A Ludwig Drum Kit up close

Drum Kit History, Types and Brands

Drum kit history, types and brands – an overview of the origins and development of the drum kit, plus a look at some of the most popular brands and models.

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The drum kit owes its origins to our prehistoric ancestors who are believed to have stretched animal skins over shells to form an object that when struck, could carry sound over a large area.

In the 1700s drums became popularised as instruments by orchestras, as musical development really picked up.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and we now have all kinds of drum kit available in all manner of shapes, sizes and configurations. We even have electronic drum kits that can be used as practise pads, or as digital drum kits for live performance and studio drum kit recording when plugged in.

Drum Kit History

The era of the drum kit really began a lot further back but the drum kit we know today was brought to bear by drum kit pioneer William F. Ludwig in the early 1900s. Our Bill was a percussionist himself but it was his invention of the bass drum pedal (kick drum pedal) that turned the whole notion of the drums on its head.

Up until that point, it took a bunch of different people to produce the lower and upper sounds from the drums. With the kick pedal it was possible to centralise the kit around one man and the modern drum kit was born.

In the 1920’s the hi-hat came along and with it the first inkling that a musical revolution was underway. By the 1930’s, the 5-piece arrangement of snare, bass, toms and floor tom with stand-mounted cymbals arrived, signalling the start of the modern music era.

Types of Drum Kit

There are lots of different types of drum kit available on the market today, be they full drum kit setups or drum kit components to upgrade your existing drum set.

Electronic Drum Kit 

Electronic drum kit makes by Roland, Yamaha, Alesis and WHD are among the world’s top electronic drum kit brands, with different configurations, space saving designs and easy upgrade paths for software and hardware so that you can create a unique sound and versatile musical styles.

Disadvantages of electronic drum kit

Sounds fake, tries to emulate real drums, can make the drummer sound like a drum machine but not as accurate, so kind of defeats the object of having them there in the first place. Expensive to buy, irritating feel, clumsy layout that can’t be customised enough. Not much use in a power cut. If your PC crashes you’re stuffed, too.

Advantages of electronic drum kit

Electronic drum kit offers more practicality and versatility than an acoustic drum kit. There are trade-offs with anything digital in that you will never get that real feel from the electronic drum kit that you do from a real one (acoustic kit), but the versatility of electronic drum kit makes it an attractive investment, seeing as it’s much easier to carry around, pack away and utilise for different music styles than it is with its acoustic counterpart. It’s also much more convenient to practise with as it doesn’t create any noise that will disturb anyone else.

Acoustic Drum Kit (aka Real Drums)

Acoustic drum kit carries across a massive spectrum. More than just some toughened plastic and rubber on sticks with a USB socket attached, acoustic drum kit styles include all your different musical styles from jazz to rock to metal and beyond, with different drum kit configurations and add-ons available to create a completely customised drum kit that will mould itself to the style of the drummer’s play.

In amongst all that you also have many different thicknesses, depths, widths and material choices for the shells, skins and hardware to provide limitless customisation for any modern performing drummer. 

Disadvantages of acoustic drum kit

The downside with real drums is that your configuration is not so easily changed without swapping bits of kit out, which is time consuming and expensive. Also, they are a pain to carry around, take ages to set up and tune and after a gig you’ve got to strip the whole rig down and carry it back home again. This is no fun. Seriously, it sucks. Of course the other issue is where to play them. They are loud. This is a feature, not a bug but in a residential setting where drummers like to practise, it isn’t ideal and can cause tension with neighbours.

Advantages of acoustic drum kit

The sound, or rather sound waves. There is nothing that comes close to the feeling of being around live drums in the context of a live music setting. Acoustic drum kit players will tell you that there is a unique responsiveness and sense of attachment to the world when playing an acoustic drum kit, which leads to better creativity and a much more “real” sound, hence calling them Real Drums. They are completely customisable in terms of play style and sound, whilst also having a much lower cost barrier to entry than their pretend plastic counterparts.

Hybrid Drum Kit

This is a solution that bills itself as the best of both worlds. A combination of electronic and acoustic drum kits that means you can enjoy the feel of real drums with some additional “modern” add-ons to make recording and sound altering much easier in production or on stage. The preeminent supplier of hybrid drum kits is Yamaha who make a few hybrid kits that sit in the mid range of pricing when compared with electronic and acoustic drum kits.

Perfect for the drummer with an identity crisis.


Hi-hats, crash cymbals, splash cymbals, ride cymbals, china cymbals, gongs and effects cymbals… There’s no end to the sizes, styles and brands of cymbals. Whatever the musical style, there’s a set of cymbals designed for it and often big cymbals brands create custom cymbal collections around big name musicians who have a signature sound that they want to create for fans of the genre.

Cymbals have been with us for centuries but today’s market is dominated by Sabian, Zildjian, Meinl and Paiste who came to the fore with the explosion of popular rock music in the 80s and haven’t looked back. There are newer brands and more niche brands too and all have their rock/pop/music star icons who act as ambassadors for their brands.

Snare Drums

Ludwig, Mapex, Pearl, Tama, Yamaha and SJC are just some of the famous brands specialising in snare drums. The snare drum is perhaps the most technical drum in modern drum kit manufacture and is the key to the sound for most music genres, with funk, pop, rock and metal all having their own signature snare sounds, with tweaks and character added across brands to make the sound more unique.

Snare drums come in all sorts of sizes, depths and materials, with prices ranging from cheap to eye watering.


Something pretend drummers who play electric kits don’t really have to worry about, this. Real drummers on the other hand have so many combinations of hardware and options to choose from that it can almost become a full time occupation trying to choose between them.

In hardware you have hi-hat stands, kick drum pedals, stools and thrones, cymbal stands, kit clamps, drum racks, kit racks, hardware sets and snare stands, holders, fixers, clamps, stands, mounts, monitors, clutches and more.

Every category has myriad brands, price-points and styles to choose from, making drum hardware one of the biggest musical categories on the planet.


This is a category all of its own with many, many different items that make many different sounds. Percussion is and has been used the world over since further back than any recorded history to raise the alarm like a human version of a bird call, to mark the tribal strength of a group of people and more recently (past few hundred years or so) to provide entertainment and bring joy to the world.

Different cultures have different percussive instruments and styles but broadly speaking here’s what the world uses to make its amazing sounds:

Cajons (not to be confused with cajones), bongos, congas, djembes, timbales, tambourines, shakers, cabasas, maracas and triangles.

Glockenspiels, xylophones, marimbas, timpanis and chimes. Bodhrans, hand drums, ocean drums, pandeiros and bendirs.

Gongs, singing bowls, tongue drums, handpans, jingle sticks and tuning forks. And of course, the mighty cowbell. 

Individual drums

No drum kit would exist without the individual drums that make them and there are thousands of options available to anyone looking to create a certain sound.The main ones are toms, bass drums, snares, floor toms, gong drums and rototoms. All come in myriad sizes, colours and styles, with varying materials and thicknesses designed to produce an individual and compelling sound, suited to certain kinds of music or size of sound.


Drum sticks, brushes, wooden drum sticks, metal drum sticks, plastic drum sticks, carbon fibre drumsticks, drum heads, bags and cases, noise control, dampeners, ear protection , parts, spares and drum mats.

An endless array of things you can keep buying to keep honing your sound as a drummer are available and many are endorsed by the world’s top drummers to create a unique sound or provide protection, versatility or convenience to the drumming experience.

There are different scenarios for drumming, from practise, to the studio, to the live performance and within each setting you have lots of different options. Accessories make it easier to get the most out of drumming, but also to tailor the drummer’s sound to a particular setting and give them the perfect beat with the perfect sound.

Whether you’re looking for drum care, cymbal accessories, keys and tuners, lights, mics or mats, there’s an ever growing world of options to accommodate every whim out there.

Drum Kit Brands


Adams is a renowned drum kit brand specialising in high quality concert percussion instruments.


Alesis make drum kits, multipads, drum machines, modules and amplification products as part of their drum kit range.

American Drum

American Drum are a well known manufacturer of percussion and drum mallets in the USA. They’ve been making and selling drum mallets since 1965.

Avedis Zildjian Company

As the world’s leading maker of cymbals, drumsticks, and percussion mallets, Zildjian products are sold across the globe, under the Zildjian, Vic Firth, and Balter brands.

Axis Percussion

Axis Percussion is a proud United States company specialising in the manufacturing of precision drum pedals and drum hardware since 1990.

Ayotte Drums

Ayotte Drums are a drum kit manufacturer based in Bedford, Canada responsible for the manufacturing, sales, marketing and distribution of Ayotte products worldwide.

Brady Drums

Brady Drums were a renowned drum kit manufacturer in Australia from 1980 to 2015. Their Facebook community lives on and remains pretty active.


You would be forgiven for thinking “huh?” because the D’Addario name isn’t the first that springs to mind when thinking about drum kit. Guitar strings, yes. Drum kit? No way… However, they own Evans and Promark so are pretty much market leaders in drumheads and drumsticks, globally.


ddrum, a 21st Century addition to the world of drum kit, design acoustic drums, electronic drums, industry standard triggers and high quality hardware that deliver the performance & innovation desired by today’s drummer

Dixon Drums

Dedicated to the idea that all drummers share the same quest, Dixon has paired its reputation for quality manufacturing with its high regard for the drumming collective. 

DW Drums

After more than 40 years of innovation and tireless dedication to improving the way drum products are made, DW drums, pedals and hardware are the standard by which all others are measured

Evans Drumheads

Evans Drumheads are an industry favourite drumhead brand owned by D’Addario. They have pioneered a UV coating to stop drum heads looking so battered after playing, amongst other things.

