Drums vs. drumset

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If the credit says “drums” but is not otherwise specified exactly what type(s) of drums they’re playing and you agree that “drums” are not always “drumset”, then “drums (unspecified)” seems to be correct until further information is uncovered to help specify the drum(s) in use.


But than you don’t accept that in reality, ‘drums’ is the most commonly used name for ‘drumset’, and the result would be that for most albums, the drumset will be described as 'drums (unspecified), while we know that in most cases that is not correct, since we can be reasonably sure that it is a drumset.

Well, I contributed my knowledge and personal (surely biassed) opinion more than enough.
Good luck in making a sensible decision.

I am curious if it might mean that the entry ‘bass’ will be removed too?
Imagine an editor entering ‘bass’, while in reality somebody programmed a TB303.
If ‘drums’ is unavailable, and ‘drums (unspecified)’ will be the default for when it says ‘drums’ on the liner notes, then probably ‘bass (unspecified)’ would need to be the default for when it says ‘bass’ on the credits.

I have argumented my view from the standpoint of a musician, but not yet explained my reasons behind this as a potential novice editor.
A novice editor (or one without any knowledge or interest in ‘drums’) will have an album in their hands that just says ‘drums’ or ‘bass’, so his/her first logical impulse will be to select ‘drums’ or ‘bass’.
But: “computer says NO”.
To me that seems an obstacle you could do without.


I accept that it has been that way for 40-50 years in certain genres. There are other genres, and a much longer history.


I believe the first drumkit dates from dixieland music, 1920’s, so we are talking about a century, not 40-50 years.

From that date until now, in jazz, pop, rock, latin,and all kinds of derived genres and styles, millions of albums and recordings have been calling drumsets ‘drums’, and are still calling drumsets ‘drums’.

But MusicBrainz is saying: “no, they are all wrong. Drums is not an instrument. It’s just some sloppy mistake that will blow over in time, and we are here to correct that.”



But drum set is called “drums (drum set)” now specifically to make this clear :slight_smile: Nobody is saying it’s a mistake. All we’re saying is all our existing “drums” credits were for the “generic” instrument, and we need to do something about that :slight_smile:


Of course I do understand, and respect all opposing arguments, and find this discussion interesting and enlightening.
Whatever decision is made, it will always have some flaws for some situations.

But I honestly do not understand why you would want to prevent an editor to select ‘drums’, or ‘bass’, when an album or a recording says ‘drums’, or ‘bass’.
That is forcing an editor to make another choice that he/she might not fully understand, or is interested in to make.

But I am beginning to understand that MusicBrainz doesn’t have a specific intention to primarily allow editors to just enter what it says on album/track notes to begin with.
That’s probably one of the things I didn’t understand when I started this thread one and a half year ago.


I can only apologise for not picking up on this before the change was made… I did glance at the discussion, and it all made sense (and still does), but in practice ‘membranophone’ does have issues.

Adding your first release in MB is already hard enough, and having to also (probably once again) resort to docs/Google/Wikipedia when your in hand release just says ‘drums’ and now you’re looking at a flippin ‘membranophone’ option… ouch


Another thing that probably needs corrected while on this topic:
At https://musicbrainz.org/instruments it says that a membranophone is “Any kind of idiophone with membranes”
But that is similar to saying that a cat is a fish with legs.
They are two different species that are clearly separated.


I thought an idiotphone was the full name of iPhone.:rofl:

This is a fascinating thread… never knew there were so many bizarre names for drums.


If it is a drumset than drumset should be used. If it is not clear if it is a drumset then something like “drums (unspecified)” sounds absolutely right, because it is actually not specified.

And for the appearance on the displayed credits you can still change the credit name and set it to just “drums”.

Saying this I am absolutely in favor of naming the generic entry “drums (unspecified)”. As a non native speaker I have never heard the name membranophone before. I would have just considered this a very special thing and would never had gotten the idea to choose it for any credits that I know are not drumset but don’t specify the kind of drums.


Following that line of thought, it probably means that ‘bass’ should be removed as an instrument, and making it compulsory to use ‘bass (unspecified)’.
Since you can’t be sure if it is bass guitar, somebody playing a bassline on a Moog, a programmed TB303, etc.
Is that going to happen?

And what I am also curious about:
Besides pretty much every existing recording, also all websites that I know (MB being the only exception) are not using the word ‘drumset’, but ‘drums’.
What happens when importing credits from websites such as discogs, allmusic, bandcamp, wikipedia, etc. etc.
Will ‘drums’ automatically be transformed to ‘drums (unspecified)’?

Can an editor who just wants to enter credits from liner notes select ‘drums’, when the notes says ‘drums’?


bass” as an instrument is already “bass (unspecified)”: “Bass is a common but generic credit which refers to more than one instrument, the most common being the bass guitar and the double bass (a.k.a. contrabass, acoustic upright bass, wood bass). Please use the correct instrument if you know which one is intended.”

We don’t import these automatically, so it’s up to the editor to decide what kind of drums these are. If unsure, sure, go for drums (unspecified) or the equivalent.


And, for the record, there is the drumset on Discogs.


