Glossary to understand the most important technical terms in the drumming world. Learn the drummer’s jargon!


A Tempo:

Resumption of the tempo at its original speed, just after an acceleration (accelerando) or a slowing down (ritardando)


Gradual increase in the tempo of a song. The drummer usually drives this change.


Stroke played louder than the others. Part of the playing nuances that a drummer adds to humanize his performance.


See backbeat


Note (or set of notes) preceding the first beat of a measure. It is sometimes also called “incomplete measure”.

Ankle Motion:

Foot technique using the ankle reflex to reach high tempos with the double pedal. Strongly solicits the Achilles tendon.


A note placed just before the main note and highlighting it. The “Fla” is part of the appogiatura.



Refers to playing on the downbeats, as opposed to the upbeats. For example, in a 4/4 time signature, playing in backbeat would mean placing the snare drums on beats 2 and 4.

Back Sticking:

Consists in hitting an element, for example the snare drum, not with the tip but with the other end of the drumstick.


The badge is a decorative part affixed to the side of the drum. It allows to identify the brand, the model or the serial number of the drums.

Bass drum:

Iconic element of the drum kit. It is the largest drum in the drum kit, which stands at the foot of the drummer. The drummer hits the bass drum with a bat attached to a foot-operated pedal.
The bass drum produces a low, powerful sound, often marking time in rock or pop music. It is a widely used element in drumming, as is the snare drum.

Bass drum bat:

A component of the drum set, specifically the bass drum pedal. The bat is the part of the pedal that makes direct contact with the bass drum body.

Bass drum pedal:

Essential accessory for the modern drummer, allowing to hit the bass drum with the right foot.


Refers to a rhythm.

For example, the “blast beat” is a drumming technique used in metal music that consists of layering sixteenth notes played by hand and foot at high tempo.


Can refer to the central, domed part of a cymbal, a small-diameter cymbal or a percussion element similar to cowbells that can be attached to the drum set.


Type of time division. Binary time is a simple type of division.


The bongo is a percussion instrument native to Cuba. Used in pairs, these drums have spread throughout Latin America. There is always one larger than the other, in order to expand the sound palette. The percussionist playing bongos is called a bongocero.


Beats per minute. BPM is the unit of measurement for tempo. The higher the number of BPM, the faster the tempo.


Sudden break in the rhythm of a song. The drummer often punctuates the break with a particular musical phrase on different elements of the drum set.


Musical part serving as a transition between two other parts.


Also known as rodsticks, brushes are drumsticks made up of strands linked together by rings at regular intervals.
These sticks allow you to obtain a lighter sound than with a classic stick strike.



In jazz, a rhythmic figure played on the ride or hi-hat cymbal.


Edge of the drum where the drumhead is placed, with the circle to join the two.

Chinese cymbal:

Cymbal from China easily recognizable by its turned up edges. The china produces a characteristic sound, heavy, powerful and strong.


The circle is a part of the drum hardware. It is placed on and under the drum, and is used to hold the head and the chamfer. Made of metal, it is also a tuning device, and can be a striking surface giving a very particular sound. The drummer makes a rimshot.


See Metronome.


Accessory used to connect the parts of a drum set to each other.


Mechanism located above the top hi-hat cymbal to hold it.

This mechanism can be used to temporarily hold the hi-hat cymbals in the closed position, thus replacing the pressure of the drummer’s foot. The drummer then has a free foot to play the double bass drum pedal, for example.


The conga can refer to a Latin percussion instrument, a musical formation, a dance or even a rhythm.

Crash :

Type of cymbal that gives an explosive sound. Crashes are often used to mark time or punctuate rhythm sections.

Crescendo :

Play by gradually increasing the intensity of the sound. The drummer will then play louder and louder on his drum set.

Cross Stick:

Hit on the edge of the snare drum with the wrist in the center of the skin and the stick hitting the circle. We use the underside of the tip or the stick turned upside down for more power.


Instrument made of bronze and producing very powerful sounds. They can be of different sizes, thicknesses or diameters, producing more or less long and loud sounds.



Play by gradually decreasing the intensity of the sound. The drummer will then play less and less loud on his drums.

Decompression Event:

Hole drilled in the side of the drum to let the air escape when the drum is hit. They can also be found on bass drum heads.


Central, domed part of the cymbal, also called a bell.

