Here at The Way of the Buzzard we run drum making workshops in Lancashire, and also carry out private commissions and sell drums at our regular drumming circles and at local Mind Body Spirit fairs. If you are drawn to making your own drum please visit our Workshops page to see when we are next running a workshop, and if you would like us to make one for you please contact us.
To help you find your first drum we have created this article to provide you with information you might find useful to help you make your decision.
Central to any shamanic workers toolkit is a journey vehicle and, unless you’re comfortable using plant based stimulants(!), the drum is the usual choice. Some practitioners are real purists and insist that only a traditional hand frame drum handled only by you will do the job, whilst others are less dogmatic and feel that as long as it can hold a steady rhythm it will do the job.
Most of us are probably somewhere between the two extremes and may be actively creating a relationship with this very sacred tool. More of this for another time, let’s first look at the first steps of choosing your very own drum.
Without a doubt this is an exciting and important decision and one that is easy to rush! There’s absolutely no problem with that, our first drums are rarely our last and often simply help us find the path we need to be on.
If you and your drum drift apart for whatever reason that’s all fine, it’s probably time to look for your next one. Here are some pointers which may help you make an informed decision.
The three most important points to consider are:
- What will your drum be made out of? Synthetic or animal skin?
- How big do you want your drum to be?
- Will you buy your drum or make it yourself?
This will come down to practicalities and preferences, but in reality you may find it takes more than one drum to tick all of your boxes and fulfill all of your needs.
Synthetic or animal skin
If you want to play your drum outside, you need to be aware that animal skin drums loosen in cool, damp weather, of which we get plenty here in the UK. A synthetic drum will always play whatever the weather. Some animal skin drums become unusable in the rain, or damp, unless they are heated over a fire or radiator. That’s fine if you are near to heat, but sometimes that’s not always the case and then you find yourself without a drum which can be disappointing to say the least.
The benefit of animal skin drums is their depth of resonance and variety of tones to be found across the surface. You will learn which spot of the drums face to beat to elicit a particular tone and will be able to find the sweet spot where, if the get the rhythm right, the drum will begin to sing with its own reverberating voice.
True, some synthetic drums can have a good depth of tone too, and they are usually more suitable for vegetarians.
The best option is to give it a try, compare it to others, listen to friends drums, do your research and be informed.
Choose your ideal size
Large drums are beautiful to play, but the larger they are the less transportable they are. Again, if you want to take yours out on walks into the countryside, then a smaller drum that you can carry easily over your shoulder or in your rucksack will be much more versatile.
Larger drums usually play a wider variety of deeper tones and are much more vocal. Smaller drums are good for more confined, intimate spaces. Again, try different sizes and see what fits.
The easiest way around both of these dilemmas is to have two drums! One larger animal skin drum complemented by a more portable synthetic one for when the damp weather strikes.
Synthetic drums are much cheaper, animal skin drums come is a huge variety of choice. Do you want goat, cow, horse, deer… all have their own differences and can carry the spirit of the donor animal so choose with insight.
Shop bought, commissioned or made yourself
Here at The Way of the Buzzard we make drums made of rawhide… either Red Deer, Reindeer or Horse. You can try them out at our local drumming circles in Wilmslow, Stockport or Bamber Bridge (near Preston), or we often have a stand at local Mind Body Spirit fairs, or at local festivals in and around the northwest. We also made drums to order…
… and we run drum making workshops near our home in Anglezarke, Chorley, Lancashire. Take a look at our workshops page to see when our next course is running.
If you choose to buy a drum elsewhere…
Finding a shop which sells shamanic drums is often not as straightforward as you think. Not all percussion shops will understand the needs of shamanic work and some may sell you something which isn’t really suitable.
Be careful of buying one with bells around it, tambourine style as the tinkling may distract you from the purity of the journey beat. You will often have the choice of a plain or painted one, if you buy a plain skinned one you will be able to paint it yourself and make it your own.
Once you find yourself in a shop with a good choice of drums make sure you take you time and focus on the task in hand. Try to choose in silence without the constant distraction of a sales person. Give the drum a try too.
Rather than just shyly beat a few cursory strokes in the shop imagine yourself out there playing your drum and journeying someone. Play for a few minutes until you find the drums own voice, then you’ll be better informed to make a decision.
Often, and in our experience, your drum finds you, if you are patient and wait. You will also find yourself owning more than one drum – it gets rather addictive and you may well find that different drums fit different purposes!
Once you have your drum
Firstly, may we suggest that you don’t treat your drum like a musical instrument, view it as a sacred tool. Perhaps don’t lend it out or let just anyone play it, at least for the first few months. It’s your drum, your sacred tool, and this is the time to really get to know each other, and share your energies.
As with any sacred tool it’s as well to cleanse the drum of the energies it will have picked up before it came to you. Take a sage smudge stick, and smudge your drum. If you are drawn to you could chant or sing whilst you did this.
You may also want to perform a ritual to welcome your drum. If you belong to a shamanic drumming circle, you could ask your fellow drummers to help you perform a welcoming or birthing ritual.
You could also journey to the spirit of your drum, to meet it, introduce yourself and ask what it might need of you.
Most of all try to build a relationship with you drum, let it become important to you and ask it how it wants to work with you. After all, it will be responsible for holding your sacred space for years to come.