Every time I heard steel tongue drum music, I wanted to learn how to play it myself. It didn’t take very long before I got myself the first one.
Now that I have a couple of years of experiences behind me, it wanted to pay it forward by sharing some of the knowledge I picked a long way.
In this article you will be able to find out more about steel tongue drum (others call it hank drum and tank drum), what are its origin including an extensive buyer and user guide.
You will be able to use when buying your first (or maybe second and even third) drum. I have also included reviews of some of the most popular models to your buying process more accessible.
Moukey 10″ Drum
This handcrafted steel tongue drum with mallets has a big sound. Owing to the materials this drum is made from, the unique mixture of the alloy allows the drum to have the best possible sound.
Playing this instrument is effortless, and with an intuitive arrangement, you can create great new sounds.
Quick Steel Tongue Drum History
The origin of tongue drum has Aztec or African origin. It is also called a tone drum o a log drum.
The traditional African log drum is crafted from the hollowed log, the modern form is a box made from wood with tongues on its top and is played with a mallets.
The working principle and the base design of this drum are the same as the original hang, but there are differences as well.
It is shaped like a propane tank with the base is cut-off. The top part of the instrument has seven to ten radially-cut “tongues”.
These tongues are of different sizes because it can determine the note. However, there are other ways for you to get the desired tone; the size of the tongue is only one of them.
You can increase its weight using the neodymium magnet, and you can create a different sound. It is also a great way to get the desired scale with the same tongue size.
When we talk about scales, the steel tongue drum has many keys variation. The early releases of the instrument have the standard diatonic or pentatonic scales.
The newest one has a wide range of tone colors. For a beginner, you should stick to the common minor and major scale. If you want a more exotic sound, then try the scales.
How Does a Steel Tongue Drum Work?
The concept of the instrument is straight forward. Just like the steelpan drums and the hand pan drums, this instrument belongs to the idiophone family of percussion instruments.
The steel tongue drums have different numbers of cut-out tongues in various sizes.
Since the tongues are made into different sizes, they produce different vibrations, and that is how the different notes are made.
You don’t have to use a special technique to master the instrument. All you need to do is to pick up the drum and use your mallets and start flying.
What Does a Steel Tongue Drum Sound Like?
Steel tongue drums sound a lot like handpans. They have beautiful harmonic and peaceful sound and is not unusual that a lot of people use them for meditation or Yoga. Their sounds are magical and diverse.
Check the video below to listen to a few samples of how they sound.
How to Choose Steel Tongue Drum?
This is one of the most common questions I get, and there are no simple answers. The most important thing is to choose a drum that will fit your needs.
By that, I mean that it sounds good to you. A steel tongue drum contains a resonating and sound spectrum that has a spring sound effect when tapped using the fingertips or mallets.
Since they have different scales and made from various materials, they sound different from each other.
And you can’t try them out to hear how they sound; I suggest that you check YouTube videos from most of its manufacturers. You can listen to how they sound too.
How to Choose Steel Tongue Drum for Beginners?
If you are a beginner and you are looking for a drum to start your music journey, you might be looking for a simple tongue drum.
If it is an affordable solution is what you are after; a small drum measures about 5 to 8-inch drum with eight notes should be enough.
By purchasing a drum this size and scale, you don’t have to buy a new one once you have mastered the instrument.
Steel Tongue Drum Price Guide
The steel tongue drum is a cheaper alternative to its cousin the hand pan; hence, it is becoming more popular.
You can buy them for around $60 to $600 for the bigger drums, and they are a lot to get your hands on. This is the reason why a lot of people are buying steel tongue drum instead of the hand pan.
A brand-new tongue drum which is smaller in size can go for as little as $60 (for the mini drum), and the high-end options can usually go up to $300.
While some might be a bit more expensive, it is more of an exception than anything else.
About two to three years ago, you cannot get a tongue drum for under $200.
