Drum Glossary

Accent

A loud note, notated by a ">" above or below the note.

Bag

Your bag or bag of tricks are the licks, grooves and patterns that you draw from to improvise.

Bar

Written music is divided into bars or measures, each with the number of beats specified by the time signature. Bars are separated by bar lines on the staff. Bars can also be called measures.

Beater

The beater is the part of the bass drum pedal which strikes the bass drum head. The beater is usually made from plastic or felt.

Break down

A section of music where melodic instruments stop playing whilst the drums and rhythm section play a repetitive groove or vamp.

Bright

Bright means a moderately fast tempo. It also describes a tone colour characterised by a lot of high frequencies.

Burn

To play at a very fast tempo.

Burner

A very fast song.

Buzz roll

A buzz roll or press roll is a drum roll played by continuously bouncing or buzzing each stick alternately, producing one smooth continuous sound.

Chops

The facility and stamina to play fast, complex licks. The term comes from horn players needing excellent stamina in their lips or "chops" to play difficult phrases.

Chop wood

To play a strong back beat on beats two and four. See Jazz Drum Lesson 1 - Exercise 7.

Comp

Comping means to play rhythmic motifs on the drums that accompany and complement a jazz soloist. It also refers to the chords played by a guitar or piano to accompany a soloist.

Cook

See groove.

Cross stick

A cross stick or side stick means playing the snare drum by holding one end of the stick (usually the tip) against the head and striking the rim with other end of the stick (usually the butt). This produces a woody click sound. It is notated by an x on the snare drum line:

Double stroke roll

A pattern where each stick plays two notes alternately: RRLLRRLLRRLL etc.

Drag

A rudiment very similar to the flam except that the leading hand bounces the stick, playing a double stroke before the primary note. It is notated by a double grace note:

Drumhead

The skin of the drum, usually made from plastic and can be clear or coated. The head that is struck is called the batter head while the other head is called the resonant head.

Drum key

A drum key is special square socket-wrench used for adjusting screws that have a square shaped head found on drums and hardware.

Feather

To feather the bass drum is to play the bass drum very quietly with the heel down. Feathering the bass drum is used to support a large jazz ensemble by playing quarter notes with the bass. See Jazz Drum Lesson 2.

Feel

The emotions that music elicits from its listeners.

Felt

Cymbals are suspended in stands with cymbal felts which protect the cymbal from the metal part of the stand and allow it to ring freely.

Flam

A drum rudiment where one hand plays slightly before the other, almost at the same time. It is executed by positioning one stick high and one stick close to the drum and bringing them down at the same time. It is notated by a single grace note:

Four on the floor

To play the bass drum on all four beats of the bar. See Rock Drum Lesson 1 - Exercise 5.

Ghost note

A very quiet note that is felt but not heard. Ghost notes are played by keeping the drum stick very close to the drum or cymbal. (1-2 inches). See Funk Drumming

Groove

When each instrument in a band rhythmically locks in together in a way that compels an audience to move, the band is said to groove. Similarly when the voices of the drum kit rhythmically lock together, the drummer grooves. A groove also refers to a drum pattern or rhythm section pattern. The exercises on this web site are drum grooves.

Hi-hat clutch

The piece of hardware that clamps the hi-hat cymbal to the high hat rod, holding it in place.

Hoop

The metal or sometimes wooden rim around the edge of the drum, that holds the head on the drum.

Lick

A soloing pattern.

Lug

A threaded tube bolted to the side of a drum. The tension rods screw into the lugs to hold the hoop in place.

Machine gun

To play a loud fast single stroke roll on the snare drum.

Measure

See bar.

Metronome

A time keeping device that can be adjusted to different tempos. Modern metronomes are usually software or electronic. Older style metronomes are mechanical pendulum devices.

Parradiddle

A sticking pattern taking the form of RLRRLRLL...

Pocket

To play "in the pocket" means to play a rhythm in a way that fits with the music and makes it groove.

Practice pad

A rubber pad used to quietly practice drum technique.

Press roll

See buzz roll.

Rim

The metal or sometimes wooden ring around the outside of the drum.

Rimshot

Striking the snare drum with your drum stick at an angle where it strikes the rim and the head at the same time. This produces a sharp crack and is not be confused with a cross stick. Rimshots can also be played by resting your left stick on the drum and striking it with your right stick. This technique is also known as a "stick shot".

Shell

The cylindrical body of the drum made from wood or metal.

Shuffle

See swing.

The rock shuffle and jazz shuffle are popular drum beats.

Side stick

See cross stick.

Snare

The metal wires that run across the bottom head of the snare drum. They give the snare drum its snappy sound and its name.

Staff

The five lines on which music is written.

Sticking

Combination of left and right hand strokes. Stickings are notated by "L" for left hand and "R" for right hand, below the note.

Strainer

The leaver on the side of the snare drum that tensions the snares against the bottom of the snare drum.

Swing

A rhythmic style where notes off the beat are played shorter than notes on the beat. Eighth notes and sixteenth notes that fall on the off beat are played on the last triplet subdivision. The swing feel does not necessarily have to be triplets. The swing ratio can vary between 1:4 and 1:1.

Swing can also refer to a style of big band jazz music from the 1920s and 30s swing era.

When a jazz band rhythmically locks in together in a way that feels good the music is said to swing.

Tempo

The speed of the beat. It is measured in beats per minute (bpm).

Tension rod

A screw that screws into the lug to hold the hoop in place and tension the drum head. The head of the tension rod is usually square, requiring a drum key to adjust it.

Time signature

The time signature specifies how many beats in each bar. It is written at the beginning of a piece if music and anywhere that the time signature changes. The top number indicates the number if beats in the bar and the bottom number indicates the length of each beat. For example 4/4 means four quarter notes to each bar. 6/8 means six eighth notes to each bar. 4/4 is the most common time signature.

Trade

Trading means to take turns at soloing with one or more other instrumentalists. It can become a kind of musical soloing battle between players. Trading eights means taking turns at soling eight bars at a time, trading fours is four bars and trading twos, two bars.

Vamp

To repeat a short section of music until cued.

Voice

Different drums and cymbals of the drum kit are sometimes referred to as different voices.