homemade percussion home
are the homemade drums that are causing such a stir in the drumming
for wellness scene this year.
Tube drums, made from heavy cardboard cylinders are
currently THE RAGE, thanks to facilitator and founder
of the Eldermusic group at Yahoo, Annie O'Shea.
The idea of using heavy cardboard concrete forms,
used for pouring concrete, for drums is not entirely new. Banek
and Scoville described such tube drums in their book Sound Designs
years ago, but they used goatskin and were a little different, hanging
in different lengths, different pitches from a rope or cable.
Annie has added several crucial modifications that
are great, such as a viable synthetic head material (pack cloth)
and the use of an embroidery hoop as a reinforcing ring. (!)She
also added the cutouts at the bottom that let the sound out, like
the REMO brand TUBANOS®.
The Eldermusic group has been alive with ideas for
these instruments, with participants coming up with new ideas and
adaptations, including Beverly Nadelman (she has posted a jillion
good ideas), Randy
Brody, and others. To really get the entire lowdown, and see
all the images, you should join
the eldermusic group at Yahoo and read the archives..
The eldermusic list was established to facilitate communication
between people currently working with elders in any setting and
using music. There is sharing about instrument making, sources of
instruments/supplies , facilitation ideas, and encouragement and
support of each other.
Annie has given us permission to post her very basic
instructions and a photo or two here, and Massage Therapist Lorraine
Achey has offered her more detailed instructions, complete with
list of tools, materials, and procedures from beginning to end..
If you want the detailed version it is pasted in below Annie's..Thanks
to both ladies for their generosity in making this stuff available
to Rhythmweb readers..
Annie: "Here are the absolute BASICS…"
- Cut an 8, 10 or 12 inch diameter tube in whatever length
you want. (They usually come in 4 ft lengths). Cut scallops or
rectangles in the bottom to let the sound out. (Lorraine Achey
has wisely suggested that you postpone this step until after the
head is stretched, to avoid damage to the bottom during the stretching
2 wooden embroidery hoops to size and glue onto the inside of
the head, one inside the other placing the areas of the cuts across
from each other. I also glue a short piece of hoop over the area
of the inside hoop where it was cut to fit together. One may be
enough depending on how tight you want to pull the heading fabric.
I use Titebond II Wood Glue. Be sure to clamp for a couple of
hours. I also add Gorilla Glue in any places where there is a
gap between the glue and the tube wall.
ALTERNATIVE: You can also buy plastic embroidery
hoops and use these instead of the wooden ones. I only use one
of these instead of two They cut very easily with a hacksaw and
DON'T NEED ANY GLUE!! You have to be a little more careful when
you pull the heading material taut.....if you don't pull evenly
they can end up egg shaped. (they still work, though!)
- Using a white craft glue like ModPodge or Elmer’s or Aleene's
original tacky glue, apply a cotton or cotton blend fabric.....or
any other fabric that will glue...to the drum...or you could paint
them also. My drums are all somewhere between 18- 27 inches high
so I buy 3/4 yard of a fabric that is 44-45 inches wide. Leave
at least an inch down on the top without fabric....the heading
material glues better to the cardboard tube surface than fabric.
Leave at least an inch down on the top without fabric....the heading
material glues better to the cardboard tube surface than fabric.
Trim the top edges and turn under the bottom edges , gluing securly
to the underside..
- Cut out an appropriate size circle or square of "pack
cloth" material. This is a coated nylon available at many
fabric stores and on the web.
- Soak the pack cloth in water for at least one hour. This is
important. It takes awhile for the water to soak in.
- With another person helping, staple the pack cloth onto the
top, pulling as tightly as possible. Staple all the way around,(I
use 1/4 inch staples,some use 3/8 inch) alternating sides to get
a good tight pull. Trim away the excess pack cloth. Wrap black
electricians tape around the staple area to flatten and cover.
Note: There is an alternative to stapling.
See the update below.