Best Steel Tongue Drum Reviews
This section contains some of the best steel tongue drum reviews. It includes drums for beginners and professionals and some of the most popular ones.
To rank the best among the drums out there, we choose them based on the sound quality, the content of the kit, how they look, scale and of course the price.
1. Moukey Mini 11 Note Drum
Main features | D major, padded travel bag included
Size | 10"
2. Moukey mini 8 note drum
Main features | D major, padded travel bag included
Size | 10"
3. Luvay Tank Drum
Main features | D major, allets, music book, bag, notes sticker, pick included
Size | 10"
4. Luvay Propane Tank Drum
Main features | Handmade, small, great for traveling
Size | 6"
5. Lomuty Tongue Percussion Drum
Main features | C major, all accessories included
Size | 12"
6. Younar Mini Hank Drum
Main features | D major, portable
Size | 5.5"
7. Richday metal drum
Main features | D major, 8 notes, drum bag included
Size | 10"
8. Guda drum Freezbee
Main features | Custom scale available, engraved by hand, beautiful
Size | 14.7"
1. Moukey Steel Tongue Drum
The Moukey Steel Tongue Drum is a simple handmade drum that is constructed well from hard alloy and built to last.
Its dimensions are 10.5 inches in diameter with a height of 5.5 inches and weigh about 5 pounds. To make the drum shockproof, it has silicone feet, and the bottom of the drum is well sealed.
Thus, producing a smoother tone and the volume is a lot louder. This also delivers a more accurate sound not only because of how well it is made but because of the position of the tongues as well.
With a wide of music, the drum can create even beginner will enjoy making music based on the score.
The pack contains the steel tongue drum, a pair of drumsticks, two-tone stickers, a carrying bag, and strap.
- Well-padded traveling bag to protect the instrument
- Good size mallets that are comfortable to use
- The stickers on the tongues with scales helps a lot
- Extremely easy to produce harmonious and melodic tunes
- The instruction book is not in English
- The tones can shift at the very end of the sustained notes
2. Moukey Mini Tongue Drum
This mini tongue drum from Moukey has the same specs as the #2 reviewed item here on the list but a little smaller.
For those looking for a perfect mini steel tongue drum, then this is the ideal choice. The drum measures about 10 inches in diameter and stands at 5.5 inches tall.
It comes with two mallets with rubber on the tip and measures about 8 inches long. It also comes with a padded travel bag with adjustable straps.
You can play a large number of musical scores, and it is easy to learn how to play the instrument; even beginners can have a lot of fun doing music.
Because the drum is handcrafted from the finest alloy, it can produce beautiful sounds for mind relaxation, meditation, and Yoga.
All tongues can produce good and clear tones. Its finish is lovely and earthy with rubber feet so it can sit on hard surfaces.
- Affordable for a well-made instrument
- Nice finish
- With rubber feet to sit level on a hard surface
- The notes are accurate
- Areas of the drum are not tuned correctly
- The stickers indicating the numbers can peel off
3. Luvay Tank Drum
What makes this tank drum unique is the lotus flower design of its tongue. It is handcrafted from steel-titanium alloy.
The green coating protects the drum from corrosion. To make the drums more stable on hard surfaces while playing, it is equipped with silicone feet.
This drum has a dimension of 10 inches in diameter and stands at 6 inches. It has a modest weight of 5 pounds.
Each package consists of the drum, a pair of mallets, the music book, traveling bag, handpicks and the notes sticker.
The sounds that the drums produced a pleasant and soothing perfect for meditation, Yoga, mind relaxation, other activities.
With the notes easy to figure out, it is fun and intuitive to play. If you are looking for a tank drum that is simple and affordable, then this is the perfect instrument for you.
- Incredibly simple to play
- Stable when played
- Beautifully crafted and durable
- Easy to do tonal configuration
- Finger picks are frequently missing from the package
- Some of the notes may not sound right
4. Luvay 8 Notes Propane Tank Drum
This propane tank drum is the modest size and portable version of the Luvay tank drum we have listed above. It also has the same lotus flower design.