Yes, but in MB’s instrument list (which I assume is the leading source for the matters concerning this discussion), there is an entry for just ‘bass’.

There is also an entry for just ‘guitar’.
But there is no entry for just ‘drums’.
And that’s what was the main trigger for me raising this matter.

I would expect an entry similar to the one for guitar or bass, perhaps something like:
Drums - Drums is a common but generic credit which refers to more than one instrument, the most common being the drumset, but it could mean any instrument from the families of membranophones or idiophones. Please use the correct instrument if you know which one is intended.

But I have also done some testing and I found the fear of what I imagined that might happen doesn’t seem to be the case.
I was afraid that for any new entries for drums, MB (and thus Picard) would by default literally say: ‘drums (unspecified)’.
(also when using plugins to import from discogs, wikipedia etc.)
And that is what would bother me.
But it seems that it will just say ‘drums’ in those cases, and not ‘drums (unspecified)’.
So that’s good, and it could mean that this thread got a bit lengthier and perhaps confusing than I intended because of a misunderstanding from my side.
I’m sorry if that’s the case.


Maybe there should be two types of hierarchies in the instruments tree?

One “scientific”:

  • percussion
    • membranophone
      • drumset
  • strings
    • plucked string instrument
      • guitar family
        - bass guitar

And one “colloquial”:

  • drums
    • membranophone
    • drumset
  • bass
    • bass guitar
    • electronic bass
    • bass drum


Perhaps, but that would probably raise more issues and discussion than solve them?

But the point is interesting and probably quite to the point, since I am arguing here that for both ‘scientific’ and ‘colloquial’, ‘drums’ would be an instrument on it’s own account.
But that seems to be denied here by some, only because the word ‘drums’ in spoken (English) language also literally happens to mean ‘more than one membraphone/isophone’.


How so?

If you don’t know how to correctly classify the instrument, you choose the colloquial umbrella term. Someone else will probably know which type is meant and will categorize it correctly.
If you generally know how to classify instruments correctly you’ll choose the scientific super-type.

How would you categorize “drum” scientifically? Wouldn’t it just be a synonym of membranophone or percussion?


I’m no expert on classification, but I am guessing that if you can’t correctly classify something, either you are doing something wrong, or the classification system needs an overhaul.

For ‘drum’, yes.
For ‘drums’, no.


A short story. The setting, a bar atop Mount Olympus in the early 1930’s. Zeus (@Z), Poseidon (@P) and Thor (@T) are meeting for their annual “Think Tank” get together.

@Z, Gentlemen, what shall we mess with this year? @T, I’m tired of badgering our wives, girlfriends and children, lets do things to humans this year. @P, Okay but nothing to do with nature, the last Ice Age really froze my Begonias. Say, where’s that pounding noise coming from? @T, That’s the orchestras’ percussion section warming up. @Z, Percussion? I remember now, we made a human come up with that word to replace “stuff we bang on”. Boy that caused a little uproar.

@P, How about if we take it a step further and add some other categories that make no sense? @Z, Like what? @P, Let’s subdivide percussion! I think one like “Dried Hide Guide” to list all drums. @T, That’s cool but how about “Types of skinned beaters”? @Z, No, it has to be in Latin, so it will sound impressive and sophisticated. How about “Membrano ‘something’”?

@T, Oh, like when we had Alexander G. Bell change his “Talk from a distance machine” to telephone. @Z, Exactly, and I have just the word. Membranophone! If we do that, the humans will come up with all types of “phones”. This will cause all kinds of consternation!

@P, Okay, Zeus, you chose some really uppity humans to work with and have them create the word ‘Membranophone’. Thor, work on your thunder. The last one sounded a little flat. I’ll work on something to keep @CatQuests blood pressure down.

@Z, Who’s CatQuest? @P, A future extremely proficient instrument inserter for a major web site. @T, “Web site”? What? Spiders are going to take over the world? @P, No, it’s part of a future means of communication they will call the internet. Maybe I’ll have them call it a “Universumophone”. Ta ta for now!


I never saw this discussion until I went to edit a group member to add “drums” since that is the only information about him I could find.

I understand the changes that “need” to be made, I do not agree with how it was done.

I do not mean to offend anyone, but does MusicBrainz want to encourage adding new editors who are not classical or musicians? I am not a musician but love to listen to most kinds of music. I took piano and guitar lessons but could never read music. I understand more than the basics about music, but I am not a musician, please do not expect me to be a musician to add information to the database.

This has been a emotional and very technical discussion, I have not read everything, but enough to be frustrated. I love MusicBrainz because of the precise nature of its information and the relationships it has. At times, I feel it is getting more difficult and frustrating, but I have no choice because there is no other DB that can do what MusicBrainz can does.

It is interesting to see that the nature of adding the same release multiple (sometimes many) times due to art or verbiage difference is not carried over to vocals and instruments where the editor may need to have a musical degree in order to interpret the difference between what is on the back, liner, booklet, or resource page that the information is coming from. Older rock, country, bluegrass, other albums simply do not in most cases have the fine detail that MusicBrainz mandates. Please just make it a little easier.

My apologizes if I have offended anyone.