Tuned Percussion

“Drums can play notes?” — student question

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I saw a video featuring a rig made up of various tuned percussion instruments that really lit up my brain.  Using principles similar to the koto, having a limited number of note choices gives me much greater freedom to focus on imagery and expression.

These instruments are part of a new direction that will focus on audience participation and helping share the joy of making music with more people.

Rav Vast

Rav Vast steel tongue drum

Affectionately known in the studio as “the flying saucer,” this unusual and captivating instrument is based on the handpan, which is an offshoot of the steel drums used in Calypso music.

It’s known as a steel tongue drum because it’s made of steel and the sounds come from ‘tongues’ that are cut into the surface so they can vibrate freely.  The tongues are linked together inside the body of the instrument to make them work with one another.  The result is a truly magical sound with incredible resonance and sustain.

They come in a variety of tunings, the one I have is a B Celtic Minor Double Ding.

Invented and built in Russia by only one company in the world, this instrument is just amazing.  You might not think there’s much you can do with only 10 notes, but that’s when the magic takes over.

Learn more at the Rav website


WoodPack wood tongue drum

This is also a tongue drum, but it’s made of wood rather than steel.  It has a sound very much like a marimba, but is smaller and therefore easier to carry.  When amplified, it also allows for a wide range of expression.  The model I have is similar to the Rav in that it has elements of two scales, one major and one minor.

This is a beautiful instrument.  Not only that, but it makes the studio smell great too!  Built in Slovakia, WoodPack drums are designed by a musician with certain touches that make them a fantastic choice for those seeking nuance and melodic options within the percussion realm.

Learn more at the WoodPack website