Drums vs. drumset

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f30983871e0> #<Tag:0x00007f30983870a0>


Agree with EVERY WORD that @dashv says in his post. The bit I add to his comments is that the decisions that do get made on this site are not only strange to us outsiders, but often it is not properly and clearly documented. The decision gets lost in a long forum thread and not transferred to the online documents.

If you want more people to add to the databases, then please keep the methods clear and accessible to outsiders. Users like @dashv and I are fans of the music, and will use our CDs \ Vinyl and general fandom to make sure what we enter is as accurate as possible - to the best of our abilities. We want to share our enthusiasm for our favoured music. But if all we have in our hands is a re-release CD from a band from the 1960s then there is only so far we can get with that accuracy.

Now and then MB can be very frustrating for a noob.


You know what’s frustrating?
-Spending hours, hours researching something, finding out that what you thought all a long was wrong and having to make a lot of changes in a very complicated web of links and entities.
-Spending a long time writing replies forum posts and Meeting topics where only 1 or 2 people - if any, reply.
-Then having 100+ comments about people arguing about the choices you made making things so much harder for them. :crying_cat_face:

I don’t know what to do honestly. No solution is favourable to everyone.
But please Please try to understand that this was done for a reason,
I’ll try to explain as simple as possible:
The “drums” instrument, now the “membranophone”, was always meant to be the “membranophone” header definition instrument in the instrument tree.
People had (myself included :sweat_smile:) been using it wrongly for *years*
I’ve been looking at it since 2016 wanting to just do something about it already.

Anyway, I’m genuinely sorry if I’ve made MusicBrainz harder or more frustrating to use for people - however: I saw quite a lot of examples earlier in this tread where people were arguing about “this is that not this”, if you know specifically that something is wrong, fix it!

-Most likely it is drums (drumkit)
–(sure sometimes it just says “drums” but 90% of all general bands will be using this. See the description! Even 1940’s early Jazz with conga and other drums would count as “drumset” * (reference is the excellent “The Drum book” by Geoff Nicholls, if you are interested in the huge development of the drumkit from the early start to current, I can’t recommend it enough!))
-If it’s completely impossible to figure out, then it can be drum (generic)

I’m sorry for the extra work this would create for people but sometimes life gives you bitter pills.
However I’d like to say this; while MusicBrainz is definitely for users to casually add things and edit, It is also for people dvelveing completely into obscure things, becoming super specific and generally “mega technical geekery” both “extremes” can and will co-exist.
But in order to facilitate both of these, there also needs to be “super extreme detailed technical instrument things” as well.
I am not a musicologist, and I have not even started to chip the huge mountain of things about music instruments I don’t know.
I might have to remember to stay “grounded” and not get overly “geeky” but it’s kinda hard, since I have really found my niche here with researching instruments, fixing broken or wrong linkages and descriptions, and making our previously simple “generic instrument list” into something to be proud of, even for super smart instrumentologists and musicologists (and let’s all be honest here, we all have a bit of that in us else we wouldn’t be here :joy_cat:)

This whole debacle (and it’s worn me out a bit to be honest) might be considered “teething problems” on the road to MusicBrainz World Domination.

Anyway, I’m going on Vacation now, Please keep things civil and constructive.
If anyone has any good ideas to fix issues, any scripts to help fix things, etc. go ahead and discuss them!

Thank you ~ Cat


You are obviously very motivated, invested, and also instrumental (phun intended) in getting instruments ‘right’ for Musicbrainz.
I can imagine that long discussions and the exchange of personal preferences and opinions are not always the most effective to get things done.
So, thank you very much for everything you are doing, and for what you are putting up with :wink:

But there are also some specific suggestions in this thread that might be helpful, and it would be good if those were addressed and responded to.
To quote two of my earlier more specific comments from this thread:

  1. 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.

  2. My suggestion for a new entry for 'just’drums, same as there is for bass and guitar:
    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.

I am curious if you have an opinion on these, and could respond to them.
(feel free to respond after your surely well-deserved vacation)

Secondly, and this is addressed to comments such as those from dashv IvanDobsky:

I fully agree with the sentiment that there could be done more to make it easier for newer editors, and editors that don’t have degrees in IT or in music.

