Updated: March 28th, 2021
A hand drum is a shell of some kind with a striking membrane surface. It is played with the hands or fingers instead of (but sometimes also) with a stick, hammer, or mallet. Hand drums feature different pitch zones, with the center of the head producing the lowest pitch. A high one is obtainable at the rim of the head where the tension is most elevated.
The categorization into groups such as frame and goblet drums make them unique. A frame drum is a percussion instrument with a round head frame covered with a drum skin on one side. The other side is open-ended for the user to place his/her hand and control the pitch. Its width is also remarkably more significant than the depth.
There are several types of frame drums from different cultures worldwide, with each having its unique sound and style. These drums are easy to learn with enough room for improvement and development. Hand drums may have caught your fancy, and you want to experiment with them or need one for your drum circle.
You will find below a complete guide on selecting the best hand drums and specifications.
Overview of the Best Hand Drums
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Remo Fiberskyn Frame Drum
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Roosebeck BTN8BT Internal Tunable Bodhran T-Bar
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Foraineam Hand Drum
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Shaman Goat Hair Frame Drum
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DOBANI Frame Drum with Interior Tuning
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Top 5 Hand Drums: Reviews
- Excellent balance between quality and price
- Cheap and popular
- Durable and comfortable to hold
- Lightweight and portable
- Good sound quality
The Remo frame drum was invented by Remo D Belli, a percussionist and the first to produce a synthetic drumhead. Inspired by American native cultures, the drum is a decent choice for personal and professional use or drum circles. It is an excellent introductory drum that comes in different sizes ranging from 8 to 22 inches.
The larger ones produce a deeper tone and more preferable to adults because they are more comfortable to hold while playing. Its manufacture with Remo Fiberskyn drumhead, a plastic made to look like animal skin, is appealing. Since the drum skin is synthetic and the frame made of wood, vegetarians can play comfortably, knowing that animals did not die for the product’s manufacture.
Though played by hand, the drum also comes with a wooden mallet that is padded and covered at the tip. The back is open, and a rope runs across it to form an X-pattern. Remo frame drum has a constant taut head with a beautiful resonant tonal characteristic. Like is observed on traditional wood shell drums, the pitch still sounds fantastic regardless of weather conditions.
Repainting using acrylic markers is possible without the sound getting dampened. It can also be kept clean by just wiping with a wet cloth.
- Can be tuned to a player’s preference
- The frame features durable mulberry wood
- Removable T-bar allows for wrist or hand support
- Sound quality is rich
- Excellent for Celtic and Irish music
- Goat skinhead is aesthetically unappealing
The Roosebeck BTN8BT is a large but lightweight frame drum often used as a primary rhythmic accompaniment for Celtic and Irish music. It is made in Ireland and contains a goatskin head on a beautiful mulberry wood frame with black paint.
The goatskin head is rough, not much appealing, and features a varnish haphazardly applied. Its appearance can be ameliorated or smoothened with the application of natural oils. Included in the purchase are a tuning wrench and a light tipper. The cut-out allows the player to comfortably apply pressure to the head of the drum from the inside.
Roosebeck BTN8BT is a solidly built starter drum with a good tune. Its 3.5-inch thickness is relatively shallow for a perfect sound, and any player can tune the drum to his/her specific needs. Loosening the head is also possible when it is not in use through the internal tuning system. A removable T-bar under the drum supports the player’s hand and wrist when playing.
- Lightweight and durable
- Great synthetic skin drum
- Ideal introductory percussion instrument
- Excellent sensory musical toy for children
- Made of solid poplar wood frame
- The small sizes make it not great for professional use
- Average sound quality
This unit is a 1.8inch thick drum with superior sound quality than is expected for the price. Included are 8, 10, and 12-inch drums that feature a solid poplar wood frame with a synthetic head and three wood sticks. Each size has a slightly different sound, and as the drum gets larger, the sound produced deepens.
Foraineam hand drums were initially developed as toys to enable kids to practice hand and brain coordination exercises. But it can also be used by adults and makes for a great introduction to the percussion world. Painting is possible with acrylic for beautification purposes. If you are not quite familiar with playing hand drums, there are many videos and online sources that will guide you.
- Durable drum with great quality
- Natural drum skin
- Deep and rich sound
- Excellent and authentic craftsmanship
- Good aesthetics
- Natural Goat Hair drumhead is unappealing to vegans
Shaman drumming is a way to redirect one’s state of consciousness or to connect with the spiritual. The drum is famous for its use in calling in the energy from within and warding off bad energy. An example of a Shaman drum is this handmade frame drum that has a rich sound quality.
The drum is styled after the Native American culture, covered with goat hair, and tensioned at the open end with a skin rope. This sound is deep, resonant, and lively. This unit is sturdy and either hand-beaten or with the included beater. Its drum head has a lovely native look that improves the aesthetic appeal of the drum.
