Military drums

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A Chinese zhangu.
The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps re-enacts a scene from the American Revolution.
Russian military drummers, 2010

Military drums or war drums are all kinds of drums and membranophones that have been used for martial music, including military communications, as well as drill, honors music and military ceremonies.


Among ancient war drums that can be mentioned, junjung was used by the Serer people in West Africa. The Rigveda describes the war drum as the fist of Indra.[1]

In early medieval Europe, the use of the drum for military purposes did not begin until the crusades.[2] (p. 19) [3] The European armies first encountered them used by the Islamic military forces, who used primarily their traditional kettledrums, and found that the sound would particularly affect the Crusader's horses, who had not previously encountered them. By the early 13th century the Crusaders used them also.

The snare drum was taken into use in 13th century Europe, to rally troops, and to demoralize the enemy.[4]

A military tattoo was originally a drum signal for soldiers' curfew. Other uses for military drums have been recruiting and calling for parley.[5]

Ancient Fife and Drum Corps, as well as modern drum corps have been used by early modern armies for signalling and ceremonies, occasionally played by drummer boys in conflicts such as the American Civil War.

Over a period of time, Snare drums, as well as timpani, have been adopted into civilian classical and popular music.


In modern times, the term war drums is used as a metaphor for preparation for war.[6][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ John Norris, Marching to the Drums: A History of Military Drums and Drummers. Stround, Gloucestershire : Spellmount, 2012. ISBN 978-0752468792
  3. ^ David Nicolle, Medieval Warfare Source Book. London 1995-6.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-13. Retrieved 2012-10-31.  University of Minnesota on war drums
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^