hand drums

Discussion in 'Drums' started by NCdan, Mar 9, 2009.

  1. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    So, I'm gonna be looking for some hand drums to use in church for more acousticy music. I won't be playing them, but I've been looking on the web, and the three things I've come up with so far are: bongos, congas, or djembes. Yes, whatever is being used will be mic'd (if it needs to be mic'd). I think that 2 of something would be best. Heck, I could even get one bongo and one conga, or a djembe and a bongo. But, I may only have enough available finances for one hand drum, in which case I'd want something somewhat versatile.

    I haven't gotten an official budget from the pastor yet, but I'm guessing it isn't going to be very large (we're a small fellowship at the moment). So I think I'll be lucky to get $300, and it may be as low as $50 and I may have to pay some money out of my pocket. So, obviously, cheap is good. I guess the only requirements are: they need stands. Unless there's some way to play some type of hand drum without a stand and make it sound good and not run the risk of it falling and being damaged. I know there are lots of other ethnic drums, but I don't want something strange sounding that the percussionist looks at and says, "How the crap do I play this thing?" I also want something that isn't particularly fragile (some ethnic drums I've seen would have the head gouged out in no time with someone who wasn't familiar with it). I'm also a bit concerned that bongos won't provide the low end I'd want, and we won't be using an actual drum set. Maybe I'm being weird about the low end? I looked on Musicians Friend and I found some sets of full-size bongos and even congas with stands around $300. But, as stated earlier, a single hand drum may be what we start out with. So, any suggestions are welcome. Thanks for any input and God bless.
  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Sorry dan, but like a lot of other topics here - I'm going to ask a bunch of questions before I can give a thoughtful answer.

    Any idea how loud your 'acousticy' worship music will be?
    Contemporary P&W music or more traditional?
    How big is the sanctuary?
    How reverberant is the sanctuary?
    Do low freqencies tend to linger in the room?
    Will there be a bass guitar or other bass instrument playing along?
    Will the percussionist be crammed into a corner of the room?
    Is the congregation going to be up for some thunderous low end?
  3. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Pretty darn loud, actually.

    It has more to do with song selection than whether we're doing hymns or praise songs. But the songs wouldn't have an old sound to them. If that makes any sense.

    I don't have any exact measurements, but I'd say it's on the larger end of small, or maybe just mid-sized. Not very helpful, I know.

    Not very, and no.

    Probably a bass guitar. Another acoustic guitar may be added later on. But that's about it. Another percussionist (not a drummer) may be added later on.

    No, the percussionist will be up on either the left or right of the stage.

    Yes. The whole service is about being non-religious, or put another way, non-traditional. We're not talking crazy here, just something different that will isn't particularly aimed at your old-fashioned, religious people.

    OK, so I realized that a djembe is designed to be played sitting down, and the 14" ones get quite a bit of low end. What about a 10" or even an 8" djembe? And I sort of doubt it will be necessary, but... how the heck would you mic a djembe? But again, all suggestions are welcome.
  4. Greener

    Greener Guest

    I'd look into a getting a Djembe.
    You can get fairly cheap ones with a hide head and a body made from fiber glass. They still have a fairly good sound compared to more expensive wooden ones.
    Also, a good point about the Djembe is the low notes you can obtain by hitting the center with a cupped hand this in comparison to the high and very attacking notes you can get from the rim with a slap gives you the best of both worlds. Almost like a kick and a snare built into one drum.

    Congas and Bongos only offer one type of sound (on the whole, there a billion and one ways to hit them which affects tonality but nothing like what you can get from a Djembe).

    A Djembe can be played standing up and it's not expensive to get a harness for one, the harness is like a set of backpack straps which clips onto the drum and you can walk around with it. Probably not the best thing if you need to mic it up but handy if you don't. Also, if you do need to mic it up you can get stands, though they are more expensive than the harness. I suppose you could use a small clip on type mic with the harness but you'd need to jury rig a mount.
  5. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    Frozen Tundra of CT
    While the djembe is probably the most common you might want to consider a cajon (drumworks.com) as you can get a snare sound down to a floor tom or even a bass drum sound depending on the size/type. When we are doing small gigs (coffe house, etc) the cajon is my first choice as it imitates a drum set rather well and is fairly loud, we usually don't find it necessary to mic it even with the PA. There are a bunch ot youtuber tutorials on how to play it.
  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Based on what you're saying, I'd probably look at a Djembe first. If you're rocking the P&W music and want the low end presence of a full band with just a few acoustic instruments that would be my choice. As long as you have enough of a sound system to keep the vocals on top of the mix. P&W music is all about the vocals. If they can't hear the words it's a waste of everyone's time.

    A 14 inch Djembe makes a surprising amount of low end and can be extremely expressive. Sometimes even in a large room I will have the djembe off at the board and still find it overbearing. It's very dependent on what surface is below the drum. Hard stage floors, carpeted platforms - will all affect the sound. If you play them sitting down you can control a lot of the tone & volume with your feet. I've seen guys who carry a small heavy rug to sit the drum on. It protects the drum and slightly dampens the low-end. Also, putting them in the corner as I see in so many churches, really exaggerates the bassy part of the drum. If you have someone who is skilled at it, a djembe is a thing of beauty. For a beginner it's easy to catch on to the basics of where to hit it to get the distinct tones, but it takes a while to learn how to finesse the drum.

