Hand drums or hand percussions are considered as among the popular traditional musical instruments. Hand drums are defined as instruments that produce sound by striking, shaking, beating it with hand, or a stick.
Are you looking forward to learning or playing a particular hand drum? This buying guide will provide you basic information about the different hand drums in the market today, along with their history and other important information that you need to know.
How Does Hand Drum Works?
Hand drums or percussion instruments are almost the same about one thing – it produces sound by being strike! The only difference is each hand drum comes with a specific pitch zone. Pitch zone refers to the sound a percussion instrument produces, such as low and high pitch. Low pitch is produced by hitting the head’s center, while high pitch is produced by hitting the head’s rim.
Hand drums are often classified according to regions where they came from. In this article, we will classify each percussion instrument by type. We will also try to identify drums from different regions and their likeness to one another despite their place of origin.
We will also consider the different shapes and frames of hand drums and as we begin, let’s take a look at first known hand percussion family.
Different Types of Hand Drums
1) Frame Drums
The first and perhaps the most popular type of hand drum is the frame drum. Frame drums came from the North Africa, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. Since its birth, it reached different places around the world. It is called differently in different countries such as doff, deff, daff, muzzar, riq/riqq, among others.
Frame drums come in different styles because each culture has adopted a different design that suits their culture. The basic quality of a frame drum is that it is made of a single drumhead that is wide. It comes with a wooden shell. It is very portable, easy to move around, and is very cheap in term of price.
Frame drums may look simple and easy to play, yet it comes with a very important role – to help build techniques in creating rhythms.
Since it is affordable and light, it is easy to own one, making it a favorite instrument among kids across all ages. A frame drum measures eight to sixteen inches.
The Djembe resembles a goblet. It is from Africa. This hand drum can produce different ranges of sounds. It can make sharp and high slaps and can do low or deep bass sound.
The history of Djembe dates back to the Mandinka people who are native of West Africa. Because of the wide range of sounds that this instrument can produce, it slowly gained popularity in the West. It is also a great accompaniment for any instrument because of its capability to produce loud sounds. In addition, it is very light and portable that anyone can just travel with it at ease.
There are different types of Djembe. One is made of fiberglass shells, and one is made of wood. Beginners are advised to use fiberglass Djember because of its durability and ease of use as compared to the wooden Djembe.
The required height is 24-inches, and the required head is 12 inches for general adults. The Djembe must be placed between your legs while keeping the head accessible when playing. The quality of the sound also depends on the quality of the Djembe you have. Cheap Djembes often produce horrible sound.
When it comes to large hand drums, the most popular one is the tabla. Have you seen an Indian movie where the actors are dancing and singing? They often use hand drums like tabla in their production.
A tabla has two parts – the tabla (Dayan) and the bayan. The Dayan is the one on the right part of the set and is the smaller drum. It produces higher pitch sound. It is made of wood hence the high pitch sound when hit. The bayan is the drum on the left and is the larger one. It is made of brass or copper.
Each drum comes with a head. The heads are often made of goatskin with a black patch. The black patch is made of different ingredients that give the tabla its unique sound. These ingredients include iron oxide and rice paste, among others.
Playing the tablas is very captivating because it requires superb hand techniques and chic finger movements.
The Cubans are not just popular with their Cuban cigar. They also have this famous hand drum called Bongos. Bongos is a traditional hand drum played. It is played while sitting with the drums in between the legs. The pair of drums are small ones.
Bongos can be played as a solo instrument or as a lead instrument. It is made of calfskin heads and wood shells. Modern Bongos are now made of synthetic shells with calfskin heads.
A Bongos is made of a pair of small and large drums. The small one is called macho, and the larger one is called hembra. Each drum can produce its unique sound. These hand drums can produce wide variety of sound making it a great accompaniment for any genre. There are Bongos that are specifically made to produce Latin sound, while others are made for pop ones.
The price of a Bongos dictates the quality of sound you will get when playing. Although some synthetic sets that are priced nicely can produce a good sound, cheap Bongos can be a waste of time and energy. If you are a beginner, invest in a good Bongos such as those made from a Siam oak.
One of the biggest hand drums or percussion instruments out there is the Congas. It ranges from 9 to 34 inches in size.
Congas can be played in a solo because smaller drums are considered as the singer when it comes to making a melody. Bigger drums are known for making lower rhythms.
Congas is a favorite among Latin drum players. It is made of wood staves, especially those that are with Afro-Cuban origin. It also comes with calfskin heads.
Modern Congas are made of fiberglass or wood and are designed with a synthetic head. Some come with skin heads. Congas that are made of fiberglass shells can make louder noise and are more preferred by players who are part of bands. If you want soft or mellow sound, you can get a Congas that is made of wood.
Beginners who are planning to start playing Congas should get a 10 to 12 inches Congas. The one with a synthetic head is highly favored among beginners as well.
Because of its size, Congas is not easy to move around with. It is not easy to play as well, unlike a Djembe or a tabla. It normally comes with a stand. Some players use a strap and attach the drum into their body for better positioning.
Originally from Peru, the Cajon is said to be developed by African slaves as a substitute to their natural African drums. The Cajon is made of wood, and it looks like a percussion box.
There are Cajons that originated from Cuba as well. These are said to be made of dresser drawers and fish crates. They were used as alternative hand drums.
Cajon is also found in Spain. It is used to play pop, fusion music, and flamenco.
This hand drum is played while sitting on top of it, then striking its surface. For resonance, it is designed with a hole at the back. The edge on the surface is loosened to produce variety of sounds when strike. Modern Cajons are now equipped with snare to give off a buzzing sound when played.
From wooden boxes, Cajons of today are now designed with stretched cords running on its surface. It allows the instrument to give off a buzzing sound when played. When played, it gives off a sound as any other string instrument such as guitar. For added effect, some users also add bells inside the cords.
Some call it Doumbek, some call it dumbak, darbuka, tombek, tablha, or derbeki, yet it describes one thing – it is a widely known drum in the Middle East.
The doumbek is goblet shaped. It is played by positioning it on top of the lap with the fingers and hands on top of the instrument. It is played in horizontal position, and it can produce variety of sounds.
This hand drum comes in different styles and shapes. The first versions of Doumbek, such as those from Egypt comes with Mylar heads that can be tuned. Tunable doumbek can be set up to produce higher volume. With higher volume, it can be used as an accompaniment even in a band where the noise is too loud.
If you want a thinner doumbek, you can check those Turkish doumbeks with tunable heads as well. It comes with a well-defined rim that produces metallic and booming sound. For an added variety of sound, Turkish doumbeks have jingles and cymbals inside.
If you are looking for a group of small hand drums, you can check these handpans. Handpans produce different tones and sounds, making it one of the instruments with rich sounds.
This type of hand drum is called The Hang. One popular version is from the Swiss company called PANArt. It was introduced in 2000 and called their creating as Hang Drum.
As some instrument makers copied The Hang, they started calling their productions as Handpans, while common drum users call it as hang Drums.
Handpans are very expensive because it is hand made. It can cost a few thousands in dollars. Did anyone offer you handpans for a thousand dollars? That could be fake and is made of metal.
The Steel Tongue Drums also belongs to the handpans family but are cheaper and more portable as compared to the original handpans. These small handpans are often equipped with tuning magnets and a piezo mic.