“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.
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, which combines elements of both the A Major and B minor scales. I love this thing–it will not be the only one I own.
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.