Drum Set Introduction

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be able to describe the role of the Drum Set in New Orleans music. They will explore notable Drummers, the origins of the instrument, and identify and maintain the parts of the instrument.



  • Identify the origins of the Drum Set. 
  • Identify notable Drummers from New Orleans.
  • Describe the role of the Drum Set within New Orleans music.
  • Identify and describe the parts of the instrument.
  • Provide proper maintenance for the Drum Set.



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Introduce the Drum Set to students by showing them the instrument. Tell students the Drum Set has been a vital instrument in New Orleans Music and is the “heartbeat” of the band. Influenced by African and Caribbean rhythms, the New Orleans style of drumming helps to define New Orleans Traditional Jazz, Gospel, and Brass Band. The Drum Set is a non-transposed instrument and a member of the Percussion Family. The Drum Set has many names: Drum Kit, Trap Set (short for Contraption), and Drums. A 5-Piece Drum Set is commonly used in a New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band. The components are the Snare Drum, the Kick Drum (Bass Drum), and three Tom Toms (high, medium, and low). Note: The Cymbals are not considered part of a Drum Kit. Display slide 3 of the presentation, Drum Set Introduction, to review The Bass Drum and The Rhythm Section: Snare Drum


  1. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Drum Set Introduction, to discuss notable Drum Set players from New Orleans and watch the video, Greats of New Orleans Drumming. These include Baby Dodds, James William “Red Happy” Bolton, Walter Brundy, Edward “Dee Dee” Chandler, Louis “Old Man” Cottrell, Sr, John Mac Murray, Ernest “Ninesse” Trepagnier, Frank Parker, Cie Frazier, Paul Barbarin, Dave Oxley, and Frank Oxley. Each had their own style of playing the Drums. In addition to playing the Drums, many New Orleans Drummers were soloists or sidemen, then went on to become bandleaders themselves. Studying the skills of New Orleans Jazz Drummers, analyzing and transcribing the rhythmic styles of keeping time, and reflecting on the band and/or the soloist, will help develop your own drumming skills.


  1. Display slides 6 of the presentation, Drum Set Introduction, to watch and discuss the video, Meet Joe Lastie.  Tell students that in the late 1800’s Edward “Dee Dee” Chandler is credited as the first to incorporate the Drum Set in a New Orleans Traditional Band. It is said that he innovated the foot pedal for the Bass Drum, or Kick Drum, allowing the hands to be free to play the Snare drum, Cymbals, etc. simultaneously. His idea eliminated the need for a second musician to play the Kick Drum or Bass Drum, making it possible for only one musician to play all the parts of the Drum Set. The Drum Set adds spice and flavor to New Orleans Jazz. The endless capabilities of syncopation, accents, complementing the band and complementing the soloist, define the Drum as the dominant pulse of the New Orleans Jazz Band.



  1. Show the students a Drum Set. Ask: Why is the Drum Set an essential instrument in New Orleans Traditional Jazz and Brass Band? Display slide 7 of the presentation, Drum Set Introduction, to review the anatomy of the Drum Set. Identify the parts of the instrument with students: Kick Drum/Bass Drum, Bass Drum Clutch Pedal, Snare Drum, High Tom Tom, Medium Tom Tom, Low Tom Tom, Crash Cymbal, Ride Cymbal, High Hat Cymbal, High Hat, Clutch, Drum Stool, and Drum Sticks.


  1. Tell students that proper assembly of the Drum Set is important because it helps you produce solid sound, better technique, and endurance. Display slide 8 of the presentation, Drum Set Introduction, to review the Drum Set Assembly video. First, start with the Bass Drum, attach the Bass Pedal Clutch to the Bass Drum. Second, apply the Snare Drum on top of its supporting stand. Third, set up High Tom Tom, medium Tom Tom, then the lower Tom Tom. Fourth, setup the High Hat Cymbals to the supporting stand. Fifth, setup the Crash Cymbals on the supporting stand. Sixth, adjust the Drum Stool based on your height (feet flat on the floor, thighs angled downward).


  1. Have students practice assembling the Drum Set. Provide support to students, helping them make adjustments to their Stool and Drum Set parts. 


  1. Follow-up with students about the importance of proper Drum Set maintenance. Display slide 9 of the presentation, Drum Set Introduction, to review the Drum Set Maintenance video. Maintenance guarantees a longer life and maintains the integrity of the Drum Set. 


  1. Introduce the Drum Set maintenance tools: microfiber cloth, Drum cases, or Drum bags, Drum Key. Show students how to change Drum’s heads and wipe the inside of the Drum shells to clean out any dust with a microfiber cloth. Use the Drum case or Drum bag for safe storage and protection.


  1. Tell students that one of the best practices for learning the Drum Set is to Learn From The Elders. Display slide 11 of the presentation, Drum Set Introduction, to hear about Shannon Powell’s experience growing up in New Orleans and learning the roots of Traditional Jazz on the drums. 



  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the Drum Set by having them assemble the instrument. Have students describe 2-4 parts of the instrument. Ask: What are the proper techniques for Drum Set maintenance?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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