Drum kit music is either written down in music notation (called "drum parts"), learned and played "by ear", improvised or some combination of some or all three of these methods. Professional session musician drummers and Big Band jazz drummers are often required to read drum parts. Drum parts are most commonly written on a standard five-line staff. In 2016, a special percussion clef is used, while previously the bass clef was used. However, even if the bass or no clef is used, each line and space is assigned an instrument of the kit, rather than to a pitch. In jazz, traditional music, folk music, rock music and pop music, drummers are expected to be able to learn songs by ear (from a recording or from another musician who is playing or singing the song) and improvise. The degree of improvisation differs in different styles. Jazz and jazz fusion drummers may have lengthy improvised solos in every song. In rock music and blues, there are also drum solos in some songs, although they tend to be shorter than those in jazz. Drummers in all popular music and traditional music styles are expected to be able to improvise accompaniment parts to songs, once they are told the genre or style (e.g., shuffle, ballad, slow blues, etc.).
On early recording media (until 1925) such as wax cylinders and discs carved with an engraving needle, sound balancing meant that musicians had to be literally moved in the room. Drums were often put far from the horn (part of the mechanical transducer) to reduce sound distortion. Since this affected the rendition of cymbals at playback, sound engineers of the time remedied the situation by asking drummers to play the content of the cymbals onto woodblocks, temple blocks, and cowbells for their loudness and short decay.
While fretless basses are often associated with jazz and jazz fusion, bassists from other genres have used fretless basses, such as Freebo (country), Rick Danko (rock/blues), Rod Clements (folk), Steve DiGiorgio, Jeroen Paul Thesseling (metal), Tony Franklin (rock), and Colin Edwin (modern/progressive rock). Some bassists alternate between fretted and fretless basses in performances, according to the type of material or tunes they are performing, e.g., Pino Palladino or Tony Levin.
All cymbals other than rides, hi-hats and crashes/splashes are usually called effects cymbals when used in a drum kit, though this is a non-classical or colloquial designation that has become a standardized label. Most extended kits include one or more splash cymbals and at least one china cymbal. Major cymbal makers produce cymbal extension packs consisting of one splash and one china, or more rarely a second crash, a splash and a china, to match some of their starter packs of ride, crash and hi-hats. However any combination of options can be found in the marketplace.
Prior to the invention of tension rods, drum skins were attached and tuned by rope systems—as on the Djembe—or pegs and ropes such as on Ewe Drums. These methods are rarely used today, though sometimes appear on regimental marching band snare drums. The head of a talking drum, for example, can be temporarily tightened by squeezing the ropes that connect the top and bottom heads. Similarly, the tabla is tuned by hammering a disc held in place around the drum by ropes stretching from the top to bottom head. Orchestral timpani can be quickly tuned to precise pitches by using a foot pedal.
In some styles or settings, such as country music clubs or churches, small venues, or when a live recording is being made, the drummer may use a transparent perspex or plexiglas drum screen (also known as a drum shield) to dampen the onstage volume of the drums. A screen that completely surrounds the drum kit is known as a drum booth. In live sound applications, drum shields are used so that the audio engineer can have more control over the volume of drums that the audience hears through the PA system mix or to reduce the overall volume of the drums, as a way to reduce the overall volume of the band in the venue. In some recording studios, foam and fabric baffles are used in addition to or in place of clear panels. The drawback with foam/cloth baffle panels is that the drummer cannot see other performers, the record producer or the audio engineer well.
A player can use the fretting hand to change a sounded note, either by fully muting it after plucking it, or by partially muting it near the bridge to reduce volume, or make the note fade faster. The fretting hand often mutes strings that are not being played to stop sympathetic vibrations, particularly when the player wants a "dry" or "focused" sound. On the other hand, the sympathetic resonance of harmonically related strings are sometimes desirable. In these cases, a bassist can fret harmonically related notes. For example, while fretting a sustained "F" (on the third fret of the "D" string), underneath an F major chord being played by a piano player, a bassist might hold down the "C" and low "F" below this note so their harmonics sound sympathetically.
