I play drums [a plural-noun music instrument without 'the']

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
So far the discussion about 'play + the + (the name of a musical instrument)' as opposed to 'play + (the name of a musical instrument)' has been hotly held at places (and in this forum too). It seems the version without 'the' is used mainly in North America in one of the following settings:
  1. when you are talking about what part in a band, an orchestra, etc. you play ('I play flute in the orchestra'),
  2. when you are answering a question like 'What do you do for a living?' (I play piano at Hiro's), and
  3. when you are saying that you are 'practicing' the instrument. ('I'm glad I played piano every day as a kid. I couldn't have played so well now without that experience')
I want to pick your brain with regard to 'drums' and 'drum set.' Do the same weak tendency for the above apply to this as well? Maybe I should ask the speakers of North American English ....

The reason I'm asking this separately from other already-existing threads is this is reference to a plural noun as a whole. Most other instruments are singular: guitar, piano, oboe, etc.

Any and all comments would be welcome.

Edit: I omitted 'n't' when I first wrote this query.
 
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  • HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi, Glasguensis.

    I see. So you might hear such utterances as (among North American English speakers):

    [1]
    A: So what's your occupation?
    B: Well, I play drums at a bar.

    [2]
    Do you play drums in a band with other players?

    [3]
    I couldn't be a professional drummer if I hadn't played drums for hours every day when I was in primary school, middle school and high school. I played them for a total of twelve years before I became a professional.
     
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    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    And they are without the definite article. [Again, I made an error. I forgot to place 'such' before 'utterances.' I added it]
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Would you say 'Right now I'm playing drums' to mean 'Right now I'm practicing it'? And would you say 'I played drums last night' to mean 'I practiced it last night'?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Right, but if you hear 'Right now I'm playing drums' (without 'the') wouldn't you rather think the speaker is not just playing the drums but he is doing it to practice it? And with 'I played drums last night' (without 'the') wouldn't you rather imagine he just not played the drums but he did it to practice it?
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Right, but if you hear 'Right now I'm playing drums' (without 'the') wouldn't you rather think the speaker is not just playing the drums but he is doing it to practice it? And with 'I played drums last night' (without 'the') wouldn't you rather imagine he just not played the drums but he did it to practice it?
    No, it wouldn't suggest that to me at all. Leaving out the definite article would just sound like a more AE way of speaking and putting it in would be a BrE tendency.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi, cando. Yes, it is an AE way indeed. The-dropping has a few interpretations, and I wondered these could sound right in AE and connote 'practice'? Any AE speaker on this thread?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Hi, cando. Yes, it is an AE way indeed. The-dropping has a few interpretations, and I wondered these could sound right in AE and connote 'practice'? Any AE speaker on this thread?
    I've been in NA for 45 years, mostly in the US and I don't see any link between article usage and the distinction between playing and practising.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "The drums" sometimes refers to a trap set (also known as a drum kit - the set of drums you see someone sitting behind in a rock band), while "drums" might be any combinations of percussion instruments.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    3. when you are saying that you are 'practicing' the instrument. ('I'm glad I played piano every day as a kid. I couldn't have played so well now without that experience')
    Everyone, after re-reading what I read to include the 'practice' factor as a condition for the 'the-less' usage, I would like to take it back. I think I misinterpreted the reading.

    Hiro
     
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