Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tongue Drum

Many years ago, more than ten, I was working as a traveling photographer and happened to be in Nevada City, California. Nevada City is a famous gold rush town of the West with a rich history. The main street is filled with rustic authentic buildings from that era and tourist shops to complement that history.

On a lunch break I happened into a gift store which carried, among other items, rhythm instruments from around the world. I came upon a wonderfully crafted wooden percussion instrument where the sound emanated by tapping a cloth covered mallet on the wood top. I was immediately drawn to the rhythmic and melodious sound. I thought about purchasing the instrument, however, money was tight so I decided against it. I went back to work and briefly forgot about the instrument.

When I returned home I told Gary about the instrument and he said I should have bought it. As life often goes the opportunity never arose for me to go back and get the instrument nor find another one to purchase. As the years went by I thought about that instrument quite a few times, trying to remember the sound it made. Then the other night we borrowed the film The Visitor from the library. One of the characters played a drum and I was again reminded of that instrument from so long ago. Curiously I never knew what type of instrument it was. Today I decided to try to find out. I did a search for percussion instruments but couldn't find it. Then I did a search for wood percussion instrument played with a mallet, and I found it. It's called a tongue drum.

One way or another I'm going to find a way to afford the purchase of a tongue drum and learn how to play it. I'm even wondering if I can make a tongue drum out of clay or perhaps another type of ceramic drum. In the meantime I found out about a drum circle which meets once a month at the beach nearby, the next meeting is July 10th. I also learned of someone who gives drumming lessons.

I've decided to start out making ceramic rattles, and I already have one made with sgraffito. I'll take a photo tomorrow to show you. After I do some research I'll try to make a ceramic drum. Don't worry I'm still making floral related ceramic pieces too.

Follow this link to a page with videos of several different styles of tongue drums being played, worth a listen. I like the tone of the wood tongue drums the best, but the videos show some drums made from metal and even one made from a propane bottle. Thanks for reading and for all your comments.

The first photo was borrowed from Steve Roberts' site. There is a lot of information about tongue drums and he also plays and makes tongue drums.

The second photo was borrowed from Hardwood Music Company, click on the link for many examples of wood tongue drums.


  1. I saw a tutorial on ceramic drum making on u tube..go there and search for ceramic drum. Good luck. jt

  2. It looks as beautiful as it sounds, now wonder you're attracted.
    Something about drumming is soul soothing, it would make sense that a potter would also want to be a drummer.

  3. oh that would be so much fun to have! and beautiful to look at too.

  4. What an interesting time that must have been. I have always wanted a hammer dulcimer after hearing a girl play it on the summer streets of Minneapolis years ago. The regular lap dulcimer is great, too, but that hammer spoke to me. I can so relate to this post. Thanks for sharing that part of you. Nice. I look forward to hearing of your tongue drum in the Near future. Thanks for introducing it. I was not familiar with it.

  5. Hi Joan, thank, I will do a search for the video, the modern age is great.

    Hi Lori, thanks, yes this particular instrument is so soothing, it reminds me of ancient African rhythms.

    Hi Michele, thanks, once again, I may be thinking way ahead of my skill level judging from what I have been researching, but it is fun to dream and think about what might or could be in the future.

    Hi Teresa, thanks, you know when Gary and I moved from Arkansas to California, we stayed at an RV park while he was working. A woman was playing an instrument which was probably a dulcimer every day in the parking lot, I was drawn to it, but at the time I was so weak from a low thyroid I could barely walk but I still think about that instrument. I really think you should pursue what your dreams are because you never know when you may not be able to pursue them any longer. I hope you find your dulcimer real soon. thanks again.

  6. Oh Teresa, I just looked up to see what a hammered dulcimer looks like and that's what the woman was playing at the cal expo rv park when we were there in 1998. I walked our dog each day and had to sit down while he was in the dog walking area, but then I heard her playing the dulcimer; her playing gave me hope I'd get better - which thankfully I did, I still remember those days clearly. Somehow I think these musical instruments have magical powers we may be unaware of, they reach into our innner souls and bring out what needs to be brought forth.

  7. I agree Linda. Music has boundless possibilities for enhancing our lives. Nice "talking" with you. :)

  8. Hi Teresa, thanks so much, nice talking with you too.


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