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I Want to Play a Hand Drum, But, Where do I Start?

Published by Kristin Stancato on 17th Oct 2014

We can see it in your eyes, the way you’ve been looking at those djembes and cajon drums. You may have stumbled upon a hand drum in an online video, or you heard the call of the rhythm at night from a neighbor’s drum in the distance. You are ready to take the next step and start your life as a master of hand percussion instruments. Of course, you are only following your instincts (as you should) and are to be commended for your desire to improve your life dramatically. Now you just have to figure out the “how” of this part of your journey: how do I start hand drumming?

Well, there are many paths that can to lead you into the world of hand drumming, but, first, you’re going to need a drum. You can try to borrow a djembe from a friend or neighbor or you can make your own drum. Most people purchase their own drum… like moths to a flame. You probably already know that feeling. Choosing your first hand drum isn’t an easy process. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different djembes, bongos and frame drums to choose from… not to mention cajon drums, congas, doumbeks… you get the picture. There is also no right or wrong choice for your first hand drum; whatever you are drawn to (style, size, cost) will be absolutely perfect.

No matter how that new drum has landed in your hands, now that it’s yours, you are ready to drum, right? Maybe. You can certainly spend time playing along with your favorite songs, or playing your own inner beat. In fact, those are both great ways to get to know your drum, and the type of music you might want to play – if any. Some people never try to learn a style of music and are all about the improvisational aspects of hand drumming. Others delve deep into the cultural music their drums have played for centuries. There are a whole lot of reasons to let your drum be your guide, but, more than anything, your drum is an expression of who you are. Follow your spirit and embrace your rhythm!

After you’ve gotten to know yourself through your drum’s eyes, or skin, and explored its potential in the world of rhythm, you can also pick up some lessons from other drummers. One of the best things about drumming today is that you have the ability to learn from a wide range of people and sources, like at your local music store, or even through online drumming lessons. Experiencing different styles of drumming, rhythm and music only increases how awesomely you can drum, and the lessons you get from others may teach you a lot more than just technique.

For hand drummers, one of the greatest feelings in the world is playing djembes (congas, doumbeks, etc.) together. Hand drummers love drum circles and we love drum duets. Since hand drumming is a community activity, it only makes sense that once you get a handle on your drumming, you reach out and find your tribe, of sorts. You’ll be surprised, actually, at how many people have drums they’ve tucked away in their homes and are just waiting for a chance to bring them out and share a love for rhythm.

After you’re pretty comfortable with your hand drum, and you acknowledge your obsession with drumming, drums and all things percussion, it’s time to take that next step and add in another drum or instrument to your repertoire. The unfortunate part about starting to hand drum is the inability to ever really stop hand drumming. What may start off as an innocent hobby or way to chill on the weekends with friends will invariably turn into a lifelong pursuit of unending enchantment.