Drums vs. drumset

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I am gonna leave it at this, this could become an endless discussion.
Is a bassguitar still a bassguitar if you remove all but one string?
Is a piano still a piano if you put coins on the snares and play them with your hands?

MusicBrainz has ‘guitar’ without something like ‘(unspecified)’ appended to it.
MusicBrainz has ‘bass’ without something like ‘(unspecified)’ appended to it.

I think it’s only logical and realistic to also have ‘drums’ without something like ‘(unspecified)’ appended to it.

It’s a pity some here don’t seem to want to recognize ‘drums’ as a full blown instrument on it’s own.
I’ve said my piece.


I really don’t like this option; it will lead to lots of wrong credits.


My vote would be to return to how it was before, but maybe with a better disambiguation comment for ‘drums’ if it was leading to misunderstandings.


Yes, exactly. But the credits say simply “drums”, not distinguishing between that track and other tracks where one or both drummers play a more conventional kit. So in this case the credit “drums” means “drum set and congas”.

It’s a pity some here don’t seem to want to recognize ‘drums’ as a full blown instrument on it’s own.

I don’t think anyone is saying that.


On their own website they say: Jesper Falch: percussion


But are you playing piano if you close the lid and use drum sticks to keep the beat.

And. yes, it is still a bass guitar if you remove all but one string. But it no longer contains a string set (which is more closely based around the drumset issue). Also, since we do have 12-string guitar as an option, I would gather that if we took off the extra 6 strings of a 12-string, that no one would be credited as playing a 12-string.

I just read a post talking discuss certain words and their meanings (or lack thereof) in other countries…
The term buttocks, while still used in other countries, has been shortened to just butt in America.
Drums and drumset are no different. We may have gotten lazy with out language by simply calling it drums, but it is a drumset.

But, again, I will repeat myself from an earlier post, drums (meaning drumset) is only a term used in certain genres of the modern era. Other genres in the modern era, and anything historical, are still using drumset when a drumset is used.


In my music collection I have some 5000 albums, spanning a period of some 80 years.
Most that have somebody playing a drumset, have that credited as: John Doe: drums.

I don’t think I have even one album that says: John Doe: drumset.

If an MB editor (with no deeper understanding of ‘drums’), has an album in his/her hands that says: John Doe: drums, it seems obvious to me that the option to enter ‘drums’ should be there.

If I understand correctly what this thread is now about: an editor is forced to choose between ‘drums (drumset)’ or ‘drums (unspecified)’.

  • He could only choose ‘drums (drumset)’ if he has a good understanding of ‘drums’, or has photographs or more details form the liner notes.
  • If he chooses ‘drums (unspecified)’, that will be plain incorrect in 99% procent of the cases, since on these albums ‘drums’ means ‘drumset’.

If there would be the option to choose ‘drums’, (just like there is for ‘bass’ and ‘guitar’), that choise will be correct in 99% of the cases.

This is just current reality and common sense.

The “drums are only something contemporary” argument in my opinion is much too hypothetical, and not proven with substantial facts and examples.
Show me in 20 years time that contemporary music in that period has liner notes saying ‘drums’ where it is not a drummer playing a drumset, and we’ll talk again. But at this moment (and for the last 80 years) that is just not the case.

Occam’s razor comes to mind: When you hear hoofbeats look for horses not zebras.


Sorry for not having read much of this thread and still giving my two cents.

About the membranophone vs drums (unspecified) question: Why not name it membranophone (‘drum’)? That would make clear that it is what you are looking for when you look for a drum, but also that it’s not what you are looking for when you are looking for drums (=drum set).

About how to fix all the “wrong” relationships: If a script/bot isn’t easy to create wouldn’t it be easiest to merge membranophone into drum set and then create a new membranophone instrument?


It only works in English though - many other languages seem to make a quite clear difference between the two. In Spanish, there’s no concept of “drums” equivalent to this English one - there’s “tambores” (all sort of drums, from djembe to timpani), and “batería” (specifically a drumset). Which one would you translate this “drums” as? Either option would be wrong (or well, technically “tambores” wouldn’t be wrong, but it would feel absurd to any Spanish speaker for a rock album).


Well, this would actually be helpful I think.
So if in Spanish it says ‘batería’, it would relieve the editor of having any doubt, and he could choose ‘drums (drumset)’.
And if he/she would make the choice for just ‘drums’, there would not be any harm done.

