Drums vs. drumset

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f4bf6d85358> #<Tag:0x00007f4bf6d85268>

I noticed that MusicBrainz seems to have a preference to call ‘drums’ ‘drumset’.
Yet practically the whole world uses ‘drums’ (on drums: Jeff Porcaro, etc.)
Wikipedia, Discogs, reviews, common spoken language, 99% will use 'drums’
It’s probably a rather personal thing, but I think the term ‘drumset’ is a bit academic.
(technically more correct perhaps, but, academic)

I have no clue if such an opinion is appreciated, or has any use at all to post here, but I thought to get it of my drummer’s chest anyway.


MusicBrainz has a preference towards not assuming, so if a release lists “drums” as the instrument, then that will in far most cases be what an editor enters/uses, even if it in reality is the more specific “drumset” instrument. However, if we know that it is specifically a “drumset” being used, then we do prefer that. (Edit: See also https://musicbrainz.org/doc/Style/Relationships#Prefer_Specific_Relationship_Types – while this one is for relationships, the “specificity” principle pretty much applies to everything :slight_smile:)

Note that the MusicBrainz instrument “drums” is used to cover a lot of instruments and that MusicBrainz actually has a sense of instrument family trees and relations at all, as opposed to Discogs and far most other (all other?) music data databases. Wikipedia has a bit, but isn’t a music specific database, so can’t be assumed to be as specific as MusicBrainz either. MusicBrainz is not supposed to be a readable lexicon, it’s supposed to store facts. And a “drumset” is different to a set of more or less random “drums” (which I’m sure you can agree with as a fellow percussionist :slight_smile:).

(Also, ping @CatCat.)


Thanks Fresco, I do understand and agree.

I just re-found the text that made me bring this up:

drums (generic drums, for the set of drums typically used in modern music, use “drumset”) — variously sized drums

I read that as an advise to enter ‘drumset’ for drums in modern music. Even if the album says ‘drums’, wikipedia says ‘drums’, the anouncer of a concert says “on drums:…” etc.
But I think it is safe for me to assume now that you should only enter ‘drumset’, if either:

  • the source says ‘drumset’
  • the source doesn’t specify this very clearly, and you’ll have to decide between the two.


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You should always enter “drumset” if you know it’s a drumset. I could see a point on renaming the current drumset instrument to “drums (drumset)” or the like to make it clearer, but that’s definitely the right choice for it, not the generic “any sort of drums” credit. This is of course much clearer in languages other than English - in Spanish, you would always pick “batería” (drumset) and not “tambores” (drums).


Basically, someone playing this should be entered as “drums”:

While someone playing this should be entered as “drumset”:


It’s all probably a bit semantics, but in Holland we would say somebody owns a drum set or a drum kit, but you will always say he plays ‘drums’.
Somebody playing conga’s etc from your first picture would be called a (hyperactive) percussionist.

To me it would feel a bit weird if the cover of an album from a CD or record I own, and want to enter in MetaBrainz specifically states ‘drums’, I should enter ‘drumset’ instead.
Of course I respect your experience and authority, so if this is well thought through and decided on I will follow suit on this.

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What would you call this?
(just kidding)


I can definitely see that :slight_smile: That’s why I’m wondering if the “drumset” instrument in English shouldn’t also include “drums” in the title, since it’s the most common use of the word, really. Right now, it’s kinda weird to use the Spanish translation of MB and see tons of people credited for “tambores” (drums) :smiley:

Possibly “drumset” should be called “drumset (drums)” or even “drums (drumset)”, while “drums” should have a clarifying comment.


Ok, so this is probably needing some more contemplation then?

Another observation, I am native non-English speaker, but I am pretty sure that ‘drumset’ is not a correct English word.
It would be ‘drum set’ then I believe.

