The Evolution of an Instrument: The Drum Kit Jan12

The Evolution of an Instrument: The Drum Kit...

We’ve all seen them or heard them, whether we listen to Rock music, Jazz, Country, and increasingly Classical: the drum kit. Sometimes referred to as a drum set, or “trap” set, this is the collection of percussion instruments collected onto a rack system so that they can be played by a single individual. When you hear some child saying he wants to play drums, this is usually what they mean. The earliest forms of the drum set date to the late nineteenth century, in particular in connection with Vaudeville and other small performance venues. These arrangements of percussion instruments were imperative to having the benefit of a full percussion section using the minimum of space. A bass drum would be set on its side on the floor where it could be played by the foot, thus giving it the name “kick drum” which is still used today. A concert snare drum (a flatter version of the field drums military bands used which had catgut or wire strands stretched across the bottom head which vibrate sympathetically to the top head being struck) would typically be placed to the left of the bass drum between the legs. Usually a floor tom (a larger, un-snared drum) would be placed to the right of the bass drum. In addition, other auxiliary percussion instruments would be mounted or placed close at hand, such as cymbals, whistles, cowbells, and anything else the music called for. The whole set up was colloquially called a “contraption”, which appears to have been the origin for calling a drum set a “trap” set. Another possible reason for the term was that early kits had a bass drum with a trap door in the shell to use it as a box for transporting smaller percussion...

The Official Musebreak Over-Simplified Guide to Western Music, part two Aug25

The Official Musebreak Over-Simplified Guide to Western Music, part two...

Last week we looked at the historic periods of Western music starting with the Medieval period, progressed through the Renaissance, and concluded with the Baroque period. You may have noticed that as we went along, the periods became shorter and shorter. Partly this is due to their remoteness. The further in the past you go, the less difference is apparent between the minor changes. The closer you come to modern times, the more set the instrumentation is, and the differences become more about styles. Also, transportation and communication has an effect. As it has become easier to move about and communicate with remote parts of the world, the faster the changes happen. Anyway, we’re going to pick up with the Classical period (circa 1750-1820). This is the true classical period. Three of the biggest names are from this seven decade period, and in many ways defined the genre forever after. Haydn is classical. Mozart is classical. Beethoven is (mostly) classical. (More about that later.) In many ways, the Classical period carried the ideas of the Baroque to their extreme. For the first time, most accompanying parts were written for specific instruments rather than whoever-was-available. The style was simpler and cleaner, with solo instruments or one section carrying the burden of the melody and given a very simple accompaniment by the other members of the group. On the other hand, other subtler changes were introduced. Phrasing (the act of performing a series of notes as a unit, much like you would sing a sentence) became included in written parts. Also the indication of dynamics (how soft or loud to play) became much more involved. This last part is particularly noteworthy as the pianoforte (or as we know it today, “piano”) became much more popular. Unlike...