How do I make sense of drum terminology?

Author: Simon DasGupta.
August 11, 2022

In this article

In general, the world of drums, percussion, and music is filled with many weird and wonderful terms. It can be daunting but don't worry. Our free glossary is here to help you understand popular:

  • terms used in drums and percussion.
  • terms used in music theory generally, that are often seen by drummers.
  • common buzz-words and confusing "drummer slang."

Why are drumming terms so confusing?

A drum head is the new accepted term for what we once called a drum skin. You tighten your drum heads by adjusting the tension bolts, and you fit the head onto the bearing edge of your drum shell.

That one paragraph alone has multiple drum terms that can confuse beginner drummers, and we haven't even touched the weird ones like batter heads, hybrid drums, crotchets, and x-hats.

What is a rack tom, and why might you need a memory lock? How does a rim shot differ from a rim click? How does a boom cymbal stand compare to a straight stand, and what on earth is a snare basket?

The Glossary.

If you would like a hard-copy of these terms, get our FREE eBook by scrolling to the foot of this page.

Acoustic Drums.
This term refers to drums with wood shells (or, in some cases, acrylic or metal shells - particularly with snare drums). They are fitted with drum heads on both sides and are not electronic drums.

Accent. An "accent" is a musical note played slightly stronger than other accompanying notes. Therefore, it is "accentuated" or "accented." See also dynamic strokes. It is represented as a right-facing arrow (>) above the note in question in music notation.

Air Drums / Air Drumming. Air drumming is the art of playing the drums without having any drums to hit! It's a great way to learn the early days of drumming.  

Auxiliary Snare Drum. A second snare drum is usually positioned to the left of the hi-hats. The purpose of the auxiliary snare drum is to provide a different snare sound to the main snare and thus give more sound options for different musical situations.

Back-beat. This term usually refers to the snare drum being played on beats 2 and 4, thus creating a back-beat. (If in a 4/4 time signature).

Bars. Also referred to as Measures. Bars are the individual "boxes" on a music staff that contain the music notation. If you were to play one bar four times in succession, you could say that you have played "Four bars of time." This phrase tells you that you have repeated a given pattern four times.

Bass Drum. Also known as the Kick Drum. The bass drum sits on the floor and is played using a bass drum pedal. Bass drums emit low-frequency bass tones and are often referred to as the Kick Drum. Bass drums can be anything from 18 inches to 28 inches in diameter in some cases. Still, the most common sizes are 18" (popular with jazz applications) and 20/22" bass drums (popular for most other genres). Some drummers use two bass drums in their setups, but the second bass drum has mainly been made redundant by the creation of the double bass drum pedal. Bass drums have legs to keep them in position and sharp spurs to stop them from sliding. Be careful if you have wood floors! A carpet (or drum rug) is always a good idea to protect your floor and stop your bass drum from sliding when you are playing.

Bass Drum Beater. This is the striking device found at the end of a bass drum beater shaft. It strikes the bass drum head when controlled via a bass drum pedal. Beaters are usually made from felt, plastic, or wood. Each of these different materials produces a different sound or "attack" on the bass drum head.

Bass Drum Beater Shaft. This is the long shaft that attaches to the bass drum pedal drive system at one end and has a bass drum beater at the other. It is usually adjusted via a small tension bolt on the drive system.

Bass Drum Pedal. This is the foot pedal unit that is attached to the bass drum hoop and used with the foot to play the bass drum. Single bass drum pedals have one beater and one foot pedal, and double pedals have two beaters and a "slave" pedal that controls a second beater. This takes away the need for a second bass drum. The pedals are usually driven by a chain or strap system, and the pedal's tension can be adjusted to suit the individual. A word of advice, though: the factory setting is usually the most effective!

Batter Heads. See also Drum Heads. Batter heads refer to the top drum head on snare drums and toms and the striking head on a bass drum. Bottom heads are referred to as resonant heads.

Beams. In music notation, the line that "bridges" certain note groupings together is often referred to as a beam. Eighth notes have single beams, sixteenth notes have double beams, and thirty-second notes have three beams. This concept is explained in detail in the Music Notation videos of Drum Ambition.

