Percussionist Vs Drummer
percussionist vs drummer
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Percussionist vs. Drummer, What’s The Difference?

The percussionist is like Genus biologically, while the drummer is species. The difference seen in these two terms (Genus and species) in this context means that a drummer is a percussionist, but a percussionist is not necessarily a drummer.

A percussionist plays multiple percussion instruments, among which can be drums. On the other hand, the drummer plays a specific set of percussion commonly referred to as the drum set. The drum set contains cymbals, hardware, and bass drums assembled in a predictable format. Mostly, drummers use drumsticks, and sometimes they play using bare hands. Thus a percussionist is more comprehensive compared to a drummer. In a band, drummers and a percussionist play different roles.

This article describes what percussionists and drummers do and the difference between these two instrumentalists.

Who is a Percussionist?

Percussionist Vs Drummer
Percussionist Vs Drummer

A percussionist plays several percussion instruments that are typically relevant to a particular musical genre. These percussion instruments that percussionists uses aren’t part of traditional drumsets.

One may say a percussionist’s rig isn’t standardized like the drums. Each element of the given set is different from the other on everything. You’ll see this contingence in the style of playing and the percussionists’ skill. However, some genres associate with particular percussion apparatus.

For instance, Latin music hardly lacks but is not limited to congas and timbales. It also has instruments like guiro, maracas, marimba, woodblocks, etc. On the other hand, Brazillian music like the Samba music use non drum percussion instruments like pandeiros, matracas, agogôs, cuícas, xequeres, chocalhos, etc.

Moreover, most rock and reggae artists usually have percussionists in live sets, as percussionists mostly use their hands. Why? Because in many orchestras, percussionists play various instruments to give those particular genre fanatics the musical taste they want. Orchestra percussionists usually play “hard” instruments like timpani, requiring a specialized percussionist.

Who is a Drummer?

Drummer Picture
Drummer Picture

The drummer is a musician who plays percussion, usually called drums. These musicians are a staple in jazz, pop, reggae, and other contemporary music, relying on a backbeat rhythm. These drums come in a wide variety and are made of a bass drum, tom-toms, a cymbal, high hit drum, and pedal. However, the popular ones have a high-hat. You play them using both afoot and your arms; you use the foot for playing the pedal, and the hands to beat the drum using sticks.

Therefore, basic drums have a high-hat, the pedal, drumsticks, two different mounted tom-toms, a larger additional floor tom-tom, a snare drum, and the ride and the crash cymbals. Professional drummers usually aggregate extra elements to the basic set as they mostly have different tastes. Thus, you may find multiple cymbals, many toms, and extra snare drums.

The Differences Between a Drummer and a Percussionist


The critical difference between drums and percussion is that a drummer plays drums while a percussionist plays typical percussion instruments not part of the traditional drumset. Therefore, drummers rely on drum sticks while percussionists use their hands to play hand drums.

Moreover, drummers play drums for contemporary music genres like jazz, pop, album covers, etc., while percussionists are famous in traditional music, mostly in concerts and orchestras. However, percussion and drums are similar in many ways.

For example, drummers may use another percussion in their set. Why? Because you can modify or mount some percussion instruments so that they can fit your drum set. For instance, the contemporary electric drum set can emulate any percussion instrument you want.

Also, it’s prevalent to see drummers using other percussion instruments as part of their set. Thus, some of these percussion instruments can be modified or mounted to fit a drum set perfectly.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Hardest Percussion Instruments to Play?

The difficulty of playing percussion depends on your work ethic and musical background. However, the tabla and the timpani are the most complex percussion instruments to play. The tabla is an East-Indian drum that requires a drumming language of bols. You can speak by mouth with each stroke that you make. Thus, the tabla requires word practice of the drumming pattern before applying it to the tabla. However, some Indian native percussionists may find it easy to play the tabla.

Timpani requires mastery of adjusting the drums as songs continue. Also, you should master how to strike the heads to produce exactly what sound you want.

What Does a Percussionist Do?

Since a percussionist can play instruments with excellence in rhythm, they can perform with symphony orchestras, teach their skills to other interested individuals on a fee, or play in a musical band. A brass band has three or two percussionists, while others may have more than three. Why? Because your band arrangement can call for a contemporary arrangement or a traditional arrangement.

Who Is the Most Famous Percussionist?

The most famous percussionists are male and female percussionists, jazz, classical, marching band, and rock. The world-famous female percussionist is Cindy Blackman, a well-known drummer, while in the runner up you have Sheila E.

The world-famous male Jazz percussionist is Buddy Rich, a bandleader, a gifted musician, a skilled dancer, and a storyteller. You have Elvin Jones in the runner-up. Plus, you have Martin Grubinger at the top for classical percussionists and Evelyn Glennie at the runner-up.

Moreover, Neil Peart is a rock percussionist well known for his flamboyant and precise style. Dave Grohl takes the runner-up. Finally, the most renowned marching band is the Ohio State University Marching Band, while the runner-up is The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps.

What Is a Percussionist in a Band?

The percussionist provides rhythm to musical pieces. Also, the percussionist sets the song’s tempo, which enables the other instruments to play at that rate. They may play instruments suited to provide harmony and melody like, for example, the harpists and the pianists because not all percussion instruments provide harmony, and not all percussion instruments provide the melody.

However, melodic instruments help more in providing melody than in rhythmic development. Some percussion instruments like the vibraphones and marimbas provide both melody and rhythm.

What do you think?

Avatar Of Andrea

Written by Andrea

Andrea is a music lover and an experienced drummer with more than 15 years of drumming with different bands and music projects, such as Seditius and Hermano & the Marines.


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