How to Make Drums, Tomtoms and Rattles: Primitive Percussion Instruments for Modern Use

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Practically all primitive tribes possessed them and they were used and revered by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Japanese, and in India. As one goes from place to place and culture to culture, the drums are found to vary widely in shape and in the materials from which they are fashioned. We find drumframes made of wood, pottery, baskets, metal, gourds, cocoanuts, nutshells, horn, etc. We find drumheads made of the skin of deer, moose, caribou, buffalo, antelope, tigers, lions, leopards, monkeys, elephants, zebras, sharks, cattle, goats, and even human beings, the last-named being found occasionally on ancient African drums.

We find barrel-shaped drums, hoop-shaped drums, kettle drums with rounded bottom , vase-shaped drums, square drums, hour-glass drums large at each end and small in the middle , egg-shaped drums, etc. We find drums varying in size from tiny affairs made from nutshells covered with skin, up to huge log drums requiring ten men to move them.

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We find crude drums consisting of nothing more than a hide stretched over a round frame, and again we find drums of elaborate and artistic workmanship made of highly ornamented pottery or of carved wood inlaid with ivory. Drums of all kinds and descriptions—but drums everywhere! No people in the world have made greater use of drums or attached more significance to them than did the tribes of the American Indians. And no drums are more interesting or carry a greater imaginative appeal. Much of this book is devoted to instructions for making these picturesque Indian tomtoms so full of symbolic meanings and so useful as percussion instruments today.

If you have, you will appreciate something of the medicine of drums; at least you will agree that to this lone Indian there seems to be a mysterious potency, a spirit power within the drum that in the seeming, at least, transforms him temporarily into a different kind of individual. Medicine is an indispensable word in connection with Indian customs, characteristics, and moods—it means spirit power. And it is an appropriate word in connection with drums!

As the lone Redman drums away and perhaps sings softly to himself, a dreamy, far-off look comes into his eyes. He seems to become entranced, entirely oblivious to his surroundings, his reverie lifting him above all mundane things. I have frequently witnessed somewhat this same sort of expression, but to a less extent, on the faces of a circle of drummers seated around a big dance-drum and beating rhythm for the dancers.

If the Indian is sad he seems to find solace with his drum. If he is angry his drum brings relief. If he is afraid his drum gives him courage.

Whatever the emotion, an hour by himself with his drum seems to compensate and to offer satisfying expression; it gives him a feeling of relief and contentment. An aged Chippewa woman once told me through the interpretation of her son: I cannot part with my drum.

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I find so much comfort in it now that I am alone so much. Drums are precious to practically all primitive peoples. In many tribes they constitute the only musical instrument, and almost universally they are regarded as the most precious of musical instruments. There are several reasons for this:. In the first place, drums mean rhythm, and one of the most striking characteristics of primitive men is their response to rhythm. To the rhythmic beating of the tomtoms their bodies react like sounding boards, vibrating with a different emotion each time the rhythm changes.

In this respect it must not be assumed that primitive men are any different from the rest of mankind, except perhaps for the unrestrained and uninhibited completeness of their expression, for all men wherever they are found and however complete their development, respond to rhythm whenever it is perceived. In fact there seems to be a universal law of rhythm—we see it in the movement of waves, the undulating of the fields of grain, the swaying of branches of the trees, the rising and falling of tides, in return of night and day, the seasons of the year, the coming and going of years, the beating of the human heart-in fact wherever we look in the physical universe we see rhythmic motion.

And man responds to rhythm whenever he senses it, and seeks it when it is not present— for it is invariably pleasant. He may merely feel himself in harmony with the rhythm and thus experience it without bodily movement; he may express it in reserved fashion by the tapping of fingers or the beating of time with the foot; or he may exert the whole body as in dancing.

But react he will in some way, and experience an elemental joy thereby. Little wonder that men of all periods have prized drums, the instruments of rhythm, the instruments of dancing.

How to Make Drums Tom-Toms & Rattles: Primitive Percussion Instruments for Modern Use

All primitive groups loved to dance and the more advanced tribes developed the dancing art to an impressive level of beauty and perfection. No finer example of the expression of life through dancing can be found than the dance-drama of the American Indian. His dancing is his most salient characteristic and the highest form of his art, surpassing his singing, his crafts, and his legendary lore, for all of which he is justly famed. And the drum, therefore, becomes the chief instrument of joy.

How to Make Drums Tom-Toms & Rattles: Primitive | Reverb

Moreover, dancing to the beating of drums fulfilled another community function of unsurpassed importance: It seemed to unite the people, to develop a feeling of group strength and solidarity. Preliminary to battle, for example, long dances were held during which the constant movement to rhythm developed an increased feeling of power, of strength and ecstasy, of capacity to meet any emergency.


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The drums whipped up morale and flamed esprit-de-corps. Even today bands play vigorous military marches preliminary to sending soldiers into fighting. Similarly, the village dances of the Indians in peace times developed an elation, a reckless joy, a high feeling of self-regard, and a sense of harmony with all others in the group. Sociability was increased, friendliness became more pronounced, and all came to feel that the village was a good place and its inhabitants good folk with whom to be.

The medicine of dancing drums develops harmony, oneness of feeling and purpose. The drum symbolized the community. Whether enclosed in a dancing lodge or in the open circle of the village center, the drum pulsed the heart beat of the tribe. On a recent visit to the very primitive Chippewa Indian village at Lac le Croix, Canada, I fell in with an Indian who could speak a few words of English and succeeded after repeated requests in inducing him to show us the interior of the.

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Summary Making your own primitive instruments from simple materials such as coffee cans and flower pots. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.

How to Make Drums, Tomtoms and Rattles: Primitive Percussion Instruments for Modern Use

It is an ancient drum, a sacred drum. There are several reasons for this: In the first place, drums mean rhythm, and one of the most striking characteristics of primitive men is their response to rhythm. Start your free 30 days. Complete, thorough directions for making each of the various drums are given, and you may be surprised to note that many can be constructed from such simple, everyday materials as wooden kegs, flower pots, coffee cans, buckets, old inner tubes, and airplane cloth. Also drum-related articles describe drumsticks and many different kinds of rattles, and include instructions on how to make them.

To the craft of drum-making Mr. Mason brings his deep knowledge of Indian tradition, imparting a good deal of the lore and legend associated with drums along the way. You'll be able to make your drum as authentic as you wish, modeled after any of the Chippewa, Sioux, Cheyenne, Slav, Arapaho, or Blackfoot drums depicted in these pages. And once your drum is finished, Mr.

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