The drum is portable as it only has an 18 x 18 x 2 inches overall dimension.
- Suitable for the expert or novice drummer
- Sturdy, affordable, and easy to tune
- Materials are authentic and of high quality
- Comes with a tuning tool and beater
- Painting is possible
- No thumb notch present
- No tuning instructions included
This product also is a handcrafted tunable shaman drum covered with goatskin head. It has a mulberry frame and comes with a tuning tool and a leather beater. All the materials used for the drum are natural and of good quality.
The hide is glued in place over a movable screw rim with eight tuning screws. It weighs 0.16ounces and is available in five different sizes, ranging from 14 to 38 inches. There is no thumb notch for positioning. It has two crossbars on the back that can be used as a handle and help maintain the drum shape. The tuning tool, an Allen wrench, tightens or loosens the skin depending on which is necessary.
DOBANI frame drum responds and resonates easily with earthy harmonics when struck. The goatskin head produces a beautiful deep sound that is loud and excellent for accompanying Celtic tunes. Its loud sound also makes it suitable for drum circles where other instruments like bongos, djembes, congas, tambourines are present.
Choosing a Hand Drum
There are several reasons why people may choose one drum over another. They might feel drawn to it or may require it due to the function. It is difficult for some other persons because they do not know which drum calls to them. People considered as amateurs might be unable to differentiate between drums. Below are some criteria for choosing a suitable hand drum.
Skin: The drum skinhead is either made of hides or synthetic fiber. Choosing skin is dependent on your preferences and taste. Most persons prefer leather because it is natural and emulates traditional drums. These hides include that of reindeer, stag, horse, cow, and goat hair. They have an excellent natural sound, allow easy tuning, and have a unique surface structure.
Rawhide drums are sensitive to humidity and temperature. As a result, they can easily slack or tighten when exposed to extreme weather conditions, making the sound dull. If the drums are to be used mostly in a humid area, routine tightening is necessary. They can also be dried in the sun or near a fire, though caution would help prevent over-drying.
Synthetic fibers are often cheaper and are recommended for vegans or people who are new to drumming. They are not affected by temperature and will usually remain the same despite the weather conditions.
Size: The size of the hand drum suitable for you will depend to some extent on your hand size, preferred drumming position, and sound. The three prominent positions are the freehand, lap-style, and upright playing. Freehand involves a sitting drummer who holds the drum between the legs or knees and uses both hands to play. It often requires a drum size ranging from 15 to 17 inches. Lap-style also needs a sitting drummer, with the drum placed on one leg while one hand steadies it. Also, the best drum size for this style is between 18 to 20 inches.
Frame: The drum frame features wood; however, the wood source varies from drum to drum and includes birch, oak, willow, and poplar. Frames made out of hardwood are sturdier than those made of softwood. And the composition affects the general weight of the drums.
Sound Quality: Different drums produce sounds ranging from low bass to a high resonating pitch. The sounds can also vary for a particular drum, depending on how hard or soft you hit it while using your hand. When using a beater, the sounds will be different for a firm or soft one.
Rhythm accompaniments: Few hand drums are ideal for all musical styles. The majority are only suitable for a specific technique, such as Irish, Celtic, Persian, or Pakistan music. Having a kind in mind would make the decision much more manageable, whether you are a professional or a beginner.
Caring for your Hand Drum
Like every equipment, maintenance enhances durability, whether the product is expensive or not. Your hand drum needs to be adequately taken care of so that it will last for a very long time. This care comprises where it is stored, how it is transported, playing style, painting, and cleaning routines.
Transportation: When going out with your drum, it is advisable to cover or wrap it for protection against extreme temperature and humidity changes. It is especially crucial for leather drums that can slacken due to cold. A small drum bag can keep the instrument from accidental falls or blows while enhancing portability.
Storage: At home, storage should be in a cool and dry area, preferably inside a drum bag. When kept in a hot place, the drumhead can become so tight that the sound becomes thin and will take time to return to normal.
Painting: Painting of synthetic drums is possible using acrylic paints. It is good to note that these paints will wear off with time, mostly if the drum gets used often. So you may decide to reapply the painting after some time. Painting natural hide drums is possible, but the technique is more complicated due to their porous surface.
Cleaning: Your drum is not a surface for keeping other things and is meant to be treated with respect. Apply a small portion of natural oil, such as Shea Butter or olive oil, onto leather drums’ surface using a cloth to keep it from drying out. Synthetic drums require you to wipe away dirt with a damp cloth.
Hand drums are great for individuals who enjoy playing the traditional version of percussion. Those who want to enjoy other drumming benefits, especially in a drum circle, would also find it handy.
The drums originated from several cultures, and the techniques used in playing them or producing some unique rhythms differ depending on the particular place of origin.
There is no one particular drum for all styles and in all situations. Each hand drum in the market has its specialty, and drummers are encouraged to consider their playing style when purchasing a new model.