Drums have been around for thousands of years, and they play an important role in many cultures around the world.

Different musicians and technology improvements developed the drums and drumming technique, so there is no single answer to who invented drumming.

However, the modern drum kits were assembled by American jazz drummers in the 1920s who started combining different drums and percussions.

Let’s find out more about the history of drums and the legends who developed drumming as we know it today.

The history of drums

When we think about drums, we usually imagine a drum kit as a collection of drums, cymbals, and other percussion instruments used in music and taught in music schools.

However, drums had a long way to become the drum kit we know today.

The first drums we know about, dating to 5500 BC, were made of alligator skin and were found in China.

Drums were used in religious events and cultural gatherings in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, according to iconography.

The first snare drums were developed around 1300 AD, and the cymbals originated from ancient China and Turkey in 1100 BC.

The bass drum first appeared in Europe around 1400 AD, while the first tom-toms were brought to the US in the second half of the 1800s.

Modern drum kit

Drums were mostly used in military and orchestral music settings as separate instruments throughout history. 

Percussionists began integrating multiple drums into a set in the 1860s.

The first drum set occurred in the late nineteenth century, which led to the development of the modern drum kit we know today.

Drums are an important part of jazz music, so it’s no surprise that the jazz drummers were the first to assemble drum sets.

The modern drum kit was developed during the 1920s in New Orleans by jazz drummers.

They assembled a drum set using classical instruments, combining different drums, cymbals, and other percussions.

By the 1930s, drummers were already standardizing their kits. 

Although the drum kits still varied by the size and number of drums/percussions, the five-piece drums became a norm.

The basic layout of a standard drum kit was consisted of:

  • Bass drum and foot pedal
  • Snare drum
  • Tom toms
  • Hi-hat cymbal
  • Large hanging cymbals

The expansion of rock music in the 1960s led to the development of drum kits as they are today.

The development of technology led to the creation of electronic drums in the early 1970s, and many drummers have used them instead of an acoustic kit ever since.

As many musicians greatly influenced the development of the drums, it’s only fair to give them the place in the spotlight they deserve.

Read on to learn more about the legends who invented and revolutionized drumming.

Developers of drumming

Combining different drums and percussions into the singular set was not easy.

Many musicians developed drums and drumming, but here are the most “guilty” ones.

William Ludwig

Photo from twitter.com – @LudwigDrumsHQ

One of the inventions that greatly influenced the development of drum kits was the bass pedal.

Although some forms of bass pedal existed since the 1840s, the man who is considered the main developer of the bass pedal system was William Ludwig. 

He also developed an early low-mounted high-hat.

William Ludwig was a percussionist from Austria who, together with his brother, established the Ludwig & Ludwig Co. 

In 1909. they patented the first commercially successful bass drum pedal system, which enabled playing the bass drum while having free hands.

Louis Bellson

Photo from drummerworld.com

Jazz legend Louis Bellson was one of the first drummers to add a second bass drum to his setup.

He sketched out a double bass drum kit for an art class as a high-school kid in 1939 and later became the first and most famous double bass drummer.

Louie popularized the use of a double bass setup, paving the way for a new drumming style.

Baby Dodds

Photo from drummerworld.com

One of the people responsible for assembling the first drum sets was Baby Dodds, a jazz drummer from New Orleans.

He suggested that William Ludvig raise the low hats to make them easier to play.

That is how the modern hi-hat was created.

Dee Dee Chandler

Photo from culturalhistoryofthedrumset.wordpress.com

One of the people who discovered a way to play different drum and percussion parts together and thus invented the first drum kit was Dee Dee Chandler.

This jazz drummer from New Orleans was one of the first drummers to use a makeshift pedal to play the bass drum with his foot while playing snare with his hands.

Gene Krupa

Photo from udiscovermusic.com

Gene Krupa was the American jazz drummer who is considered as founding father of the modern drumset and one of the best drummers of all time.

He popularized drum sets by using a more powerful bass drum for greater emphasis.

Also, he was the first drummer to be recorded with a bass drum and the first to popularize the extended drum solo.

Remo Belli

Photo from udiscovermusic.com

One more American jazz drummer who revolutionized drums was Remo Belli.

He created the Remo brand and manufactured and commercialized the first effective synthetic drumheads.

Animal hides were replaced with a durable, acoustical synthetic membrane which, besides saving many animals, revolutionized the production of drums.

Graeme Edge

Photo from see.news

The last person we will mention in this article is Graeme Edge, drummer of the English band The Moody Blues.

He created the first electronic drum in the early 1970s by Graeme Edge in collaboration with Sussex University Professor Brian Groves.

Electronic drums became a popular alternative to acoustic drums, and their development transformed drumming.

Wrap-up

Drumming and drum kits weren’t invented by one person but by various musicians who developed the instrument and technique over the ages.

The modern drum kit was born in the twentieth century, and its forefathers were American jazz drummers such as Baby Dodds, Dee Dee Chandler, Gene Krupa, and many others.

If you are curious about other great musicians who developed drumming, check out our article about top drummers of all time.

We hope this brief history of drumming roused your passion for the drums and gave you a glimpse into the creation of the instrument we all adore.