Although the tongue drum is still in use today by some musicians, the history of the drum tells historians a lot about the activities of various ancient cultures. The tongue drum has influenced more modern percussion instruments such as the xylophone. At the same time, the actual use of the tongue drum has become relatively obscure, and the owners of these percussion instruments are, for the most part, hobbyists.
The tongue drum is a percussion instrument in the idiophone family; this means that the material the instrument is made out of actually also produces the sound itself, without the need for strings, a membrane, or external resonator. Other names for it include tank drum, Hank drum or steel tongue drum.
Resembling a flying saucer, it boasts a unique, pleasant timbre that results from hitting the “tongues.” The number of tongues varies by instrument, with each producing a different note.
The intuitive approach to playing the tongue drum sets it apart from many musical instruments. You don’t need any knowledge of rhythm, percussion, or music theory to play a beautiful tune. It’s impossible to play a bad note, and they all sound good together. You can either play it with your hands or use mallets.
Tongue drums come in many scales, and more recently, the market offers multi-scale models that allow users to tune the tongue drum to different scales. It’s a great way to play multiple scales without having to buy multiple tongue drums. Moreover, there are even electro-acoustic models that connect to an amp or a sound card for an infinite number of effects.