The drum kit is not just shells and cymbals, it’s all of the big and little parts that makes every drum kits tone and sustain sound perfect.

Take a look at this diagram of all the different parts around the drum kit.

Anatomy of a Drum Kit

Drum shells

One of the key factors to getting a great sound from a drum kit is the quality and materials used to make the drum shells. They can vary from anything such as metal or acrylic, but most commonly they are made from wood. The most common types of wood used are Maple, Birch, Mahogany and Luan. Luan is generally used on beginner’s kits, where as maple, birch and mahogany are found on the intermediate and professional models such as the Yamaha Stage Custom. They each have different individual tones, so the choice of wood really does go down to personal preference.

Drum ShellsThe maple shells provide a steady mid to high range and a boosted low range, the birch shells have a boosted high and low range with a steady reduced mid for a louder appearance. Finally, the mahogany has a really low high to mid range with a rich low tone for a smooth punch.

The size of the drum also affects the tone and sustain. The bigger the diameter of a drum shell, for example a bass drum, the deeper the sound. These are mostly popular in rock music, where the common size bass drum is between 22 and 24 inches. Larger drums project the sound more with the sound being deeper. You will find on a lot of jazz kits that the toms are smaller and more shallow, and even though the sound does not project as far, it is more of a clean crisp sound. The bass drum on a jazz kit is usually only 18 inches.


Drum Heads

In order to get sound out of the drum shells, you need to have a drum head. These are mounted on the top and bottom of the shell. There is a vast amount of different drum heads that can change the way your drum kit sounds. The two common skins are clear heads and coated heads.

drum headsThe main difference between a clear and coated head is how it manages the vibrations when it is hit. If the drum head in thinner, for example the clear head, the sound will enhance the overtones and brightness. The sound is then more crisp and it will dampen the sustain and projection of the drum.

The coated drum heads are commonly sprayed with a white layer of coating. Think of it as covering the skin, the more layers you choose all depends on how damp you want your drum to sound. This makes the sound deeper and the skin more durable to heavy playing, commonly used in rock bands.


Tension rods

tension rodTension rods are the straight long screws that go through the counter hoop and into the drum lugs. You can then use a drum key to turn them clockwise and tighten the drum skin or anti clockwise to loosen them. They are designed to work the same as a screw driver would and they generally have square heads that the drum keys are designed to work with. Some drum companies have their own special tension rods to gain a finer tone.



drum lug


The lugs are the small metal cases attached on the middle centre of the drum shells. They are spaced equally to match the tension rods on the counter hoops for each drum. The tension rods are then screwed into the lug when tightening and tuning the drum heads.




Your basic hardware consists of:

  • Drum Throne – This is the stool that is placed behind the bass drum of your kit. You can get them in all sorts of shapes and styles, some people prefer stool with backrests or special moulds.
  • Cymbal Stand – The straight up stand that is usually placed between your snares and high tom for your crash.
  • Boom Stand – These have a separate bar that allows you to angle you cymbals at a more comfortable level. They are commonly used for the ride cymbal.
  • Hi-Hat Stand – This is used to rest your foot on during playing. It has a pedal that controls the action of your hi-hats when hitting them.
  • Bass Drum Pedal – This is used by your other foot to play the beat on your bass drum.
  • Snare Stand – This is used as a cradle for your snare drum. It is easy to move into a comfortable height and position for when you are playing.



Your basic drum kit usually consists of a pair of 14” Hi-Hats, a 16” Crash and 20” Ride. Hi-Hats are played by clashing the 2 cymbals together, either by using the foot pedal on the mount or by hitting them in a controlled manner with your drum sticks. The Hi-Hats are usually labelled top and bottom, this is because the bottom cymbal is heavier to withstand more.

CymbalsCrash cymbals can be placed all around the kit, but most commonly in between the hi tom and snare. This produces a loud, sharp “crash” sound when hit. The common sizes for a crash cymbal is between 16” and 20” depending on what tone you are after. The ride cymbal is usually place down by the floor tom, making it easier for repetitive playing on it. The larger cymbal generally gives off a more of a sustained tone when “riding” it. Both crash and ride cymbals are designed around your playing style. If you are a heavy player, you will want thicker and heavier cymbals. If you are a lighter player then you will find that smaller, thinner cymbals are more suitable.

Other articles you may be interested in:

Best Drum Kits For…..

Drumming Essentials

Drumming: 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn

About the author

Lizzie joined Normans after graduating from university in Popular Music with Music Technology. She has been playing the drums for most of her life and gained a great insight into both the technical and live aspects of them. As well as the drums, Lizzie loves to play guitar and will have a go at any instrument she can get her hands on!