A tongue drum (also known as the steel tongue drum, hank drum, or tank drum) is a percussion instrument in the idiophone family (instruments that create sounds through the vibration of the material itself without requiring strings, membranes, or external resonators). The steel tongue drum gets its name from the slits cut into the steel to produce the notes. They are very much tongue-like in shape. Each tongue is unique in length, width, and depth to create different notes when struck by a finger or mallet when played.
What is it made of?
A form of tongue drum has been around for a very long time if considering the wooden versions created by the Aztecs known as log drums or tone drums. Another similar instrument is the slit drum of African origin, these were the early predecessors to the modern-day steel tongue drums.
Who gave light to the idea?
Dennis Havlena invented what we now know as the Steel Tongue drum, following inspiration from other creators and the Hang. Dennis created and finished his first tuned steel tongue drum in 2007, naming it the ‘Hank Drum’ – He is fiercely opposed to production, in terms of commercially producing them himself. He is happy that he invented it and that manufacturers are creating beautiful looking instruments based upon his design for commercial purposes now. He continues to invent and create brand new instruments.
How it works?
A Steel Tongue drum is an instrument although not a drum by definition. It is an instrument within the percussion family, however, and produces notes played on the slits created in the top section of the steel case. Tuned to a diatonic scale they are very easy to make music with, even for absolute beginners with no musical knowledge. mainly tuned to a diatonic scale, this means that each note will sound good with the one played prior or after. The notes are arranged in the same way as you would find on a handpan with each note either going up or down the scale (depending on which way you have it placed) from left to right across the head of the instrument.
How to use the scale to play?
The best advice here is to go listen to as many tongue drum scales as you can and choose one based on what you like the best. It is as simple as that. It will not be a short decision-making process.
There are multiple scales, some very subtly different from others, so deciding may not be as easy and quick as you might expect. As an example, major scales are usually uplifting and happy, whereas Minor scales can be darker, sad, or thoughtful perhaps. That is a good starting point.