I thought This blog we'd take a look at the History and development of the instrument we hold near and dear to our hearts. If your unfamiliar with the story it's actually pretty interesting to see how our instrument of choice came to be.
In the 1800's all theater was live. All broadway and vaudville shows had live bands. The percussion "section" was made up of several musicians playing different percussive instruments i.e. snare drum, bass drum, tom toms ( or chinese drums as they were also known) cymbal players and so on. In an early cost cutting move theater owners started to demand that the percussion section be reduced to one musician playing all the percussion parts together. This did not really become feasable until a man named William Ludwig look at the situation.
It was 1909 when William Ludwig invented the first workable bass drum pedal. He patented the idea and later that year the first bass drum pedals began to be manufactured. Intrestingly prior to the bass drum pedal's invention the bass drum player literally kick his drum. That's how the bass drum also became known as the kick drum a term we still use today. With the success of Ludwigs pedal the drummer could now be seated and an array of drums and cymbals could be set up around the drummer. Music also began to be written so a percussionist could play all the parts at once.
Early drum kits consisted of a bass drum, a snare drum a tom a few cymbals and a contraption table. mounted on the bass drum it was a table full of assorted percussion items that would be played during the show. Tambourines, Triangles, cowbells and thingsalong those lines would be on this table. Drum kits were begining to be reffered to as contraption kits. It was later shortened to trap kits and that is the origin of that term. During WWI and the roaring twenties the modern day drum kit truly began to take shape. There was just one thing left to modify and the truly modern drumkit was born.
Early drummers and drummers of this period kept time on the ride cymbal and on a piece of equipment called the "low boy". The LowBoy was essentially a high hat that was played on the floor. It had 2 cymbals the bottom one was stationary and the top one was moveable by a foot pedal standing only about 15 Inches from the floor and the cymbals were generally small 10-12 inches. It was a time keeping device meant to be heard by the drummer only. In the early to mid twenties drummers began to experiment around with the lowboy and began adding a tube to it raising the lowboy to a height that could be played with the sticks and still operated by the foot if one desired. In 1926 The First Hi-hat appeared in a drum catalog and the modern drumset as we know it was born.
During the 1930's and 1940's drum kits really began to resmble todays kits. Toms were added to the bass brum with mounting brackets floor toms with legs were positioned to the right or left of a drummer. Bass Drum sizes shrank from 26-28 inches to more modern 20, 22 & 24 inches. the bass drum pedals were improving so large drums were no longer needed for projection. What is generally considered a modern developement the double bass drum originally appeared as early as 1940. It enjoyed a brief moment of popularity as the swing era and big bands swept America. But by the early 50's be-bop and a new musical wave called rock-n-roll took over the airwaves and the double bass drum faded from popularity. Only to sit dormant and almost forgotten for over 30 years until ironically rock-n-roll revived it in the early 80's.
The double bass pedal was invented in 1972 and was manufactured by an Australian company Sleishman from 1972 until 1975 when manufacturing was discontinued due to a lack of sales. This was an Idea before it's time, today the double bass pedal is standard equipment amongst Metal drummers and is quite popular with rock and contemporary drummers also. Today's option for drummers is endless with the advent of electronic drums sound choices are endless for todays drummers. Double bass Pedals, remote Hi-Hats, elctronic triggers it all owes it's exsistence to 2 major inventions and innovations earlier in the 20th century. The development of the bass drum pedal and the Hi-hat.