From the Lakota to the Apache, American Indians across the North American continent have used drums to tell stories and lead ceremonies, as well as play music. Whether you're hoping to make an authentic American Indian drum or re-create one as a craft, you can design your own American Indian drum at home. Research various American Indian tribes and their drums for inspiration before creating your homemade instrument.
Create an authentic American Indian drum at home with the same materials that have been used to make the instruments for centuries. Start with a wooden cylinder frame, which can be a carved shape or fashioned from a hollowed-out log that's 2 to 3 feet in diameter. Use real animal skins for the drum's batter head, such as tanned elk, buffalo or deer skin. Stretch the skins over the top and bottom openings of cylindrical wood frame, extending over the sides. Cut holes along the border of the skins and thread natural twine or leather strings to pull the two skins tight. Use a crossed pattern, as you would threading a shoelace, to hold the skins tautly in place.
Drums Made With Craft Materials
If you don't have the means of acquiring authentic drum materials, re-create the original with craft supplies at home. Find an empty cylinder-shaped container for the body of the instrument, such as an oatmeal container or coffee can, and discard the lid. Cover the outside of the container with materials such as cardboard or brown construction paper to make the drum appear it's made from wood. Place a piece of fabric or strong paper across the top of the container and form it around the sides. Secure this "skin" by wrapping string or a rubber band around the circumference of the container.
Create an authentic American Indian drum mallet using a stick that's at least an inch in diameter and 1 foot long. Wind a piece of leather around the top of the mallet to create padding, and tie with leather string. Or create a drum mallet with household supplies. Use a stick, such as the handle of a wooden spoon, and attach a cork to one end. Cover the cork with a scrap of cloth and tie it in place with yarn.
About American Indian Drums
American Indians have used drums to enhance aspects of their lives for centuries. Drum songs tell stories of the tribe's history and past, which are passed down through generations. Drums are used to accompany ceremonies, powwows and social dances as well. Use a homemade drum to tell a story of your own. For example, tell the tale of a recent hike through the woods, using the beat of the drum to mimic the sound of your footsteps on the earth -- running, walking uphill, walking fast, walking tired, etc.
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