January 29, 2023 12 min read
A steel tongue drum is a great companion for yoga, meditation, and sound therapy. Although these tongue drums are available in several sizes, from 6” to 14”, a 12” steel drum is best for most people, including beginners. It is small enough to carry around and offers a lot of drumming surface that allows you to hone your skills.
Tongue drums are fascinating instruments that provide calming, meditative sounds that have recently become popular. The latest incarnation of the traditional wooden tongue drum is the steel tongue drum, which was first introduced around 2007.
Modern steel tongue drums are percussion instruments made from high-quality powder-coated steel alloys and are available in different sizes.
While smaller tongue drums are easy to carry, they often don’t offer enough drum surface, especially if you have larger hands.
A tongue drum between 10” to 12” is suitable for almost everyone, whether a beginner or a seasoned pro.
However, there are several other factors besides the size that you should consider when buying a steel tongue drum.
In this article, let’s take a closer look at how you can pick a steel tongue drum that is best for you.
Steel tongue drums are great percussion instruments for beginners and produce resonating sounds that can help you relax. You can purchase a wooden tongue drum and a steel tongue drum.
These tongue drums can also be tuned in many ways, mostly in the pentatonic scale.
The quality and timbre of the sound produced by a steel tongue drum depend on several factors, including the size, the material, and the number of tongues.
If you are planning on purchasing a steel tongue drum, consider the following features to get the most out of your instrument.
Steel tongue drums come in different sizes, with larger tongue drums producing a deeper and more resonant sound, while smaller tongue drums are more portable and produce a higher-pitched sound.
Consider what size and sound you prefer and what type of music you want to play on the drum.
Here are some of the sizes you can choose from:
Mini steel tongue drums are the smallest size, measuring around 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
They produce a high-pitched and bright sound and are very portable, making them the best steel tongue drums for musicians who need to travel with their instruments.
Small steel tongue drums measure around 8 to 10 inches in diameter. These percussion instruments produce a slightly deeper sound than mini tongue drums and are also portable.
They are a good option for those who want a slightly larger size but still want to be able to travel with their tongue drum.
Medium steel tongue drums measure around 10 to 12 inches in diameter.
The musical instrument produces a deeper and more resonant sound than smaller drums and is often used for meditation and healing practices.
These are not as portable as smaller tongue drums, and you might find it difficult to travel with them.
Large steel tongue drums measure around 12 to 14 inches in diameter. They produce a very deep and powerful sound and are often used for outdoor performances or in large spaces.
They are not very portable and are primarily used as stationary instruments. These size steel drums are not ideal for beginners.
Giant steel tongue drums are the largest, measuring over 14 inches in diameter. Steel drums of this size are meant for professional musicians.
They are not recommended if you are looking for tongue drums for relaxing or as an accompaniment to yoga or spiritual sessions.
Another important thing to consider when buying a steel tongue drum is the number of tongues or the steel bars it has.
The number of tongues on a steel tongue drum can greatly affect the sound and versatility of the instrument.
Here are a few ways in which the number of tongues can impact the sound of a steel tongue drum:
Tongue drums with more tongues have a wider range of notes and can produce a larger tonal-quality sound. It makes them more versatile and able to play a wider range of music styles.
Drums with more tongues can produce more complex sounds and harmonics, making them well-suited for playing music with intricate melodies and harmonies.
Tongue drums with fewer tongues have a more limited range of notes but may produce a simpler and more consistent sound.
Such a profile can be desirable for certain types of music, such as meditative or sound therapy, where a consistent and soothing sound is desired.
The number of tongues in a tongue drum also affects the number of notes it can produce.
A tongue drum with more tongues will have more notes and be more versatile for playing different types of music.
Furthermore, the more tongues a tongue drum has, the more sound it can project and the more dynamic it will be.
If you are a beginner, the best steel tongue drum for meditative and healing music, you should go for a drum with fewer tongues.
The 8-tone panda drum from Calm Panda is one of the best steel tongue drums for a beginner.
Steel tongue drums' sound is typically tuned to a specific scale, such as pentatonic, diatonic, or chromatic.
Major scales have different intervals and notes, which can affect the drum's overall sound.
For example, a major pentatonic scale has a simpler and more limited range of notes, while a chromatic scale has a wider range of notes and can produce more complex sounds.
The tuning of the steel tongues also in major scales affects the harmony of the tongue drum’s sound.
For example, a diatonic tuning will produce a harmonic and consonant sound pleasing to the ear. In contrast, a chromatic tuning of the tongue drum will produce a dissonant sound that is more complex and intriguing.
The tuning of a tongue drum can also affect the mood of the sound.
For example, a pentatonic tuning can produce a calming and meditative sound, while a chromatic tuning can produce a more intense and dynamic sound in a tongue drum.
If you are a beginner, having a tongue drum tuned to the pentatonic scale can be easier to play than other scales.
Steel tongue drums come in different shapes and styles. While some styles are better suited for beginners, others are intended for professionals.
Here are some of the most popular designs of steel tongue drums:
The Handpan-style steel tongue drums are designed to resemble the popular handpan drum. They have a distinct, circular shape and often have a raised central dome.
Tank-style steel tongue drums are cylindrical and often made from a single piece of steel. They have a simple, minimalist design that is well-suited for meditative and healing practices.
