Drums vs. drumset

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f646ac1bbe8> #<Tag:0x00007f646ac1ba58>


I think it will not be that rare, unfortunately. Very often the credit says ‘drums’ and that is all the editor has to go on. We may strongly suspect that it’s a drumset, but without evidence (such as a picture, or more background knowledge) we can’t enter it as such.


I don’t have enough experience and insight to put a vote on decisions that have consequences that I might not fully understand.
(contrary to good intentions I still haven’t picked up editing and entering)

But I do believe that MusicBrainz is plain wrong in putting ‘drums’ (as in drum set, or drum kit) under membranophones.

A membranophone must have at least one skin, stretched out under pressure to produce a resonating sound when hit.
And as I said in an earlier post:
A drumkit (i.e.: drums) is a collection of items, also containing cymbals and a hi-hat, which don’t have stretched skins.

So at least I believe drums should be removed from the subtypes list here:

Hmm, could a banjo be put under ‘membranophe’?
(just kidding, let’s not go there :wink:


So if a release says:

John: Piano
Jim: Bass
James: Drums

What do you suggest to be entered in MusicBrainz for the instrument played by James?


Well, I don’t see why we can’t just have an instrument called ‘drums’, to cover all cases like this where we’re not sure, with a disambiguation comment making clear that this is generic and that ‘drumset’ exists for the more specific instrument?


We had this. Everyone still used “drums”. Maaaybe “drums (drum set)” will help with that, we could test it.


yes, this the real existing situation in most cases.
At the moment, if you don’t know what kind of drums the drummer plays, you only can use:
“membranophone [drums]” wich really looks strange.
Only if you know that the drummer ever plays “drum-set” you can be sure to use that.
Or if You have the luck to see it at the cover art,
For example my last edits:


No, the banjo is a chordophone. :laughing:


Of the choices you present,:anguished: I would choose #3 by reosarevok.


I prefer the third option, too.

I think it is more realistic to change those drumsets which should be the new generic drum, even if it should
be 10.000, than to change 145.000 out of 155.000 membranophones to drumset and the other 10.000
to membranophone credited as drums (and check all those changes carefully).

One problem remains with the merge: The information, that it was originally entered with the unspecific
instrument, is lost. That could be kept in a tag “check-drums” on the drummer side of the relation - for
some genres, e.g. rock & metal, it is probably OK to just downvote this tag, for others more
careful checks & moves are required, but those drummers, who use something else than a drumset,
will usually do it multiple times, so it is best to verify those credits per drummer.


I am curious:
Are there indeed many releases/recordings where a musician is credited as playing ‘drums’, where that doesn’t mean drum-kit or drum-set?
Or in other words, would MB contain many releases where an editor has entered ‘drums’, where it is not the equivalent of a drumkit?

I’m probably biassed in my musical taste/experience/region, but I hardly ever encountered a credit for ‘drums’ where that didn’t refer to a drumkit.

For classical music it’s usually timpany, for latin based music it’s often percussion, some Japanese music will have Kodo-drums, etc.

So personally I consider ‘drums’ a very specific instrument.
Not something generic or unspecified.

和太鼓 / Taiko / Wadaiko

I’ve seen a few, but not many. Mostly in contemporary classical. Maybe folk too?

Merging into drumset would definitely work. The only downside is that instead of having all relatively correct, but most not specific enough, you have most fully correct and a few actually wrong. But in this case, it might be worth it - it’s definitely less of a 50/50 than “bass” (electric bass guitar / double bass) was.


It’s obvious from listening that yes, a drum set is involved. For me the issue is that a generic “drums” credit could mean only “drum set” or it could mean “drum set plus cowbell, hand drum, etc.”. Sometimes that’s credited as “drums and percussion” but not always. Geri Allen’s Maroons is an example that credits only “drums”; one track obviously has hand drums (congas, I think) but the rest is (mostly?) drum set.


