Tongue Drum: Everything You Need to Know to Choose Perfect Instrument

The percussion family consists of instruments of a wide variety of shapes. One of the unique examples is steel tongue drums. They have an unusual design, and even a kid can play them. In this article, you will learn about what these devices are used for, how to choose the right model, and how to maintain it.

Definition and Application

Tongue drums look very different from the usual acoustic drums. They are hollow metal or wooden bowls with carved petals or tongues of various shapes. This instrument has rather deep roots, but in the form we know it now, it appeared in the late 90s. Thanks to their pleasant soothing sound, today they are used for meditation, sound therapy, chakra cleansing, working with children, and, of course, creating music.

How to Choose

If it is your first time choosing steel tongue drums, you can watch Yinama, Asmuse, Muslady, and Panda drum reviews online, or make your own choice using our guide. Here are five main criteria to look out for first.

1. Scale

There are two types of such instruments: major and minor. You should choose them depending on what kind of mood you want to get. Major ones create a light, refreshing vibe, and minor ones immerse you in a more thoughtful, meditative state. There are also double-sided models in which both types are harmoniously combined.

 

Each scale is represented by a different number of notes: from 6 to 8 and more. If you want to recreate specific moods, pay attention to particular scales. For example, the Akebono (oriental) one is suitable for relaxation and sound therapy. For practicing music in popular styles, the Pentatonic scales are better suited.

2. Size and weight

This parameter depends on the purpose for which you buy the instrument. Standard diameters are 5.5, 8, 12, and 14 inches. What is their difference? Firstly, the sound. The smaller the device, the louder and more melodic it is. The larger it is, the deeper, softer, and bass the sound. Secondly, the weight depends on the size. The wider the device, the heavier it is. Some models can weigh around 13 pounds. They are difficult to carry or transport and are not suitable for journeys.

 

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If you are a professional musician or meditation practitioner, it is better to have several drums of different sizes and scales. It will expand your musical language, and you will be able to use them in various settings and situations.

3. Tongue shape

There are two main types of tongues: square and rounded. The first ones sound more sharply, distinctly, while the latter gives a softer sound. In addition to the tongues themselves, the sound is also affected by extra holes. They can provide additional resonance or, conversely, neutralize it. Thus, an excellent sounding instrument is the right combination of tongues and holes. So often, a fancy appearance is not only a beautiful visual component but also a well-thought-out functionality.

4. Design

The design of drums can be very different. Many of these instruments have engravings. They can be both decorative and have a sacred meaning associated with spiritual practices. Some manufacturers apply unique engraving at the customers’ requests.

 

Also, instruments differ in color. It depends on the type of final treating:

 

  • Bluing. The drum is covered with oil, which turns golden brown after heat treatment.
  • Firing. Metal devices are heat-treated without oil, which causes blue-violet tints to appear on them.
  • Zinc coating gives a light yellow color with iridescent stains. It is the most impact-resistant option.

 

All drums are also treated with varnish to protect against corrosion and other external influences regardless of the coating type.

5. Material

Drums can be made of metal (alloy or regular steel) and wood. In general, metal ones resonate similarly to each other. Manufacturers can make them in various sizes and designs. Wooden products are usually made in the form of a box. At the same time, the wood species can be very different: spruce, cedar, elm, canary wood, and so on. Such devices have a more natural look since manufacturers usually do not paint them but cover them with natural oil and rub them with beeswax. Note that although metal and wood drums sound nice, they give very different sounds. Therefore, it is advisable to listen to them in person before buying.

How to Play

The great thing about steel tongue drums is that you don’t need any pro skills to master them. These instruments are well and harmoniously tuned so that you can tap them as you feel. The sound will change depending on the way you do it.

 

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If you want a soft, clean sound, use mallets (sticks with soft tips). They are especially great for aspiring musicians. Playing with your bare hands (using fingers, knuckles, and palms) will help you better control vibrations. Alternatively, you can use one of your hands to “muffle” several tongues to achieve special intonation.

How to Maintain

Even though such drums are rather simple instruments, you still need to care for them properly:

 

  • Carry them in soft bags or cases and try not to drop them to protect them from scratches and dents.
  • Especially take care of tongues from blows, as it will significantly affect the device sound. To avoid it, remove rings, bracelets, and watches when playing the drum.
  • Manufacturers also recommend keeping products away from sudden changes in temperature and moisture to protect them from corrosion.
  • Additionally, these drums can be wiped with oilcloth and then wiped dry once every two to three weeks. This care will provide reliable protection against rust.

Let Your Life Sound New

A tongue drum is an unusual instrument with a unique sound that will be easy for you to master. It is ideal not only for musicians but also for those who look for calm and meditative relaxation. Thanks to its fancy appearance, it can become an excellent decoration for your interior. If you have any experience with this device, please tell us about it in the comments. How did you choose your drum?

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