One of the oldest musical instruments known to man is the drum. Ancient cultures first utilized this musical instrument as a tool, rather than for entertainment. It symbolized different events of the day. When It was time to gather and eat; they would beat a drum. When the men would gather for the hunt, they would once again beat a drum. You have to realize that there were no clocks back then, so an official “timekeeper” was in charge of the changing of activities.
As groups started to become more civilized, and efficient, they had more time to actually celebrate their good fortune. Since the drum was the only noisemaker they had, it became a method to give sound to their stories. Many of the earliest antique models were simply made out of hollowed trees and animal hide. Since keeping rhythm is an inborn human skill, these celebrations eventually developed into dancing extravaganzas.
Fast forward to medieval time, they learned that different size drums produced a variety of sounds. They would fashion many of them together to be able to shift from one to another quickly. They would attach old bells to them to add a higher note, and transition from one part to the next.
As time moved on, designers learned to create curved shells for the drum, instead of carving out the insides of an old log. They experimented with different thicknesses of skins to create deeper sounds. The instrument started to become more than just a beat mechanism, but became an integral part of the ensemble.
These days, there are so many different types and styles of drums that it boggles the mind. They can produce ant desired sound, and if that is not good enough, you can get an electronic set that is fully programmable.
Despite all of the advances, many players still favor the more antique and traditional models. They feel that the sound is truer, and gives them a gratifying link to the past. Rock drummer Jon Kois is one of those “old schoolers”. He plays with newer bands, but always chooses the older sets to play, and just re-tunes them to bring them back to their traditional glory. His latest find was at an antique fair in Eastern Pennsylvania. He acquired a Ludwig 5-piece set from 1969. Still with the original paint.
When he teaches his course called drums for beginners he insists that his students learn on a vintage set in his studio, similar to the one he owns. Even if they go back to their more modern instruments they will get a feel for how the drummers of the past played.