Although your classic drum set setup offers several voices to play, you may find yourself wanting something more. The great thing about drum kits is that you can easily make additions over time.
These additions can come in the form of auxiliary percussion instruments or other accessories.
If you’re looking to add some extra voices to your drum kit, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some great ideas to get you playing some unique things along with your drums.
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The cowbell is one of the most popular additions you can have with a drum kit. This is largely due to the popular skit from Saturday Night Live where Christopher Walken continually expresses how he needs more cowbell.
All jokes aside, there are several styles of music that require the cowbell. It’s especially popular in Latin music where you play different types of rhythms between the drums and the percussion around your kit.
It’s also a great driving force in rock and country music. Most drummers like to mount cowbells above their kick drum. Putting it there gives you easy access and still allows easy movement of your leg.
There are pieces of mounting hardware specifically designed to be able to place percussion on drums or cymbal stands. We’ll see later in the article that these mounts work wonders for more than just cowbells.
Tambourines have such a distinct sound that even non-musicians know exactly what they are. The jingling tone makes a great sound addition to the drum kit. Typically, you’d have to hold a tambourine and shake it to get a sound from it.
You could do that if you wanted to. Some drummers pull them out with one hand while continuing to play drums with the other. However, most drummers prefer to mount tambourines on the hi-hat stand.
You can easily drop a tambourine on the top hat and it will make the jingle sound as you play the hi-hats. It’s fantastic for keeping time with your left foot. You can then remove the tambourine from the hats on the go when you don’t want that sound.
A few companies sell dedicated tambourine designs that latch to the hi-hat without getting in the way. Those are a bit more permanent in your setup.
Similar to tambourines, shakers have a highly popular sound. As a drummer, you could leave a shaker somewhere close to you and pull it out when you need that subtle sixteenth note pulse.
Shakers can only be played by shaking your hands, so there won’t be any mounting like with the tambourine. This means that you’ll need to practice playing drums with one hand and shaking the shaker with the other.
It’s a great percussion instrument to use, especially in the softer styles of music.
The cabasa often gets mistaken as a shaker. It has a similar tone. However, the cabasa sound is a lot more aggressive. A standard cabasa is held with one hand and twisted with the other.
Many percussion companies sell cabasas that are designed to be played with your foot instead. They have a pedal that does the twisting that your hand would have done. This means you could put one next to your hi-hat pedal to have a whole new voice to play.
You’ll see many Latin drummers using foot cabasas as it’s a great thing to have when playing complex foot patterns and ostinatos. The aggressive tone is more effective than the one coming from the hi-hats when played with the foot.
Timbales, Octobans, and Roto Toms
Timbales are drums that have a much higher striking tone than toms on drums do. Most timbales come in pairs, giving you one that is higher-pitched than the other. The pair of them fit onto a stand that can easily be placed in a drum kit setup.
Having the bright timbales to counter the warm toms can lead to some cool musical applications. Drum fills will sound extremely interesting when switching between the drums.
Other types of drums that have similar roles are roto toms and octobans. Roto toms are acrylic drums that also produce high attack tones. Roto toms are smaller, yet they have long shells that resonate strongly.
Roto toms are often used in metal settings. The best example would be the drumming from Mike Portnoy in Dream Theater tunes. The roto toms are extremely effective in adding color to the drum parts.
Woodblocks fall along the lines of cowbells. However, woodblocks have more potential for tonal differences. They’re also less tonally aggressive. So, you could have three or four woodblocks setup to get some great textures.
They’re not as universally used as cowbells. It may sound strange to play woodblocks in certain styles, having the potential to pull the listener out of the experience.
They work very well in indie and alternative music. Think of bands like Alt-J. Woodblocks are a huge part of their drummer’s distinct voice on the drum kit.
Electronic Drum Pad
Moving onto the world of electronics, a drum pad is a fantastic addition to any drum setup. You could technically classify it as a percussion instrument since you hit the pads with your drum sticks.
If you don’t want to have many small things cluttering your space, the electronic drum pad will give you access to every percussion sound you can think of. You can also play things like handclaps and finger snaps.
Many sample pads offer so much more than just extra percussion sounds. They have sampling capabilities, loop functions, and click tracks. Most modern drummers who play with famous artists make use of electronic drum pads.
The industry-standard drum pad is the Roland SPD-SX. It does everything previously mentioned and provides a solid platform to run a music set from.
Using a wind chime tree is a great way of adding mysterious sounds to your setup. You can easily place it anywhere around your drum kit and then use your drum stick to move down or up the chimes.
If you’re a drummer who plays in musicals, having one of these is essential. However, they have uses in all styles as they can add dreamy sounds to the soft parts of songs. Think of how you could do a cymbal swell with mallets and then run down the chimes. Magical!
Cymbal sizzlers are metal beads that you can attach to cymbals. Many drum companies make these and you can easily attach them to the wing nut of a cymbal. They give cymbals a longer sizzling sound after being hit.
Many jazz drummers use these as they accentuate the tones of cymbals and allow them to ring for longer. If you don’t want to buy a cymbal sizzler, you could use a homemade one. Any metal beads that rest on a cymbal will do the same job.
You could also tape a coin to the bottom of a cymbal. The more coins taped, the more sizzle you’re going to get.
Stacking cymbals will give you a voice option that is shorter and cutting. You combine two cymbals together to get an extra percussive sound in your drum setup. It’s a modern trend that has caught on amongst many drummers.
To stack cymbals, you need to fit two cymbals together on a stand and then strongly tighten the washer. Not all cymbals comfortably fit together, meaning you’ll need to find some that do.
These stacked cymbals will replicate a hi-hat sound that is a bit looser. Cymbal stacks are fantastic for styles like gospel, jazz, and hip-hop.
The side snare is one of the best additions you can have with a drum kit. Since the snare drum is the drum you play the most, it’s a great idea to bring in a second one that has a different sound.
This opens you up to play different sorts of beats and fills. You could play a higher-pitched side snare in a verse and then switch over to the beefier main snare in a chorus.
Some people place side snares to the left of their hi-hat. Another common trend is to put the side snare in place of the floor tom and tune it low so that it sounds like a tom when turned of.
If you add every single thing mentioned above to your drum setup, you’re going to have a huge drum kit that may cause you to feel overwhelmed. I’d suggest adding one or two of them and learning how to bring them in with your drumming.
Once you get the hang of it, start adding more to grow your voice on the drum kit. If you’re a minimalist who doesn’t want a million things around, consider getting an electronic drum pad.
Having percussive add ons is a great way of respiring your creativity on the drum kit. It can be very rewarding to see what ideas flow out when playing extra percussion.