If you are looking for an original, intuitive and addictive musical instrument, the tongue drum is for you! Easy to handle, this percussion instrument offers a variety of melodies. From meditative and soothing sounds to more rhythmic and catchy percussions, the steel tongue drum deserves to be known. If you don't know this unusual instrument yet, follow the guide:
What is a tongue drum?
A steel tongue drum is a musical instrument of the idiophone (or autophone) family. It is a percussion instrument, whose sound comes from the material itself. It is also called a tank drum, hank drum or simply tongue drum. To play it, one taps on it with the hands and/or with an object, such as mallets or sticks.
Even though its ancestors have been around for a long time, the new tongue drum models bring it up to date.
Dennis Havlena : the inventor of the modern steel tongue drum
The invention of the modern tongue drum is credited to Dennis Havlena, a music enthusiast with many innovative instruments to his credit. He created the hank drum in 2007, inspired by Felle Vega's Tambiro and Jim Doble's Whale Drum.
To do this, he used an empty 20-pound propane tank. He cut slats of various sizes into it, each producing a different sound when struck. During the percussion, the slat vibrated and the sound produced resonated in the canister. This is how the hank drum was born!
In the end, the tongue drum combines the physical properties of the tambiro with the sounds of the hang drum. The latter is another percussion instrument, composed of two metal cups attached together, which are hammered. The name "hank drum" is a combination of "hang" and "tank".
Today, this musical instrument is more and more widespread. Having quickly gained in popularity, it has become accessible and there is a wide variety of models. The tongue drum is also more affordable than the hang drum, which is interesting!
Many models of steel tongue drums
On the market, you will find different types of tongue drums. They have various designs, which offer very specific sounds. In practice, the differences are on several levels:
- The format: generally round (more rarely rectangular), the tongue drum has more or less high edges.
- The material: most often, these instruments are made of stainless steel. But they are also made of wood.
- The size, ranging from 20 to 35 cm in diameter, impacts the resonance.
- The slats: they are cut differently from one model to another, to offer specific renderings. The more slats a tongue drum has, the more notes it has.
Several scales, for a customized atmosphere
A tongue drum is usually part of a scale, which offers different sound rendering. Here are the scales you can find:
- The minor scale: softer and more calming, it is ideal for creating a relaxing atmosphere, particularly conducive to meditation.
- The major scale: producing a deeper and more intense sound, it is perfect for a festive, joyful and warm atmosphere.
- The pentatonic scale: producing a upbeat and more energizing sound, it is perfect for bringing positive energy around you.
- The multi-scale tongue drum: as its name indicates, this unique instrument allows you to access the major, minor and pentatonic scales at the same time. Thus, you can vary the pleasures according to your desires.
If you are not yet familiar with the steel tongue drum, it is best to start with a multi-scale model, such as the Beat Root. This versatile instrument features magnets for easy and efficient tuning.
The electro-acoustic steel tongue drum
Note that there are also electro-acoustic models. Equipped with a built-in microphone and a jack, these steel tongue drums allow you to connect the instrument to an amp or a sound card. It is the same principle as an electric guitar.
This way you can add lots of extra effects (delay, looper, modulation, reverbs, etc.) and create even more unique sounds. It also gives you the possibility to record your drums for editing... or just for fun.
If you want to start playing the steel tongue drum, we recommend you to choose a multi-scale model. Versatile and intuitive, the one from Beat Root will be easy to handle. Thanks to it intuitive tuning system, you will be able to create the atmosphere you want.