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January 14, 2023 7 min read

Steel drums are harmonious, versatile instruments that can create a wide range of melodies. 

However, if you have just been introduced to them, you should know more about them. 

Before buying a steel drum, you need to learn some key things. They are as follows:

  • The steel drum can be played with your hands. 
  • It produces sounds when you use mallets on the tongues and the metal plates.
  • It sounds harmonious and has an ethereal ring to it. 
  • Its standard tuning is C Major. 
  • It's a relatively new instrument and originated in the late 20th century in the United States. 
  • Keep reading if you want to learn more about the steel drum and how to use it. This article will tell you what the drum sounds like, how to play it, and some tips on experimenting with the melodies. 

    1. Can you play a steel tongue drum with your hands?

    Can you play a steel tongue drum with your hands?

    Steel tongue drums are typically played with the hands. The instrument is generally played by striking the tongues of the drum with the fingers or the palms, which creates a soft and mellow sound. 

    Players typically strike the center of the tongue to produce a clear, distinct note. Different techniques can be used to create different sounds and textures when playing with your hands. 

    For example, players can use different parts of their hands. They can use the tips of the fingers, the pads of the fingers, or the palms. This will create different tonal qualities. 

    Additionally, players can use different hand positions. For instance, striking the tongues near the edges or at different angles to create various sounds.

    Another technique is to use the fingerpads in a rolling motion creating a tremolo effect. Dampening, on the other hand, could be used to shorten the sustain of the notes.

    It's worth noting that many players also use mallets to play steel tongue drums. This can produce a different sound and feel compared to playing with the hands. 

    Rubber or foam mallets produce a softer sound, and plastic or hardwood mallets produce a louder and more defined tone.

    The steel tongue drum is a versatile instrument that can be played in various ways. It can be used to create a wide range of sounds and textures. Many players experiment with different techniques to find their unique voice on the instrument.

    2. How to use a steel tongue drum?

    A steel tongue drum is played by striking its tongues, or steel plates, with mallets or drum sticks. The tongues of a steel tongue drum are tuned to specific notes and arranged in a circle around the drum's center. 

    To use a steel tongue drum, follow these steps:

    1. Choose your mallets or drumsticks.Steel tongue drums can be played with various mallets or drum sticks, including rubber, felt, and bamboo. Experiment with different types of mallets to find the ones that produce the sound you like.
    2. Position the drum in front of you. Sit or stand with the drum in front of you and at a comfortable height for striking the tongues.
    3. Strike the tongues to make a sound. Use the mallets or drumsticks to strike the tongues of the drum. Experiment with striking techniques, such as hitting the tongues softly or hard, to produce different sounds.
    4. Play different notes. Each tongue of the drum is tuned to a specific note. You can play different notes by striking different tongues. Refer to the manual or instructional guide that came with your drum to find the positions of the different notes on the drum.
    5. Experiment with different rhythms and melodies. Once you are comfortable striking the tongues and producing different notes, you can experiment with different rhythms and melodies. Try playing simple patterns and gradually add complexity as you become more familiar with the instrument.
    6. Use the various effects on the drum to produce unique sounds. Some drums come with built-in effects like reverb, delay, and harmonics. Check the manual for more details about these features.

    Remember that steel tongue drums come in many sizes and have different tuning options. Instructions vary depending on the particular drum you have. 

    It's important to read the instruction manual that comes with your drum. It will help you fully understand the drum's features and how to use it properly.

    3. What does a steel tongue drum sound like?

    A steel tongue drum produces a distinct, soothing sound. The sound of a steel tongue drum is similar to that of a handspan. It has a warm, rich and meditative tone. Most people describe it as ethereal and harmonious.

    The steel tongues on a steel tongue drum produce a sound that is characteristically deep, mellow, and low-pitched. 

    Each tongue is tuned to a specific note. When they are struck, they produce a clear and distinct tone. The notes produced by a steel tongue drum are often described as "ethereal" and "mystical."

    The player can create a wide range of sounds when playing a steel tongue drum. They can do this by varying how they strike their tongues. 

    For example, playing the tongues softly with a rubber mallet will produce a softer, more delicate sound. If you use a hard mallet instead, it will create a louder and more pronounced sound. 

    Additionally, the player can create melodic patterns by striking different tongues.

    Some steel tongue drums have built-in effects like reverb, delay, and harmonics. The player can create even more unique and expressive sounds using these effects. You can create an echo effect or a harmonic. 

    This gives the drums a more rich and more complex sound.

