steel tongue drum

History of the Steel Tongue Drum

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The steel tongue drum, often referred to as a handpan, tank drum, or hank drum, is a relatively recent musical instrument that has swiftly become well-liked all over the world. 

A flat, round drum with a number of tongues or ridges around the edge that are tuned to different pitches makes up this percussion instrument. 

The tongues generate a warm, resonant sound that is comparable to the sound of a steel drum or a gamelan when they are struck with the fingers or a mallet.


Where did the steel tongue drum originate?

The steel tongue drum’s exact origin is unknown, but it is thought to have been inspired by a variety of traditional instruments from around the world, including the hang drum, gamelan, and steelpan. 

The hang drum was created in the early 2000s by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer of PANArt in Switzerland, and it was the first modern instrument to use the steel tongue design. 

Here’s a documentary about the history of PANArt and Story of Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer:

The gamelan is a traditional Indonesian percussion ensemble made up of metallophones, gongs, and drums, whereas the steelpan is a musical instrument made from recycled oil drums that originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930s.

How old is the steel tongue drum?

The steel tongue drum was initially created in the early 2000s, not long after the hang drum. 

The original steel tongue drums had a simple form with a circular shape and a succession of tongues or ridges carved into the metal with a torch or another cutting instrument. 

These drums were handcrafted in tiny workshops. With a variety of designs, materials, and tuning systems now readily available, the steel tongue drum has changed and varied over time.

The Current Stage of Steel Tongue Drums

As the steel tongue drum’s popularity grew, a number of companies began to develop and market their own versions of the instrument. 

The best steel tongue drums are those that sound so good that simply capture your attention.

These new steel tongue drums were often made of higher-quality materials like stainless steel or titanium, and they had more precise tuning and a wider range of tonal options. 

Companies also began to experiment with various shapes and designs, such as the UFO or flying saucer shape, which allowed for a wider tonal range and resonance.

Steel tongue drums are now a popular instrument in a variety of musical genres, including world music, ambient and meditative music, and even pop and rock music. 

It is a versatile and portable instrument that can be played solo or in a group setting, and its soothing and calming sound is frequently used in therapeutic and healing contexts.

Steel Tongue Drum and Community-Building

The steel tongue drum has also been used as a tool for community building and social change in recent years. 

In 2014, a group of Israeli musicians and activists launched the Hand in Hand project, which brought Jewish and Arab musicians together to play music on steel tongue drums to promote understanding and collaboration between the two groups. 

Since then, the project has attracted thousands of musicians and supporters from all over the world, and it has inspired similar initiatives in other countries.

Is a steel tongue drum hard to play?

The steel tongue drum is widely regarded as an easy instrument to learn, particularly for beginners. The steel tongue drum, unlike many other percussion instruments such as drums or marimbas, does not require any special technique or training to produce a basic sound. 

Simply striking the tongues or ridges with your fingers or a mallet produces a pleasant and resonant tone, making it an ideal instrument for anyone interested in learning to play music.

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