The drum is an instrument that has existed for thousands of years. The first drums were made by hand with natural materials --- wood, stone and animal skins. The animal skins functioned as the drum head, which is the membrane that produces sound when struck. If you want to make your own drum at home, you have a few choices as to materials that you can use for the drum head.
Inexpensive Synthetic Materials
The least expensive materials you can use to make a drum head are household items, such as plastic wrap, a sheet of vinyl fabric or stretchable latex or rubber material. These materials are best for simple, homemade drums for children. You can tightly cover the lid of a large, plastic container with several layers of plastic wrap, vinyl or rubber and make a functioning drum in only a few minutes. These materials, especially the plastic wrap, may not be durable enough to use for large homemade drums or drums that will actually be used in a performance.
More Expensive Synthetic Materials
If you are making a very large drum or a drum that you intend to use for actual performances, you may want to invest in more expensive, but better quality, drum head materials. The material of choice for high-quality drum heads is biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BoPET), which is also called Mylar. Mylar is widely-used in drum manufacturing because it is very durable and produces powerful sound. You can purchase Mylar at art supply stores, plastic material suppliers and online. High-quality Mylar sheets can cost anywhere from $30 to over $100, depending on the scope of your project. You will also need a sharp craft knife or other cutting tool to cut the Mylar to size.
You can also take the traditional route and use animal skin for your drum head, as long as you have no problem working with the material. You can purchase animal skins for drum heads at specialty stores and online. Cattle leather can make a great drum head and is more readily accessible than other animal skins. Remember that animal skin will wear and break down over time, so it is not ideal for a drum that you intend to make and keep for decades.
To attach a homemade drum head to the drum body, you will need a variety of materials. For simpler drums made from household material, you can use rubber bands, glue or tape to tightly seal the drum head material over the top of the body. For drum heads made with Mylar or animal skin, you will need a drum hoop with metal clamps. You can purchase this item in music supply stores and online. If you want the drum to be completely homemade, you can make your own drum hoop using materials such as wood and large eye screws.
- "Making Drums"; Dennis Waring; 2006
- "Making Simple Musical Instruments: A Melodious Collection of Strings, Winds, Drums & More"; Bart Hopkin; 1999
- "Musical Instrument Design: Practical Information for Instrument Design"; Bart Hopkin, et al.; 1996
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