Cowbells, woodblocks, and tambourine on a drumset

Do you want to add variety to your drumset sounds? If so, here are some additions for your setup.

The drums and cymbals that make up the modern drumset are often complemented through the use of percussion accessories. Cowbells, woodblocks, tambourines, windchimes, and electronic percussion pads are common additions to the drumset.

Cowbells, Woodblocks, Tambourines, and More…

Cowbells are among the most popular add-on to the drums.  They come in all sizes, from small cha-cha cowbells (approximately 5 inches) to the LP 10½ inch Banda bell.  Cowbells have been a huge part of the signature sound of drummers such as Steve Gadd and Dave Weckl.   

Woodblocks are also popular with drummers.  Since wood can break, there are synthetic versions available with a similar wood-like tone.  The LP Jam Block is probably the most popular instrument in this category.

Tambourines are common additions to the drumset.  Most people picture a tambourine being shaken by hand, but drumset tambourines are mounted and hit it with a stick.  These tambourines often have a reinforced rim, allowing them to be struck repetitively without being damaged.

Universal mounts are available for the instruments mentioned above.  Some will allow a single instrument to be attached, while others allow an entire collection to be mounted.

Foot pedal brackets are available, allowing the instruments mentioned above to be played with a drum pedal. Horacio Hernandez, Alex Acuna, and Antonio Sanchez are drummers who utilize the left foot cowbell pedal in a musical fashion.

Second Snare Drum

Many drummers choose to use a second snare drum. This drum is usually shallower in depth and/or smaller in diameter, making it generally higher in pitch than the primary snare drum.  The second snare is usually placed on the left side of the hi-hat.  For this reason, it is often referred to as a “side snare.”

Drummers often choose a secondary snare that contrasts the primary snare drum.  For example, if the main snare is wooden, the secondary may be metal.

The second snare drum does not have to be top-of-the-line.  In fact, an inexpensive snare drum may be creatively modified to have a unique, unorthodox sound.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Crank the snare wires up tighter than usual.
  • Place a small splash cymbal on the drum for a metallic sound
  • Use a Snare-Bourine Donut topper (a drum overlay with tambourine-style jingles)
  • Place a towel over the drum for a dampened sound

Drummers that use a second snare musically include Jojo Mayer, Steve Smith, and Benny Greb.

Here is an example of Jojo Mayer using two snare drums.

Jojo Mayer using two snare drums

Sustaining Sounds

The drumset has a number of staccato sounds.  Staccato is the musical term, meaning short.  At times, drummers will want to have legato (long, sustained) sounds at their disposal.

Bar chimes produce a light, airy sound.  They are comprised of single or double rows of metallic chimes (similar to wind chimes).  The chimes are graduated in size, creating a glissando-like effect when strummed with a stick or finger.

Cymbal Rattlers (or Sizzlers) – These produce a sizzle-like effect when placed on a cymbal.  The cymbal rattler will sizzle with a sound reminiscent of bacon frying.  For more cymbal effects, visit the “How Many Cymbals Do I Need” article on this website.

Drumset Timbale

Timbales can add a Latin sound to the drumset.  Unfortunately, a full-size set of timbales are quite large, making them difficult to position at the drumset.  The drumset timbale is a smaller, thinner version of a timbale.  The smaller size makes the lightweight, allowing it to be affixed to an existing stand via a clamp. 

The drumset timbale can be a singular drum.  Drumset timbales may also be found as a pair of drums.  Carter Beauford, Stanton Moore, and Robby Ameen utilize timbales in their grooves.

Rototoms

Rototoms are shell-less drums that are mounted on an aluminum frame.  They are able to be tuned effortlessly by turning the drum clockwise (to raise the pitch) or counterclockwise (to lower the pitch). Although rototoms come in various sizes, the most common version consists of three drums (sized 6, 8, and 10”) mounted on a single stand.

Many drummers use rototoms to emulate the higher pitched concert toms.  This allows a small drumset to have a wide range of sound.

Double Bass Drum Pedal

Many drummers want the sound of two bass drums without the bulkiness that comes with it.  A double bass drum pedal is the perfect solution.  It allows the drummer to play bass drum patterns using both feet.  The primary pedal is in the standard position while the secondary pedal is off to the left-hand side, connected with a spanner bar.

Double bass drum pedals are utilized by a countless number of drum set players.  Ones that easily come to mind are Greg Bissonette, Dennis Chambers, and Virgil Donati.

Here is a video with double pedal grooves.

Additional Cymbals

A standard drumset will have a pair of hi-hats, a ride cymbal, and at least one crash cymbal.  Drummers often customize their sets through the addition of cymbals.  Splash, China-type, and extra crash cymbals are common add-ons to drumsets.  See the “How Many Cymbals Do I Need” article on this website for more information and ideas. 

Electronic Drum Pads

It is often unrealistic to have dozens of percussion instruments at a drumset.  There simply is only so much room around the set.  Fortunately, companies such as Roland offer electronic percussion pads that have hundreds of sounds!  The Roland SPD-30 Version 2 offers 670 sounds that can be adjusted in terms of pitch, sustain, and other parameters.  This unit is known as the Octapad, due to its eight programmable pads.

The sounds vary from standard drumset sounds to congas, bongos, cowbells, shakers, timpani, handclaps, and tons of other sounds!   The Octapad can be used with an amplified speaker or a pair of headphones.

Yamaha EAD 10
Create Studio Quality Drum Sounds

It used to take thousands of dollars’ worth of electronic production gear to make a drumset sound close to drums on professional recordings.  Yamaha’s EAD 10 acts as a microphone for the entire drumset.  It allows the user to add reverb and other effects to the overall sound.  Amazon reviewers call it a game changer!

Here is a video of Rob Brown using the EAD10.

Conclusion

There are many possible additions to the drumset. Start with the ones that make sense to you: the ones that will fit the style of music you play and/or styles that interest you.

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