How do you make a good drum?

Experimenting with different materials to build the perfect drum

Rhythm Circle embarks on a thumping new adventure this year with a brand new partnership with Primal Sound UK.

As a pianist, I find drumming very liberating, addictive and a great way to de-stress. Hand drums have become one of my favourite instruments over the years and my djembé is a well-loved and well-used instrument in the Rhythm Circle studio.

I wanted to share the joy of drumming with my students and finally was able to do so with Rhythm Circle’s very first African Drumming Workshop. This exciting workshop was led by Sarah Westwood from Primal Sound UK. Sarah introduced us to 3 different types of drums – djembés, dun duns and talking drums, and led us through an exciting drumming session.

After a short drumming session, our younger students explored different materials to find out which membranes made the best drums. Cloth, rubbery therabands, clingfilm, and cardboard were put to the test and assembled into drums in different ways. Some children layered on multiple materials to create a denser membrane. Others made a beater to go with the drum and also closed off both ends of the drum frame in an attempt to ‘trap the vibrations’. We discovered that drums placed directly on the floors and lifted into the air made a different sounds.

The older students were taught Djolé rhythms. We practiced each new element and then combined them and played as an ensemble. My skin tingled from the vibrations made by 20 drums and I felt bonelessly relaxed after the session. Everything was taught aurally, so we could simply focus on the physical aspects of playing the drum. This was a great way of training rhythmic/melodic memory and getting away from the visual strictures of printed music (often a ‘curse’ of classically-trained musicians).

Since there are very few enjoyable de-stressing activities which you can do as a family, we’ve have been absolutely inundated with requests for more drumming sessions. So we have created Rhythm Circle African Drumming, the new drum circle in Sutton Coldfield which will meet regularly throughout the year.