But to keep this specific thread a bit focused:
Could you formulate specific issues with how MB currently handles ‘instruments’ that you run into, and do you have specific suggestions for changes or improvements on those?


After thinking a bit more about the membranophone/isophone thing:

If I understand correctly, the intention of MB’s listing of musical instruments ( https://musicbrainz.org/instruments ) is strictly to be a simple but comprehensive list of musical instruments that are ‘allowed’ to be selected as a choice when entering them in MusicBrainz.
Many will have some description or explanation about the instrument, or in case of possible ambiguity, there will be some guideline text added.
(e.g. in case of drums being both a group of instruments and an instrument)

But the main requirement is that anything listed there can be considered a musical instrument, and will make it’s appearance as such on liner notes.
It’s objective is not to classify the whole family of musical instruments in a scientific manner.
It’s objective is to be a real-world representation of what happens ‘in the wild’, and making it as easy as possible for editors to make correct entries with the smallest chance of errors and obstacles.

If this assumption is correct, wouldn’t it be better to keep this list clear of ‘academic’ family names of instruments?
So, no aerophones, chordophones, idiophones, membranophones, electrophones, etc.?


@CatQuest welcome to the human race! Everyone of us is different, we may see events differently than others do, it is that very nature of our being individuals and not machines that I take comfort in. Users, editors, administrators, and others are on MusicBrainz for all kinds of individual reasons and those reasons may evolve over time and usage (given a chance).

Before I say anything else I agree changes needed to be made, MusicBrainz by its nature “has” to evolve. We are individuals, we may adapt to change differently, view or understand information differently, act differently and respond differently, sometimes that needs to be taken into consideration sometimes not.

While I have been a member for over a year I have been active only the last 8 months, and in the forms less than that, I never saw this discussion. In your defense I am not sure I would have read or followed it due to the technical nature of it and not really understanding it (as I said we are human). IMO I do not think the lack of response was intentional on anyone’s part, I think those that understood agreed and maybe responded with yes and those that did not understand went on with other business. It just happens.

So where do we go from here? Well, some enterprising individual will make a plug-in for Picard that will allow you to change a “new” name to a “old” name (if that plug-in doesn’t already exist). They will need to know the parameters around the edits, was it a one-to-one change (non destructive) or a algorithmic change that used other parameters to decide the new name (possibly destructive). I use the word destructive to mean the “loss of context” of the original data (which may not have been accurate to start with). I am not agreeing or disagreeing with the approach, just commenting.

I am learning and adapting, I have gotten over the initial shock, I have gone to the wiki page and read up on percussion instruments, I have a better understanding, but I can only say that for myself. Do I like looking at membranophone instead of drums? No, but I will get over it. As a side note membranophone is not in my Word 2007 spell checker.

@hiccup made a very “even” response and maybe that should be the starting point. So forget about this nonsense (for now) and enjoy your vacation.


@CatQuest thanks for your research and sorry if this is making your head spin. You should try following the discussion from the outside as it is even more confusing. :joy:

As a bonus, at least you’ve helped a number of people get “reader” badges now this thread has gone past 100 entries. (Maybe MB needs a “I survived the Drums thread” medal?)

I know how I have been put off many areas of MB due to making mistakes. It takes me a while to get the courage back and go in and have another go. This is why I am poking at those “update the instructions” comments. Instructions are hard and boring to create, but that is how you hook other people in to help you.

I do agree with @hiccup that the instructions still need a tweak. “Any kind of idiophone with membranes” fails to say anything to me. I try and look that up in my dictionary and get more confused as idiophone doesn’t sound like a drum at all. Only the top skin of a drum vibrates.

The second part of that description DOES make sense and I’d add just a single word to it to maybe say “variously sized separate drums. For the instrument commonly known as “drums” use drumset

Just take this as positive feedback from those of us who really do appreciate the extreme geeky levels of detail available here. One of the things that made me smile early on was to find that Kazoo was on the list of instruments.


