High-quality steel tongue drums produce exceptional sound due to their carefully crafted scale and premium materials, resulting in remarkable resonance.
You don’t need to be a professional musician to appreciate their melodic tones, making them perfect for both home studios and creative experimentation. These drums come in various scale sizes, offering unique experiences, from smaller, soothing tones to larger, powerful sounds.
In this article, we’ll guide you on choosing the right steel tongue drum and share our top picks.
Table of Contents
- 14 Best Steel Tongue Drums
- What Is A Steel Tongue Drum?
- How to Choose the Best Steel Tongue Drum
- The History Of Steel Tongue Drums
- How To Play The Steel Tongue Drum
- Benefits of Steel Tongue Drums
- What’s the difference between a tongue drum and a handpan drum?
- How are these steel tongue drums tuned?
- How much does a tongue drum cost?
14 Best Steel Tongue Drums
The Meinl Percussion Sonic Energy Tongue Drum is a 12” steel tongue drum with a fixed tuning in A minor. It’s a durable and precise musical instrument suitable for beginners and experienced players alike. The drum’s black powder-coated steel frame ensures long-lasting performance, making it great for both practice and public performances. Whether you play it with your hands or the included mallets, this drum produces soothing and resonant tones that work well with various music genres.
- Durable and precise construction
- Suitable for beginners and experienced players
- Resonant and soothing tones
- Works with various music genres
- Includes mallets for versatile playing
- Fixed tuning in A minor (may not suit those looking for adjustable tunings)
The Fly Drums Tongue Drum is a 12-inch steel tongue drum, designed to emit soothing, meditative tones similar to Tibetan singing bowls. It features 11 tongues, each tuned to the D-Major scale, producing a variety of harmonious sounds when struck with sticks (included in the package). This instrument is aimed at enhancing relaxation and mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and sound therapy. It is also versatile enough for outdoor use, like during hiking or camping. The drum comes with a convenient carrying bag and a songbook, making it user-friendly for both beginners and experienced players.
- Produces calming and tranquil sounds, ideal for meditation and stress relief.
- Comes with useful accessories: a carrying bag, sticks, and a songbook.
- Suitable for a variety of settings, including indoor and outdoor activities.
- Accessible for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced players.
- Affordable, offering good value for its quality and features.
- Limited to a D-Major scale, which may restrict musical variety.
- Its size (12 inches) could be slightly bulky for highly mobile users or small spaces.
The Pearl Awakening Series consists of steel tongue drums available in various scales like G major, C major, A minor, etc. These are 10” drums made from hardened steel with laser-cut tongues for producing precise musical notes. Each drum comes with a note card that shows where each note is located, making it easier to play.
- Variety of scales (G major, C major, etc.) offers musical versatility.
- Durable construction with hardened steel and laser-cut tongues.
- Note card included for easy note identification, suitable for all skill levels.
- Portable size, ideal for busking and mobile performances.
- Compact size may not suit all preferences.
- Priced around $300, which could be high for some budgets.
The Beat Root Multiscale Tongue Drum is a steel tongue drum with adjustable scales. This feature allows musicians to switch between different tonalities, making it a versatile instrument for various music genres. It also comes with a line-out option for easy amplification during performances or recordings.
- Tunable scales enhance musical versatility.
- Suitable for a wide range of musical styles.
- Line-out option for amplification, ideal for performances.
- High-quality tone and articulation.
- Pricier compared to standard steel tongue drums.
The Regis Tongue Drum is a compact and lightweight musical instrument made of titanium, not steel. It measures 6 inches and weighs less than 2 lbs. You play it by striking the tuned “tongues” with mallets, producing pleasant musical tones. It comes with mallets and a padded travel bag, and there’s a music book with songs included to help beginners get started.
- Affordable option for those on a budget.
- Compact and lightweight, ideal for young players or easy portability.
- Variety of color choices available.
- Comes with mallets and a travel bag for convenience.
- Includes a music book to aid in learning.
- Easy to learn, even for children.
- Smaller size may limit sound projection compared to larger drums.
6. Rav Vast 2
The Rav Vast 2 is a high-end steel tongue drum with a 20-inch diameter. It features a D Celtic minor scale with added harmonics, providing a unique tonal range. It’s designed for outdoor use and can be placed on various surfaces.
- Premium sound quality.
- Durable construction for outdoor performances.
- Versatile scale with added harmonics.
- Suitable for experienced musicians.
- Higher price point.
- Not ideal for beginners or those on a tight budget.
The Idiopan Domina is a 12-inch tunable steel tongue drum. It features eight notes in a C major pentatonic scale, with tunability achieved through adjustable magnets. This unique feature allows the pitch to be altered, even to 432Hz. Its design is enhanced by vibrant color options like emerald, sapphire, and ruby. The drum is accompanied by a pair of black mallets and a display ring.
- Visually appealing with multiple color choices.
- Tunable pitch allows for musical customization.
- Lightweight at around 9 lbs, making it portable.
- Comes with essential accessories (mallets and display ring).
- Lacks a protective case.
- No included music book for beginners.
- Limited to eight notes, which may restrict musical range.
