A Comprehensive Guide of Steel Tongue Drum

A Comprehensive Guide of Steel Tongue Drum

As a means of artistic expression, music has a long and illustrious history. The musical instruments our ancestors used to play music were made of logs, sticks, bamboo, and even animal bones. Musicians of today continue to experiment and find new ways to create lovely melodies. The steel tongue drum is an example of a newly invented instrument. Lately, the music industry has given rise to a new musical instrument that resembles a spaceship with a luscious, delicate voice.

There’s no denying that the steel tongue drum is an instrument that should be tried by everybody, regardless of their level of musical knowledge. Everyone can play this instrument because it’s both beautiful and easy to play. With a steel tongue drum, you don’t need years of practice or thousands of dollars to get started.

From the steel tongue drum’s origination to the best way to play it, this article has it all. Let’s get this party started!


What Is the Steel Tongue Drum?

The steel tongue drum is part of the idiophone category of drumming instruments.  No strings, membranes, or external resonators are needed because the instrument’s substance makes the music itself. Tank drums, Hank drums, and tongue drums are also other names for it.

This flying saucer-like object has a distinct, pleasant sound that comes from striking the “tongues.” Each instrument has a varying number of tongues, and each produces a unique tone.


What Is the Origin of Steel Tongue Drums?

Archaeological evidence suggests that idiophones are among the earliest known musical instruments. They were carved or made from wood or bamboo by our ancestors in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Oceania thousands of years ago. These “slit drums” have slits on the top and resemble a box. A few of the earliest forerunners of the steel tongue drum include the African log drum and the Aztec teponaztli drum.

Despite its historical origins, the steel tongue drum is a relatively modern instrument. In 2007, Dennis Havlena completed his first tuned steel tongue drum, which he called the “Hank Drum.” The concept is straightforward: cut the bottoms off two tanks, fuse them, and then cut off the tongues, the length, and width of which create the tone.

Some people still make them this way, but there are also modern industrial manufacturing procedures.


What Are the Different Types of Steel Tongue Drum?

A variety of tongue drums are available, each with a distinct material used to make them. Various metals, alloys, and woods can be used to create them. The sound, shape, and size of steel, metal and alloy steel drums are closely related.

It is common for steel tongue drums to be coated with corrosion-resistant coatings to protect them from being damaged. Steel drums may be painted whatever color you want and etched with any design, making them more customizable than their wooden counterparts.

Steel tongue drums are available in a wide range of scales, and more recently, multi-scale variants have entered the market, allowing users to adjust the tongue drum to a variety of different scales. With this technique, you can play a variety of scales without having to purchase several tongue drums.

Furthermore, electro-acoustic variants can be connected to an amplifier or a sound card to create an infinite variety of effects (such as delay and looper).


How to Play Steel Tongue Drums?

All of the tongue drums operate on a similar principle. The melody is formed by blending the strokes of different notes, just like on any other musical instrument. You can produce a melody by tapping the steel tongues in a different order.

Sound production is extremely different while playing steel tongue drums than a normal drum, which can only create one or two notes and has a very limited resonance. There are between five and eleven notes on the tongue drum. It’s more like playing the glockenspiel when you’re playing the steel tongue drum.

The steel tongue drum’s unique playing style distinguishes it apart from other instruments. Music theory, rhythm, and percussion are not required to play a lovely melody on a steel tongue drum. Every single note sounds perfect when played in harmony with the others. You have the flexibility of using mallets or your hands to play this instrument.


What Are the Uses of Steel Tongue Drums?

Steel tongue drums are better suited for solo performance than classical drums. This instrument is typically played alone or in a circle with other people for relaxation.

Steel tongue drums can be found in various settings, from a jam session with friends to a therapeutic process with a healthcare professional.  Even if you’re not a conventional musician, you can use it to attain inner calm.

Meditation and the use of steel tongue drums can promote healing. With practice, you will learn how to control your breathing while playing the tongue drums.   As your mind and body relax, you can focus on the drum’s tones, enabling your mind and body to become one with the rhythm.

Steel tongue drums can also be used in yoga as a means of clearing the mind and spirit. Your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being benefits from listening to tongue drums while practicing yoga. Incorporating a steel tongue drum into your yoga routine improves your breathing techniques and provides you with a point of focus.

Even though these instruments are rarely used in musical ensembles, it is conceivable to do so. Drum circles and jam sessions can benefit from the addition of steel tongue drums, which can create new melodies. No “poor” note can be played with tongue drums because of their complementing scale. Because of this, they are a terrific instrument for experimenting, creating new sounds, and having fun.


How to Pick a Steel Tongue Drum?

As a beginner, you’re probably thinking about the greatest steel tongue drum option for you if you’re looking. Now it’s up to you. To begin with, we suggest you to choose a smaller, 5-8-inch drum with 8 tones, which is less expensive and easier to use.

As a general rule, we say start with a 10-inch drum that has at least 10 notes. Mostly, this is due to two factors. The first is that if you’re serious about learning to play it, it doesn’t matter if you have 8 or 11 tones at your disposal.

Secondly, it’s a good idea to acquire a larger drum because you’ll eventually master the smaller one and want to perform on a larger and better one.

Your first choice to purchase a smaller and more inexpensive steel tongue drum will not be so cheap. As a result, you’ll be paying twice as much in the long run.


How Much Do Steel Tongue Drums Cost?

Average prices for a steel tongue drum can range anywhere from $30 to $250 on Amazon, Etsy, and other well-known online marketplaces. Prices vary greatly depending on the drum’s size. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $60 for a 5 or 6-inch model when it comes to tongue drums. Typical 12- to 14-inch models cost between $110 and $250. It’s possible to cost as much as $800 for a high-end model, like the Rav Vast Drum.


Final Thoughts

There should be no hardship involved in composing music; it should be enjoyable and spontaneous. Simple musical instruments like steel tongue drums are significant because of this reason.

The steel tongue drum is a wonderful instrument for people of all skill levels, and it can be a wonderfully liberating experience for any novice drummer. If you buy a tongue drum from an artisan or an internet producer, please remember that you’re investing in more than just an instrument. It’s a great way to unwind, have fun, and reconnect with your emotional needs. In today’s hyper-connected society, such soothing experiences are essential for our mental well-being.

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