A drumkit with a cowbell is still considered ‘drums’.
(Steve Gadd made sure of that :wink:

“A drum kit consists of a mix of drums (categorized classically as membranophones, Hornbostel-Sachs high-level classification 2) and idiophones – most significantly cymbals, but can also include the woodblock and cowbell (classified as Hornbostel-Sachs high-level classification 1).[2] In the 2000s, some kits also include electronic instruments (Hornbostel-Sachs classification 53). Also, both hybrid (mixing acoustic instruments and electronic drums) and entirely electronic kits are used.”

For me personally, any collection/construction of the above, where the player uses his hands and feet is considered ‘drums’ as an instrument.

Sure, if there is certainty that the drummer used two instead of one bassdrums, a cowbell, octabans, tambourine, triangles, digital drums or whatever, that could be added as additional information.

But the instrument is still just ‘drums’ in my opinion.

I never heard a drummer say: I play drumset, or I am a drumsetter.
He plays drums, and he is a drummer.


aha, but you will notice then that the drum set instrument *includes* cowbell (optionally) as well as cymbals, octobans, etc. ;)*

edit: ninja’d by hiccup.


Okay, but my main point is that when the credit says “drums”, you can usually tell if that includes drum set (however defined) but determining if it is limited to only drum set is trickier. Let’s go with congas instead of cowbell by way of example as on the Geri Allen release I mentioned before.


And I just hope we are forward thinking and not simply stuck on “recentism”.
Historically, people played one drum and groups had multiple drummers, each playing one drum.

Drums is a common term for today when we mean drumset. That would be “recentism” - thinking that today’s way is the only way. But, in addition to the past and present, we must also consider the future.
As more instruments become computerized/sampled, the drumset becomes less used, leading to the rise of drum programming or beat making. Even some of the EDM music, they don’t even use drums (or drum samples), they are using “pulses” to dictate the beat.

So, in the future, with the loss of the drumset. We may again see the rise of the drum in contemporary music. That one guy that plays the drum (one drum).

Even today, outside of “the rock band”, drums are not synonymous with drumset.


Well, then there is not a musician playing drums.
And b.t.w., quite a few EDM acts use a drummer playing drums when performing live.

Why do you think the drumset will disappear as an instrument?
Unless Darwin dictates that the human species will loose their legs over time, I don’t believe that that will happen anytime soon.
At least you and me won’t witness that.

Then he is probably playing snaredrum, or conga, or floortom, or tambourine, or if it’s unknown: ‘Drums (unspecified)’.

I still believe it is.


this 3rd option is better than keeping them as “membranophone”


I don’t know the album, but it credits two drummers.
If I youtube these drummers, I also see them playing ‘plain’ drums.

Probably on one or two tracks one of them is playing drums, and the other is playing congas, and they omitted saying that on the cover credits.

If one of them has actually incorporated conga’s in his drumset (I haven’t seen that before myself), he plays drums and percussion, or drums and congas.
(also, typically drums are played with drumsticks, congas with your hands)

It would be similar to a piano player who has put a synthesizer keyboard on top of his grand piano.
He plays piano and synthesizer.

I just listened to the first track from that album.
It’s a ‘conga duet’ by two percussionists accompanied by piano.
No drums (drumset) involved.


As a folk musician myself, I can tell you it isn’t. I know a guy playing in some medieval groups who is often credited with just “drums” (for clarity/brevity), but he in fact plays an assortment of medieval (style/type) drums, not any of them would be fit in a modern day “drum set/kit”. The drummer of Phønix plays “drums” in a sort of drum set/kit, but not one that contains any of the things @CatQuest has given as “parts of” the MB drum set instrument, just a number of oriental and african type/style drums set up for easy banging. Magnus Heebøll is also sometimes credited with “drums” (more often “percussion” though, but not always), and I’ve never seen him play a drum set/kit, but I have seen him play all sorts of drums.

“Drums == drum set/kit” is not universal, across all genres.