Haha, just wait until I start the discussion to use ‘drum kit’ instead of ‘drum set’.
That will result in some serious casualties :wink:


Is a “drum kit” one you get from Airfix and you have to glue together yourself? :laughing:



Funny you should mention Kazoo as it is used on the album "The Best of the Girl Groups, Volume 2—Johnny Get Angry/Joanie Sommers. :wink:


It seemed like we had a consensus around CatQuest’s third option:

: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)

Can this be done as a batch update? I’d like to not have to edit every release that I don’t want to tag with ‘membranophone’ credits.


There is another thing I ran into last night.
Which would be correct for artist disambiguation.
Disambiguation: Engineer, drummer
Disambiguation: Engineer, Membranophonist

I thought about it first as a joke, but realized its not and I am not qualified to make a determination.


A merge would mean everything is under the drums (drum set) name, so yeah :slight_smile:

I suspect most drum players (as opposed to drumset players) would generally be just known as “percussionists”, but…

I’d use drummer anyway :slight_smile:


I have to admit I like “percussionists”, it is well know and sounds basically correct even if it is a level down. I considered using it but membranophonist was technically correct given the information at hand. I used “drummer” and said “what the heck” that’s what edits are for. Its a shame we cannot switch the order because “percussionists” is cool sounding, it makes me think of all those things including fireworks.


A merge would mean everything is under the drums (drum set) name, so yeah :slight_smile:

Yes, with the understanding that we’d have to manually update the entries that really aren’t drum set, which should be relatively few.

So what do we need to make this happen?


I’d use ‘drummer’ also, unless the artist is credited with ‘percussion’ (or ‘drums and percussion’).

I wouldn’t use ‘membranophonist’ , unless there was a credit that actually used that term. So, never. :slight_smile:


I don’t believe I have the experience or the insight to fully understand the exact repercussions (phun intended) of correcting the the current mistake concerning ‘membranophone’, but what about my earlier suggestion to create a new instrument entry such as:

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.

and use that as a placeholder to assemble all current incorrectly changed ‘membranophone’ entries?
It might well be the least damaging and least incorrect option to correct this issue?


Has there been a resolution to anything yet? Have I missed the official voting? Is Membranophone still the official head of the tree before Percussion? I just reread the entire post (again) and I really haven’t seen anything definitive.:confounded: Thanks all!


@CatQuest is currently vacationing:

There will likely be no official decision either which way until next month, but feel free to continue the discussion and enjoy the (northern hemisphere) summer. :slight_smile:


Now we have had this membranophone bot reak its havoc across the database, is there any simple way to correct its obvious errors?

For example Dave Grohl - one of Nirvana’s drummers

Click on that link and look at his relationships. He is now credited as playing membranophone on dozens of tracks. Originally this would all have been “drums” as that is what was on the disk boxes/vinyl covers. (I am trying to imagine him using hippy type drums in Nirvana LOLZ :D)

I have been working through some bands by hand trying to correct this confusion. And it is possible to click one by one on each release and clean this up with some artists. (For example, I did this to The Cure)

But it will take ages to work through all of the membranophones on Dave’s page and correct them.

So please someone come up with a magic script or some kind of way of fixing this for the obvious rock bands. For this sake I’d even try and learn scripting to work through and correct this weirdness.

We need a script where we can point at a Band and\or and Artist and let it swap all membranophones back to drums (drum set).

Eeek… I kept looking at Nirvana and there are just so many entries that need correcting for their various drummers.

I know this same thing has happened to Pink Floyd… and I guess Rolling Stones will be hit hard (I bet Ronnie Wood wouldn’t know what a Membranophone was). They are just too big to correct by hand.

It is especially the older data that will have just been “drums” and now has been changed to a term the average person has never heard of. (So far I have asked a dozen random Brits if they know what a “membranophone is” and so far no one has… and that includes my spellcheck)


We just had a talk recently (and in the dev meeting today) about changing stuff with a bot, so yeah, that’s in the plans :slight_smile: It’s the summer and things move a bit more slowly though, so give it a bit of time :slight_smile: