How the Drum Set Was Born
Drums have been around for a very long time and have been a big part of many cultures and traditions. For example, in most African cultures, drums were the main driving force of many religious ceremonies. The African tribes relied on the use of drums to express themselves and to portray many emotions.
Having said this, the modern drum set first originated in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States in the early 1900’s. After slavery was abolished in the United States, many African Americans moved to cities like New Orleans, Chicago, and New York to look for work and make a living. In the process, they brought with them their African traditions and culture – mainly music. Before this heavy influence, music in the United States was mostly comprised of orchestras or marching bands.
This is where the birth of the drum set comes into play. When African American families were freed from slavery, they were easily able to express themselves through their music. This music, which was completely new to Caucasians living in the United States, quickly gained acceptance and spread all throughout the country. This new style of music, now called jazz, was heavily based on rhythm, grooves, and beats with melodies and harmonies layered on top. Jazz bands had a lot of players in them to begin with so it was not feasible to have a whole percussion section. This is where the idea first came up to have one percussion player playing all of the necessary percussion instruments. These players were the first drum set players.
The first drum sets were comprised of a bass drum, a snare drum, and sometimes a cymbal of some sort. It was the jazz era in which the drum set was born and it quickly became recognized and accepted as a “real” instrument. It would later be utilized for other styles of music like rock as you know today.