Double bass drum pedal:

Second bass drum pedal that is operated with the second foot. This allows you to play faster or syncopated bass drum parts. This technique is often used in Metal, allowing to play fast parts at high tempo.

Double stroke:

Technique consisting in alternating the toe and the foot in order to play the bass drum pedal quickly.


Unaccented strong beat following an accented beat.

Drum tuner:

Screw allowing to tune the drums by changing the tension.


Wooden cylinder topped with a metal ring. Essential element of a drum set: the snare drum and the toms are drums.

Drum stand:

Name given to the metallic stands used to support the cymbals and the snare drum.

Drum roll:

Snare drum rudiment consisting of a series of double strokes.


Main accessory and iconic of the drummer, the drumsticks are used to hit the drums and cymbals of the drum set.
Generally made of wood, drumsticks can also be made of carbon, aluminum or plastic.
It is possible to choose the thickness of the sticks. This parameter changes according to the preferences, the style of play, etc. The classic thickness of a stick is between 5A and 7A, but there are sticks that are much thicker.

The drumsticks are composed of three distinct parts:


Eight note:

Type of duration of a note. An eighth note is equivalent to half a beat in a four-beat bar, or one eighth of the bar. The eighth note can be doubled, halving its duration, tripled, quadrupled, etc.



Musical phrases that represent a transition in a song. The drummer stops playing the main rhythm, performs the fill, and then starts the next rhythm.


Consisting in playing two strokes in a quasi simultaneous way.


Technique used mainly with the double pedal and consisting in using the hips to power the feet on the pedals, the latter remaining in a flat position.

Floor Tom:

Name given to the “bass” tom. It is a tom placed on the floor, not mounted on the drum set.


Nuance of music, the sound requires a little energy.


Nuance of music, executed with violence. The sound must not be distorted.


Ghost Note:

Note played much softer than a classical note, most often on the snare drum.
Ghost notes are barely audible, and are often felt more than heard. They bring depth to the groove.


Family of metal percussion instruments from Asia. It is sometimes possible to see a gong hanging behind the drummer on some drum kits.

Groove :

Can be interpreted as ” rythm”. Also refers to the feeling and dynamics given to a regular rhythmic pattern.


Half note:

Type of duration of a note. A half note is equivalent to two beats in a four-beat measure, or half the measure.

All durations are relative: this means that the duration of a half note is half a round, double a quarter note, four times an eighth note, eight times a sixteenth note, etc.

Half break:

Silence equal to half a pause, equal to a half note.

Half sigh:

Silence equal to half a sigh (equivalent to an eighth note).


Term for all the metal parts of a drum set, such as the toms circles.

Heel down:

Bass drum playing technique consisting of placing the heel entirely on the bass drum pedal. Allows a great stability at the expense of speed.

Heel Toe:

A bass drum playing technique consisting of alternating the toe and the heel. Allows you to give two bass drum hits close together.

Heel up:

A bass drum playing technique that consists of raising the heel and hitting with the tip of the foot. Allows you to gain power and speed at the expense of precision.

Hi hat:

A cymbal that is mounted horizontally in pairs on a hi-hat stand. Hi-hat cymbals are often used to beat the rhythm with one hand while the other plays the snare drum.
Hi-hat cymbals can be open, closed, or semi-open, producing a different sound depending on how open they are. This is determined by the pressure exerted on the hi-hat stand by the drummer with his foot.



Anglo-Saxon unit of measurement used to give the diameters and dimensions of drumkit elements.


Jam Block:

Plastic percussion instrument that can be attached to the drum set.

Jam session:

“To jam” means to give concerts in an improvised way. Originally from the beginning of the 20th century, this type of concert leaves room for improvisation between musicians and can be used to compose, to meet other musicians, or simply to relax.



Deterioration of the cymbal in the hole of its center.


Latin percussion:

A double brass drum percussion that produces a sharp sound.


A loop is a music sample that is played over and over again.


Small musical phrase added to the main rhythm without changing it.


Mallets mallet:

Wooden mallet used to strike a percussion instrument.


Wood used in the construction of drums.


Segmentation of the music duration. Allows several beats of a score to be grouped together. Although they are normally of equal duration, they can have different rhythmic signatures, allowing musicians to translate music into a universally readable partition.