Gibraltar Hardware

Gibraltar Hardware have been around for years and are renowned for their range of high quality, innovative drum hardware and kit racks that are very popular in the drumming world.

Gretsch Drums

Gretsch Drums is an American drum brand based in South Carolina. For more than 130 years, their award-winning company has been providing “That Great Gretsch Sound” to drummers around the globe. 

Hayman Drums

Hayman drums have been updated and redeveloped, blending the tradition and innovation of the original designs (60s/70s) with the benefits of the very latest production techniques and processes. 

Latin Percussion

For over half a century, Latin Percussion have crafted classic percussion instruments for musical instruments that meet the exacting standards of professional musicians.  Cowbell anyone?

Ludwig Drums

100+ years go into the product range from Ludwig Drums, a name synonymous with quality and used by professionals throughout the music industry.


Majestic is a brand of thoughtfully designed instruments for the professional, the educator, and student using carefully constructed ideas born from both traditional percussion instrument heritage and a culture of innovation.

Mapex Drums

Mapex are relentless in designing and producing drums and hardware that can endure performance after performance. The result is a drum that you take on stage or into the studio with complete confidence.


Meinl is a family-owned manufacturer & distributor of drum kit, percussion and musical instruments based in Germany. The brand portfolio of Meinl comprises Meinl, Nino Percussion and Ortega Guitars.


Natal is owned by Marshall (the rock and roll amp people) and produces a range of drum kits, percussion, snares and drum hardware.

Noble & Cooley

Founded in 1854 by Silas Noble and James Cooley, Noble & Cooley has been sustainably producing hand-crafted drums for over 160 years.


Founded in 1999, PDP is a progressive drum brand created to provide drums, pedals and hardware that feature boutique-inspired, player-friendly features and best-in-class build-quality to drummers around the globe.


The principle of Paiste‘s family business is to continually create new sounds with cymbals, gongs, and bronze percussion instruments according to the creative needs of drummers and percussionists.


Pearl is a Japanese multinational corporation specialising in drums and percussion. HQ’d in Chiba, Japan, Pearl has manufacturing facilities in Japan, Taiwan, China, & the US and distributes products to most countries around the world.

Pork Pie

Pork Pie Percussion are an American drum manufacturer established in 1987 and producing a range of custom-made designs of drum kits, snare drums and hardware.


A long established company that is rich in history and tradition, Premier’s name has been associated with a wealth of star performers in many musical genres not only at home in England but all over the globe. 


Pro-mark drumsticks are a long-standing product of great repute and one of the leading products on the market, aimed at drummers of all types with their expansive range of drumstick styles.


For over 60 years, Remo, Inc. has consistently broken new ground when it comes to industry firsts. Ultimately, nothing can touch the technical and musical advantages that Remo Drumheads provide.

Rogers Drums

Rogers Drums are known to many as a renowned and sought after vintage drum kit brand. After a long hiatus, it’ been revived in the UK – Rogers Drums UK and US Rogers Drums USA to continue the legacy.


Roland are a musical instrument manufacturer based in Japan who produce some of the most popular electronic drum kits amongst many other things. They also offer an acoustic drum kit and percussion instruments.


Founded by Robert Zildjian in 1981, Sabian Cymbals was one of, if not the most aspirational cymbal brands in drumming. Sadly he passed away in 2013 leaving an amazing legacy to the musical world. The company lives on.


Sonor is a drum kit manufacturer of note, being used by professionals for hundreds of years. Since its foundation in 1875, SONOR always strived for innovation and the highest possible quality percussion instruments. A lot has changed since then but the goal always stayed the same.

Soultone Cymbals

Soultone Cymbals was founded in 2003 by drummer Iki Levy and aims to offer a superior sound, feel and performance with excellent artist support for today’s most demanding performers. 

TAMA Drums

TAMA Drums is a longstanding Japanese drum kit and percussion manufacturer offering high quality products for the professional drumming community around the world.

Vater Percussion

Vater Percussion are a popular manufacturer of maple, hickory and speciality drumsticks, mallets and percussion sticks, based in the USA.

Vic Firth

Vic Firth is an American drumstick manufacturer, established in the 1960s and now owned by Avedis Zildjian. It produces over 200 various sticks and mallets and pursues a sustainable business model.

Yamaha Drums

Yamaha Drums are a Japanese manufacturer of drum kit and percussion instruments. They also make musical instruments, consumer electronics and motorbikes under the Yamaha brand.


Zendrum Corporation is an American manufacturer of electronic drums that you play like a guitar. Established in the late 80’s, Zendrum offer a wide range of handheld electronic drum kits on their website.

More from Fresh Kit

We hope you enjoyed this kit guide about the varied drum kit available on the market today. Hopefully you found it useful.

For more content like this, try our other kit guides and if you are interested in drumming posts, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates from our blog, covering all sorts of topics to help you make informed decisions on the kit you need for the life you love.

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