How to Play a HAPI Steel Tongue Drum

Steel Tongue Drum by HAPI Drum

Our HAPI Steel Tongue Drums are ideal for jamming and playing percussive beats. Anyone who wants an easy to play intuitive music instrument can learn to play one. You don't need a musical background to enjoy it. The note layout of the HAPI Steel Tongue Drum makes it easy to jump right into grooving rhythms.

Our HAPI Steel Tongue Drums use tongues cut to different sizes and shapes to produce musical tones, similar to wooden tongue drums.

How is it played? We recommend playing the HAPI Steel Tongue Drum with the pads of your fingers. A wide range of sounds can be created with different techniques. Playing by hand connects you with the Steel Tongue Drum in the way that traditional drums are enjoyed. A minimal amount of force creates a big sound on these drums. We also supply each Steel Tongue Drum with mallets designed to bring out pure tone. Our mallets are designed to eliminate “head slap” creating a very clear tone. When using mallets, hold the mallet lightly and let it drop onto the note. This creates the ideal tone. When using your hands all that is required is a light quick touch from the pad of your finger.

Playing with your hands takes some practice. Use the pad of only one finger to strike the note. Hit the note at the top of the tongue, your target area is towards the top, in the middle of the tongue. Index or middle fingers or the side of your thumb are all ok too. Do not use the tip of the finger but rather the full pad of your finger. Your finger should be about level with the drum before you start the motion and two to three inches above the drum. Use a wrist motion to slap the finger off of the note. Do not move your elbows, it’s all in the wrist. Let your finger lightly bounce off the note like the mallets do. Start learning on the largest notes and then once you have good technique, move to practicing on the smaller notes. Most people take a few days of practice to get good at it. Have patience, as with any new instrument it takes time and practice to learn. The arrangement of the notes make going up and down the scale very easy. Also one hand can reach two or three notes simultaneously for chord playing.

Here is a good overview of the HAPI Steel Tongue Drum that also shows the hand playing technique from our friend Kalani:

Playing positions. Most people will choose to sit in a comfortable chair with the Steel Tongue Drum in their lap. Position the drum in the middle of your lap. If the Steel Tongue Drum is too close to your torso your hands will be in a more difficult position for the closest notes. For sitting on the ground we recommend crossing your legs and resting the drum on top of your legs. Tilt the Steel Tongue Drum up a bit toward your torso to make reaching all the notes comfortable. We have also added sound isolating rubber feet to the bottom of our Steel Tongue Drums. These feet allow you to play the drum on any surface.

Best Steel Tongue Drum Sellers:

HAPI Drum Steel Tongue Drum Mini

HAPI Mini Steel Tongue Drum
  • Perfect for hiking, camping or beach trips.
  • Dimensions: 8" wide x 5.5" high. Weight: 3.4 lbs.
  • Available in: C Major or D Akebono
Price: $159
Click here for more details.

HAPI Steel Tongue Drum Slim

HAPI Slim Steel Tongue Drum
  • Slim and sleek design.
  • Dimensions: 12" wide by 6" high. Weight: 7 lbs.
  • Available in: A Akebono or G Major.
Price: $245
Click here for more details.

HAPI Steel Tongue Drum Omni

HAPI Omni Steel Tongue Drum
  • An innovative tongue drum shape with a great sound!
  • Dimensions: 15" wide by 5" tall. 7.5 lbs.
  • Available in: G Major or F Major.
Price: $296
Click here for more details.