Measure bar:

Set of horizontal lines representing the measures on a score. Vertical bars mark the beginning and the end of the bars.

Memory ring:

Used to mount the drum kit in the same position when reassembling. It is part of the drum kit hardware.


A device used to measure the tempo of a tune. The metronome gives an audible signal, indicating how fast the tune should be played.


Nuance of music, natural nuance of musical instruments.


Nuance of music, the sound is a bit relaxed.


Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Communication protocol dedicated to music. It allows to standardize the exchanges between instruments. Created in 1983, MIDI is still widely used in music today.



Suspended small and deep tom. Are often grouped by eight, to play all notes up to the octave.


Repetition of a rhythm or melody throughout the song. Can be more commonly called a “riff”.


Process that consists in overlapping two different rhythms at the same time. For example, playing at the same time in 3/4 on the bass drum and in 4/4 on the hi-hat cymbals.



Famous drumming rudiment. There are several versions of the paradiddle, which can be doubled, tripled, etc. Used mainly for fills and breaks.

Pianissimo :

Nuance of music, the sound is very soft.

Piano :

Nuance of music, the sound is soft.

Piggy Backing:

Practice consisting in stacking two cymbals on the same stand by inverting the upper cymbal (edges upwards).

Practice pad:

Accessory used to work the technique without using drums and with less noise. Also refers to the striking surfaces of an electronic drum set.


Quarter note:

Type of duration of a note. A quarter note is equivalent to one beat in a four-beat measure, or a quarter of the measure.
All durations are relative: this means that the duration of a quarter note is half of a half note, a quarter of a quarter note, double of an eighth note, quadruple of a sixteenth note, etc.


Time division into five equal durations.



Metallic structure allowing to fix elements of the drum kit. Saves time when disassembling/reassembling the drum kit.


Natural occurrence when hitting with the stick or the bass drum. The rebound is often used by the drummers in a multitude of techniques.

Ride cymbal:

Large cymbal that can be used to keep time and produces a crystal clear sound.


Stroke obtained by hitting the snare drum with the tip, and the circle of the snare drum with the body of the drumstick.


Percussion accessory composed of brass tubes arranged side by side and increasing in size.


Percussion instrument that can be attached to the drum set. Belongs to the toms family.



Metallic part mounted on the circumference of a drum. Used to maintain the tie rods in place with a screw.

Single stroke roll:

Consists of an alternation of simple strokes.

Snare drum:

Considered as the center of the drum set, the snare drum is a unique and distinctive sounding instrument. Placed between the drummer’s legs, it is the most frequently played element.

Snare wires:

A set of metal wires placed under the snare drum and being an important component of its sound.


Ternary rhythmic figure.


Cymbal characterized by its small size creating a shorter sound than a classic cymbal.

Stack :

Stacking two cymbals together to expand the range of sounds.

Stick shot :

Technique consisting in hitting the sticks together, one of which is placed on the drumhead.

Strong beat:

Refers to the first and third beats in a classical 4/4 time signature.

Subkick :

System to capture the lowest frequencies of the bass drum.


Term designating the ability of an instrument (drums or other) to hold a given note at a constant volume after being played.


Refers to a ternary rhythm. It consists in “bouncing” the eighth notes in an unequal way. Term mostly used in jazz.


Rhythmical pattern set against the beat.


Tempo :

Speed of the song, measured in BPM.

Temple block :

Percussion instrument in the shape of a wooden cube from China.


Rhythm with a split of the beats into three.


Part of the stick in contact with the struck element. Mostly made of wood.


Metal piece used to hold the cymbal on its stand.


Mechanism located on the side of the snare drum that stretches the drumhead of the snare drum.


Up Beat :

See strong beats.

Up Tempo :

Jazz expression indicating a tempo higher than 180 BPM.



A verse is an element of the structure of a song. With each verse, the lyrics of the song can change. It is therefore not uncommon for the drum parts to change as well. The drums are often quieter on the verses than on the chorus.


Weak beat:

Refers to the second and fourth beats in a classical 4/4 time signature.

Whole note:

Type of duration of a note. A whole note is equal to four beats, or one full bar.

All durations are relative: this means that the duration of the round is equal to two half notes, four quarter notes, eight eighth notes, sixteen sixteenth notes, etc. The round is the unit of calculation of the measure.

Woodblock :

Wooden percussion hollowed out and played with a drumstick.