The Lomuty Steel Tongue Drum is a 12-inch musical instrument made from a steel titanium alloy. It features 11 notes in a C major pentatonic mixed scale and has tongues shaped like lotus flowers. This drum is played using mallets, and it’s designed for a variety of musical genres.
- Affordable and beginner-friendly.
- Durable steel titanium construction.
- Harmonic and melodic range with 11 notes.
- Includes mallets, a carrying case, and a music book.
- Available in 11 different colors for personal preference.
- Aesthetically pleasing with lotus flower-shaped tongues.
- Some issues reported with paint quality.
- Potential tuning problems, a concern for more serious players.
The Zenko Equinox is a steel tongue drum that is designed for musical and compositional exploration. It features a unique Equinox scale, with notes G, B, C, D, E, and F#, including octave repeats of G, B, and D. This drum is played with either hands or mallets, offering different harmonics depending on the method used. It measures about 13 inches in diameter and weighs nearly 7 lbs, making it both portable and versatile.
- Unique Equinox scale enhances creative possibilities.
- Produces high harmonics, ideal for meditative and world music.
- Portable, with a 13-inch diameter and a weight of around 7 lbs.
- Excellent tonal quality suited for serious musicians.
- Versatile in playing methods (hands or mallets).
- Limited in design and color options.
- Higher price point, which might be a barrier for beginners.
10. Guda Drum
The Guda Drum is a steel tongue drum known for its distinctive appearance and sound. It measures almost 15 inches in diameter, weighs about 4 lbs, and is played by striking the tongues (cut-out sections) to produce notes. This drum features the arcane scale, with notes A C D E F G A C, creating a mystical and serene sound. The drum’s surface is artistically engraved, enhancing its visual appeal.
- Engraved artwork makes it visually captivating.
- The arcane scale offers a mystical sound, ideal for meditation music.
- Easy to carry, weighing around 4 lbs.
- At nearly 15 inches, it provides a good playing surface.
- The specific scale might not suit all musical styles.
- May not be affordable for those on a tight budget.
- Lacks plain-colored designs for those preferring a simpler look.
11. Panda Drum
The Panda Drum is a musical instrument renowned for its calming and meditative sounds. Crafted from carbon steel, it features steel tongues that vibrate when struck with mallets or hands, producing enchanting melodies. Tuned to the C major scale, it’s accessible to everyone, allowing for effortless creation of beautiful music regardless of musical background.
- Easy to play, suitable for beginners and experts alike.
- Crafted with precision from durable carbon steel.
- Versatile for various musical styles and genres.
- Can be used for meditation and relaxation.
- Limited sound range compared to other instruments.
- Requires careful handling to avoid damage.
- Relatively expensive compared to some alternatives.
Learn more: read the Panda Drum review.
HueDrum is more than just a musical instrument; it’s a colorful gateway to the world of rhythm. Crafted with care by skilled artisans, this tongue drum offers an easy-to-use design suitable for everyone, from kids to adults. Operating on metal tongues or keys, the HueDrum produces melodic tones when struck. Its steel construction and precise tuning ensure a high-quality musical experience, making it accessible to both beginners and experienced musicians.
- User-friendly design suitable for all ages.
- Therapeutic stress relief and confidence booster.
- Crafted with quality materials and backed by a 2-year warranty.
- Comprehensive package includes mallets, guidebook, and protective bag.
- Positive customer reviews praising its quality, sound, and design.
- Some users may find the sound range limited compared to more complex percussion instruments.
- Price may be a consideration for budget-conscious buyers.
Learn more: read the HueDrum review.
13. Harmony Drums
Harmony Drums are special musical instruments that blend percussion with therapeutic melodies, offering a unique and transformative musical experience. Crafted with precision, they feature metal tongues arranged in a circular pattern on the drum’s surface. When struck with mallets or fingers, these tongues vibrate, producing melodious tones. Each tongue’s length and thickness determine its pitch, ensuring harmonious and soothing sounds. Harmony Drums are tuned to specific musical scales, such as C-Major, providing consistency and enhancing the overall musical experience.
- Promotes relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety.
- Suitable for all ages and musical backgrounds.
- Beautifully crafted with exquisite design.
- Easy to play, fostering creativity and mindfulness.
- Offers educational value for learning music concepts.
- Portable and convenient for various occasions.
- Limited to specific musical scales.
- Can be relatively expensive.
- Sound preferences may vary among individuals.
Learn more: read the full review of Harmony Drums.
14. Balmy Drum
The Balmy Drum is a musical instrument celebrated for its soothing melody and easy-to-use design, resembling a hand pan drum. It creates harmonious tones that cater to individuals of all skill levels, even beginners, who can effortlessly produce beautiful sounds. Crafted with precision, its design and materials ensure clear notes with each tap, fostering relaxation, meditation, and creative expression.
- Easy for beginners to play
- Offers therapeutic benefits like stress reduction
- Versatile for different music styles
- Durable construction ensures longevity
- Comes with essential accessories for immediate use
- Encourages creativity and musical exploration
- Suitable for all ages and highly portable
- Falls within the mid to high price range
- Limited sound range compared to larger instruments
- Pre-tuned and non-adjustable
- Produces consistent volume without dynamic control
- Requires practice for mastering advanced techniques
Learn more: read the full review of Balmy Drum.