Bearing Edge. This refers to the edge of a drum on which the drum head sits. The bearing edge of a drum is normally at an angle, leading to minimal contact between shell and drum head - this increases the drum's resonance.

Boom Cymbal Stand. A boom cymbal stand is a cymbal stand that has an arm (known as a boom arm) in the top section, which can be adjusted to the desired height and angle. They are ideal for fine-tuning the positing of your cymbal setup and can be used generally for crash cymbals, ride cymbals, and effect cymbals. Be aware that sometimes the boom arm is tucked away in the top section of the stand, giving it the initial appearance of a straight cymbal stand. Boom Cymbals Stands are either single or double-braced. (See Double Bracing).

BPM Beats Per Minute. See also tempo. In music, the tempo (which indicates how fast or slow a beat may be) is measured in terms of Beats Per Minute, abbreviated to BPM. If you are working in a 4/4 time signature (see Time signatures), then a 60bpm tempo (the equivalent speed to 1-second clicking on a clock) will occur 60 times in one minute. Metronomes can determine song speeds and are a good practice tool for developing timekeeping. (See Metronome).

Brushes. Brushes are essentially drum sticks that have multiple wires or plastic strands at the end instead of a plastic or wood tip. They are used mostly in jazz playing and often on the snare drum, although their application can be a lot broader than this. (Quiet and softer general playing, for example). Retractable brushes refer to a handle that pulls the wires into the brush's body when not in use - thus preserving the delicate wires.

China Cymbals. Also known as Chinese/Oriental Cymbals. China cymbals are popular effects cymbals. They are inverted at the edge and are typically seated in what seems to be an upside-down position on the cymbal stand. Their sound can be best described as very "trashy," and they have a quick decay - meaning that they have a short, sharp sound. Mini-China cymbals are very high pitched and vary in size from 12-14 inches. Traditional-sized china cymbals can vary from 16-22 inches in diameter, with 18 and 20-inch variants being the most common models.

Chops and Chop Building. A musician said to have "good chops" has good technique. "Chop building" is a term used to describe the honing and development of technique.

Clef. A clef can be found on the music staff and indicates the pitch in which the music is played. Common musical clefs include the bass and treble clef, and particularly interesting to us is the percussion clef. The percussion clef consists of two vertical lines at the start of each line on the musical staff.

Click Track. A term normally used in the recording studio or live performance environment, referring to the metronome that keeps the drummer and/or band in close sync. The "click-track" is set at a pre-determined tempo and is heard by the drummer and other musicians through a set of headphones or earpieces. It is a useful tool for developing good timekeeping.

Common Time. See Time Signatures.

Crash Cymbals. See also cymbals. Crash cymbals vary in size from 14 to 20 inches - the most common being 16 and 18 inches. Smaller diameter cymbals tend to be higher-pitched, and larger diameter cymbals are lower-pitched. They are usually hit following a drum fill (or "fill-in") or to mark a part of the drumbeat you wish to emphasize. They are particularly effective when hit simultaneously with the bass drum.

Crash/Ride Cymbal. These cymbals are named crash/ride cymbals for their dual purpose - crashing and riding, all on the same cymbal. (A crash/ride is one cymbal, as opposed to a separate crash cymbal and a separate ride cymbal). They are usually 18 inches in diameter and are more common in starter packs.

Crotchet. See also quarter note.

Cross Stick. See also rim click. This is the term used when you play the snare drum rim with the shoulder (or side) of the stick while pressing down with the palm of your hand on the snare drum head. The resulting sound is a hollow/wood-block type effect and is a useful musical tool when the back-beat needs to be more subtle.

Cymbals. See also Hi-Hat cymbals, Crash cymbals, Chinese Cymbals, Splash Cymbals, Effects Cymbals, and Ride Cymbals. Cymbals are round metal discs that are an important part of the drum set. Cymbals are manufactured from sheets of metal (sheet cymbals) or heat-molded and formed in individual casts (known as cast cymbals). A cymbal has three striking areas; the bell (the bell shape in the dead center of the cymbal), the bow (between the bell and the edge), and the cymbal's edge. Cymbals vary from 6 inches in diameter to 24 inches plus, depending on the sub-type of the cymbal (crash, hi-hats, china, etc.).

