Before the development of the classic drum kit, drums and cymbals used in military and orchestral music settings were played separately by different percussionists. In the 1840s, percussionists began to experiment with foot pedals as a way to enable them to play more than one instrument, but these devices would not be mass-produced for another 75 years. By the 1860s, percussionists started combining multiple drums into a kit.

The bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, and other percussion instruments were all struck with hand-held drumsticks. Drummers in musical theater appeared in stage shows, where the budget for pit orchestras was often limited due to an insufficient amount of money able to purchase a full percussionist team. This contributed to the creation of the drum kit by developing techniques and devices that would enable one person to replace multiple percussionists.

Double-drumming was developed to enable one person to play both bass and snare drums with sticks, while the cymbals could be played by tapping the foot on a “low-boy”.

With this approach, the bass drum was usually played on beats one and three (in 4/4 time). While the music was first designed to accompany marching soldiers, this simple and straightforward drumming approach led to the birth of ragtime music, when the simple marching beats became more syncopated. This resulted in a greater swing and dance feel. The drum kit was initially referred to as a “trap set”, and from the late 1800s to the 1930s, drummers were referred to as “trap drummers”. By the 1870s, drummers were using an overhang pedal.

Most drummers in the 1870s preferred to do double-drumming without any pedal to play multiple drums, rather than use an overhang pedal.

Companies patented their pedal systems, such as that of drummer Edward “Dee Dee” Chandler of New Orleans in 1904 or 1905.[5] This led to the bass drum being played by percussionists standing and using their feet, hence the term “kick drum”.