Musical Terms Glossary: Drums

One of the toughest parts of learning an instrument is getting acquainted with all the special musical terms surrounding the process! Each instrument has its own set of nomenclature, which can seem daunting and confusing. Below, you will find a glossary of the most common musical terms in the world of the drums.

Read on to learn more, or to check a term you heard in class or read in your workbook! 

Musical Terms Glossary: Drums

  • Brushes: A type of drum stick in which the tips are replaced with brushes made of string or metal. Often used in jazz. 
Choosing the Right Brushes and Multi-Rod Drumsticks
  • Clave: A percussion instrument, popular in latin music. 
  • CowBell: A percussion instrument, popular in latin music. 
Cowbell percussion instrument 3D model | 1145086 | TurboSquid
  • Crash Cymbal: A crash cymbal is a type of cymbal that produces a loud, sharp “crash” and is used mainly for occasional accents, as opposed to a ride cymbal. 
3d cymbal crash
  • Fill: A short burst of drum hits used to break up a beat and separate sections of a song. 
  • Flam: A flam (or flam accent) is a drum rudiment wherein a drummer strikes a grace note just a split second before striking the primary stroke. Drummers use flams to thicken the sound of notes they play, producing a longer note than they could with a single stroke
  • Ghost Note: A short and soft rhythmic hit that comes in between or before the full hits.
  • Hi Hats: a pair of foot-operated cymbals forming part of a drum kit.
Sabian Crescent 14" Element Hi-Hat Cymbals (Pair)
  • Kick Drum (bass drum): The biggest drum in a drum kit, it creates the lowest sound. A beater is attached to a foot pedal which the drummer uses to initiate the sound. 
What are these sounds? | Learning Music (Beta)
  • Mallets: Similar to drum sticks, except the tips of mallets are covered with cloth, rubber, or some other soft material, creating a softer sound. 
Trixon JB4 Bass Drum Mallets - Extra Large - Jim Laabs Music Store
  • Polyrhythm: A technique in which two contrasting rhythms are played at the same time. 
Polyrhythm - Wikipedia
  • Ride Cymbal: The ride cymbal is a standard cymbal in most drum kits. It maintains a steady rhythmic pattern, sometimes called a ride pattern, rather than the accent of a crash. It is normally placed on the extreme right of a drum set, above the floor tom.
Cruise Ship Drummer!: A great jazz ride cymbal
  • Rimshot: a drum stroke in which the stick strikes the rim and the head of the drum simultaneously.
  • Snare Drum: The most prominent drum in a kit. A snare drum has wires attached to the bottom of it which create a snappy tone. 
The best snare drums in 2022 for all budgets and playing styles | MusicRadar
  • Sticks: Pieces of wood used to strike drums and cymbals with. 
Heartbeat Drum Sticks - Heartbeat Worship
  • Toms: Toms are medium sized drums without snares that produce a round sound. A standard kit has 2 toms mounted to the kit and one floor tom. Each of these toms have a different pitch and are most often used for fills. 
What Are Toms? | Drumming - YouTube
  • Wood Block: A percussion instrument, popular in latin music. 
Timber Drum Company T4-S Solid American Hardwood Wood Block, Small : Musical Instruments, Stage & Studio

Closing Notes

Our Drum Glossary is always evolving, so if there are any other terms you aren’t sure of ask your teacher! Or feel free to reach out to us to set you up with one of the best drummers in the city!

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