towns and villages in many different parts of the world, Africa to Sri Lanka. Much like morse code, messages could be sent quickly with the use of a drum.
The Modern Drum kit
The modern drum kit has obviously brought together a number of percussion instruments that were used throughout history and combining them so they can be played by a single musician. It was only a short while ago that cymbals and the snare would be played by different people. It’s interesting however to see at what point in time the various parts of the drum kit can to be. Most of these parts weren’t developed until medieval times.
The snare drum, for instance, wasn’t developed until around 1300 – before this point, builders of these instruments would use any materials they could find. Studies suggest that the purpose of the original snare was to be played during the war. There is little evidence to suggest that drum sticks were used prior to this period and in fact, those that we use today are quite similar to what was being used in the 15th century in terms of design.
The modern drum kit itself started being sold to the public in the 1930s but didn’t truly take off commercially until around 1960, with the emergence of Rock ‘n Roll music.
The history of drums is a fascinating story that goes back thousands of years! If you’re interested, it would be well worth while to read a little more on the subject as there are many elements to this story. If you’ve been inspired to start playing the drums yourself, visit our website or visit us in store to get your first ever drum kit and start your journey!