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War instrument: Drum


The drum is one of the oldest known percussion instruments. It consists of leather stretched into a cylindrical body from wood, metal or terracotta. It is played by hand or stick. Although its form changes, it is an instrument used all over the world and in every society.

Drums were used by Chinese troops to motivate people, setting a marching pace, and calling out orders or announcements. For example, during the 684 BC war between Qi and Lu, the effect of drums on soldier morale was used to change the outcome of a major battle. The first timpani appeared in Ottoman military ensembles known as Janissary bands in the late fourteenth century. Janissary bands began to influence European court musicians with new percussion instruments such as the timpani, originally known as Kös, cymbals, and rattles in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Swiss mercenary foot soldiers used fifes and drums as well.

They used an early version of the snare drum, suspended by a strap over the player's right shoulder (typically played with one hand using traditional grip). Similarly, during the English Civil War, junior officers would carry rope-tension drums to relay commands from senior officers over the noise of battle. These were also hung over the drummer's shoulder and were typically played with two drum sticks. Different regiments and companies would have their own distinct drum beats that could be recognized only by them.

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