When did the standard drum kit become popular in music. My definition of standard drum kit being:

  • snare drum
  • bass drum
  • hi-hat
  • cymbal(s)
  • tom-tom(s)

2 Answers 2


In marching bands from the late 1800's (like that of John Phillip Sousa), the percussion parts were played by separate musicians: one with cymbals, one with a snare drum, one with bass drum, etc.

With the advent of smaller bands in the Jazz era (1910's - 1930's), percussion duties were placed in the hands of one seated drummer, surrounded by drums. One of the first drummers in this new configuration was Johnny Stein of the Original Dixieland Jass Band, which was first recorded in 1917. Since not all drummers of that early era had the skill to play that many drums at once, some early jazz bands employed two drummers: one on snare and one on bass. A single drummer became more-or-less standard by the 1920's, due to both increased technical skill and the prospect of dividing the money among fewer members.

  • 1
    The main factor enabling one drummer to use many drums was probably the invention of the workable bass drum pedal in 1909.
    – gidds
    Commented Jan 19 at 16:33

Note that you have a good answer but to focus more on modern music, drums were not a big part of the equation in the early days of rock and roll and country music. Many venues didn't accept drums onstage (I think Grand Ole Opry was late 50s and wasn't widely accepted until the 70s). Drums were though to be part of "black" culture in the US and we are talking about times of segregation. I am not sure everything was "racist" but there was a line drawn in the sand.

What did the "white" bands do at the time to get around the no drums issue. Well a lot of them were pop music and didn't worry about percussion. But as blues, bluegrass, jazz began to mix with traditional pop and country we started several varieties of country and rock and roll. What did they start doing? They started playing the drums with their guitar. There were a few different things they did to get the percussion sound but the easiest thing was to take a piece of brown paper sack or a dollar bill and wrap the chords as the plucked hard.

This was Johnny Cash's signature beat in his early days. Johnny was at Sun Records and a lot of fellow Sun musicians did similar things and the percussion sound of rock and modern country was into the mainstream.

The thing is during the late 50s and early 60s you had an onslaught of musicians (many through Sun) that gained fame quickly. Once they had a certain standing adding a permanent drummer to their group wasn't a big deal.

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