29th Oct 2014

Drum Circle Percussion Instruments

Percussion

In the midst of a drum circle or other performance, the sounds of the drums being used may need a little something extra. While the drummers drum on bongos, djembes or doumbek drums, it's possible to add extra accents to the beats with time-honored percussion instruments that may not get as much attention from drum circle participants. These instruments include claves, blocks, bells, shakers and many other hand-held percussion devices that add new tones and sounds. With these instruments, even the newest members of the drum circle can add a special voice to the overall rhythm.

Cabasas are modern evolutions of the African gourd instrument, shekere, but are manufactured to more standard dimensions. A Cabasa is a wheel, typically made from wood, strung with metal ball chain and attached to a handle. The Cabasa sounds similar to a cymbal played with brushes and can easily be played by any novice.

Pickup cajon with foot cabasa

Rain Sticks are long, hollow sticks with nails, tacks or thorns hammered through to the inside of the stick. Sealed inside the rain stick are beans, beads, pebbles or other small items that help create the sound of rain falling as the stick is held upright and then switched, end over end. These instruments were originally made from cactus found in South America, and were used to encourage rain to fall.

Cowbells are exactly that, bells that were used for cattle. These bells are used today, outside of percussion, on livestock to help ranchers keep track of their cows or other animals. The introduction of the cowbell into music is not readily known, but many modern songs have popularized the unique sound.

Claves can make a sharp, cracking sound, as the two pieces of wood are struck together. Latin music has popularized the use of claves, and their portability and ease of playing make them a favorite of drum circle participants around the world.

Blocks are wooden instruments that are played with a stick and may also be referred to as “slit drums.” Generally, blocks are played in sets of different sizes, but of similar shapes. The Cajita is considered a block instrument, but has a more complicated manner of play than other blocks.

Kalimbas are also called "thumb pianos," for the way they are played and the sounds that can be produced. A Kalimba is an instrument made from a small, wooden box with metal tines attached. It is easily played by plucking the tines, creating sounds reminiscent of music boxes and carnivals.

In every drum circle, variety is the spice that keeps it interesting and engaging for both its participants and listeners. By incorporating various drums and other percussion instruments into the circle, the overall sound quality and enjoyment of the circle itself can increase dramatically.

So tell us... Other than a drum, what is your percussion instrument of choice at a drum circle?

Post your replies below!