Drums vs. drumset

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Without reading all 20 posts from the past year (I did read the first few):

I play drums. But I play them on a drum set.
My hippie friend (no, seriously, he lives in a commune) plays drums. He plays drums on a hand drum.
The guys in the orchestra plays drums. One guy plays a snare drum. One a bass drum. One plays a timpani (which is usually a pair but is still singular).

No different than me playing guitar. Sometimes it is an electric guitar. Sometimes it is an acoustic guitar.
If I play all the guitars on an album, I play the guitar. But it could have been an electric guitar on one song and an acoustic guitar on the next.


These are also the experiences that I have made.
I also doubt more often which instrument could be the right one. I’m just sure, if I’ve heard the recordings, seen the artist live or there are some unambiguous pictures in the booklet.
And it would be nice when the field “instrument credited as” would have a “remember last entries” function (or a drop down menu with a generated pre-selection of most use cases), so that you haven’t to type them in again and again.


Weeeeeeeeeeell… I’ve been toying with this idea since February, and the “replace instrument” script has a crude interface to change all rels using a certain instrument to another. But only the main ones (conductor, few voices, piano/violin/etc.) are defined, I haven’t found how to present all choices and keep a reasonably clear UI


What happened to the instrument formerly known as “drums”. All credits with this instrument seems to have changed to “membranophone” players:

and thousands of other releases, all with “membranophone” instead of drums. The membranophone has 155.775 edits at the moment


I’ve noticed that too, but at the same time I also noticed that on entities where “drumset” had been entered previously the instrument was now showing up as “drums (drum set).” Based on the discussion above I concluded that the instrument names were changed so as to be less ambiguous.


But i hope that this is only a temporary manipulation of the database and all edits concerning “drums” are not lost. I think die Database would be more serious without the new “membranophone” players:


I think “drums (unspecific)” or “drums (unspecified)” would be a batter choice than “membranophone”.
Nobody will change all those relationships and nearly all of them should
either be “drums (drumset)” or “membranophone credited as drums”.


On one hand I agree - on the other hand, I suspect if it still has “drums” in its name, people will keep using it wrongly again and again.


I didn‘t count it out, but i think that about 99.xx % of all sources for this relationship say „drums“
Sources are mostly the release covers and other databases like discogs, allmusic…
In most cases it might stand for a „drum set“. (depending on kind of music)
But i can’t understand why „drums“, as called in every other database or credits, was renamed to „membranophone“ and all over 155,000 edits have a „membranophone“ player instead of an drummer.
For people looking to the database (without any discussion background) it might looks a little bit satiric, if they get the information that „Ringo Starr oder Tony Williams and thousands of other drummers are membranophone players.


In the modern era, and contemporary music, I would agree.
But there in genres like jazz, classical, and “world”… the drumset is usually listed simply because there are so many other drum types being used at the same time.


I ment, the source determines the relationship and says mostly „drums“
Behind this simple „drums“ might stand all kinds of drums.
So the collector for all that kind of drums is necessary and was „drums“
Why wasn’t it only renamed to something like „drums (various)“ or something like that.
For example “drums (unspecified)” as suggested from rochusw.


We can still change that, I just want to avoid it being used when people know it’s a drum set, which is… pretty much all the time in contemporary music, maaaaaybe except for jazz.


Damn right!! Damn right!


For what it’s worth, “membranophone” is just the “fancier” word for “drum” (to match e.g. idiophone). But if @CatQuest is happy to change it to “drums (unspecified)” then that’s also ok. Hopefully people will still choose the proper instrument.


I almost feel guilty having raised this, looking at what it seems to have raked up.
And it surprises me to be honest.
When an album or recording mentions ‘drums’, in 99.9% of the cases that means what almost everybody will understand it to mean: a drum kit.
I don’t understand why MB shouldn’t follow that.

Using a word as ‘membranophone’ for that is plain wrong, since a drumkit also consists of at least one cymbal and a hi-hat, which don’t have membranes as instruments that fall under the family of ‘membranophones’.