Cymbal Felts. These are round felts used on cymbal and hi-hat stands - mainly to protect the cymbal. The felts stop the cymbal from making contact with either the plastic or metal parts of the cymbal stand/wing nuts, thus protecting the cymbal and also making sure the sound of the cymbal is unimpaired. These felts come with your stand, but it is always a good idea to buy spares as they are easily lost.

Cymbal Sleeves. These fit over the threaded metal part of the stand (to which you attach the wing nut) and sit on top of the cymbal seat (see Cymbal Seat). They are about one inch long and mostly made of plastic and sometimes rubber. Their function ensures no metal-on-metal contact between the cymbal and the cymbal stand. This protects the cymbal from getting cracked at the center hole.

Cymbal Seat. The cymbal seat is a plastic seat that sits on the top of a cymbal stand and supports the two felts that cushion a cymbal. The cymbal then "sits" on this attachment, between two felts, before being secured into place via the wing nut. Without the seat, the cymbal would not be secure and may become damaged. They are fitted as standard on all cymbal stands.

Cymbal Stand. See also Boom Cymbal Stand. A cymbal stand is a straight stand, normally in at least two or three height-adjustable sections, that holds a cymbal. They have a tripod leg system that can be single or double-braced - the latter two terms have their own descriptions in this glossary. Cymbal stands normally vary in weight from lightweight to heavy-duty, depending on the size and weight of the cymbal to be mounted.

Decay. We refer to "decay" when we talk about how long it takes for a drum to stop resonating or a cymbal to stop ringing. A drum with a short and sharp sound is said to have a quick decay. The same can be said for a cymbal with minimal ring - such as a splash cymbal, for example.

Double Bracing. The stands that support our cymbals and drums have a tripod base. Single-braced legs are normally lighter in weight and have one bar with a rubber foot at the end, whereas double-braced legs are heavier and have two bars. This is a little tricky to explain, so we recommend doing an internet search on single and double-braced drum hardware and paying close attention to the leg struts. You'll see the difference!

Dotted Note. In music notation, a dot behind a note (or rest) increases the value of that given note or rest by 50%.

Down Strokes. See Dynamic Strokes.

Drumbeat. A drumbeat is a rhythmic pattern created when our limbs combine to play the individual core parts of the drum set - cymbals, snare drum, bass drum, and toms.

Drum Dial. This is a tuning device that can help tune your drums quicker and more accurately than by ear. It has a simple clock face display and measures the tympanic pressure of the drum.

Drum Fills. Drum fills are rhythmic patterns that we play mostly on the snare drum and toms. Drum fills usually occur at "transitional points" in music. For example, passing from a verse to a chorus can be considered a transitional point. When we pass from a chorus back to a verse, the same applies. Drum fills can vary in length and are an important part of drumming and musicality on the drum set.

Drum Heads. This is the modern term for what we used to refer to as "drum skins." It's been a long time since we have used calf skins on the drums, and the modern-day equivalent uses plastic and a metal rim. Drum heads can be offered in different weights, the most common being "single-ply" or "double-ply" heads. Single means one layer of plastic, and double-ply means there are two. In summary, single-ply heads give you a more "open" resonant sound, and double-ply gives you a deeper sound and more depth in tone. Much depends on the drum's tuning and the composition of the drum shell - wood, metal, etc. See also batter heads and resonant heads.

Drum Key. This is a key that is used to tune drums, tighten or loosen drum heads, and adjust any item of hardware that has a tension bolt/tension rod attachment. Drum keys are usually supplied when purchasing a snare drum or drum set and can be purchased individually. They are universal in size.

Drum Kit. See Drum Set.

