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A drum is a musical instrument in the percussion family, technically classified as a membranophone. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a "drumhead" or "drumskin", that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with parts of a player's body, or with some sort of implement such as a drumstick, to produce sound. Drums are among the world's oldest and most ubiquitous musical instruments, and the basic design has been virtually unchanged for hundreds of years.
The shell almost invariably has a circular opening over which the drumhead is stretched, but the shape of the remainder of the shell varies widely. In the western musical tradition, the most usual shape is a cylinder, although timpani for example use bowl-shaped shells. Other shapes include a frame design (tar), truncated cones (bongo drums), and joined truncated cones (talking drum).
Drums with cylindrical shells can be open at one end (as in the timbales) or, more commonly in the Western tradition, they can have another drum head. Sometimes they have a solid shell with no holes in at all though this is rare. It is usual for a drum to have some sort of hole in to let air move through the drum when it is struck. This gives a louder and longer ring to the notes of the drum, so drums with two heads covering both ends of a tubular shell often have a small hole halfway between the 2 drumheads. The membrane is struck, either with the hand or with a drumstick, and the shell forms a resonating chamber for the resulting sound. The sound of a drum depends on several variables including shell shape, size, thickness of shell, materials of the shell, type of drumhead, tension of the drumhead, position of the drum, location, and how it is struck.
In lots of popular music and jazz, "drums" usually refers to a drum kit or set of drums, and "drummer" to the band member or person who plays them. Drums are also played by percussionists whose skills can be called for in all areas of music from Classical to Heavy Rock & all areas in between.
In the past, drums were used as a means of communication and not just for their musical qualities.
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