This drum can produce eight sounds with the eight tones in D major that can be played by hands, mallets or fingerpicks that are included with the package.
It is beautifully handcrafted with the use of steel-titanium alloy and has a corrosion-resistant coating. It protects the drum from corrosive materials.
The instrument is easy to learn how to play as a music book is also included. It is of modest size with a dimension of 6 inches in diameter and a height of 6 inches.
It weighs about 2 pounds. The sounds it produced are soothing and pleasant. It is also very affordable for a beginner.
- It plays well producing smooth, bright tones
- Comes with stickers on the tongues
- Perfectly tuned to the D scale
- Beautifully made
- The labels are not positioned correctly
- The accessories are not complete during shipping
5. Lomuty Steel Tongue Percussion Drum
This steel tongue percussion drum from Lomuty is more significant than the rest of the items reviewed here. Its dimensions include 12 inches diameter, the height of 8.3 inches and with a weight of 7.7 pounds.
Like most of the drums reviewed here, it also has silicon feet to stabilize the drum while playing.
This drum is a beautiful lotus-flower tongue in a sandalwood color.
It is durable and handmade from the steel-titanium alloy and finishes with corrosion-resistant paint.
The drum comes with a pair of mallets, a music book, a traveling case, sets of note stickers, and a set of hand pick.
The sounds it produced is captivating and ethereal perfect for relaxation, meditation, and Yoga.
The music book contains about 50 songs in English, which is perfect for a beginner. Because it is in C major, it is easy to play as there are no sharp notes or flats.
- Affordable for a more prominent drum
- Produces soothing sounds
- Easy to play with mallets or fingerpicks
- Comes with a traveling bag
- Hand playing can be more difficult
- There are some minor tuning issues
6. Younar Mini Hank Drum
This Hank drum from Younar is a portable percussion instrument with only 5.5 inches in diameter and 8 centimeters in height and weighs only 1.8 pounds.
It also comes with a traveling backpack to carry the instrument easily when on the go.
Each of these drums is carefully handcrafted from mixed alloy. The surface is painted with environment-friendly paint that does not fade.
The feet have a silicone foot pad to make them stable even on a hard, uneven surface. It comes with wooden drum sticks to play the drum with.
It can produce seven sounds in D Major and designed more of as a Hank drum. The decals indicate the tonal sounds.
- Made with sturdy alloy but lightweight
- The traveling bag has a special compartment for the sticks
- Beautifully designed with numbers indicating the tone
- Easy to play for personal enjoyment
- The tones are not correctly tuned
- It does not come with a booklet to teach songs
7. Richday Metal Tongue Drum
This Richday metal tongue drum is classified as a mini drum by the company, but in reality, its dimensions belong to a standard-sized drum.
It has a diameter of 10 inches and a height of 13 inches. The thickness is about 5 inches and weighs about 2.5 kilograms.
The drum can produce eight sounds in the D major pentatonic steel. It can produce pure and soothing sounds.
This makes playing the drums a stress reliever for relaxation and peaceful energy to the body.
Because the drum is affordable, it is the best option for any beginner.
- It is designed well and aesthetically pleasing to the eye
- Made from high-quality steel with an extra coating of protection
- Well-priced for a steel tongue drum
- Can produce a broader range of music
- It cannot produce real sounds using the hand
- The music book is in a different language
8. Guda Tongue Drum
This drum is the best-looking one on the list and looks a lot like a Hang drum.
This Guda tongue drum is unique and handmade and produces a loud sound and is played well using the hand unlike the rest of the drums listed here.
The drum is made out of stainless steel and carefully decorated by hand. It has a diameter of 14.7 inches but weighs only 4 pounds.
Because it is very slim, it is ideal for taking outdoors.
It also includes a rope decoration that creates circular patterns. The beautiful design keeps the instrument in the living area as a decoration, but it can also be easily stored.