Drumline. These are percussion ensembles and are particularly common in US High Schools and Colleges, as well as Drum and Bugle Corps and Indoor Percussion Ensembles. This group percussion unit consists of snare drums, bass drums, tenor drums (sets of 3, 4, or more drums), and cymbals. Drumlines are a common feature of Marching Bands and Pit Bands. (The latter being a stationary ensemble commonly featured at school and college sporting events).

Drum Set. See also Rock, Fusion and Hybrid sized drum sets. The drum set, or drum kit, refers to the collection of drums and hardware that make up our instrument. It typically consists of a snare drum, bass drum, toms, cymbals, pedals, stands, and don't forget the seat (or throne). The drums usually come in rock, fusion, or hybrid sizes, and there are descriptions within this glossary. Drums sold without the pedals and stands are referred to as shell packs. When you hear reference to a "five-piece" drum set, this is usually referring to the bass drum, snare drum, and three toms. Hardware is not considered part of the "pieces" in this respect. A "four-piece" drum set may have a bass drum, snare drum, and just two toms.

Drum Skins. See also Drum Heads. We've come a long way from using animal skins (mainly calf skins) on our drums. For decades now, we have been using manufactured plastic skins called Drum Heads. Many drummers still refer to drum heads as "skins," and some hand percussion items still have animal skins - particularly authentic African hand drums, for example.  

Drum Sticks. Drum sticks are used for striking the cymbals and the drums and are typically made of wood, although some companies have created carbon fiber and metal variants. The most common wood used for drum sticks is hickory, although oak and maple are also popular alternatives.

Dynamics. In music, dynamics are determined by how hard or soft we play a note. See also Dynamic Strokes. Understanding dynamics is critical in becoming a musical drummer.

Dynamic Strokes. These strokes are discussed in  Course 1 of Drum Ambition (Lesson 20). They are a series of full, down, tap, and up strokes. These strokes are a very important element of building drum set control and are instrumental in the ability to be musical on the drum set.

Eighth Notes. This term is given to musical notes that are ⅛ in value. Eight notes are usually identified by their single beam or tail/flag. This concept cannot be explained effectively in a few sentences, but it is explained thoroughly in Drum Ambition videos. In England, eighth notes are often referred to as Quavers.

Effects Cymbals. This term is given to cymbals that are used for special effects outside the realms of regular crash, ride, and hi-hat cymbals. Good examples would be splash cymbals and china cymbals. Some cymbals have gadgets attached, such as tambourine jingles or rivets, and some even have holes in them to give them a distinctive sound. They all reside in the effects family of cymbal.

Electronic Drums. Electronic drums are controlled by a sound module and produce sampled drum sounds that you can play through headphones or an amplifier/speaker. They are a popular alternative to more traditional acoustic drums, as the volume can be controlled, giving students more flexibility around practice time in noise-sensitive environments.  

Feathering. A term used to describe very light playing, usually on the bass drum and often in a "jazz" context.

Fulcrum. In the drumming world, the "fulcrum" refers to the point between our thumb and finger, where we lightly grip the stick to maintain control.

Full Strokes. See Dynamic Strokes.

Fusion Size Drum Sets. Typically, a fusion size drum set has a 20 or 22-inch bass drum and toms 10, 12, and 14 inches in diameter. This differs from a "Rock" setup, where the bass drum is usually 22 inches in diameter, with the toms being 12, 13, and 16 inches. The trend in recent years has been toward fusion-sized sets since the smaller toms can be positioned closer together, making playing more efficient. Some manufacturers have introduced a "hybrid" setup, where the toms are 10, 12, and 16 inches in diameter.

Fills / Fill-Ins. See Drum Fills.

Floor Tom. See also Toms. Floor toms are usually 14, 16, or 18 inches in diameter. Floor toms are suspended by three legs and are not attached to stands. Larger-sized drums (14, 16, and 18 inches) that do not have legs and are attached to stands are known as hanging toms.

Ghost Notes. These are strokes that are played with a lighter touch. They are normally made using tap strokes and are noted on the music staff in brackets (or parentheses).

Grip. The way we hold our drum sticks is referred to as our grip. There are two primary types of grip: matched grip and traditional grip. The most common types of matched grip are American, French, and German.

