Drumming Circles & Hand Drums

drumming circles
drums for sale

learn to play drumsWhat are Drum Circles? learn to drum

Drumming is an ancient musical tradition that many cultures around the world use to energize, build unity, focus attention, relax and heighten creativity. No matter what our age and ability, whenever we hear drumming, we all begin to move to those universal rhythms inside us. A community drum circle is a group of people who come together to make in-the-moment music. No musical experience is necessary! With a few rhythm starters, the circle begins to experience the fun, excitement and humor that collaboration brings.

What kinds of drums are played in drum circles?

Originally from West Africa, the djembe has spread around the world to become the hallmark instrument of the world-beat movement. Since at least 500 A.D., the djembe has been used in healing ceremonies, rites of passage, ancestor worship, warrior rituals, and social dancing. This djembe was hand-carved in Africa from a solid hardwood log using traditional techniques. Check out my new Djembe page for a bit more history on the instrument, a (very!) short & basic tutorial, descriptions of different types of drums and some of my favorite African music that's currently available on CD.

Casablanca Tunable Carved Wood Doumbek
The doumbek (also sometimes spelled dumbek) is a goblet shaped drum that originated in the Middle East. It's generally played by holding the drum in your lap under your left arm and striking it with the fingers of both hands. The heavy down beats in Middle Eastern rhythms are usually played on the right (dominant) hand and the other hand is used for fill beats and other accents. If you've heard bellydancing music, you've heard a doumbek. This doumbek is made of carved wood; others are ceramic or made of metal. Since this is the drum I play the most, I've created a special page for doumbeks with a bit of history, descriptions of the different types of doumbeks with the merits of each type plus places to buy drums, instructional videos and CDs.

The Bongos originated in West Africa, but the shape and instrument that we know today developed in Cuba. Bongos are traditionally played in pairs and were originally designed to be played supported between the knees. This set of bongos has a wooden shell but you can also find bongos made of fiberglass.

Congas originated in West Africa, but modern congas are usually based on a Cuban design. You can get a single drum like this one or buy a conga paired with a slightly smaller Tumba or Quinto for more variations in tone. They're played with the hands and can be played sitting or standing. This Conga is made of wood but they also come in fiberglass.

A family of West African instruments related to the Nigerian Culture, the Ashiko is a cone-shaped drum. Its shape produces rich, balanced tones: a crisp, dry slap and sustained, sonorous bass. Some are tuned with drumkeys and some are rope-tuned like this one. Traditionally they are made of wood, like this engraved rosewood ashiko.

The frame drum is one of the earliest musical instruments known and it's found all over the world. This bodhran is an Irish frame drum usually played with a small double ended stick called a tipper. It's similar to the Middle Eastern Tar, though Tars are usually played with the hands. Another type of frame drum is the Bendir, a Moroccan frame drum with snares stretched across the inside of the skin for a buzzing sound. One of the most famous styles of frame drum is the large, low-toned Native American drum sometimes called a Buffalo Drum. It's traditionally played with a padded mallet.

A tambourine is basically a frame drum with jingles around the rim. This is another common instrument with ancient roots; it seems to turn up everywhere. Tambourines come with and without drumheads, tunable and fixed pitch, and in many different sizes. Depending on the part of the world it's from, a tambourine might be called a Gaval, Kanjira, Riq, Mazhar, Pandeiro, Pandereta or Tamburello.

Where can I buy hand drums online?

Not just for great deals on books, movies and CDs any more!
Select "musical instruments" as a category, enter the name of the drum you want and browse through their large selection of instruments.

While you're looking at the djembes, doumbeks, congas, and other "conventional" drum circle drums, explore some of the more exotic ~ and often inexpensive ~ percussion instruments that are available. OCEAN DRUMS are double headed frame drums with steel shot or seeds inside; when they're tipped or shaken they sounds like (you guessed it!) ocean waves. These drums can also be played by hand or with wooden &/or cloth-covered mallets like conventional frame drums. And the tropical fish motifs are beautiful. Ocean Drums are also available with clear heads and in different sizes. Kids love them and they're so much fun to play, they're often hard to get out of the hands of the adult drummers ;-) Along with shakers and rattles, ocean drums are very cool additions to any drum circle or percussion class.

Large drum circles can be LOUD so safeguard your hearing! I bought my Checkmate sound level meter at Zzounds. It's portable and measures decible levels up to 130. They also have the best price I've found on professional musicians' earplugs that reduce the volume without changing the tone of the music by reducing sound approximately 20 dB at all frequencies. They're great for concerts too. Zzounds also carries some hand drums including congas, tambourines, bongos and guiros.