    Given the calming and meditative nature of the sound the drums produce, they are often used in relaxation, music therapy, and mindfulness practices.

    4. What are the notes on a steel tongue drum?

    What are the notes on a steel tongue drum?

    The standard tuning for a steel tongue drum is C Major. It includes C, D, E, G, and A notes. But some steel tongue drums are available with different tunings. For instance, C#, D, F, G, A, or G Major G, A, B, D, E. The drums can be re-tuned to find notes to your liking.

    The tuning of the steel tongues determines the notes on a steel tongue drum. 

    The notes can vary depending on the particular drum. Typically the notes are arranged in a pentatonic scale. 

    A pentatonic scale is a five-note scale commonly used in traditional and folk music worldwide. It is often used in steel tongue drums. 

    This scale comprises the root note plus the fourth and fifth notes in a major scale. It also has the second and third notes on a minor scale. 

    This scale allows for many harmonious melodies with little risk of dissonance.

    The steel drums come with manuals or instructional guides. These guides show you the positions of the different notes on the drum. They also contain instructions for tuning the instrument.

    It's also worth mentioning that some steel tongue drums have 7 or 10 tongues. In that case, the scales can be extended and used for more complex melodies.

    5. When was the steel tongue drum invented?

    The steel tongue drum is a relatively new instrument, and the exact date of its invention still needs to be clarified. However, it is believed that the steel tongue drum was first invented in the late 20th century, around the 1990s.

    The earliest known steel tongue drums were constructed by a few craftspeople. They were passionate about creating new instruments, so they experimented with different materials and tuning methods. They wanted to create an instrument that could produce a unique and soothing sound.

    The steel tongue drum is a modern take on the ancient concept of the tank drum. It is a percussion instrument that uses a large metal container as the resonating body. 

    The tank drum is made from a metal container, such as a drum or a bucket, and has a removable top to which several steel plates, or tongues, are attached. 

    The tongues are tuned to specific notes and are struck with a mallet to produce a sound.

    The steel tongue drum, as we know it today, is a modern version of the tank drum with a more refined sound and a specific tuning. 

    With the evolution of this instrument, the sound and versatility of the steel tongue drum have improved with the use of different materials and craftsmanship. 

    Nowadays, you can find different steel tongue drums, each of which can produce a unique sound.

    6. Where did the steel tongue drum originate? 

    The steel tongue drum is believed to have originated in the United States, specifically on the East Coast. Early drums were made by hand and were not widely available to the general public.

    The steel tongue drum is derived from the ancient instrument called the tank drum. It is a percussion instrument that uses a large metal container as the resonating body. 

    Tank drums have been used in different cultures and times. They were mostly used in Africa and Asia for thousands of years. 

    The earliest known tank drums were made by attaching metal plates or tongues to a metal container. These plates were then tuned to different notes. 

    Ancient tank drums were used for a variety of purposes. This included religious ceremonies and music making. They were even used as a healing tool in some cultures.

    The steel tongue drum, as we know it today, has a more refined sound and a specific tuning. It is a widely available instrument. It is found and played in many parts of the world, gaining popularity among musicians and non-musicians.

    7. Is the steel tongue drum easy to play?

    Is the steel tongue drum easy to play?

    The steel tongue drum is relatively easy to play, even for those with little or no musical experience. The tongues are arranged in a circle around the drum's center. Therefore, it is easy to find the notes and create simple melodies.

    Additionally, many steel tongue drums come with a manual or instructional guide. This helps the player understand the positions of the different notes on the drum. With that, a player can better understand the tuning and the sounds they can produce.

    For those who want to go deeper, steel tongue drums offer a lot of versatility. Players can develop more advanced techniques and create more complex melodies with time and practice.

    It's also a great choice for those who want to experiment with a new instrument. It's a great introduction to the world of music-making in a fun and accessible way.

    You may also like: How Does a Steel Tongue Drum Work? 

    Takeaway: Create ethereal melodies and experiment with music on a steel drum

    Steel tongue drums are a great way for both beginners and professionals to enjoy music. They have a meditative, harmonious tone that can be tuned to your liking in many ways. 

    You can experiment with the steel drums in many different ways by hitting them differently and using different mallets.

    If you are looking to enjoy a soothing, music-filled evening with a steel drum, you need to find a great place that sells them.

    Fortunately, Panda Drums has got you covered. They sell drums that are easy to play for all ages. The music helps to relieve stress and anxiety. And it helps you tap into harmonious vibrations. 

    So what are you waiting for?Head over to Panda Drums right now to find your new drum!