Groove. A groove is another term for a drum beat - where typically, the hi-hats or ride cymbal combine with the snare and bass drums to create a groove. Tom-based grooves use the toms, sometimes replacing the hi-hats or ride cymbals. There are many musicians and educators that will also present the view that a groove is a "feel thing" - in other words, if a beat is not played with a certain relaxed and musical flow, it is not grooving.

Half note. This term is given to musical notes whose value is ½. Half notes are usually identified as hollow dots with a stem attached. This concept cannot be explained effectively in a few sentences, but it is explained thoroughly in Drum Ambition videos. In England, half notes are often referred to as Minims.

Hand Percussion. Instruments in the hand percussion family include tambourines, shakers, bongos, congas, djembes, frame drums, and doumbeks. They are generally played by the hands. Other percussion instruments are also considered part of the hand percussion family, even if they are hit with sticks or beaters and not directly by the hand. These include triangles, guiros, cowbells, pandeiros, woodblocks, and bodhrans. See also Tuned percussion.

Hanging Toms. See Floor Toms.

Hardware. The bass drum and hi-hat pedals and the stands that hold your cymbals and drums are referred to collectively as hardware.

Hi-Hat Cymbals. This is a pair of cymbals, usually 13 or 14 inches in diameter. They are opened apart and closed together using a foot pedal controller called the hi-hat stand. They can be struck with sticks or played with the foot pedal. Usually, there is one set of hi-hats on a drum set. Additional sets (for double bass playing or just for more musical options) can be added using a remote hi-hat stand (which has a separate pedal and a cable drive system) or an x-hat, which is a shortened top section of a hi-hat stand, suspended on a clamp.

Hi-Hat Stand. See Hi-Hat Cymbals.

Hoops. The steel rims fitted to your drums are often referred to as hoops. On the bass drum, they are usually much larger and made of wood, plastic, or metal.

Hybrid Sized Drum Sets. Hybrid sizes usually consist of a 22-inch bass drum with 10, 12, and 16-inch diameter toms. See also Fusion Sized and Rock Sized Drum Sets.

Lugs. These are the fittings attached to the side of the drum which house the nut boxes and receivers for the tension bolts. See Tension Bolts.

Kick Drum. See Bass Drum.

Marching Band. See Drumline.

Matched Grip. See Grip.

Memory Locks. Memory locks are used on cymbal stands and sometimes tom holders to lock your stands in place. This way, you can attain the same setup (or very close, at least) every time you set up your drum set.

Metronome. A metronome is a device that measures the tempo (or speed) of music in BPM (beats per minute). They are mostly digital, and there are also various smartphone applications and online metronomes that you can use. We discuss the importance of using these to develop good timekeeping in our videos.

Measures. Also referred to as bars. Measures are the individual "boxes" on a music staff that contain the music notation. If you were to play one measure four times in succession, you could say that you have played four bars of time. This phrase tells you that you have repeated a given pattern four times, and you will hear this frequently in our videos.

Minim. See Half Notes.

Moongel. These are small blue rectangular-shaped putty gels that can be applied directly to the drum heads to help reduce resonance. You will see these in our videos, on the top of every drum.

Note Values. In music notation, notes are assigned values, which are based on basic fractions. This cannot be effectively explained in a few sentences but is thoroughly covered in the Music Notation videos of Drum Ambition.  

Orchestration. In drumming terms, the order in which we hit the drums and cymbals in a drum fill situation can be called orchestration.

Percussion. See Hand Percussion and Tuned Percussion.

Pocket. Playing "in the pocket" means that musicians are playing in time and not shifting ahead or behind the beat or deviating from each other. Developing good timekeeping can help with this.

Practice Pad. A practice pad is a rubber pad used to practice sticking, drum set rudiments, and dynamic strokes. They vary in size from around 6-14 inches, and the larger variants can usually be mounted on a snare drum stand if desired.