The average person can handle a sound level of 85 db for 8 hours but every + 3 db increase can only be tolerated for half the time. For example: the loudest TEK I can manage on my doumbek logs in a 84db so I guess my ears... and my husband's... will survive my solo drumming sessions at home :-) But group drumming levels are usually significantly higher. Borrow or buy yourself a meter and check it out!

FYI, here are some average sound levels of various situations:

The Quick Guide to Djembe Drumming
DVD featuring Steve Leicach
Learn the essential drum tones, a diverse assortment of African rhythms, and Steve's highly effective singing and drumming exercises. Topics covered include natural tone, bass, slap and touch strokes ~ "In Time" and "Free Flow" improvisation exercises ~ traditional Kakilambe, Econcon, and Lendjien rhythms presented with cultural introductions, individual parts, and group performances ~ interviews offering insights into the world of Djembe drumming. There's also an internet component that offers notation of the rhythms, special Djun Djun (bass drum) parts, further "In-Time" and "Free-Flow" exercises, special question and answer opportunites, and more. For beginning through intermediate skill levels.

How to play Frame Drums, Congas, Bongos & More

Rhythmic Wisdom
Learn basic frame drum technique and interlocking rhythms from Layne Redmond. Not only is Layne a master of the frame drum & tambourine but she's a great teacher, putting the focus on your learning, not on her performing. You'll also learn a bit about how drumming connects to religion, history, physics, and psychobiology from this fascinating lady who also is the author of When the Drummers Were Women: a Spiritual History of Rhythm

Frame Drumming Free Hand Style - The Basics : A Rhythmic Guide for Creative Musical Expression
book and CD set
A revolutionary approach to hand drum techniques, this book is based on world music traditions and is equally relevant to players ranging from weekend drum circle enthusiasts to professional percussionists. The text presents standard rhythm patterns in an easy-to-understand manner that will unlock every player's creative potential. Includes: exercises to develop technique, rhythm and reading; traditional music notation combined with Indian rhythmic syllables; detailed illustrations of hand positions; an index of hand drumming strokes; and more. The accompanying 41-track CD demonstrates many of the exercises and provides play-along examples.

Have Fun Playing Hand Drums
Book & CD set for Playing the Djembe, Conga, and Bongo Drums (CD & book)
Geared towards the novice drummer, basic drumming and rhythm concepts are explained very clearly and simply in the well illustrated book and the CD includes graduated exercises and play-along tracks. This would make a wonderful introduction to hand drumming for children.

Conga Drumming: A Beginners Guide to Playing With Time
CD and book by Betsy Sansby & Alan Dworsky
Learn step by step how to play the conga drum using authentic Afro - Cuban Rhythms: calypso, bomba, conga, rumba and bembe. The clear text, illustrations and simple charts make learning these beats easy. The player can hear all 175 rhythms in the book on the included CD

Hip Grooves for Hand Drums
How to Play Funk, Rock & World-Beat Patterns on Any Drum
Here are instructions for beginning hand drum players who want to play rhythms with contemporary music. All you need is one drum -- a djembe, a conga, or anything else you can get both your hands on. Whether your goal is to play in a band, jam in the park, or just drum along with your favorite CDs, this book will show you how, step by step. Includes dance grooves and others based on traditional African or Afro-Cuban rhythms. Includes book and CD.
Anga Mania!
A video masterclass of traditional conga techniques mixed with funk, jungle and Cuban music from the virtuoso master percussionist Miguel 'Angua' Diaz. Known for his remarkable soloing and multiple conga/percussion inventions, Anga has recorded and toured with Irakere, Steve Coleman, Roy Hargrove, The Afro-Cuban All-Stars, Ruben Gonzales, Danilo Perez, David Sanchez and many others. In the video, Anga takes an insightful look at the future of congo playing. Through a methodology based in tradition, he demonstrates many of his systems and the forms he uses to develop dextrous patterns, riffs and solos.

Another awesome handdrummer and teacher is John Bergamo
In his video The Art of Hand Drumming, step-by-step instructions take you from fundamental one-handed techniques applicable to the western tambourine to advanced techniques using both hands and individual fingers.
Finding Your Way With Hand Drums Video is a user-friendly guide on the spiritual and musical essence of handdrumming. Technical aspects explored include basic drum strokes and tones, creating and holding a rhythmic groove, dynamics, tonal textures, and drumming on non-conventional or 'found' instruments.
Both videos come with instructional booklets.