Electronic drum pads are the second most widely used type of MIDI performance controllers, after electronic music keyboards.:319–320 Drum controllers may be built into drum machines, they may be standalone control surfaces (e.g., rubber drum pads), or they may emulate the look and feel of acoustic percussion instruments. The pads built into drum machines are typically too small and fragile to be played with sticks, and they are usually played with fingers.:88 Dedicated drum pads such as the Roland Octapad or the DrumKAT are playable with the hands or with sticks, and are often built to resemble the general form of a drum kit. There are also percussion controllers such as the vibraphone-style MalletKAT,:88–91 and Don Buchla's Marimba Lumina.
In the mid-1970s, Alembic and other boutique bass manufacturers, such as Tobias, produced four-string and five-string basses with a low "B" string. In 1975, bassist Anthony Jackson commissioned luthier Carl Thompson to build a six-string bass tuned (low to high) B0, E1, A1, D2, G2, C3. In comparison with a standard four-string bass, Jackson's six-string adds a low B string and a high C string. These 5 and 6-string "extended-range basses" would become popular with session bassists as they reduced the need for re-tuning to alternate detuned configurations like "drop D", and also allowed the bassist to play more notes from the same position on the fretboard with fewer shifts up and down the fingerboard, a crucial benefit for a session player sightreading basslines at a recording session.
Another design consideration for the bass is whether to use frets on the fingerboard. On a fretted bass, the metal frets divide the fingerboard into semitone divisions (as on an electric guitar or acoustic guitar). Fretless basses have a distinct sound, because the absence of frets means that the string must be pressed down directly onto the wood of the fingerboard with the fingers, as with the double bass. The string buzzes against the wood and is somewhat muted because the sounding portion of the string is in direct contact with the flesh of the player's finger. The fretless bass lets players use expressive approaches such as glissando (sliding up or down in pitch, with all of the pitches in between sounding), and vibrato (in which the player rocks a finger that is stopping a string to oscillate the pitch slightly). Fretless players can also play microtones, or temperaments other than equal temperament, such as just intonation.
Other kits will normally have 12" and 13" hanging toms plus either a 14" hanging tom on a stand, a 14" floor tom, or a 16" floor tom. For depths, see Tom-tom drum#Modern tom-toms. In the 2010s, it is very popular to have 10" and 12" hanging toms, with a 16" floor tom. This configuration is often called a hybrid setup. The bass drum is most commonly 22" in diameter, but rock kits may use 24", fusion 20", jazz 18", and in larger bands up to 26". A second crash cymbal is common, typically an inch or two larger or smaller than the 16", with the larger of the two to the right for a right-handed drummer, but a big band may use crashes up to 20" and ride up to 24" or, very rarely, 26". A rock kit may also substitute a larger ride cymbal or larger hi-hats, typically 22" for the ride and 15" for the hats.
All in all, what matters above all is your own style. Whether you choose to emulate a famous bassist with a signature model or forge your own path with something that caters to your personal tastes, it's all good. There's no shortage of bass guitars for sale, just like there's no limit on what you can do to make your new instrument all your own once you have it in your hands.
With rock and roll coming into place, a watershed moment occurred between 1962 and 1964 when the Surfaris released "Wipe Out", as well as when Ringo Starr of The Beatles played his Ludwig kit on American television. As rock moved from the nightclubs and bars and into stadiums in the 1960s, there was a trend towards bigger drum kits. The trend towards larger drum kits took momentum in the 1970s with the emergence of progressive rock. By the 1980s, widely popular drummers like Billy Cobham, Carl Palmer, Nicko McBrain, Phil Collins, Stewart Copeland, Simon Phillips and Neil Peart were using large numbers of drums and cymbals. In the 1980s, some drummers began to use electronic drums.