I am often asked about what drum to buy. The answer depends upon what you plan to do with it. Will you be singing into it? Will you use it outdoors? Do you plan to play it by hand or with a mallet? I have several drums that I use for different purposes. I’ll show photos and tell stories to help you make an informed decision about what drum is right for you.
On the left is a photo of a deer skin frame drum that my husband bought from a Native American craftsman of the Lakota tribe at the Nashville PowWow several years ago. It was the first drum I ever owned and it is still very special to me in my shamanic work. I feel a connection with my Native American ancestors when I play this drum in ceremony. This drum sounds great when a mallet is used but it does not have a good “echo” for singing.
Forever a loving supporter of my ministry, my husband gave me a bodhran as a Christmas gift. It is great for connecting with my Celtic roots. Even though the head is made of goat skin it has a good resonance for singing and makes a great sound if a mallet is used. I’ve also played it with my bare hand.
A Celtic musician would play a Bodhran with a tipper. This is a skill that I was not led to master but I still love to watch an expert play a Celtic drum.
Information about natural skin drums
- An animal is killed to create the drum
- The skin can mold if exposed to prolonged moisture
- The tone alters with temperature and humidity
- An echo effect is not typically produced with a skin drum unless the head is very tight
I use my frame drum for singing light language. Therefore I needed one that had a good resonance and makes an echoing sound. You can hear this effect in my video below. I hold the drum upright on my left side and sing into it and to play it with my right hand. This drum is heavy. I soon found that holding for several songs was tiring, and was causing my left shoulder to ache and become stiff. I had to find another option.
That’s when I bought an inexpensive 22″ Remo with a synthetic head. Even though it wasn’t that heavy, I found its large size cumbersome to hold vertically upright It responds well to a mallet, but it warped when I left it on the back porch during the summer heat. Now makes a “twang” that I don’t much care for. I kept it because I love the symbols that embellish this one. However, painting a drum head reduces its echo effect.
Still dealing with muscle fatigue in my left shoulder, I bought a 16″ Remo with a synthetic head. It is light weight and responds well to being played with a mallet or by hand. But it didn’t have as much echo as I had hoped.
I knew that a drum could call itself to me. Therefore, the next drum I purchased in person at Fork’s Drum Closet in Nashville. This drum and my djembe (below) are my favorites. I use them most often for my galactic shaman work. This one comes out to play in almost every session or recording I do. Its light weight makes it easy to carry and hold upright. I’ve packed it in my luggage and taken it on trips many times.
The djeme was an “impulsive” but Spirit-led purchase at Fork’s Drum Closet. I had met some friends there who wanted to buy a drum to use in our spring gathering in 2016. While I had not planned to purchase a drum that day, I felt drawn to play a djembe while waiting for the others to finish making their purchases. One tap on the drum and I knew it had to go home with me. It has a great sound and with its 10″ head, it is easy to carry and play. Some larger djembes are heavy and require a more “forceful” hit to produce a good sound.
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas about what drum best suits your needs. Happy drumming and singing!