28th Oct 2014

African Talking Drums

The African talking drum is a drum that got its name for a reason. This hourglass shaped drum has the ability to mimic the rhythm and inflections of human speech. It was originally used by African tribes to communicate. Unlike smoke signals, the talking drum could be used to send complex messages that were approximate to the spoken language. Like a djembe or ashiko drum, these drums could be used to communicate with other drummers up to twenty miles away. The talking drum has leather cords that are attached to each head of the drum. If is through the manipulation of these cords that the drum is played.

To play the talking drum first you must hold the drum under one arm. With this arm you will adjust the leather cords of the drum. Your arm should be placed in such a way that your arm goes around the middle, narrowest part of the drum. One head should be in front of you, and the other behind. You may grab some of the cords in your hand if it helps you to get a better grip on the drum. Practice gently lifting your arm or lowering it onto the cords. Grab the mallet in the hand that is not holding the drum. Tap the mallet on the head of the drum that is in front of you. While you are tapping the drum head lower your arm with the drum and squeeze the cords. This should produce a higher pitch from the drum. Now relax or lift your arm slightly so that you are not applying as much pressure on the cords. It can be helpful to focus on the lifting of your elbow in this movement. This motion should produce a lower pitch. Practice manipulating the pitch of the drum. To make the drum talk you need to mimic the rhythm and intonation of speech.

The more you practice, the more you will find your talking drum to be a rewarding musical experience. The talking drum is a great addition to any drum collection or drum circle. Its unique range of sounds set it apart from other drums. Trying to make your drum talk is a purely fun experience in musical expression.