If it says ‘tambores’ he could choose

  • drums (unspecified)
  • percussion
  • the actual names of the drums if known. (djembe, timpani, etc.)


Yes, but the alternative is what feels silly - ending up having “tambores” credits in rock and metal albums all around because someone in English entered “drums” (unspecified)


I think I don’t understand.

I thought you meant that on Spanish rock albums for ‘drumset’, the word ‘bateria’ is always used.
So then if an editor encounters ‘bateria’, in MB he would select ‘drums (drumset)’. (or else ‘drums’)

In what scenario would the Spanish ‘bateria’ end up as ‘drums (unspecified)’?


In the scenario someone is using the MusicBrainz site in Spanish, and someone has entered “drums” as “I dunno, whatever, drums” (so, most of them now). I imagine it’s the same with other language translations.


I still don’t understand.

Do you mean when somebody had entered ‘drums’, where it originally said ‘tambores’ on the Spanish release?
Or do you mean when somebody had entered ‘drums (unspecified)’, where it originally said ‘bateria’ on the Spanish release?

Or does the Spanish translation of MB perhaps have a different list of available/selectable instruments?


I mean when someone has entered “drums”, in English, but it’s obviously a drumset, and it shows as “tambores” in Spanish, which is silly. Rock and metal albums are full of “tambores” currently (our current “membranophone”) which is silly. This change only made it look equally silly in English :slight_smile:


So there is some translation mechanism in MB? Which translates ‘drums’ to ‘tambores’ when you use MB in Spanish?


Well, not a mechanism as such, people translate MusicBrainz :slight_smile: (and then yes, you can choose a language - there are a couple in the main server and some more in the beta one).


I see.
Then, if the translation file would be changed so that it says ‘bateria’ for ‘drums’, instead of ‘tambores’, wouldn’t that solve it for most entries?


But then it would be completely wrong for the rest, because in Spanish the two terms are not interchangeable at all. You can’t say that “batería” has subtypes “congas” and “cajón” :slight_smile: Of course, drums (drum set) needs to be batería, I’m just saying this approach that “we can just use generic drums because that’s what everyone calls them if we’re not 100% sure” is not very sustainable in other languages.


Stepping aside from the language problem for a moment, since I’m guessing it’s probably more important to get the basic entries for English language correct first.

Let’s take highstrung’s earlier presented example of the 'Maroons album.
It’s an interesting one, because while I think it is a rare case, it is a challenge to my proposal that should be addressed.

On the album for track 1 it says: drums.

Without listening to the track, my suggestion would be to enter that as ‘drums’.
Because, that’s what it says, doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t choose ‘drums (drumset)’, because I can’t be sure of that at that moment.
I wouldn’t choose ‘drums (unspecified)’, because we know from experience that in pretty much all cases where it says ‘drums’ on an album, it is a drumset, and not something unspecified.
I wouldn’t want the vast majority of drumsets on recordings being called ‘drums (unspecified)’ on MusicBrainz.

So, ‘drums’ it is.

But now I have listened to the track, and I found out that it is conga’s being played, not a drumset.
Then I should change the instrument from ‘drums’ to ‘percussion’, or to ‘conga’. (or to ‘membranophone’ if that makes somebody happy :wink:

So, for this example, using ‘drums’ in the first place could be considered slightly wrong (following my own line of thought), but it doesn’t do any harm, it is exactly what it says on the album, and can easily be corrected when more information is available.

So this leaves the question for me:
If ‘drums’ is not a valid first choice, what do others believe that should the default choice when a release says ‘drums’, and you have no additional information?


Whatever decision is made PLEASE UPDATE THE DOCUMENTATION.

These discussions get lost in the forum, so please update the online docs.

If you want the public to still add to this brilliant database then you need to keep the language clear.

It is always going to be impossible to get every artist to fit in perfectly. Especially as we cross languages and cross over different music types.

My little thoughts. This thread has experts on different versions of drums. I’m a Brit but have never head of a membranophone before. I know what separate drums look like. And I know what a Drum Set is. I go see live bands who have drum sets on stage. I also see folk groups with drum sets and separate drums.

The “Drums(unspecified)” needs to be as generic as possible to not put the noobs off. I get wary of adding in the extra details of CDs I have because of these kinds of issues.

In the help files for the “packaging” there are photos. These are incredibly helpful for understanding the terms. Any chance of adding photos to the help files for the drum types? Makes it easier for the user then to know what the database need. :slight_smile: