In addition to being a private violin teacher and having a degree in music from USC, Alecia started writing music-related articles and product reviews six years ago and has enjoyed this experience greatly. She likes to learn new instruments and write new compositions in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners can enjoy really good music.
Last updated: September 12, 2023
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Have you tried melodic drumming before? If not, then you should begin with steel tongue drums. You might have seen it in a drum circle played by a busker or maybe as a part of a larger ensemble.
Those new to music can use a steel tongue drum because it is easy to learn. Moreover, it sounds very beautiful, so we have gathered a list of the best steel tongue drums available on the market. In addition, we have included the best tongue drum for beginners.
We chose these based on their design, the materials used, and the tones and melodies offered. So, scroll down and read the reviews to find the best steel tongue drums for your studio. We’ve also included a buying guide to help you to make your final purchase decision.
Steel tongue drums and similar idiophone instruments have taken the world by storm, and if you are a hang instrument fan as well, you will have to go for a drum maker who hasn’t recalled their units for a long time.
And, of course, the prices will go up with such a high-quality constitution. And if you are looking for a reliable manufacturer, you need to go for Pearl Awakening. They are highly regarded for their top-quality construction that delivers performance for a long time. These hang instruments come in different finish options and feature rubber feet for sonically isolating the drum.
This tongue drum features quality finishes and has soothing notes tuned to C Lydian. 9 laser-cut tongues can be fine-tuned to precision. There are protective finish guards that prevent tarnishing, scuffs, and scratches. Three rubber feet isolate the drum to ensure that you will get an unfettered sound, and we loved that you can play this drum using the mallets or with your fingers.
This is the best option you need to consider if you are looking for an instrument to learn new skills or just want to get the hang of this new instrument. We loved that this instrument is an ideal option for various setups, and you can use it in your live performance and studio setups.
This steel tongue drum comes with a long 2-year warranty, and you can send it back to the manufacturers if you face any troubles while using it.
This steel tongue drum is an ideal option for use during live performances and in the studio, and it is versatile enough for both beginners and professionals.
This steel tongue drum has a powerful construction and is one of the most durable pieces you will find on the market. One of the best options you can consider if you are a pro is one of the budget-friendly options you can go for.
But we love that this instrument is an ideal option for both professionals and beginners. Whether you are learning the rope with these instruments or as an expert, it will work fine. It can deliver harmonious and expensive sounds, and the instrument can comfortably pair well with all compositions.
What we loved most about this instrument is that it works well both for ensembles and soloists. And it works well for you whether you are playing for performance or pleasure. It has a highly responsive steel surface and is conducive to playing with a mallet or hands.
This steel tongue drum comes with a pair of rubber mallets, and it can deliver soothing sonic vistas allowing you to try out different tones comfortably.
This steel tongue drum is a versatile option for both ensemble and solo playing, and with the tonal arrangement, it works well for both seasonal pros and new players.
This drum comes with a 2-year warranty that will make sure that this drum delivers the value for money you are looking for.
It comes with 8 notes, and its size is 12 inches, but the durability of this drum is exceptional as it is made of powder-coated steel. It doesn’t need much care and maintenance. That is what is so special about this particular steel tongue drum.
Why did it make our list?
Rubber mallets are included
Durable construction thanks to powder-coated steel design
This steel tongue drum is a mid-range tunable drum, and various contributing factors make this drum one of the best available options on the market. This drum can deliver soothing mellow tunes that cannot be compared to any other instruments you will find on the market. With each strike of tongues, an overwhelming sense of calmness and tranquility comes to the listening ears.
This 12-inch 8-tone drum comes tuned to C Major pentatonic scale. It allows you to plug the drum in, start recording the tunes, and add various sample effects. We have discovered that you can create your scales, and different color options are available.
There are two options available that you can explore, including the electric or the acoustic plays. It has a comfortable size that enables you to carry it comfortably for those on-the-go jams.
We are impressed with this drum’s ability to harmonize with any instrument. It means you can comfortably use it in any setup. This drum comes with a pair of mallets with a medium density, a display ring, and a cleaning cloth.
It works well for professionals and beginners because this drum goes well with any instrument and setup. This versatility makes it an ideal choice for use as a soloist or in the ensemble.
It has a highly durable construction that will enable you to continue using this drum for a long time.
These drums are durable and excellent for practicing solar or playing ensemble professionals.
Why is it special?
Different color options are available
The option of creating your scales is also available
It is tunable in both A-432 Hz and A-440 Hz
Suitable for harmonizing with all types of instruments
What are the flaws?
It only comes with 8 notes and doesn’t have any finger pads
This steel tongue drum set is an ideal option for professionals looking to perform solo or in their ensemble. It comes with 15 notes, and you can produce a wide range of sounds using this drum. It means it works well with all instruments.
This drum has the traditional C major scale, so you will get additional playing space. All these notes get extraordinary vibratory resonance with minimal possible fluctuations.
The company has carbonized the steel of this drum. And in this process, the company has made this metal more durable and stable.
We loved that skillful craftsmen have developed this steel tongue drum to ensure an accurate tone and precise sound.
Apart from that, this drum has some modern streaks. The company has used more innovative design and sound theories in its constructions. Your package will include finger rings, a drum bag, drum mallets, and a music book.
This hand drum is a good choice for street performances, family and friend gatherings, festival celebrations, and other events. It can work both in professional hands as well as beginner’s hands. But with the complexity that this drum has to offer, it is a better choice for the pros.
This drum is pretty impressive, and it comes with its backpack. You can use it for traveling and play your favorite tunes wherever you go. You can even play this sound and put yourself, your friends, and your family to sleep. Furthermore, you can conveniently play this drum with your fingers as you will get your finger pads, which are included in your purchase.
What do we love it for?
This drum is available in a variety of patterns and colors
This steel tongue drum by Horse is available in 12-inch size and features 13 different notes. The drum has a broader range of notes, so you can use it in a powder range of songs. And not only that, but these drums can also align well with a variety of other instruments too.
We are highly impressed with how this drum perfectly tunes according to the performer’s requirements. The tone from this drum is melodic and ethereal, while the timbre is real and stable. These tones will enable you to find your inner peace and clarify your thoughts.
It is a top choice instrument not only for different events and parties. You can use it for yoga, meditation, religious activities, and even stress-relieving endeavors. The steel the company has used to construct this drum features titanium alloy. The drum is safe from corrosion and can tolerate heat much better. Therefore, it lasts longer and won’t deteriorate over time due to exposure.
This drum comes with all the accessories that you need to get started. Your purchase will include a couple of drum mallets. A mallet bracket is included, along with six finger pads. A set of note stickers, a tutorial book, and a traveling bag are included.
The traveling bag lets you take your drum and use it on the go. It means you can entertain yourself or your friends on the move. With Titanium alloy construction, the overall weight of this drum stays on the lighter side, allowing you to carry it with ease.
What do we love it for?
Comes with all the accessories needed to play
Excellent travel partner, thanks to the carrying bag
Available in two different sizes and note options
What were we disappointed with?
Better suited to professionals than beginners
Things to Consider
To get the best value for your money, you must do market research before looking for the instruments you need.
First of all, you need to identify what your needs and requirements are. For example, will you be playing this increment in your live performances, or are you looking at it as our mediation instrument?
Of course, if you want to use it as a musical instrument for your live performance, you will need more tone variations so it can go well with different instruments.
However, if mediation is the only use, you might not need that much complexity in what notes a particular steel tongue drum has to offer.
We have done all the research for you and have come up with this buying guide and a separate FAQ section to help you in your decision-making process.
What Is a Steel Tongue Drum?
A steel tongue drum is a hand drum or a tank drum. It is made of round steel and has slits or tongues on it. This drum belonged to the idiophone family and was originally designed from a propane cylinder.
You can even make a steel tongue drum using a propane tank. Just flip the tank open and cut out the base. The next step is to radially cut out seven tongues in the bottom of the tank, which will form the top of the drum.
You can use those tank heads to make this instrument. And when you vary the lengths, you will be able to tune the tongues, or you can do so by adding weight. For adding weights, you can use neodymium magnets and add them to those tongues.
These drums are often tuned with pentatonic scales. Nevertheless, you can tune them as per diatonic scales or chromatic scales. You can play the instrument with mallets or with fingers, and it will release a bell-like sound that is very pleasant to hear.
This drum is based on the wooden slit drum, developed by many ancient civilizations such as Aztecs, Africans, and even Indonesians. Back in the day, this instrument was used for both entertainment and ritual purposes.
The modern steel tongue drum has several predecessors. One of the most notable is the 1990 Whale Drum that Jim Doble developed along with Felle Vega’s Tamburo.
More recently, Dennis Havlena 2007 was inspired by the Hang’s layout and the physical properties of Tamburo. He brought these design properties into his propane tank design layout, creating the hank drum. The name “Hank” is an amalgamation of two terms, “hang” and “tank.” Havlena’s design layout inspired many other variations we see today in the market.
What are Steel Tongue Drum Basics?
A steel tongue or a hank drum is, of course, an idiophone. It means these instruments function like cymbals, xylophone, rattles, woodblocks, gongs, or any other instrument on which you bang to create sound.
In Western music, there are 12 notes in a chromatic scale. You can create other cells and types based on the pitches and orders. The most common of them all is the C Major.
As you mix 1, 3, and 5 on this scale, you will get a major chord for C major or C-E-G. The minor chord formula you need to follow here is 1, b3, and 5 with a flat third degree. Hence, C minor will be C-Eb-F on the minor scale.
For every key, this works in the same way. You can use your circle of fifths when looking for one. The significant chord here will have an intense feeling and uplifting.
While the minor chord will have a more contemplative and sadder tone. The music we produce will get a flavor based on the notes we use to lower or raise within the scale.
All notes of the scale also come with a special note. Of course, there are hank drums in major and minor scales. However, you can find other modes, such as Lydian, and you will find many more songs in this mode.
You will find new scales in music outside the western notes mentioned above. Conventional music can be intervals or pentatonic that are entirely different from western ones. The pentatonic scale only has C-D-E-G-A.
Features to Consider Before Buying Steel Tongue Drums
You must consider some important factors when looking for the best steel tongue drums that serve your purpose.
In this buying guide, we have listed some of the most important aspects you need to keep in mind and match them to your demands to reach a buying decision that delivers value.
Design & Materials
An essential factor you need to focus on is the design and construction of a steel tongue drum. But this aspect is more associated with your personal preferences than your instrument’s performance.
And, of course, when it’s a matter of personal preferences, there is nothing right or wrong. You can just pick whatever you like. But make sure you go for the right one based on the size and scale you are more interested in.
In most cases, you will find steel or some other metal in constructing these steel tongue drums. But some drums feature steel that has more carbon content in it. Titanium alloy is becoming very popular as it is lightweight, such as the Horse Steel Tongue Drum.
The scale of a steel tongue drum defines how it will sound. Therefore, choosing the right scale according to your requirements is critical.
For instance, these steel tongue drums are better suited for a meditative atmosphere with a minor scale. Major scales are better suited for a playful environment, as in the case of Asteman Nitrogen.
Hence, it is important that you consider your purpose and then choose the right scale accordingly. A medium scale is ideal if you don’t know what you will be playing in the future because it is much more versatile.
Steel tongue drums are available in two options: single sides steel tongue drums and double sides steel tongue drums. Single-sided steel tongue drums like the Pearl Awakening Series 9 Note, Meinl Sonic Energy, or others are economical.
A double-sided steel tongue drum is much more expensive. However, it has more notes and is much more versatile than the single sides option. So, it is up to you which design you should consider based on your needs and preferences.
Tones and Notes
Tones and notes change with the number and size of the tongues on a steel tongue drum. Therefore, a drum can produce more notes and tones with more languages.
Again, a double-sided steel tongue drum will always work better if you look for more tones and notes. But it will double the price. Nevertheless, these tones and notes differ from piano or guitar keys.
You won’t get many notes in these drums as they are designed and configured in a specific key. And this is exactly why learning steel tongue drums is much easier for beginners. This drum might not be as versatile as a guitar or a piano, but it does influence your emotions.
These steel tongue drums are available in different sizes. They can have a foot long diameter or can be half of that size. Larger drums have more room to play and are much better in accuracy.
Still, smaller drums are better suited for beginners and children, or you can use these variants on the go. Larger drums like Asteman Nitrogen or Horse Steel Tongue Drum are always more in-depth if you compare them with their smaller counterparts.
These steel tongue drums are made of a wide range of materials. They are cut into different designs. How these cuts are made, and the materials in which these cuts are made can directly influence how the drum will sound and its overall durability.
But again, you need to remember that this aspect is more related to the overall aesthetics of an instrument and your personal preferences rather than the instrument’s performance.
As mentioned above, double-sided steel tongue drums will be more expensive than single-sided ones. There are more notes on both sides, and there will be much more room to play.
Of course, there are different options you can choose when it comes to price. And it is up to you to choose based on what type of instrument you need and where you will be playing it.
The good thing is that you can find various options based on your base and other requirements. Still, we highly recommend that you should go for a steel tongue drum that is less than $100. That is because it will be worthless in terms of tone, overall performance, and durability.
In our reviews above, we have included one steel tongue drum that costs less than $100. It’s the Horse Steel Tongue Drum, but this one is a good option in this price category, ideally suitable for kids or beginners.
It means that these drums also come with different accessories. These include the likes of other cases, bags, mullets, guides, tutorials, etc.
If you are going for a smaller drum, you will need a pair of mallets too. Cases do come in handy when you will be traveling with your drum. They will keep your drums safe and sound from regular wear and tear.
These drums also come with tutorials and guides to help you get started if you are new to this instrument. Some packages might include note stickers.
These stickers might not be essential, but if you’re new to the instrument, they will help you identify different tongues and the sound they produce.
You need to strike the drum at different points to produce various sounds. Just hit those tongues that are tuned for different notes. Smaller mallets can be used to hit these tongues, or you can use your fingers to hit them.
But using your fingers will cause some irritation later on. Therefore, finger pads are available that you can use to play this drum.
It might not have many notes, but it is still a good choice for pros and beginners. This drum is pretty easy to tune and can work well with most other instruments.
The runner-up is the Meinl Sonic Energy steel tongue drum which has a durable construction. It is made of powder-coated steel and is 12-inch in size with 8 notes. It is another good option that professionals can use.
The Idiopan Domina Tunable steel tongue drum is the second runner-up on our list. This instrument also features 8 notes and is 12-inch in size. And the best part is that it is fully tunable, and the users can alter the notes according to their needs.
Steel tongue drums are available in different sizes and types. They are also available in additional notes and tones. Some of the best steel tongue drums are for meditation, while others are for entertainment.
They might not be very multi-faceted in terms of their keys and notes. Still, they have a unique impact on your emotions and senses. It makes them pretty unique in their way.