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Hang Drum: A Young Drum With an Old Soul

Published by Kaitlin Meilert on 8th May 2014

The UFO-looking instrument played by Hang Massive in the video above is called a Hang drum. Similar to the djembe, the Hang drum is played with the hands and fingers while resting on the player’s lap. However, it’s sound is quite distinct from other world hand drums. It’s also a much younger instrument than your typical world drum.

The Hang drum was created in 2000 by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer in Switzerland under the company name PANart Hangbau AG. A modified version of the traditional steelpan drum, the Hang drum is crafted from two shells made from a deep drawn, nitrided steel sheet. The shells are glued together at the rim, creating a hollow interior. The top, or “Ding,” side features a central note surrounded by a circle of seven or eight “tone fields” hammered into the surface. The bottom, or “Gu,” side is a smooth surface with a hole in the center for sound resonance, much like an udu drum. The central hole also has a tuned note that you’ll hear when you strike the rim.

By playing with the hands rather than with a mallet, which is how the steelpan is played, the sound is much softer and warmer than the brighter sounds of the steelpan. In fact, the Hang drum can sound a lot like a harp or bells, creating a soothing, ethereal sound. The softer sound is also created by playing the Hang drum much more gently than you would play a traditional hand drum, such as the djembe.

The Hang drum’s unique design allows the player to create both the melody and the rhythm of a song using only the Hang drum. In fact, Hang drum is often played solo! Of course, the Hang drum can be played with other Hang drums, as seen in the video above.