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The Types of Drums for the Drumline

Part of a Drumline
drum image by agno_agnus from Fotolia.com

Marching bands are popular forms of entertainment for parades and football games, and one of the most popular aspects of a marching band is the drumline. Drumlines feature the marching band's drum section and, in some instances, are a smaller subset of the percussion section. Generally, a traditional drumline will contain snare drums, bass drums, toms and cymbals.

Snare Drum

Snare drums are perhaps the most recognized drum in a drumline. Snare drums are usually 12 to 15 inches in diameter and have a drum head on top and on the bottom. A snare drum also has "snares" running across the bottom head of the drum that are made of metal coil or catgut. When the percussionist hits the top head of the drum, the snares produce a crisp "snapping" sound. Percussionists play a snare drum with drum sticks and wear it at the waist.

Bass Drums

Bass drums are larger drums and usually range in size from 16 to 32 inches in diameter. Unlike a snare drum or a tom, the bass drum has a head on each side that a percussionist can strike. He wears the bass drum with a harness on the his chest, and he plays it with mallets instead of drum sticks.


Toms look similar to snare drums, except there is no bottom head at all on a tom. A tom ranges in diameter from 9 to 14 inches, and each different size is tuned to a different pitch. In some instances, a tom percussionist will have more than one tom, and in many cases, she will have four different-sized toms of varying pitches called quads. A percussionist plays toms with either drum sticks or mallets and wears it with a harness at the waist.


Cymbals, while not drums, are percussion instruments and are a usual part of a drumline. The types of cymbals drumlines use are called crash cymbals. Generally, drumline crash cymbals are made of bronze and range in size from 14 to 20 inches. Each size has a different tone, and many drumlines utilize multiple sizes. A percussionist holds the crash cymbals by leather straps located on the outside center of the cymbal.

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