A steel drum is something you need to try out. And it doesn’t matter whether you have a long experience in music or not.
It is a simple item, yet it produces some of the most beautiful sounds you have ever heard.
And you don’t even require years to train, or a lot of money to get one.
It is not an electronic instrument. It is mechanical, yet it is quite epic.
And this inspired me to write a guide on them. And perhaps you will find one right for you in the reviews that follow.
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What is a tongue drum?
A tongue drum is also referred to as a steel drum, hank drum, or steel drum is a concept that started in 2007, inspired by the hang drum.
It is a percussion instrument that features in the idiophone group. And so you know, idiophones are musical instruments that produce their sound through the vibration of its material. This means it does not require, strings, membranes of external resonators.
It is one of the most melodic percussion instruments you will find on the market. And for this reason, it has been highly appreciated for the relaxing sound it produces and how easy it plays.
You don’t require any particular skills or technique to play the tongue drum. It is something just anyone can pick up and begin playing.
Note that the number of slats or ‘tongues‘is equal to the number of notes you get from your tongue drum. And you can use your hands to play if you are the ‘hands-on’ type. And if not, you can still use mallets.
Even though the idea was started as a serious thing in 2007, its history dates back to the old days. It may have been forgotten until a few years ago, where it seems to have come back with a vengeance.
This particular interest is inspired by the propane tank versions, which are DIY. You can easily cut off the bottoms to two tanks and weld them together. Then cut out the tongues in different lengths on one side.
Which tongue drum is made for me?
As stated above, you can make your own tongue drum with specifications that meet your needs. But for more advanced options, you will have to buy.
There are tongue drums with varying tones, including major scales, minor, Akebono, and pentatonic, among many others.
Choosing among these scales can be very overwhelming. You cannot have them all, which means you have to sacrifice all others for one. Hence, it takes long and deep thoughts to purchase. Besides, this is an instrument you will own for years.
Hence, finding the right tongue drum is pretty much a matter of preference. However, you consider one in terms of scales. Picking only scales means you will not have anything else in your musical life unless you buy several.
It was traditionally built that way anyway until Beat Root introduced their revolutionary tunable tongue drum. This changed everything, and I think it fits caters for all needs.
The Beat Root tunable tongue drum
Beat Root has become a revolutionary brand for the tongue drum. They introduce the first tunable and electro-acoustic tongue drum in 2018.
This device combines six scales in one place. The tongue drum features an innovative tuning system that lets you switch from one scale to another with ease.
And for this reason, you don’t have to think too much about choosing only one scale. The Beat Root tunable tongue drum has got you covered. Whenever and wherever you want to play, you will always find the right scale.
6 Best Steel tongue drums Reviewed
The Beat Root Multi-Scale tongue drum is one of the best choices out there. It comes with an incredible tuning system that allows the player to choose between six varying scales.
As stated above, this is a revolutionary steel tongue drum. It uses a magnet to change the scales.
Also, it features a built-in microphone and a ¼ inch jack connection. Hence you can use it with an amp, live shows, or for recording.
It comes with impressive sounds and overtones. Also, its looks are quite attractive. The producers have included a high-quality carrying bag.
If you don’t want to be selling your tongue drum every time to get another, then consider this versatility of this item. The built-in piezo microphone lets you use an amplifier.
You can do so much with this drum.
Asmuse 10-inch steel tongue drum represents the best balance between quality and price. It is a beautifully created drum that offers a reach tone with quality tuning.
It is tuned to the F major pentatonic. It does not give you great versatility as the Beat Root above, but it sounds wonderful for the overtone of a quality tongue drum.
This drum offers a great styling choice. It is a traditionally shaped steel tongue drum that focuses more on functionality than visuals.
Apart from the quality, it also comes with several accessories. They include a pair of mallets and a beautiful carry bag.
Who doesn’t know Pearl in the music industry? The brand has become a household name due to the quality of the drums and accessories they produce.
They don’t only produce acoustic drums and percussions, but steel tongue drums too. Considering the company’s reputation, you can expect the best from this steel tongue drum.
It is crafted from sterling steel and carries nine tones/tongues. It is the Lydian mode that separates it from the rest.
And if you are not familiar with music theory, the Lydian mode is a great example of just how much difference you can make with one tone. Even though it is set on a major scale, it has a raised fourth degree, which adds a special taste.
This tongue drum carries a total of eleven tones D major. It comes with a versatile tuning that will meet your drumming needs. And this versatile key lets you play along with popular music.
At ten inches, it is relatively large; hence you can expect a strong output. Also, it comes with mallets. Hence you have the option of using them or relying on your hands.
You will love its great sound. It is among the most popular option in the market today. And the fact that it is highly affordable makes it a great choice altogether.
If you are looking for a high-quality steel tongue drum, then this choice is for you. It is handcrafted in Russia, and it comes bearing premium quality steel.
But most importantly, it’s sound characteristic is incredible. It may sound almost like some hand drums.
The D Celtic Minor key offers excellent tones. It is perfect for more traditional and spiritual sounds.
Apart from the excellent sounding, you will be impressed with the craftsmanship that created it. It looks very impressive and sounds even better. And thanks to its slightly distorted shaped and attractive tongue pattern, you will enjoy playing this drum.
The only limitation may be its price. But if you consider its quality, then it will all make sense.
This tongue drum is very popular with many enthusiasts. It is truly and value-for-money product.
This tongue drum comes with some unique features that separate it from many other tongue drums. Instead of beginning entirely practical, this one has added an aspect of beauty.
The designers used a lot of effort and time to create the beautiful circular patterns on this drum. They have also included a beautiful rope decoration than makes it look amazing.
But that is not all, it offers and exotic scale too. You can say it is a great combination of beauty and quality sound.
The styling inspires its sound. It is tuned in what they call the ‘Arcane’ scale, which produced a unique expression. It is particularly useful for orient music and such styles.
What are the differences between a Hang Drum and a Tongue Drum?
There is no denying that the timbre of a tongue drum is similar to that of Hang Drum. And it is very easy to confuse these percussion instruments. And some people have even failed to tell the difference.
But there is something that sets them apart – the manufacturing process. Hang drums are produced by hammering.
I can understand where the confusions come from. In fact, a tongue drum is also called ‘hand drum,’ a name that comes from the combination of ‘tank drum’ and ‘hang drum.’
Hand drums are, however, very expensive, this makes them rare – they are not even mass-produced. You have to sign a waiting list and wait for months before getting a hang drum. On the other hand, products like the Beat Root tongue drums are readily available for purchase.
A steel tongue drum is a great addition to a percussionist’s collection. They offer an excellent addition to a variety of sounds you need. And if you love drumming for fun, I would recommend you get a Beat Root tongue drum.