Because it is a lot more similar to a hand pan, it offers more portability, sustained resonance, and uses mallets to play. It produces a beautiful sound and can be more popular if the price is a little lower.
- Unique design and sound
- Comes with a beautiful felt bag as a carrier
- Easy to learn how to play the instrument
- Excellently built and well made
- It’s bigger than most tongue drum
- Tuning can take longer
Where to Buy Steel Tongue Drum?
Not all local music shops carry steel tongue drums, and you can find them in some highly specialized and well-stocked shops.
However, there are also other ways to get them. If you have the time, you can buy them from the manufacturer.
Most of these companies have an online catalog, and you can have the option to order from them.
However, many customers experience longer waiting time that some may even take a few months to receive the item.
This is especially true for customized items. If a customer wants a custom steel tongue drum, this is the only way to go.
Amazon is my personal favorite when it comes to purchasing a tank drum because they give the biggest selection, and they have an excellent return policy.
There are a lot of good manufacturers for steel tongue drums, but there are a few that stand out. I made a list of my favorite brands and those that are well received among players.
All the brands from our list above are great, but there are also some other drums that I like to mention:
Accessories that You Should Consider Buying for Your Drums
In reality, steel tongue drums don’t need a lot of accessories. All you need is a drum and a pair of mallets (if you will use them to play the drums).
However, I would recommend that you get a steel tongue drum bag. It will make it easier to carry the drum around.
Most of the steel tongue drums come with its bag, and you don’t have to buy them separately. However, if you have to, it will only cost a few dollars.
Second Hand Steel Tongue Drum: Is It Worth It?
One of the options of acquiring a steel tongue drum is to buy a used one. There are plenty of them on eBay and other similar sites.
That is to save some money, but it might not always be worth it, especially if you are buying online.
Compared to seeing the drum personally where you can see if its is damaged, out of tune or anything else that wrong with it. You cannot do this online.
In case you received the item with damage, or it is out of tune, you can always return it and get your money back.
New steel tongue drums do not cost a lot of money and buying a pre-loved one may not be worth it after all.
Steel Tongue or Hand Pan Drum?
People often can’t decide if they should buy a steel tongue drum or a hand pan drum for a lot of reasons because both of them have a similar sound and feel although the steel tongue drum is much smaller and more affordable.
The hand pan drum sounds better than steel tongue drums, especially if the latter is played with hands. The steel tongue drums also offer a lot of options because it is easy to make.
If you have the money and can’t decide which of the two to buy, I would suggest a hand pan drum or both because the steel tongue drum is very affordable.
How to Play the Steel Tongue Drum
You can play this drum in two ways: with your finger or with the mallets with rubber tips. However, there is a difference in the sound they make.
Playing with mallets can give you a louder and more harmonic sound. Playing with fingers doesn’t sound as loud, and your fingers can also hurt if you use it for a while, especially if you are a beginner.
The picks can make it sound like you are playing with mallets, and your fingers will hurt less.
Steel tongue drums came in a wide range of notes and can produce harmonic and beautiful sounds that are perfect for relaxation, meditation, and other same activities.
It can be used by beginners or professionals who want to explore the different possibilities this instrument has.
The beauty of steel tongue drums is there are no wrong musical notes, and they are easier to play even if you are a novice, you can master steel tongues in a short time.
If you have any question or you want more information about steel tongue drums, feel free to comment down below, and I will get back to you.
Sandra Ekparian says
Hi there my question is a lot of them say steel tongue drums and then they also say / hang drum also my other question is why is it some in D Major and some and see which is the best one to get as far as D or C or whatever I haven’t bought one yet I’ve just been looking around thank you
Alison Brian says
Thanks for taking the time to introduce this cool instrument to everyone! As a tongue drummer, I especially like the part where you lay out all the drums you’ve reviewed. Love the videos showing how to play them too. Seems there are lot of these drums in the key of C major, not sure why though.. Cheers! -Ali B.