Replacing it with ‘drums (unspecified)’ also seems incorrect to me.
I believe ‘drums’ is specific.
It is pretty much always: a bassdrum, a snaredrum, cymbals and toms.
(When extended with ‘bells and whistles’, you could call it drums and percussion)

Maybe I am misunderstanding what this discussion is leading to, but I just thought to chime in with these observations.


Or we keep membranophone name but turn all pre-existing AR to credited as drums AC.


It does. Hence the new name “drums (drum set)”. Problem was the instrument previously known as “drums” was not meant to mean this, and wasn’t always used like this (it’s also used relatively often, although no doubt in a minority of cases, as some unspecified drums).


There are many definitions for drum & membranophones. Let’s look at a couple shall we?

Merriam Webster defines Drum as (Noun) " any of a class of musical instruments (such as a drum or kazoo) whose sound is generated by striking, rubbing, or singing into a stretched membrane .

Dictionary.com defines a Membranohone (Noun) as “any musical instrument, as a drum, in which the sound is produced by striking, rubbing, or blowing against a membrane stretched over a frame”

. It goes on to state Origin of membranophone First recorded in 1935–40; membrane + -o- + -phone. Membranophone was first recorded in the 1930s. It’s a blend of membrane, a late Middle English term from Middle English membraan “parchment,” which ultimately derives from Latin membrāna, and -phone, a combining form used in words for musical instruments.

Who uses membranophone? Dictionary .com displays-- Citations for membranophone
To the people who like to collect and use big words, [drums] are membranophones.

Merriam Webster’s origin of drum is “Origin and Etymology of drum probably from Dutch trom; akin to Middle High German trumme drum. First Known Use: circa 1534”. It also references–compare aerophone, chordophone, electrophone, idiophone, lamellophone. Are we going to use these instead of wind instrument, vibrating strings, electronic instrument, gong or block, Jew’s harp?

So, why change drums to membranophone just for the sake of Change? Drums have been called drums for 500 years. Even now when I type membranophone, spell check does not recognize it. Why confuse tens of thousands of new users? Is it beneficial to be specific as to the type of drum we are describing? Of course. Should we dump the drum? I certainly hope not.


OK there seems to be quit a lot of misunderstandings going on here, so I will try to clear up some stuff:

a: about this being a sudden, unexpected change.
Actually I made quite a lot of effort to beforehand to make people understand what would change, including reosarevok posting in this very thread about the edit where I was changing it (making it VOTABLE!) posting about it in the weekly meeting and asking on IRC. Also see below

b: about the intent of this change.
The intent behind the change was not “Ringo Star plays membranophone” or being “sarcastic”.
But that the “drums” instrument is the proverbial “membranophone member” of the instrument tree, thats the term, it is the head family which under all the other drums(that is, membranophone instruments) are sorted.

c: about this happening without any other options.
Actually there are several options, one clearly stated in the edit reosarevok linked
They are:
:keep as “membranophone” (which was its semantic meaning all along, and every rel must be moved to (mostly drumset) the right instrument)
:rename to “drum” (that is the generic one) so therefore most if not all rels will still need to be moved to the right instrument) (this was my second option, mentioned by both me in the edit and reosarevok in his post)
:merge into drumset (and people will still need to move out any (few) non-drumset ones) (3rd option that emerged while talking to reosarevok earlier today)

Thing like “drums (unspecified)” is NOT happening. no. Instead a generic “drum” instrument (with an appropriate disambiguation and description) will be created for things where it really is unknown what sort of drum it is. This will be rare and, that is why I kinda didn’t wanted to rename the current mess that was “drums” into “drum” (unspecified or generic drums).

So what I’d like you all to do now is to pay attention and state clearly which of the above options you would like me to do.


I guess of those, my preference would be for the third. But none seem ideal to me. When I’ve used “drums” in the past, it’s mostly to mean “drum set, but possibly also including hand drums/cowbell/tambourine/etc., because the credit just says ‘drums’”. So the third option will be correct in the vast majority of cases, but overly specific in some.