What Is A Steel Tongue Drum?
A steel tongue drum, also known as a tank or hank drum, is a metal percussion instrument from the idiophone family. It has a tank-like shape with a hollow center and several steel tongues, either straight or curved, tuned to produce different melodic tones. Playing the drum is easy and requires minimal music theory, making it accessible for beginners. Each tongue emits a unique tone when hit with a mallet, allowing for a wide range of musical styles. Steel tongue drums are versatile and popular in various genres, ideal for experimenting with rhythms and sounds.
How to Choose the Best Steel Tongue Drum
Design & Materials: Pick a design you love. Ensure it’s the right size and scale for you. Most are made of steel or similar metals, like the lightweight titanium in the Horse Steel Tongue Drum.
Scale: The scale affects sound. Minor scales are calming, major scales are playful (like the Asteman Nitrogen), and medium scales are versatile.
Sides: Choose between single-sided (like Pearl Awakening Series 9 Note) for affordability, or double-sided for more notes but higher cost.
Tones and Notes: The number of tongues affects the tones. Double-sided drums offer more variety. These tones are unique and easy for beginners.
Size: They come in many sizes. Bigger drums allow for more precise playing, while smaller ones are great for beginners or travel.
Craftsmanship: Focus on materials and design for sound quality and durability. Choose what looks and feels good to you.
Price: Double-sided drums are more expensive. Avoid those under $100 as they might lack quality. The Horse Steel Tongue Drum is good for kids or beginners.
Accessories: Look for drums with accessory packs. These can include cases, mallets, and tutorials, which are especially helpful for beginners.
Keep these points in mind to find the steel tongue drum that best suits your musical interests and needs. Happy drumming!
The History Of Steel Tongue Drums
Steel tongue drums are a recent addition to the idiophone family, with ancient roots dating back to when bamboo or wood idiophones were used in Africa, Oceania, and Southeast Asia. These early idiophones looked like boxes with slits. Modern tongue drums, often made from a steel titanium alloy, offer superior sound quality. The contemporary steel tank drum was invented by Dennis Havlena, a musician from Michigan, who crafted it from a propane tank by cutting out tongues and tuning them for melodic tones. This invention, distinct from the earlier Swiss steel drum of 2000, is known for its precise and unique sound.
How To Play The Steel Tongue Drum
Here’s a guide on how to play the steel tongue drum:
Choose Your Method: There are two main ways to play the steel tongue drum: with rubber mallets or by using your bare hands or fingers.
Using Rubber Mallets: Most steel tongue drums come with rubber mallets. These mallets are gentle on the drum and produce soft, melodic sounds. To play, hold a mallet in each hand and tap or strike the drum’s tongues. Experiment with different patterns and rhythms to create unique melodies.
Playing with Bare Hands or Fingers: Alternatively, you can play the drum using your bare hands or fingers. This approach allows for more subtle sounds, and you can control the tone by adjusting your hand strikes. While it may require more practice, bare-handed playing offers precision and the freedom to keep playing even if you lose your mallets.
Learning to play the steel tongue drum is easy, and you can choose the method that suits your style and preference. Enjoy creating beautiful melodies!
Benefits of Steel Tongue Drums
Finding One’s Voice: Steel tongue drums are beginner-friendly, allowing instant creation of melodious sounds without music theory knowledge. They naturally guide you to learn rhythm and melodies, encouraging techniques like tapping and humming.
Relaxation and Meditation: Their soothing tones aid in relaxation, providing a focus for meditation. The repetitive rhythms assist in stress release and promote mental and physical balance.
Boosting Creativity: These drums enhance creativity, offering freedom to experiment with notes and rhythms. They integrate well with other instruments and can be amplified for varied musical styles.
Physical Healing: The vibrations from the drums support physical healing by stimulating the immune system and reducing stress. They can alleviate pain, enhance circulation, and boost energy levels.
Mental Healing and Spiritual Exploration: Useful in combating mental illnesses, steel tongue drums provide a calming experience. They aid in mental relaxation and encourage introspection, beneficial for those dealing with anxiety and depression.
What’s the difference between a tongue drum and a handpan drum?
A tongue drum is made by cutting metal into individual tongues and tuning them for notes. Handpan drums have convex designs in steel that produce sounds. Tongue drums are lighter and more versatile than handpans.
How are these steel tongue drums tuned?
Steel tongue drums are tuned to a specific scale based on the size of their tongues. Over time, these tongues may lose their tuning. To restore the original tuning, you can bend them or seal the metal with heat. If you want to change the sound without altering the instrument, you can use magnets.
How much does a tongue drum cost?
Tongue drums range from $30 to $250, with price depending on size and design complexity. Smaller 5 to 6-inch models cost about $30 to $60.
Standard 12-inch to 14-inch models are priced between $110 to $250. Prices vary based on design complexity and engravings.
Additional accessories like mallets, tuning magnets, tutorials, custom cases, and carrying bags can increase the total cost.