Quarter Note. This term is given to musical notes that are ¼ in value. Quarter notes are usually identified as being a filled dot with a stem. This concept cannot be explained effectively in a few sentences, but it is explained thoroughly in Music Notation Videos on Drum Ambition. In England, quarter notes are often referred to as Crotchets.

Quavers. See Eighth Notes.

Rack. A rack is a long metal bar suspended at either end by two legs/feet. Clamps can be fitted to this bar, where we can mount drums, cymbal stands, and other hardware items. They can also have side extension bars to accommodate hanging toms. Using a rack can facilitate less clutter on the floor area around the drums and help you position your drums consistently each time.

Rack Tom. This term has evolved over recent years. It used to be that rack toms referred to toms that are mounted on a rack and not a bass drum mounted holder. Nowadays, though, toms that are not floor toms are often generically referred to as rack toms, regardless of whether they are rack or bass drum mounted.

Remote Hi-Hats. See Hi-Hat Cymbals.

Resonance. This term describes how much a drum "sings" after it has been struck. Typically, the larger the drum in diameter and depth, the more resonance is produced. We associate "resonance" with drums and "ring" with cymbals.

Resonant Head. See also Drum Heads. The resonant head is the drum head on the underside of a snare drum or tom. It is the front head (non-striking side) of a bass drum. Topside heads are referred to as batter heads. The same applies to the striking side of a bass drum.

Rest. In music notation, rests are used to indicate where not to play. Rests can have values just like their note counterparts, and we explain this in great detail in our music notation videos.  

Ride Cymbal. Ride cymbals are typically 18-24 inches in diameter, the most common being 20" and 22". Ride cymbals are usually played in place of the hi-hats in certain musical situations and can be struck on the bell, the bow (the middle area between the bell and the edge), and the edge itself.

Rims. See Hoops.

Rimshot. These are mostly played on the snare drum and occur when the tip of the drumstick plays the middle of the drum while the main body of the stick hits the rim of the drum at the same time. This produces a very distinctive sound referred to as a rimshot.

Rim Click. This is the term used for playing the snare drum rim with the shoulder (or side) of the stick while pressing down with the palm of your hand on the snare drum head. The resulting sound is a hollow/wood-block type effect and is a useful musical tool when the back-beat needs to be more subtle.

Ring. See Resonance.

Rock Sized Drum Sets. Rock-sized drums have a 22-inch diameter bass drum with 12, 13, and 16-inch toms. See also Fusion Sized Drums and Hybrid Sized Drums.

Root Note Sticking. See also Sticking. Root Note Sticking is a sticking concept where certain notes are assigned to either the left or right hand.  

Rudiments. The 26 drum set rudiments are a series of sticking patterns widely used in drum education. They build control while opening up various musical options on the drum set. They are discussed in our videos.

Semibreve. See Whole Notes.

Semi Quavers. See Sixteenth Notes.

Shells. Individual acoustic drums are made up of shells. The shell refers to the drum before any finishing (painting / plastic wrap) or hardware has been fitted. For example, a drum constructed from maple is said to have a maple shell. Don't be confused by the term "shell pack" - these are completely finished drums, as discussed below.

Shell Pack. When buying acoustic drums, many are sold as shell packs. This is important, as shell packs include the drums and holders only. Also, holders are not stands - they are just the holders that mount the toms. If you buy a shell pack, you are not getting the stands, pedals, seat, or cymbals - these are all additional purchases.

Single Brace. The stands that support our cymbals and drums have a tripod base. Single-braced legs are normally lighter and have one strut with a rubber foot at the end, whereas double-braced legs are heavier in weight and have two struts. This is a little tricky to explain, so we recommend an internet search on single and double-braced drum hardware, paying close attention to the leg struts. You'll see the difference!

Sixteenth Notes. This term is given to musical notes that are 1/16 in value. Sixteenth notes are usually identified by their two beams or flags/tails. This concept cannot be explained effectively in a few sentences, but it is explained thoroughly in Music Notation on Drum Ambition. In England, sixteenth notes are often referred to as Semi-Quavers.

