What is a Steel Drum

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Steel Drum

Cutting steel for percussion

When it comes to lap percussion instruments such as the Handpan, Hang, Halo, and such, there is a bit of confusion. Primarily, this arises due to the close similarities between the various types and the way in which certain musicians interchange the words of one instrument to another. However, there are differences between such instruments, especially when it comes to the differences between the steel drum and the Hang. Here is what you need to know.

Panyard Jumbie Jam Deluxe Steel Drum

High Quality Steel Drum for all ages and musical abilities - creates soothing melodic sounds that are pleasant to listen to
Sounds as good as a professional instrument but at an affordable price
Comes in a colorful carrying case, with Stand, Mallets and Song Book with Play-Along-CD

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Price: $173.47

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Steel drum instrument

Steel Drums are “recycled” acoustics

There are steel drums which are made as high ended products, but then there are also those which are constructed out of old propane tanks. This recycled method of making the instruments is done by cutting slots into the tank and achieving the acoustics needed. This is one of the reasons why the steel drum is sometimes referred to as the tongue cut steel drum. The aesthetics of the design appear to have a tongue or arch design to the steel drum where the arch of the tongue orients to the topmost part of the dome and the bottom cuts revolve around the tone circle. The thinner the tongue, the higher the pitch will be on the drum, the wider the cut the lower the note will be.

Panyard Jumbie Jam Table Top Steel Drum Kit

US-made
Award-winning quality and sound
Convenient sizing

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Price: $159.95

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It should be noted that constructing a steel drum out of a used propane tank is dangerous, even if the tank has been sitting for quite some time, there is a chance that gas still remains in the tank. Purchasing a custom steel drum or one from an online source is preferable.

What defines the sound of a steel drum?

Different from the smaller lap drums, the steel drums tend to get rather large and therefore require the use of stands and supports to play them properly. Those drums which are smaller in nature are played the same way in which the larger drums are, with the use of hammers and/or mallets. Steel on steel is where the acoustics of the drums are produced and so it is a merger between the size of the hammer and mallet used, the curvature of the steel drum, and the force which is applied to the plate areas which produce the sound.

Watch here steel drums on youtube:

The imploded hand drum?

When looking at a steel drum, you may get the perception that you are staring at an imploded hand drum, or halo. To a degree this is true, but not really. The steel drum does have an inverted dome design and plates, it also has a base, but to compare the two to each other is really an injustice to either instrument.

First, the steel drum’s sound is based upon the reverberance of the metal within the dome to create the sound. Hand Drums have a level of reverberation, but are based primarily on the air resonance. Secondly, the steel drum is more oriented to the bell and chime acoustics. Halo and Hangs are more oriented to the gong, bell, chimes, and xylophone style of music. Finally, the base of the drum on the Hand and Halo (known as the Gu) is domed and allows for substantial space between the two parts. On the steel drum, the base is cylindrical and the space is limited.

Best use of a steel drum

The best use of a steel drum is for Caribbean music, renegade music, or the like. The sound is chime based and not bell based (one should know the difference) and notes have a tendency to linger. An understanding of basic percussion, specifically where drumsticks and mallets are concerned would be useful in the playing of the drum. You are encouraged to seek youtube videos to see and hear some of the best steel drum players.

Keep in mind that there are a ton of different sizes, makes, models, brush jobs, stands, etc. that are encompassed in the steel drum realm. Check with locals, other musicians, and professionals to find the drum best suited for your needs.

Steel drum for sale

Find out more about steel drums

Should you wish to purchase a steel drum for sale, or if you have questions about the steel drum, please see the information available on our homepage. Or you can check some recommendations above.  The site provides you with not only the means to purchase quality drums, but also information to help you find the best type (whether that is a steel, a halo, a hang, or other type).

Goki Musician Steel Drum

This instrument is fascinating, its sound is so unusual and yet somehow familiar
Each steel drum is hand-made and checked for purity of sound
Material: wood, metal

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Price: $103.20

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Jumbie Jam Steel Drum Musical Instrument, Purple

High Quality Steel Drum for all ages and musical abilities - creates soothing melodic sounds that are pleasant to listen to
Sounds as good as a professional instrument but at an affordable price
Comes in a colorful carrying case, with Stand, Mallets and Song Book with Play-Along-CD

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Price: $229.84 $199.95

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Steel Tongue Drum – 9 tones

Stainless steel tongue drum, designed and manufactured in France. Fine tuning.
9 notes: G3 C4 D4 Eb4 G4 G#4 C5 D5 Eb5
weight 2.8 Kg (6.17 Lbs) - diameter 32 cm (12.6") - height 13 cm (5.12")

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Price: $370.00

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