- Apply either ribbon or a strip of the same material (or whatever
you like!) around the drum to cover up the staples and electrician’s
- I buy plastic tubing at the local True Value hardware store,
cut it in the same length as the "feet", split it open
lengthwise and slip onto the leg to protect the fabric from fraying
out and tearing. I have also used sticky backed felt to finish
off the legs. I had one person discover she could get a cool sound
by banging the entire drum against the floor.....and so I came
up with some protection for that particular creative act!
For mallets we use 12 inches of 1/2 inch dowel with a 1 inch wooden
dowel ball that has a 1/2 inch hole already drilled into it. We
just glue these on and sometimes cover in matching material. I have
covered most of my mallets with colorful fleece to dampen the sound
depending on where I will be and what group I will be working with.
These drums elicit wild ideas and creativity and are very fun to
make especially with a group. Enjoy and please let me know how it's
going and what new ideas you came up with!
Annie's update, January
'05: Annie has been working with goatskin,
too. Click on the thumbnail of the goatskin Tube drums below to
see a gorgeous close up. good work..
alternative to stapling is as follows: Apply Elmer’s
Glue on the top edge and about 1-2 inches around the outside of
the rim. Let it get a bit tacky (about 10-15 minutes). Lay the pack
cloth over the top. Put a hose clamp around the top edge (you have
to “daisy” several hose clamps together). Begin to tighten
the hose clamp while pulling down on the cloth. Keep moving around
the rim while you do this until the hose clamp is tight and the
cloth is pulled down as tight as you can get it. It helps to have
two people do this. Allow it to dry overnight …..The next
day remove the hose clamp. Trim the cloth and proceed to next step.
These same directions apply to a goatskin head (of course you need
to soak it first in water like the pack cloth but longer…until
it becomes pliable). Caution: do not apply the goatskin in REALLY
hot dry weather….because when it gets cooler or damper, they
can go too slack. Best temp is between 68-75 degrees. If you use
outdoors in humid weather, or light rain they will go slack and
be unplayable. They will recover when the heads dry.
[note from stu: this is actually more a matter
of humidity than heat. Heat dries out the skin in some situations,
hence it is associated with tuning up.
Remember, if you have an event and need to
tune up: you can bring a little space heater to help you if there
is electricity. Put the drums in front of the heater and turn it
on, checking every few minutes until the pitch is right.
The more detailed version: Lorraine Achey's Tube
Drum Construction for Drummies
While I did not come up with the original process
for making these wonderful little drums, I did write down these
guidelines for my friend Heather. I hope that you find them of use
and build many beautiful and wondrous drums. Please visit my website
for pictures (coming soon!).
Above all, enjoy!
Lorraine (aka "Mama MetraGnome")
- Cardboard tubes used for creating concrete piers
(Available at most home improvement stores; comes in 12, 10
sizes. Depending on brand, some will have thicker walls than
- Wooden embroidery hoop in corresponding size(s)
- Pack cloth (about 1/2 yard)
- Material to cover drum (1 yd or so)
- 1/4" cord for handle (about a foot; can use cotton clothesline)
- Craft Glue
- Gorilla Glue or Tite-Bond or similiar type glue
- Electrical tape
- 3/8" or 1/4" staples
- Waterproof sealant
- Pencil or other marker
- Saw (I like the small Sharptooth saw by Stanley. Not only
does it zip
right through the cardboard, it sings while it does it!)
- Heavy duty kitchen shears
- Clamps (WalMart has a bag of assorted for $4.50 that work
- Staple gun
- Hammer (for reluctant staples)
- Foam brush
- Damp cloth
Wipe down inner and outer surfaces of tubes to remove dust.
Wear a mask if needed.
Using yardstick, measure 2' from one end and mark tube all around.
This will give you two 2' drum bodies--perfect for most adults
Saw the tube in half along line. Don't worry about sawing the
feet yet, as they can get crushed during the head stretching process.
Using kitchen shears, cut the metal parts off of the embroidery
hoop, then trim to fit inside the factory cut rim of the drum.
Make as snug a fit as possible.
Apply your Gorilla Glue or Tite-Bond to the inside rim of the
drum. (Wear gloves to protect your hands!) Fit the embroidery
hoop inside the rim, making sure it is even with the top of the
Clamp to hold in place and let dry. If you are using Gorilla
Glue, use sparingly as it does expand. Use your damp cloth to
wipe up any excess. If you miss some, don't worry, it 'shaves'
Let dry thoroughly and remove clamps.