When the Drummers Were Women : A Spiritual History of Rhythm
by Layne Redmond
"Women's spirituality circles have taken to drumming in a big way. Redmond has been a leader in reintroducing the frame drum, which, she persuasively argues, has been an instrument of spiritual transformation for millennia. Her marvelous book brings together mythology, history and prehistory, personal experience, musical lore, and scientific information on the healthful effects of drumming. Scores of illustrations show stately goddesses holding frame drums, wild maenads tossing their heads as they pound, and priestesses sanctifying space with the rhythms they beat. Redmond's own story of learning drumming in a society in which women are still actively discouraged from taking up the drums is a paradigm of female experience. Wise and passionate, Redmond's book will find a ready audience, made up not only of those who have attended her popular workshops but also of other women drawn to the ecstatic pulse of the drum." ~ thanks to Patricia Monaghan, author of The Goddess Path for this review

The Drummer's Path: Moving the Spirit with Ritual and Traditional Drumming
by Sule Greg Wilson, forward by Babatunde Olatunji
Drummer, dancer, and folklorist Sule Greg Wilson introduces the principles behind African and Diaspora music, including breath, posture, and orchestration.

The Healing Drum : African Wisdom Teachings
by Yaya Diallo and Mitch Hall
In the personal story of internationally acclaimed drummer Yaya Diallo we see the power of music as a sacred, healing force in West African culture. The Healing Drum traces the extraordinary cultural legacy of the Minianka tribe of West Africa, for whom music serves a sacred, healing function for the individual and society. The authors explore the Minianka view of humanity, music, and the cosmos relative to work, celebration, herbal medicine, dance, trance, initiation, and death.

How to Make Drums, Tom-Toms and Rattles: Primitive Percussion Instruments for Modern Use
by Bernard Mason
Mason's book has many drawings of original drums and their designs. He gives detailed practical instructions on how to build drums, hand-frame drums and a pow-wow drum. The book is a classic on woods craft type drum building.

learn to play drumsRhythm Intensive Music learn to drum
some excellent CDs for drumming and trance dancing

Drums of Passion Babatunde Olatunji 
 CD Drums of Passion Babatunde Olatunji 
 CD Drums of Passion the Invocation Babatunde Olatunji 
You can't go wrong with any recording by the legendary Babatunde Olatunji.
The spirit of rhythm still lives on in the music of this master drummer who sadly died in 2003.

James Asher Shaman Drums CD James Asher Feet in the Soul CD James Asher Drums on Fire CD James Asher Tigers of the Raj CD
CDs by James Asher
James Asher's earth centered world beat music, inspired by African drumming, Aboriginal chants & ancient middle eastern & Indian sacred sounds, is both danceable and traceable :-)

Totem Gabrielle Roth CD Trance rave music CD Initiation Gabrielle Roth CD Ritual CD altered states of consciousness Luna CD gravers
CDs by Gabrielle Roth & the Mirrors
Gabrielle is an inspiring musician, trance dancer & teacher. I love all her CDs.

Also check out her video package, Ecstatic Dance

trances shamanism shaman drumming
CDs by Frank Natale, author of "Trance Dance", and Professor Trance and the Energizers.
This music is mind bending and just plain fun, whether you're drumming alone or at a party with friends.

shaman drums shaman journey shamanic journey
Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead and now solo/freelance-colaborative artist, has the heart and hands of a shaman. This is great stuff!

x tribe drum circle afro celt sound system afro celts peter gabriel security
X Tribe's one and only album is awesome. I wish there were more!

Seed is the latest release from the Afro Celts, formerly the Afro Celt Sound System, an amazing blend of African, Celtic and Middle Eastern rhythms. All their albums are recommended.

middle eastern drumming doumbek drumming maqsum

Maqam Music specializes in Middle Eastern music, especially hard-to-get CDs. Their catalog includes musicians from all over the world; one of my favorite "Middle Eastern bands" is from California! Founded by Jeremiah M. Soto, Solace has been known to fans of tribal bellydance and drumming for years. . Rhythm of the Dance is great for doumbek drummers to play along to; the tracks are even named after classic Middle Eastern rhythms (Beledi, ChifteTelli, Masmoudi, Saidi, etc). Sha'waza, The Gathering Season and Ahsas add inspiring oud, saz and other melodic instruments to the mix. Maqam also carries doumbek teacher Mary Ellen Donald's "Gems of the Middle East" series and CDs by master drummer Hossam Ramzy, George Abdo, and bellydancer Jalilah. (Yes, this music is also perfect for inspiring aspiring bellydancers :-) And most of the album pages include streaming audio so you can hear samples before you buy.

Peter Gabriel is a long time favorite of mine and Security is a worldbeat classic.
Another artist you can't go wrong with. He's also incredible in concert!

My own collection of handcrafted earrings & necklaces inspired by the natural healing properties of the stones and the magic of dance, music & rhythm... they're made to move with you :-)

T shirts for drummers
Wear your love of drum culture with pride!
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learn to bellydance video dvd

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