A drummer is a musician who plays drums, which includes a drum kit ("drum set" or "trap set", including cymbals) and accessory-based hardware which includes an assortment of pedals and standing support mechanisms, marching percussion or any musical instrument that is struck within the context of a wide assortment of musical genres. The term percussionist applies to a musician who performs struck musical instruments of numerous diverse shapes, sizes and applications. Most contemporary western ensembles bands for rock, pop, jazz, R&B etc. include a drummer for purposes including timekeeping and embellishing the musical timbre. Most drummers of this particular designation work within the context of a larger contingent (a.k.a. rhythm section) that may also include, keyboard (a percussion instrument) or guitar, auxiliary percussion (often of non western origin) and bass (bass viol or electric). Said ensembles may also include melodic based mallet percussion including: vibraphone, marimba or xylophone. The rhythm section, being the core metronomic foundation with which other melodic instruments, including voices, may present the harmonic/melodic portion of the material.
First and foremost, a drummer is a musician that performs music on the multi-percussion instrument known as the drum set, which usually consists of a bass drum (with pedal), a floor tom, tom-toms, a snare drum, hi-hats, a ride cymbal, and a crash cymbal.
In popular music, the primary function of the drummer is to "keep time" or provide a steady tempo and rhythmic foundation. However, in other musical styles, such as world, jazz, classical, and electronica, the function of a drummer is often shifted from "time keeper" to soloist, whereby the main melody becomes the rhythmic development generated by the drummer or percussionist.
There are many tools that a drummer can use for either timekeeping or soloing. These include cymbals (china, crash, ride, splash, hi-hats, etc.), snare, toms, auxiliary percussion (bells, Latin drums, cowbells, temple blocks) and many others. Also there are single, double, and triple bass pedals for the bass drum.
Before motorized transport became widespread, drummers played a key role in military conflicts. Military drummers provided drum cadences that set a steady marching pace and elevated troop morale on the battlefield. In some armies drums also assisted in combat by keeping cadence for firing and loading drills with muzzle loading guns. Military drummers were also employed on the parade field, when troops passed in review, and in various ceremonies including ominous drum rolls accompanying disciplinary punishments. Children also served as drummer boys well into the nineteenth century, though less commonly than is popularly assumed; due to the nature of the job, experienced older men were preferred.
In modern times, drummers are not employed in battle, but their ceremonial duties continue. Typically buglers and drummers mass under a sergeant-drummer and during marches alternately perform with the regiment or battalion ensembles.
Military-based musical percussion traditions were not limited exclusively to the western world. When Emir Osman I was appointed commander of the Turkish army on the Byzantine border in the late 13th century, he was symbolically installed via a handover of musical instruments by the Seldjuk sultan. In the Ottoman Empire, the size of a military band reflected the rank of its commander in chief: the largest band was reserved for the Sultan (viz. his Grand Vizier when taking the field). It included various percussion instruments, often adopted in European military music (as 'Janissary music'). The pitched bass drum is still known in some languages as the Turkish Drum.
The drumline is a type of marching ensemble descended from military drummers, and can be arranged as a performance of a drum, a group of drummers, or as a part of a larger marching band. Their uniforms will often have a military style and a fancy hat. In recent times, it is more common to see drummers in parades wearing costumes with an African, Asian, Latin, Native American, or tribal look and sound.
Various indigenous cultures use the drum to create a sense of unity with others especially during recreational events. The drum also helps in prayers and meditations.