Bass Drum

A very deep two-headed drum, stood or suspended either vertically or horizontally. 50cm - 2m diameters.

Beaters: Bass drum mallets range from hard to soft, as well as rute and other beaters .
Bass Drum:
Rute beaters:
Single hit

Bongo Drums

Pairs of small single-headed drums with tapered sides
Beaters: Medium mallets, sticks or hand
Authentically played with the hands, but usually played with beaters in an orchestral context.
With beaters
With hands
Typical pattern


North African hand drum, with an extended and outward-tapering resonating column.
Beater: Hands.
Plenty of sounds available on this instrument, and the addition of metal 'wings' add a buzz.

Djun djun

African double-headed drum, but normally played on one head only, with the other hand playing a cowbell attached to the body of the drum.
Beater: Medium bass drum beater.
Djun djun:

Lion's Roar

A single headed drum with a rosined cord through the head. Pulling the cord produces a distinctive roar.
Beaters: Hands.



















Snare Drum

Two-headed drum, with metal snares strung on one side and engaged or disengaged by a handle. Usually placed on a stand. Sizes range from 15-18cm for the standard orchestral instrument, to 45-90cm for the field drum and 8-10cm for the piccolo snare.
Beaters: snare drum sticks; brushes; hotrods; rute; soft vibes mallets. Snare drum technique provides the basis for most other sticking techniques in Western music. Be sure to specify snares on or off. It is a good idea to leave snares off when the drum is not being played, in order to avoid unwanted buzzing caused by the vibration from other instruments.
Snare drum:
Snares on/off:
Single hit, snared
Rapid., measured hits
Loud roll
Roll <>, with snare
Roll <>, without snare
'Gallop' pattern, with snare
'Gallop' pattern, without snare
Snared roll and pattern
Short flam
Pattern, no snare
Classic military pattern, snared.


Latin American bass drum, single-headed. Hits can be damped, or open, and a typical pattern would include rim hits.
Beater: Small bass drum beaters
The drum can be lifted with the feet to open out the sound.
















Talking Drum

An egg-timer shaped drum, with leather cords stretching the two heads. The drum is placed under the player's arm, and the skins struck with a wooden beater. The player squeezes the cords to adjust head tension, thus creating the 'talking' effect.
Beater: wooden.

















A slitted hoop of wood, with skin stretched over it to form a head, and with jangles threaded through the slits.
Beater: Hand and any other durm beater.
Rolls <>:
'Wet' and 'dry' sounds:
Played fast, seated:
Played fast and loud, foot up on chair:
Rock tambourine:
Faster pattern
Faster still
Pattern >
Single hit
Jingles only

Tenor Drums

A field drum without snares.

Beaters: bass drum or wooden beaters.
'Muffled' drum = cloth placed on head. N.B. this is not the same as a 'muted' drum.

The central beater depicted is usual. Tam-tams may also be bowed and scraped carefully with metal objects. Never use xylophone or wooden bass drum beaters on a tam-tam.
Tenor drum:
Some patterns:
Pattern 1
Pattern 2
Pattern 3
Pattern 4
Pattern 5


Anything up to 6 small, straight-sided drums, either double or single-headed

Beaters: medium to soft mallets.

A typical tom-tom improvisation.

The Orchestra: A User's Manual is a free resource and will remain so. It still receives between 8,000 and 16,000 unique visits per month from all over the world. See the testimonials. Thanks to all the donations, I have been able to create this responsive re-design. But the movies and sound clips recorded in 2004 do show their age. I would really like to re-record everything and add many more techniques, especially for solo and ensemble writing. I estimate this will cost around £30,000. If you know a source of such funds, please contact me: a.hugill [at]