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A drummer is a person who plays drums, particularly a drum kit ("drum set" or "trap set", which will also include cymbals), marching percussion or hand drums. The term percussionist applies to a musician performing on any percussion instrument, but usually refers to one who plays classical or Latin percussion. Most bands for Rock, Pop, Jazz, R&B etc. include a drummer in their lineup, who conveys the rhythm of the music by using the drums of the drum kit to play the beat of the song, which is repeated in every bar, with added drum fills, particularly just before changes in the song.

Some such drummers are session musicians and are not fixed to a particular band, working with various musical acts. Though percussion notation is some times used, many drummers create and memorise the drum beats themselves without songwriting credit. Drum beats vary in speed, volume and complexity depending on the genre of music, but are normally designed to lay down the rhythm and drive the music along. Drummers usually work with a bassist to make up a rhythm section.


In the military

Before motorized transport became widespread, drummers played a key role in military conflicts. The drum cadences provided set a steady marching pace, better than often accompanying wind instruments such as flutes (signal instruments such as bugles have another primary function), and kept up the troops' 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. In some cases drummers had the duty of administering those punishments.

Drummers are no longer employed in battle, but their ceremonial duties continue. Typically the buglers and drummers belonging to the companies (which often have one of each) are massed under the sergeant-drummer and on the march play alternately with the band of a regiment or battalion.

Even more than in Europe (and its (ex-)colonies), military music was a well-established tradition in the Orient. When Emir Osman I was appointed commander of the Turkish army on the Byzantine border in the late 13th century, he was symbolically installed by the handover of musical instruments by the Seldjuk sultan. In the Ottoman Empire, the size of the military band reflected the rank of the commander in chief: the largest were reserved for the Sultan (viz. his Grand Vizier when taking the field). It included various percussion instruments, which also became generally adopted in European military music (as 'Janissary music' though until then it was never specifically associated with those Turkish troops) after the failed siege of Vienna which started a general Turkish fashion. The pitched bass drum is still known in some languages as the Turkish Drum. Alternatively, in old English, Tabert is champion of the people, or great leader, i.e. a great drummer.

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