If you are serious about drumming, of course you will need a drum. Perhaps you already have one, if someone close to you has gifted you with one. If not, any drum that feels comfortable for you to play and that you can afford will do. Hint:  Frame drums, including Native American "buffalo" drums, are a good place to start.

If you're starting from scratch, here are some things you might want to consider:  How big do you want your drum to be, and how heavy a drum can you comfortably play? Do you want a drum that you play with your hands (the whole hand, that is), or a smaller drum that you play with your fingers? Do you want to be able to walk or dance with your drum, or do you want to or have to stay seated? The Drum Circle Drums page of this website shows some pictures of drums commonly seen in recreational and community drum circles. Shown below are bongo drums--usually played with the fingers--and two types of doumbeks/darbukas--usually played with the whole hand, although smaller ones are often played with the fingers only.

Djembes (see illustration below), ashikos, djun djuns, and congas are examples of larger (up to 3 feet high) drums that originated in Africa or in areas like the Caribbean islands and South America where African slaves developed them from the materials at hand. They are played with the player standing up with the drum(s) on a stand in front of them, or with the player seated, holding the drum between the legs. They are also played while being carried with a strap around the neck or over the shoulder. 

Various types of frame drums (three of which are illustrated below), which are most probably descended from sieves used for sifting and sorting grain, are found in almost every indigenous culture on the planet, and range in size from diameters of 5 or 6 inches to ones of 30 inches--some have jingles (tambourines and riqs), some have snares (bendirs), and some have chains or rings (deffs). 

Goblet drums--for example, doumbeks and darbukas (like those shown below, cribbed from Todd Green's website)--are ubuquitous throughout the Middle East, Africa, and in the New World wherever the diaspora of people from those areas led them; they also come in a range of sizes, and you can play with them upright between your legs like a djembe, or sideways on your lap (for recreational drum circles at least). 

I recommend starting with two drums--a frame drum that is light in weight, decorated to your personal preference, comfortable to hold and play, and sounds very good to YOU, to use for your own spiritual practice and enjoyment, and a larger goblet drum to play in circles, with groups, and to practice drumming techniques.

While some frame drums are expensive (ones that have been specially made from expressly chosen materials by the artist and have been cleansed and blessed by a spiritual leader can run up to $800 or more), some very good ones can be found or procured online for less than $50.00. Common considerations are (YOU are the only who can answer these questions for yourself): 

  • Does it matter what culture the drum comes from?
  • Do you want the frame and/or the head to be made of natural materials, or synthetic ones? Many cultures believe that the natural materials impart to the drum their own spirit. However, synthetic materials are lighter in weight, much more robust and durable, and can be played with impunity in all kinds of weather.
  • Do you want the drum to be "tuneable" or not? Tuneable drums can have the tuning mechanism inside or outside of the frame, and the added metal adds considerable weight to the drum--especially important if you are going to be learning culture-specific rhythms and holding the drum in one or both hands and playing the notes with the other or both hands.
  • How big (in diameter) do you want the drum to be? In general, the bigger the drum, the deeper the tone, but large drums can be fairly unwieldy to handle. However, VERY large drums can be used as "powwow" drums on which several players can beat simultaneously, which is an extremely kewl bonding experience for all of the participants in a circle.