Level of Difficulty: easy

Age levels: Kindergarten to elderly.

Amateur to Pro

10" goatskins are available from






Coffee Can Drums

The coffee can drum is a portable, versatile, inexpensive drum, an ideal "first Drum project. It responds well to a thin stick, with techniques that vary from scrapng and striking the side of the can to one hand/one stick techniques not unlike those used on sabar, Mandinka drums, or certain Brazilian instruments..

The coffee can drum is one of a family of homemade drums, including its big sister the Djun Basket. We will eventually present many related drums, with whole sets of rhythms and practice exercises to help teachers using homemade percussion with their students.

The drum can be one or two headed. One can use a smaller can, put some beads or beans in, use two heads, and have a combination shaker/can drum. These instructions are for a simple, single headed drum. The two drums at right are specifically designed to be Spartan in appearance, but one can apply a great many beautiful decorating concepts for a truly personalized spirit drum. This is beyond the scope of this article.:-)


1. One coffee can -

2. One radiator hose clamp, big enough to encircle the can and skin.

3. One goat or fish skin, 8-10 inches in diameter.

4. A razor or X-acto knife, needle nosed pliers, screwdriver

5. Paint or fabric and glue to decorate the can, if desired.

Are you set to go? Okay, let's make the drum..

1. Use an old fashioned can opener; the new kind takes the lip off the can, and you want it ON there, to stop slippage. Decorate the can ahead of time; if painting, give it time to dry. We leave the area with the grooves unpainted, because the stick will be hitting there a lot..

2. take the skin, and soak it in lukewarm water in the tub, until it is pliable, but not so long as to make it thick and flabby; maybe an hour for goat, a shorter time for fish. Check it frequently and use the skin as soon as it becomes pliable. Do NOT use hot water.

3. while the head is soaking, get the rest of it ready, Tighten the hose clamp down, just enough to make it a bit ;larger than the diameter of the can.

3. Place the wet head on the can and center it.

4. Place the hose clamp down upon the head, and pull down around the skin and basket. Tighten slowly and carefully most of the way, allowing a bit of play for pulling on the skin. At this stage, if you have a friend to help you pull the head down on all sides as you continue to tighten, that will help. It's a little tricky, because tighening anywhere on the ring of clamps will tighten all the way around. Finally tighten it all the way down; you don't want it slipping later, when you are playing it hard with a stick. Put it up and let it dry overnight.

5. Your drum is now playable. You'll want to play it a bit before trimmming off the excess skin, test it out; when you are satisfied that you won't need to resoak and remount the head, take the razor knife and CAREFULLY trim off the excess skin.

Chris Bittner of www.drumworksbychris.com made this wise suggestion: "The skin will shrink under the clamp when it dries, so make sure and tighten it one last time when it's dry, to take up any slack." You want to make sure it doesn't loosen up under the stickwork.


Anyway, please send feedback. Thanks for looking..





The simplicity of the design requires that one tune the old way: with heat to tune up , and water to tune down.

Click for detail.

You can layer parts together for groups. Listen:

the shell

the skin

both together
(two players)

Three players:
adding a djun basket part.

(The djun basket continues alone at the end, so you can hear the part.


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