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Musical instrument, the sound of which is produced by the vibration of a stretched membrane. Drums are usually either cylindrical or bowl-shaped. The drum is a universal instrument and very ancient; a drum dating to 6000 BC has been found in Moravia. Drums have been important ritually in cultures worldwide. They may have a definite pitch or be unpitched; those of Africa, South and Southeast Asia (seetabla), and the Middle East are mostly pitched, whereas Western drums are more often unpitched. Drumming has attained its highest degree of development in Africa and India. From the 13th century, the folk dance in Europe was accompanied by a single musician playing simultaneously the pipe or fife and the tabor, a small double-headed snare drum played with one stick. The side drum, or snare drum, has coiled wires or gut strings strung across the lower head, which vibrate against it when the upper head is struck. The powerful bass drum is used especially in marching bands. The pitched timpani are the standard orchestral drums. Until the 17th century, drum parts in Western music were entirely improvised. The drum set used in popular music is played by a single person and normally includes a snare drum, tom-toms, a pedal-operated bass drum, and suspended and hi-hat cymbals.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on drum, visit Britannica.com.