OPTIONAL: For a sturdier rim, cut the second
hoop of the embroidery hoop to fit inside the first and follow
the above procedure to glue it in place after the first ring has
Cut a square of pack cloth to fit over the top of drum. Be generous
so you have material to hang onto when as you pull and staple
the head in place.
Start by centering the cloth on the top of drum and tacking
with 2 staples on one side of the rim. You can staple into the rim
hoop if you wish using 3/8 staples or just below the rim hoop using
Turn the drum so the first staples are directly opposite you.
Now the fun begins! Stretch the cloth as tightly as you can--don't
worry if it looks puckery as this will stretch out as you work
your way around the head. Tack in place with a staple.
Rotate drum so that you are now midway between the first and
second set of staples. Stretch and staple, then turn drum so that
this set of staples is directly opposite you. Stretch and staple
Repeat around the rim of drum, rotating the drum as you go until
the head is secure all around.
Trim pack cloth close to staple lines with the kitchen shears
Mark and cut feet from bottom of the drum. You can cut curves,
but I just take the kitchen shears and make a 2 cut 'V'.
Depending on your drum size, you can use larger or smaller 'V's
. Also, you might want to consider tripods (3 legs) will be more
stable than their 4 legged sisters, especially if you plan on
using these drums outside much.
Take a well deserved rest and soak your tired fingers! Play your
drum--and take pride in its unique tones.
Gluing on Fabric:
Measure your drum from just below the staple line to the feet.
Add a couple of inches to fold under the feet.
Then, measure around your drum, adding a couple of inches to
overlap. This overlap area will provide extra stability for the
handle. Mark one edge so you will know this is the starting edge.
Use craft glue, slightly thinned with water, to apply your fabric
to your drum. Start by painting a strip about 2" wide the
length of your drum, and glue down the (appropriate) edge of the
TIP: If you work with the fabric to be applied
coming toward you, you can glue it in place, fold the fabric back
over the drum shell, apply more glue, then bring fabric back toward
you. This allows you to easily pull out any wrinkles. Wipe up
excess glue as you go.
Let the fabric dry. (About 30 minutes.)
While you're waiting, cut a 3 1/2" wide strip 2" longer
than the circumference of the head. Fold one of the long edges
in about 3/4" and press.
Then fold the other long edge over about 3/4" and press.
Make sure your raw edge doesn't overlap the other first folded
edge. Unfold this top edge and apply glue to hold in place. (makes
strip easier to apply).
Cover the staples with electrical tape.
Apply prepared strip over electrical tape. It's a nice touch
to line seams up on the rim and body. To do so, figure out where
the edges will meet, but do not start gluing the strip there.
there. Start about 2" away. Glue thestrip all the way around.
Tuck the end under the beginning of the strip and glue down.
TIP: for a less bulky seam, trim the 'under'
end to a 45 degree angle that will fit under the beginning of
Trim fabric at feet, turn under and glue in place. Be patient!
Using craft glue full strength helps, or try using steel wool
to knock down the slickness of the inside of the tube. (It was
made to easily release concrete, after all!)
Let dry thoroughly. Apply waterproof sealant if needed or desired.
HANDLE can be made by drilling 1/4"holes in drum shell in
the fabric overlap area. I drill my first one about 8" from
the rim, the second one 5-6" below that, then one more 1"
from the second one.
Cut a 12-15" length of 1/4"cord. Poke one end though
the top hole into the inside of the drum. Reach inside, tie a
knot, and apply glue to keep knot from coming undone.
Poke the other end down into the 2nd hole and back up through
the 3rd hole.
Leave enough cord between the first 2 holes to slip a hand underneath.
Tie a knot just below the 3rd hole, again applying glue to secure
This makes a self-storing handle: when you are done carrying
your drum, pull the knot below the 3rd hole until the handle disappears
between the first two holes.
If you like, make mallets from large wooden beads glued to lengths
of dowel. For a softer sound, cover beads with felt or fleece.