We are using heavy cardboard tubes that are used in the construction world to pour concrete columns. Although they are made in diameters from 6" to 60" the most common sizes are 8", 10", and 12", available at Home Depot and most other local building materials stores.

Another member of the Eldermusic group who has done great work with these drums is Beverly Nadelman, who calls them Fun Drums. Click on the image below for a bigger look..



Tube drums

homemade percussion home

These 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…"

  1. 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 process.)
  2. Pictures are available at the Eldemusic group. Click the link at the top of this page to go there.Cut 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!)
  3. 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..
  4. 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.
  5. Soak the pack cloth in water for at least one hour. This is important. It takes awhile for the water to soak in.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 tape.
  8. 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 O'Shea

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..

An 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 http://acheybodybiz.com 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 or 8
      sizes. Depending on brand, some will have thicker walls than others)
    • 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
    • Yardstick
    • 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 great!)
    • Staple gun
    • Hammer (for reluctant staples)
    • Foam brush
    • Damp cloth
    • Scissors


General Instructions:

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 and children.

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 tube.

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' right off.

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 dried.

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 1/4" staples.

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 here.

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 or scissors.

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 fabric.

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 the strip.

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.

Self-Storing Handle:
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 knot.

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.




Michael Augden is the co-creator with Annie of their style of
tube drums. He does most of the power tool work and helps with the stretching of the heading material.


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