Steel tongue drums, also known as tank drums, are a wonderful option to get into music without the need to throw hours upon hours into technique drills and practice exercises. Easy to play and gorgeously sounding is the essence of this type of percussion.
Tank drums are a very recent invention, as the earliest inspiration for the creation of such percussion was something that was called a whale drum. The tank drum received its name because it can be easily made out of an exhausted propane tank. The bottom of it is cut off, and the special “tongues” are cut to produces various pitches.
The vibration of tongues makes the whole instrument resonate and amplify the sound. Such percussion has a distinct and unforgettable sound that makes me wonder how humankind did not come up with this instrument earlier.
In any case, it is a fun and engaging instrument, and I want to share this idea with other people. That’s why I am writing this article: to help you get started on your musical journey.
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Steel tongue drums are very popular within drum circles, spiritual healing and yoga meditation. Steel tongue drums are similar to hang drums and they belong to the idiophone family of musical instruments. They produce calming and ethereal sounds and they are very easy to play thanks to the fixed tuning of the tongues.
You do not need years of training or countless hours of practice to create wonderful sounds with a steel tongue drum! This makes them perfect gifts for children to help allow them to explore their creativity.
Steel tongue drums are also very unique with their timbre and resonance. You do not hear an instrument like this very often, and the melodies of a steel tongue drum are always met with surprise and awe.
Steel tongue drums vary in price, size and sound. You can buy an affordable alloy steel tongue drum for relatively little money, or you can purchase a beautiful handcrafted instrument that will cost significantly more.
The sounds of an expensive steel tongue drum will be smoother, more accurately tuned and the quality of the instrument itself will be far better.
As is the case with most musical instruments, you can expect what you pay for. A cheaper musical instrument will compromise on quality and features compared to a top of the range instrument.
But you can certainly achieve a balance with quality mass-produced models such as the Meinl Sonic Energy and Pearl Awakening Series tongue drums; which both deliver beautiful and expressive melodies and are well-made instruments.
When buying the best steel tongue drum, you’ll be investing in an instrument that has a fixed tuning range, and will have a selection of notes in a particular key.
This makes them very enjoyable and easy to play, no matter what skill level you possess. But it is also restrictive to what you can play.
My best piece of advice is to listen and explore the sounds of a steel tongue drum, and choose the instrument you like the sound of the most. Listen to the notes in the key and the timbre and resonance of the instrument, and see what’s most appealing to you!
I personally love the steel tongue drum in the key of Celtic D Minor. I think it has a very mystical and melancholic sound that I’m really drawn to. It produces beautiful harmonics and the notes resonate magnificently together.
A steel tongue drum is perfect for solo recitals, recording music, performing live, spiritual drumming, meditative practice and much more. They’re definitely one of my new favourite instruments that produce calming yet captivating sounds.
Q:How does a tongue drum work?
The way a tongue drum works is by taking a piece of steel around 20 lbs and creating a convex shape out of them which is then hand cut by manufacturers to have a various number of notes on it, the number of notes could vary between 4 and 14.
As for the tuning of the tongues, each tongue produces a different note according to it’s size, which is then assigned to a certain music scale.
Most tongue drums are assigned to the C major scale.
As for how the music is produced, when you hit the tongue, it vibrates at a certain frequency inside the drum, this vibration keeps hitting the different interior walls, which intensifies the sound and keeps it sustained for longer durations.
Normally a scale would be tuned as the following example.
C, bottom right
D, bottom left
E, middle right
F, middle left
G, top right
A, top left
and so forth.
Sometimes major and minor notes are included depending on the scale.
Q:How do you play steel tongue drums?
To properly play a steel tongue drum, First of all, one should strike the note in the middle of the tongue, this will produce the most sound and most quality. The second part is to use mallets which ensure higher accuracy and power.
Then all you have to do is tap the notes enough times until you get the hang of it.Which is easy and hardly takes any time at all.You will be able to play beautiful music in no time.
You can play tongue drums with your hands and fingers
It is generally known that you can use your fingers on tongue drums or you can use mallets. However most of them don’t support the finger technique as you would expect them to. In fact, if tapping the instrument with fingers will produce very weak sounds.
If you tap the instrument, you will get weak notes, which don’t produce a lot of reverb and don’t have much sustain. This means that you will be missing out on the greatest qualities of the tongue drum. So, you will either have to get very good at striking it with enough power with your fingers. Or you can use the mallets and automatically get the best sounds.
Tongue drums and Handpans sound the same
The only thing that is similar between a tongue drum and a handpan are their shape and the number of notes possible on them.
Apart from that, you will notice a great difference in sounds, how you create the sounds, and what you use to make them.
The sounds in a tongue drum are far more reverbed, meaning that the sound will last for a long duration of time for each time you hit a note. Depending on the tongue drum it can last anywhere between 4 and 10 seconds at a time. This helps keep the melody going and can have many advantages.
The handpan however, produces stronger and more clear noises which last for a lower duration of time, from around 1 to 4 seconds.
Handpans require a more on hand application to get the best out of it. And you require a special striking technique with your hands to make the sound clear.
On the other hand, a tongue drum doesn’t really need a lot of skill to produce the noise. That is because you will be using mallets which perfectly produce the vibrations onto the instrument.
Tongue drums keep their tuning for ever
Since tongue drums produce melodies when applying pressure on to them through tapping with a mallet. The level of pressure afflicted to the tongue drum is not so severe. That is why it is capable of maintaining its form for such long amounts of time.
But, if you consistently play on the tongue drum constantly and apply the same small force a crazy amount of times during the years. The structure of the tongue drum will subtly change, making the note to go out slightly of tune.
In general you don’t have to worry about the tuning of your tongue drums for years, as long as you don’t hit it hard or drop it.
If you notice it is out of tune, then you can contact the manufacturer to get it back in tune for you. Or, by the time it is out of tune. You should be ready to buy the next option that requires more skills.
Even if you don’t know anything about tongue drums, you can still make a smart buying decision with the right information in hand. At Swipereviews, we perform extensive research in every product category. To avoid bias, we always decline offers from manufacturers for “free” samples. We want to be your go-to source for honest, thorough product reviews you can trust.t