Tongue and groove-style steel tongue drums have tongues recessed into the drum's body, creating a unique look and sound.
As the name suggests, Hexagonal-style steel tongue drums have a six-sided shape and often have a more complex design with multiple tongues and unique tuning patterns.
Some manufacturers offer custom designs and shapes of steel tongue drums, such as oval, star, or heart-shaped drums.
The design of a steel tongue drum can also affect the sound and portability of the instrument.
Some designs may be more suited to certain music or playing styles, while others may be more visually appealing.
The design choice depends on your preference and the type of music you want to play.
Most steel tongue drums come with several accessories. Depending on the manufacturer and the design, you may get one or more of the following accessories with your steel tongue drum.
Steel tongue drums are typically played with mallets or specially designed hammers to strike the tongues and produce sound.
Mallets can come in different materials such as wood, rubber, or felt and can have different weights, affecting the sound and playing style.
Many steel tongue drums come with a carrying case, which can be useful for protecting the instrument while transporting it.
Cases can come in different materials, such as padded nylon or hard shell cases, and some have additional pockets for storing mallets and other accessories.
While not popular, some steel tongue drums come with a tuning wrench, which can adjust the tension of the tongues and tune the instrument to different scales.
However, this accessory might not be useful if you are a beginner.
Some manufacturers also provide access to online tutorials, which can help learn how to play the instrument and understand its features.
It's worth noting that some manufacturers may not include all of the accessories mentioned above with the purchase of the drum, and some may offer additional accessories not mentioned above.
For instance, Calm Panda also offers a digital songbook for our 8-tone and 11-tone instrument.
As with any other musical instrument, steel tongue drums come in various price ranges. The price of a steel tongue drum can vary widely depending on factors such as size, number of tongues, tuning, material, and brand.
Here is a broad range of prices for steel tongue drums:
The size of a steel tongue drum greatly affects the quality, tone, and volume of sound it can produce. Here are a few ways in which the size of a steel tongue drum can impact the sound:
Larger steel tongue drums produce a deeper and more resonant sound, while smaller drums produce a higher-pitched sound.
The size of the drum will affect the pitch of the sound produced by the tongues.
Larger steel tongue drums can produce a louder sound and have more projection than smaller drums. The size of the drum will affect how much sound it can produce and the distance it can reach.
A large steel tongue drum has more room for the sound to resonate and will have a longer sustain than smaller drums.
The drum size will affect how long the sound produced by the tongues will last.
A larger steel tongue drum can produce more low-frequency sounds than smaller drums. It can give the sound a more powerful and deeper quality and increase the bass.
If you are looking for a steel tongue drum that can produce a soothing sound, you want to go for drums that can give a deeper and more resonating sound rather than a tinny sound.
The best steel tongue drum size depends on various factors, from the size, the type and tone of music it can produce, the portability, and the price.
If you are a beginner, you want a manageable drum that is easy to lug around and is expensive.
Similarly, if you buy a steel tongue drum for a child, you want a small, easy-to-carry drum with fewer tongues, so it is easy to play.
If you are a beginner with little or no experience with musical instruments, a small or medium size steel tongue drum is generally the best option. Here are a few reasons why:
The 11-tone Panda Drum from CalmPanda is one of the best options for a beginner, as it is easy to play and offers all the advantages mentioned above.
The biggest factor to consider when buying a steel tongue drum for a child is the size.
You don’t want to buy a drum that is too big for your child. Ideally, a drum for a child should be light and easy to play.
Mini or small-sized tongue drums are the best choice for kids. Smaller drums are the perfect size for children's hands, making it easy to hold and play the drum.
Mini or small-size drums are also a good choice for children because they are easy to learn. They are not too complex and have limited notes, making it easy for children to understand the instrument's basics.
The intended use also affects the choice of the size of your steel tongue drum. Here are a few examples of how the size of a steel tongue drum can be chosen based on the intended use:
Mini or small-sized tongue drums are best for traveling because they are portable and easy to take on the go.
Investing in a mini or small steel tongue drum makes the most sense if you are a beginner or want to take your steel pan drum for a yoga practice session.
A small or medium size steel tongue drum is generally the best option if you are looking to get in a practice session. Here are a few reasons why smaller drums are great for practicing.
Medium or small-sized tongue drums are great for solo performances. Here are a few reasons why these sizes make the most sense for a solo performance:
Medium-sized tongue drums are well-suited for meditation and healing practices because they produce a deep and resonant sound that is soothing and meditative.
Large-sized steel drums are best for outdoor performances because they produce a loud and powerful sound that can fill a large space.
Medium or large-sized tongue drums are ideal for playing with a band because they produce a loud and powerful sound that can be heard over other instruments.
If you have a specific use in mind and are still deciding what size to choose, you can always consult with a music teacher or professional before deciding.
Steel tongue drums are versatile instruments that can be used for various purposes.
These instruments are commonly used in meditation and healing due to their soothing and meditative sound.
They can create a peaceful and calming atmosphere and be played in various settings, such as yoga studios, spas, and therapy sessions.
When buying a steel tongue drum, it's important to consider factors such as size, number of tongues, tuning, material, and brand. The drum size affects the drum's sound, portability, and utility.You can buy some of the best steel tongue drums at Calm Panda. We use premium, non-toxic materials to create attractive drums you would love to play.