Getting started in drum circles
August 11, 2013 9:37 PM   Subscribe

I would like to participate in a drum circle. What are some fairly affordable and portable drums or percussion instruments I could buy? General advice welcome but links to specific models and pros and cons of each would be especially helpful.

I played drums in a school band in middle school, so my skill level and experience is virtually nil.
posted by Unified Theory to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you might first want to find a circle, or perhaps a few circles, that you enjoy listening to, and want to play with, and seek their advice about drums and percussion instruments directly. In my experience, some of the most interesting drumming has been done on things that weren't, originally, drums, at all. And if you fall into that kind of group, showing up with a $500 Internet recommended conga won't get you smiles, probably. You'll have a lot more fun, and build better relationships if you let your circle(s) bring you to your instrument(s), than if you try and have your instruments get you into a circle.
posted by paulsc at 10:58 PM on August 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you're on a budget, plastic buckets do work well. A few years back, this one group sometimes would ask me to sit in at a small club, and if without instruments I'd go into the kitchen and get two large spoons and an empty bucket that once held pickles. Which worked fine... except when I turned it over to play the bottom, my shoes usually smelled like pickles for a few days.

I prefer the water jug (I got mine from a spring water company for $5), which hit in different places can make a variety of sounds, and can be played with either sticks or hands.

Speaking of sticks or hands, I like the former but I think that in most circles, people use their hands. An improv group I play with lugs around many different hand drums; my favorite is their Egyptian model darbuka or goblet drum (unlike many of those pictured, ours isn't fancy) which seems easiest on the hands, sounds good, and is small enough to transport without much trouble.

Anyway, paulsc is right; depending on what klnd of circle you find (African, Brazilian, ragtag hippie) will determine what kind of drum(s) you need. The good circles almost always have some extra percussion around not being used, so you can try various things and see what suits you best.

In my experience, some of the most interesting drumming has been done on things that weren't, originally, drums, at all.

I played a few years in VT with a drum quintet that almost never used actual drums. We'd play gardening tools;, kitchen utensils and/or pots, bird calls and rain sticks, or boomwackers.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:59 AM on August 12, 2013


Depending on your interests, you might want to see if you can find a samba school in your area. They normally have a pile of different instruments around you can pick up and try - as well as some people who can show you how to play them with the wider group. The notion that all participants will show newcomers how to play is what gets the gathering the name "school" - even though the main purpose is performance.
posted by rongorongo at 2:16 AM on August 12, 2013


Response by poster: The ones I have in mind are ragtag hippie drum circles.
posted by Unified Theory at 12:45 PM on August 12, 2013


You can buy a djembe for not too much money. They usually work well in a ragtag hippie drum circle. One option is a djembe with a natural skin head and ropes to tighten the skin, but that requires a fair amount of dedication to your drum which may or may not interest you. Alternatively, you can buy one with a synthetic head, like a Remo. The other consideration is the diameter of the head. I recommend one with a 12-14 inch diameter. A new one will run about $150-200 dollars but I am sure you can buy used ones for a lot less. What you buy ultimately depends on how serious you want to get into this. A "real" djembe with a properly tightened and maintained natural skin head sounds a lot better than a Remo with a synthetic head...once you know how to properly strike the djembe that is.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:18 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Visit your local ragtag hippie drum circle, and ask around for a local drum maker.
posted by yohko at 2:35 PM on August 12, 2013


I think asking the circle is probably best the answer here, but if you want a recommendation for a drum to mess around on Toca makes a very nice doumbek for not very much money called the Freestyle. Sounds good, is easy to play, and doesn't take up a lot of space. I like to bang on mine on the couch while I watch TV or whatever.
posted by word_virus at 3:05 PM on August 12, 2013


Nthing the djembe. In my former life as an amateur hippie drum-circler, my then-husband and I had two. They were always well received. It looks like there are ones pretty cheap on Overstock.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:15 PM on August 12, 2013


« Older Where can I find corn cockle flowers?   |   How can I make my work experience relevant for a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.