Drum, musical instrument, the sound of which is produced by the vibration of a stretched membrane (it is thus classified as a membranophone within the larger category of percussion instruments). Basically, a drum is either a tube or a bowl of wood, metal, or pottery (the “shell”) covered at one or both ends by a membrane (the “head”), which is usually struck by a hand or stick. Friction drums, a class apart, are sounded by rubbing.
A drum is a type of musical instrument. In most cases it consists of a shell with a stretched skin, or covering. When the covering is hit with a hand or a stick, it vibrates and makes a sound. One form-called a slit drum-does not have a covering. It is made by hollowing out a log through a slit. All drums are percussion instruments.
Tubular drums assume many shapes (goblet, hourglass, barrel, etc.) and are considered shallow if the height is less than the diameter. If the drum is so shallow that the shell cannot act as a resonator for the sound (as in a tambourine), it is considered a frame drum.
Drums typically have conspicuous extramusical functions—civil, message transmitting, and, particularly, religious. Credited with magical powers, they are frequently held sacred. In many societies their manufacture involves ritual. In East Africa, offerings such as cattle are made to the royal kettledrums, which not only symbolize the king’s power and status but also offer him supernatural protection.
Drums figure prominently in the 21st century in numerous musical genres around the world. The word drum is sometimes used for nonmembrane struck instruments, such as steel drums, bronze drums, and slit drums (made of hollowed wood)