Snare Buzz. Certain sound frequencies will cause the snare wires on a snare drum to resonate and vibrate. This is commonly known as snare buzz. Playing toms close to the snare drum and bass guitar frequencies are the main causes. Snare buzz can be minimized by tightening the snare wires but cannot be eliminated altogether in a live situation.

Snare Basket. This term refers to the three arms on a snare drum stand that cradle the snare drum and hold it in place. These can be tightened for a snug grip.

Snare Drum. The snare drum is a drum that is positioned next to the hi-hats and below the bass drum-mounted toms. It is the drum used to create a backbeat and is named as such because it has strands of "snare wires" attached to the bottom head of the drum, giving it a distinctive "popping" sound. Snare drums typically can be 10-14" in diameter, with 14" being the most common. The depth of the drums can generally vary from 3" to 8", with 5", 5.5" and 6" being the most common. A snare drum that is 14 inches in diameter and 5 inches in depth would be referred to as a 14x5 in the UK and 5x14 in the USA. Snare drums are mostly wood or metal shells. Popular wood shells include maple, birch, oak, and walnut. Popular metal shells include steel, aluminum, brass, and copper.

Snare Strainer. The lever on the side of a snare drum engages or disengages the snare wires.

Snare Throw Off. See Snare Strainer.

Snare Release. See Snare Strainer.

Splash Cymbal. A Splash cymbal is a small cymbal (belonging to the "Effects" family) that produces a high-pitched sound. The sound also quickly diminishes, and this is also referred to as having a quick decay. Splash cymbals vary in size from 6 inches to 12 inches, the most common sizes being 8" and 10".

Staff. The musical staff is the grid system on which we present music notation and consists of five horizontal lines.

Sticking. When we refer to sticking on the drum set, we refer to specific notes played by either the right or left hand in a predetermined way. Understanding sticking concepts can help you build control, which can build musicality, dynamics, speed, and power. See also Root Note Sticking.

Tap Strokes. See Dynamic Strokes.

Tempo. Tempo refers to the speed of the music and is measured in BPM - Beats per minute.

Tension bolts. These bolts are threaded rods that attach the steel rims of the drum to the actual shell. By tightening or loosening these bolts, we can adjust the drum's tuning. Longer variants used for bass drums are referred to as tension rods or T-rods. They can vary in length from one to several inches.

Throne. This is the seat on which drummers sit. They are height adjustable, and some come with backrests if desired. It is always advisable to use a dedicated drum throne and not a household seat or stool. A good throne can help develop good posture and, ultimately, better control.

Time Signatures. You will see the time signature written at the start of a musical piece. The top number tells you how many beats are in the bar (measure), and the bottom number tells you what type of note equals one beat. (i.e., 4/4 = 4 beats to the bar; each beat equals a quarter note. 6/8 = 6 beats to the bar; each beat equals an eighth note and so forth). 4/4 time is the most common, and hence it is also known as common time.

Toms. Tom is an abbreviated term for tom-tom. Most drum sets come with at least two toms and more commonly, three. Some drum sets have more, depending on the preference of the drummer. Toms typically range in size from 8 inches in diameter up to 18 inches. The smaller the diameter of the drum, the higher the pitch. The larger the diameter, the lower the pitch. See also Rack Toms, Floor Toms, and Fusion/Rock/Hybrid Drum Sizes.

Tone Rings. These are plastic rings, typically one inch in diameter, that sit on the rim of the drum, atop the drum head. The result is a slight dampening of the drum's resonance and a reduction in tone.

Tuned Percussion.This term typically refers to items in the percussion family that are pitched or tunable. Good examples would be timpani, xylophone, vibraphone, bells, glockenspiel, and marimba.

Tuning Key. See Drum Key.

Traditional Grip. See Grip.

Up Strokes. See Dynamic Strokes.

Whole Note. This term is given to musical notes that are one whole in value. Whole notes are usually identified as hollow dots without a stem. This concept cannot be explained effectively in a few sentences, but it is explained thoroughly in Music Notation Videos on Drum Ambition. In England, whole notes are often referred to as Semibreves.

X-Hats. See Hi-Hat Cymbals.

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