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frame drum basics

Frame drums are among the oldest and most versatile of drums. Most cultures have some type of frame drum; the Egyptian Riq, the Brazilian pandeiro, the kanjira from south India, the middle eastern tar and bendir ,and the native American versions are but a few of the available frame drums. Of course, the frame drum most Westerners are familiar with is the good old tamborine.

Not all frame drums are round. In Ghana, for example, there's a square frame drum called a tamalin, used in playing certain types of Ashante and Ewe music. square and rectangular frame drums are also found in China and other parts of the far east. The Tamelin player at right is abstracted from a photo in West African Rhythms for Drumset, by Royal Hartigan with Abraham Adzenyah and Freeman Donkor.

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John Bergamo

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Glen Velez

Some frame drums have jingles, others do not. A variety of playing techniques can be used, based on different styles from various cultures. For a glimpse of what can be acheived with a frame drum, see instructional videos by Glen Velez or John Bergamo 

These two guys are tremendous talents and largely responsible for the popularization of the frame drum in the US. Accordingly, I speak of the two main schools of American frame drumming as the Velez school and the Bergamo school. Frame drums are best solo or in smaller groups as they aere easily drowned out by a herd (school? pack? bevy?) of djembe and djun djun players.:-)


Please e-mail us with any frame drumming links.... 

Other frame drums:

Kanjira:a small frame drum from South India, traditionally with lizard skin and a single pair of jingles. The skin is kept loose, and the pitch manipulated by squeezing the head at the bottom, near the rim, while striking it with the other hand. These are fun, though the lizard skin is very suseptible to changes in climate. The new one by Remo, designed by John Bergamo,  is a joy and quite inexpensive.

traditional kanjira

Pandeiro: this is the Brazilian version of a tamborine. It is often a bit larger, has a dryer sound, is built more sturdily to accomodate the tricks, twirling, and juggling that go on during Carnival. It is used to play Samba, the Brazilian national dance. Very portable and loud, like so many of the Brazilian instruments, they are a bit pricey compared with "normal" tamborines, but don't let that scare you away. One good one will last a lifetime. :-)

Tamborim: Not to be confused with the tamborine, the tamborim is a small (6"-8") Brazilian frame drum used in Samba and other music. There are no jingles, and the player alters the tone by pressing the underside with one finger,while playing the tamborim with a beater called a baqueta.

Riq: an egyptian tamborine, usually 6 to 8 inches in diameter, usually with five brass jingles. Traditionally outfitted with fish skin, sometimes with goat, and increasingly with plastic, they have a cutting tone, high pitch, and good projection. Watch the Glen Velez videos to find out how...

Tar: A middle eastern frame drum, usually about four inches deep and 14" to 16" in diameter, the tar is a wise choice for the apartment dweller who wants to play at home nights.

Native American frame drums are really in a separate class, along with Tibetan and Mongolian type shaman drums. These drums are played with a beater, and they are suspended to resonate freely, held from behind by leather or rope straps. They are very resonant, and can be quite loud. The sound is rich in harmonic content, and if you're interested in, say, meditating on the sheer sound, this may be a good choice for you.

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