How to Choose a Steel Tongue Drum

You decided to get yourself a hank drum. Congratulations! It’s not only a great instrument but also a meditative tool, as well as a portable icebreaker for parties. But which steel tongue drum to choose? Not all of them are created equal; it doesn’t mean that some are better and others are worse. It’s all individual, and instead of simply dropping names, we’ll help you choose according to your preferences.

Types of Steel Tongue Drums

To some, all steel tongue drums may seem alike, and others just can’t figure out why they are so different in probably everything but design. How do you choose the right steel drum? There are 2 main parameters you must consider before buying one yourself.

  • The number of tongues. Each tongue has a note assigned to it, so the more of them a drum has, the more notes you’ll be able to play with it. While the 11-tongue construction is considered the golden standard, there are popular models with 9, 7, and even fewer tongues.

Still, there is a nuance: some tongues may repeat the same note from various octaves, so while it enhances its musical abilities, you may go without it. If you want to learn first and then advance, you may want to buy a simpler one.

  • Most steel tongue drums have pentatonic tuning, with just 5 main notes that fit each other harmonically. With such a drum, you just can’t get out of the tune. Yet, the scale differs for various drums.

While it’s evident with the number of tongues, the tuning is a more sophisticated manner. First of all: major or minor? If you want to use your drum at parties, major tuning will sound more uplifting; that’s never bad, given that the instrument’s sound is relatively calm. Yet if you prefer it for your meditation sessions, you may pick minor tuning.

What about the scale? Pentatonic ones are great for beginners, being a win-win even if you just hit the tongues randomly. Yet there are other scales. If you want Oriental sound, you may prefer Akebono tuning. Other European versions include diatonic, chromatic, E minor, C major, or C sharp. Anyway, you better listen to how it sounds before buying.

Other Differences: What Else to Consider

Though tuning defines what you can play with the instrument, there are other options that matter just as much as you consider what steel hank drum to buy. Here are some of them:

  • As this type of instrument is designed as a portable one, you may prefer a smaller one: it doesn’t sound as loud as its bigger sibling but is easier to carry.
  • For many, a steel tongue drum is a party instrument, and everything about it matters: how it sounds and how you look with it, especially on videos in your Instagram stories.
  • No comments. Just remember that a more expensive drum isn’t always a better one.
  • Custom or mass-produced. Custom ones are usually better tuned, given that each one is adjusted individually, and the traces of manual work are usually seen on the grooves around the tongues. But they are more expensive as well.

Can You C-Major Differences?

The deeper you delve into the world of steel drums, the more nuances you notice. Now, you hardly hear or see differences. But maybe, after several months, you will find your first one limited and rough while in the beginning you were delighted. It doesn’t render your first one bad, though: its job was to introduce you to the world of hank drums, and it did the job greatly. So, choose the one that looks and sounds the best for you now, regardless of what you may think of it later.