New Orleans Drumming
Drum Kit
About the book
Copyright 2002-2003
1900-1945 1945-1970 1970-2000 Drum Techniques > 2 Traditional Jazz
At the turn of the century, the first drum sets appear in dance bands and vaudeville orchestras around the country. An early kit, or trap set, basicly consisted of a regrouped brass band rhythm unit: bass drum/cymbal and snare. Instead of two men occupying these instruments, one man sat down to play them all by himself. New Orleans drummers applied their parade style of playing to the set, distinguished by their Second Line way of rolling and phrasing.

During a short period of time the early bass drum pedals carried a little extra device. A side arm was attached to the mallet handle which, together with beating the drum head, struck a small cymbal on the hoop of the drum. The sound effect was 'boom' and 'ping' at the same time, in the European orchestral style. This sound, on '1' and '3', ran head-on into the old brass bands feel for backbeat which used the cymbal on '2' and '4', struck with a coat hanger. So very soon drummers like Baby Dodds 'turned off' the adjustable striker and eventually removed it completely.
Bass drum with side cymbal
Bass drum with side cymbal
To vary their sound and color their syncopating accents, early drummers enlarged their sets of bass, snare and cymbals with various traps: Chinese tom-toms, woodblocks, cowbells, temple blocks, triangles, train whistles, slap sticks, rachets and even more.

On the picture below: an early trap set. Note the Chinese cymbal, the side cymbal (on the hoop), the overhead bass pedal (drawn downwards), the cowbells and the ratchet (top left).

Originally, trap drummers made little use of cymbals other than for accents or crashes. During the 1920's, intricate patterns on the 'choked' cymbal grew very popular, as demonstrated by Zutty Singleton: play with one hand, choke with the other (fig. taken from "SECOND LINE", more figures in the book).


New Orleans drummers switched freely from two-beat to four-beat within one song, according to what they felt the music asked for.

Although, after two decades of jazz, the old two-beat was looked upon as a 'simpler' 4/4 time with two quarter rests put in, it is the other way around though: the four-beat was introduced by adding 2 beats to the cut time two-beat, in supply of 'easier' accompanying music for the new and very popular social dances of the 1910's. To do the fox trot one needs an uncomplicated, even rhythm, not the syncopated beats from New Orleans.
2 Traditional Jazz
1 New Orleans Brass Bands
Cadence and Intro
2 Traditional Jazz
Baby Dodds
Portret gallary