A buyer’s guide to hand drums and percussion

A buyer’s guide to hand drums and percussion

A buyer’s guide to hand drums: What to look for, where to buy stuff, what should be in your instrument portfolio when you are starting out as a hand drummer? By Mark Jones (Psalm Drummers)

Mark Jones is the presenter of our new hand drumming and percussion DVD. Here he gives a buyers guide to hand drums and percussion.

I’ve included some of the more common percussion instruments in this article and these are ones I use most frequently. The list is by no means exhaustive and after you’ve acquired some of the more useful instruments, you should also explore some of the less conventional ones, as you’ll be fascinated by the variety of sounds you can find. I have purposely shown examples of different brands as there are many to choose from and it really depends on your budget. Best advice is to try them out before you buy – i.e. some websites will have sound files you can download. Certainly for drums and larger percussion I would always want to hear them before making a purchase. They need to feel right when you play, as well as sound you can produce. As you build you percussion kit and vocabulary of sounds I would keep in mind the range of sounds you are accumulating and purposely aim to have a broad spectrum of sound and effects from light to heavy, delicate to powerful, earthy to more metallic sounds etc.

I haven’t priced any of these instruments either so you will need to check and compare these but I have listed a few websites where I regularly purchase my instruments and have found these all to be great, fair and reliable.

Over the coming months I will be producing a number of short video clips that will demonstrate some of the techniques you can use for playing these instruments and how to combine the sounds.

Egg shakers


Description: Delicate sound, constructed of durable plastic and filled with non toxic steel shot.

(Here are Mark’s articles and video clips on playing shaker egg – part 1 and part 2)

Soft Shaker (Twin)


Description: LP Softest sounding shaker. Perfect for recording or when a delicate sound is needed. Set of two small plastic shakers is connected by two rubber bands. Remove the rubber bands and you have two individual shakers

Large Studio Shaker

large-studio-shakerDescription: Meinl`s Studio Shaker is light weight and comfortable to play. It delivers a very tasteful and delicate shaker sound with a warm overall tone and a very well balanced frequency spectrum.


caxixiDescription: Meinl Caxixis are available in different sizes for an enhanced tonal range, woven by hand in rattan with a coconut bottom. Their sound is crystal clear, high pitched with a great projection.


ganzaDescription: Basket Ganza is a hand held woven instrument with fiberglass ends. Wooden sticks inside create a light, airy sound when shaken against the sides or ends.

Bar Chimes

bar-chimesDescription: LP Studio Series Bar Chimes are great for studio use or where shorter sustain & added control are desired, providing bright sound & great tonal diversity.


TambourineDescription: Rhythm Tech Pro Tambourine is a lighter, more responsive and comfortable feel with a sound that can only be described as “turbo-charged”. Check the handle shape and direction, this is the only truly ergonomic example I have come across. It’s also available with brass jingles that create a warm, funky, “chunkier” sound.

Rain Stick

rain-stickDescription: Cactus rainstick from Chile. Made from the dried hollow stem of a dead cactus. The cactus spines are taken off the outside and pushed inwards to form a baffle for the small stones inside to fall through. The ends are sealed with plugs of wood. Usually Fair-Trade. Great continuous sound effect or play as a large shaker. The come in a range of sizes for single hand or two hand playing.

Wood Blocks

wood-blockDescription: Meinl Wood blocks, played with a beater and come in a range of sizes and different pitches. Best to have a range of these together with a cowbell. Some are hand held others have mount attachment on the back which allows you to fit to a stand or percussion tree.


cowbellDescription: Latin Percussion Rock Ridge Rider Cowbell. This patented bell is based on the rock Cowbell and features a red Jenigor plastic bar across the top edge that has a dampening effect on the sound while also resisting the denting that inevitably occurs when struck with a drumstick.

Sound effects

sound-effects-juju-bean-beltDescription: Juju Bean Belt. Flat seed pods on a raffia waistband. Lovely dry, warm sound. Tie it on or just give it a gentle shake.

Nut Cluster

sound-effects-nut-clusterDescription: Clu nut cluster is a bundle of hollow, resonant nuts on a sturdy handle.
Ideal for rhythmic and sound effect work. Made in Bali

Conga Drums

conga-drumsDescription: LP Classic Conga Set – Natural with Gold Hardware – LPCLASCONGSET
LP Classic Congas were the first wood congas made by LP – they have become one of the most popular professional instruments on the market today. 11 inch Quinto, 11 3/4 inch Conga, 12 1/2 inch Tumba. 30 inches tall, Kiln Dried – Siam Oak construction. Natural rawhide heads. Comfort Curve 2 Rims – The better quality drums should all offer the comfort rim and prevents you from damaging your hand on the metal rim which is a feature of some of the cheaper models.

Bongo Drums

bongo-drumsDescription: LP GENERATION 2 BONGOS. Constructed of kiln dried, Siam Oak. Hand selected rawhide heads. Standard 71⁄4″ and 85⁄8″ diameter natural rawhide heads.
More pronounced shell contour than other bongos to create crisp, distinct high tones. Specially designed steel backing plate helps to prevent cracks from occurring in the shell when players in the Salsa genre drop their bongos to the floor and begin playing their bongo cowbell. Traditional or LP Comfort Curve II Rims. 5⁄16″ diameter tuning lugs have been carefully formed to hug the shell making them as comfortable for playing as possible

Frame Drum – custom built drums from Dave Nuttall at Jalapeno.

frame-drumDescription: Toforans are a mixture of the Irish Bodhran, the Moroccan Ryk and the tambourine, and aredesigned for the more adventurous and experienced frame drum player. Based on a 4” deep frame shell, Toforans feature 6-lug Vintage Birch wooden hoops, are tuneable with a drum key, and use a stick-playable Remo FibreSkin 3 head. The imitation calf skin head requires no wetting, and remains unaffected by climatic changes. Toforans have 4 sets of brass chimes, a cross-bar for Bodhran-style playing, and side cut-aways to make them ambidextrous. They also feature a tom bracket to make them kit mountable. Available in sizes 14” and 16”.

Djembe Drum – Authentic

djembeDescription: The original hand carved version made in Ghana. Offering depth in the base tones and higher notes on the rim, a versatile drum that can be used in a variety of playing situations. These are available as single or double roped and sizes from 9” – 13”. WorldTribal offer a service where you can build your own specification and select from a range of carvings. Double roped will be better quality. These are beautiful sounding drums. Also check Inspire-works for their resources and training. They also have a video clip for Djembe tuning – under their shop link.

Djembe Drums – Synthetic head

djembe-synthetic-headDescription: Remo Paulo Mattioli Signature Djembes. Remo Djembes are based on the same traditional Djembe tone and form combined with Remo’s modern advances including a wide range of tuning systems, heads, finishes and sizes.

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