A Google for “drumset” indeed turns up almost exclusively “drum set” or"drum kit"

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I agree we should rename drumset if we want it to be used and we have the same problem IMO with electric bass guitar.
Even if I know the bassist is playing electric bass guitar, as I began editing before instrument credits, I have always used simply bass, and drums, as printed on almost every rock music booklets on earth.
Thinking of it, booklets also usually just say guitar for electric guitar ー or even lead or rhythm guitar.
And they usually say keyboards with an s, unlike MB’s keyboard.
I wonder what to do…

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Don’t we have instrument credits for this? You can select drumset / electric bass guitar as the instrument, but enter drums / bass as credits. If we rename both of the instruments to be just drums / bass they will be used for all other kinds of instruments which can be credited the same way.


If we look at it realistically, I think an enormous amount of releases will just say ‘guitar’ ‘drums’, ‘keyboards’
(indeed @jesus2099 : keyboardS)

So those should always be selectable as a first option.
Then there could be a second optional entry field named something like ‘instrument refine’.
That could contain more details about the instrument or it’s role.

So you could then have:

guitar [acoustic]
guitar [electric]
guitar [rhythm]
guitar [lead]
drums [drum kit]
drums [congas]
keyboards [piano]
keyboards [moog]
saxophone [tenor]
saxophone [soprano]
vocals [lead]
vocals [backing]

etc. etc.

I agree that the current instrument form requires improvements. It would be nice if it displayed instruments related to the selected one and allowed to pick one of them instead. But lead and backing are roles for any instrument, not derivative. That would better fit relationship attributes.


@outsidecontext yes we now have instrument credits, my (bad?) habit dates from when we did not have it. And tons of drums/bass relationships must have been created before that.
And also, as a non English speaker (I know, actually I should use MBS in my language), I wonder if people (rock listeners) even know about drumset, while there is no doubt they read or hear drums on a daily basis. But I don’t really know as I am not English.

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Yes, i think i never saw drumset in credits … while drums (for drum kit/set or batterie in french) is very very common.
Same goes for bass, on a rock album it often means electric bass, on a jazz album often double bass.
So i don’t expect most editors to enter one or others, but on listening it is usually very obvious, and using instrument credits is the solution for this.


hello, superlate to this discussion (I dunno why freso’s ping earlier I didn’t notice :​​o) but I like this idea:

following with onward discussion it should be “drum set” also?

and I am not opposed to bass (electric bass guitar) either

also [quote=“jesus2099, post:15, topic:194166”]
And also, as a non English speaker (I know, actually I should use MBS in my language), I wonder if people (rock listeners) even know about drumset, while there is no doubt they read or hear drums on a daily basis. But I don’t really know as I am not English.[/quote]
This is true, I myself was unaware of this/this distinction. and surly many others are also unaware of this.

I agree with these sentiments by zas and outsidecontext, however instrument credits have some unfortunate limitations, as https://tickets.metabrainz.org/browse/MBS-9327 illustrates.

In closing: please create some JIRA tickets with these changes (I can also bring them up on the meeting wrt style etc. for these things if it’s wanted.) :raising_hand_woman:


I took this up on the meeting and noone there was horribly against it, so.
as far as I understand from comments here, the wanted changes are:

  • drumset -> drums (drum set)
  • electric bass guitar -> bass (electric bass guitar)
  • add clarifying comments to drums and bass, as well as guitar?
  • and exactly, what comments?

Does anyone else have any other examples?
note these and create tickets please.


Two edits have been entered for drums(et): one to change drumset to “drums (drum set)” as suggested in this thread, and one to change drums to “membranophone”, to be consistent with the other percussion families. The other alternative, if it’s considered better, would be to change “drums” to “drum” instead (I don’t personally think it’s better, but it would work, and hopefully people would still pick the right “drums” for the set).

Either way, this will be a breaking change for drum set entered as “drums”. This is intentional, since it was already broken, as shown by translation issues specified earlier in this thread. Anyone who sees old “membranophone” (or “drum”) credits that should be “drums (drum set)”, please do change them! @loujin or @jesus2099: if there’s no script to switch instruments for all matching rels in the relationship editor, creating one would be great :wink:

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THAT would actually be Glorious :​‌‌​​​​​‌‌O

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