    Doumbeks and Darbukas are in the same general family and usually tuned a little higher, both also can be very expressive in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing. You can get them in wood, fiberglass, copper - obviously each will have a distinct tonal characteristic.

    In my opinion a single Conga isn't as versatile as any of the other three --- pretty cool in pairs though. The low-end might be less obtrusive than a djembe and typically has a little more crack in the upper mids.

    As far as Bongos go, I've yet to see them used in a way that made me say 'wow'. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that I haven't seen anyone with that level of skill unleash the bongo fury.

    Bodhrans (usually more of a Celtic application) are also very cool in the hands of someone who knows how to play it. Not as boomy, but harder to mic because of the way it's held and moved around while playing.

    For any of these you can find goatskin heads, sythentic fiberskyn, plastic heads, you name it. Whatever you get make sure it is tunable and replaceable. Leave the ones with goatskin and tacks to the purists, you want something that's going to work with a standard drum lug design.

    How you mic them (if at all) will give you a lot of control over where they fit in the mix. I prefer to reinforce the sound of the hand slapping the head. I will usually close-mic congas and use a relatively low overhead. For Djembes and the rest I will just use the low overhead. Only rarely do I need to amplify any of the sound coming from the bottom of the drum. To me, the character of each of these drums is on top of the head. And percussionists tend to gather anything that makes an interesting noise and incoporating into their set-up. (One man's trash is another man's maraca) So a good overhead will go a long way there.

    We had a duo including a great piano player/vocalist and a great professional percussionist pass through our church a couple months ago. The percussionist was essentially looking for a kick drum sound from the Djembe so he had a small Audix D2 on a mini tripod (with like 3-inch legsl) that fit completely inside the bottom of the drum as it sat on the floor. But in his case, he had so much stuff we used 3 mics (including the D2) close-micing specific things that needed to be prominent, plus 2 good overheads (AKG 451) to catch the vibe of everything else. But the two of them had the presence of a full band, very cool.

    Don't be afraid to look beyond MuzFrend for your drums. There are some really cool sites out there with a lot of variety. LP and Toca are among the best selling, and I'm sure there are some really unique drums of all kinds available off the beaten path - no pun intended.

    Anyway, hope that's helpful.

    I'd welcome a percussionist's point of view.
  7. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    I've seen them before and it is a possibility. I suppose it would be a bit more complex to play than a simple hand drum.

    I was wondering about those. They actually seem to be the cheapest option when it comes to sheer size. The only music store in my area that I could try hand drums out at is, unfortunately, Guitar Center, so who knows if they'd even have a doumbek, darbuka, or cajon?

    Definitely. I was thinking just how difficult it might be to replace something that is rope tuned. I don't really care what material the head is, so long as it is lug tuned.

    I never actually buy anything from the evil empire, I just browse their site and go to their stores for convenience... and then make my purchase elsewhere. 8) I usually buy from Sweetwater online, but their inventory isn't as big as some other places, but they usually have what I want, although, that may not hold true for hand drums.

    Good advice! Anyone else feel free to chime in, even if your only experience with hand drums is behind a sound board.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    My wife plays djembe in our praise band. In my opinion, it has the best range of tones of all the hand drums for playing with standard western acoustic and electric instruments. (For instance, bongos land right in the frequency range of guitars and clash like crazy.)

    Try before you buy. I like the sound of wood/skin/rope djembes much better than any drums with standard tuners that we have tried. And believe me we have tried the tunable kind. Tuning rope drums is not all that hard (lots of resources on the web), but it is a workout. Use vice grips.

    We just close mic the drum head with a 58 live. I've tried a few different condenser mics about 2 feet away in the studio with good results the few times we have recorded.
  9. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    I ran across this site while I was making sure my spelling was right on the Latin and African drums. Their prices are in-line with GC and MF on the things I could compare straight across. There might be cheaper places to buy online but they look like they have an exceptionally good selection. Educational value at least. I've never dealt with them, so that's all I can tell you.

  10. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    OK, so I stopped by the local evil empire today to try out some hand drums (I did try a local store, but they had no hand drums), and I have to say that the bongos are not happening, despite the low prices. In all honesty, I really think I'd like to have 2-3 full size congas more than a djembe, but I really doubt the budget I get will cover 2-3 full sized congas with stands... So, djembes it is. Sorry jg49, no cajons to try out, and I really do want to buy a drum I've had a chance to try myself, as I have never tried a lot of the lesser known hand drums. :? As far as djembes go, it will have to have a 12" head or larger. The one 10" djembe I tried had no subs to it, and the 8" djembes and other similar hand drums just sounded dinky. I was surprised how good the djembes with 12" heads sounded, so it looks like a good djembe won't be a lot of money. Now I just need to go give the pastor a pep talk about the budget lest I end up with something like $50 total. If the talk goes well (as in I get a large budget) an acoustic bass sounds nice. :D
  11. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Sometimes a djembe or similar drum can fool you. The bottom acts sort of like a megaphone and sometimes you don't get much bass close to the drum, but 20-30 ft. away it might deliver more bottom end than you know what to do with.

    Good luck with the budget.

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