While drum circle performances usually utilize different types of drums, there are other percussion instruments that can add depth to the sounds of a drum circle. These percussion instruments may not get as much attention as the bongos, djembes, or doumbek drums, they are time honored percussion instruments. Such instruments include the claves, wood blocks, bells, shakers, and other hand held percussive instruments. These instruments add their own special tones to the music. They allow even the newest member of a drum circle to incorporate their own voice into the group rhythm.
Rain Sticks are long, hollow sticks with tacks, thorns, or nails pushed through the sides. Inside of the Rain Stick beads, pebbles, or other such small objects fall over the spikes and create a sound similar to that of rain. The instrument is played by flipping the Rain Stick over. This instrument was first created from a cactus in South America. It was used to encourage rainfall.
Wood Blocks are also referred to as “split drums.” They are played with sticks. Wood Blocks come in a variety of sizes. The Cajita is considered a block instrument even though it is a more complicated instrument to play than most.
Claves produce a sharp clacking when who pieces of wood are struck together. They are highly portable and easy to play. This makes them a favorite for drum circles around the world.
Cowbells originated on farms. They were used to help farmers keep track of cattle. They have since been popularized by modern music, but no one knows exactly at what point they entered into this sphere.
Cabasas are a modern take on the shekere, an African gourd instrument. A Cabasa is a wooden wheel strung with a metal ball chain and attached to a handle. The sound produced by a Cabasa is similar to that of a cymbal that is being played with brushes. It is an easy to play instrument that is welcoming to beginners.
Kalimbas can also be called a “thumb piano.” This name was given to it both because of the way it is played and the sound that it makes. A Kalimba is made from a small, wooden box with metal tines. It is played by plucking the tines. Many associate the sounds with those of music boxes or carnivals.
Variety is key to drum circles. It keeps the music interesting for both the players and the audience. The incorporation of multiple percussion instruments can help give a drum circle its own life, the sounds ever changing and evolving. It can deepen the experience for everyone involved.