Construction of, and performance on, the early drum kit
For over one hundred years the drum kit has been a driving force in shaping popular music, yet in popular culture the kit is not taken as seriously as other instruments, with drummer jokes abound. This hierarchy is reflected across academia and music literature, where the drum kit is least discussed amongst other instruments commonly found in popular music. Looking within the context of early jazz—one of the first styles of music the drum kit helped shape—historians and publishers were keen to ensure leading horn players told their story, while the drummers, who rarely secured similar levels of fame or recognition, had comparatively little chance to record their story. Detailed histories of the instrument are therefore scarce, incomplete, or riddled with inaccuracies and misunderstandings. This thesis presents a clear and detailed history of the instrument, from its beginnings to its early form in the mid 1930s. I then examine how the early drum kit was represented at the time through recordings, one of the most important methods of documenting how this instrument was used. Finally, I investigate how drummers performing on early drum kits today approach their playing, and how they deal with the problems identified in this thesis. In doing so I used optical character recognition (OCR) on digital archives, newspapers, interviews, magazines, catalogues and photographs from the early twentieth century, much of which has only become available in the past few years. Using these primary sources, I have constructed a reliable history and have unearthed new sources that shed light on the history and development of the instrument. Furthermore, through my own experiences and interviews of current early drum kit players, I have shown how this instrument in its early form is played, and how it differs from the instrument we know today.