Best Steel Tongue Drums At A Glance - Top Rated Reviews & Comparisons
A steel tongue drum is a round and portable percussion instrument that can be played to produce a clean, soothing and Buddha-like sound. It first appeared in 2007, when Dennis Havlena was inspired by Hang and invented the steel tongue drum.
This intuitive instrument does not require any musical background. It is easy to use and applicable to a variety of fields, including music education, mind healing, relaxation, meditation and so on. And because of its learnability, and the amazing effect that its ethereal sound could bring to people’s mind, it would make a nice gift for both children and adults.
While there are so many tongue drum options on the market, they all seem to offer similar features but at very different price points. What makes them different?
If you are a parent who’s buying a tongue drum for your kid, you might be wondering what is the best tongue drum for young learners. If you are a busy office worker who’s seeking peace of mind when staying alone, you might want to know the tongue drum that makes the most pleasant sound indoors. How do you know that you’re making the best choice for your particular needs?
In this article, we will help you identify the features that everyone should be looking at when buying a steel tongue drum. We will also list some of the products that we think are among the best for particular needs as well as review their pros and cons.
- Dimension and Weight
- Number of Notes
- Musical Scale
- Availability of Mallets
- Sound / Timbre
Dimension and weight are mostly considered when you are purchasing for kids, or if you like to take the drum to the woods and play in nature a lot.
For the number of notes, there are usually 8-note, 11-note, and 13-note available on the market. The more notes, the wider range you can play with and explore.
Scale is closely related to notes. It is a series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme. It is a very important feature as it later determines the feeling of your playing. Tongue drums on the market apply various scales including C Major, D Major, D Akebono and so on. So here comes the question, how do you decide which scale is right for you before placing the order? Good question! Try to find and hear the videos on Youtube. Type the scale’s name in the search box and listen to the demo. For example, C Major is a very popular musical scale and it works with many other instruments. It is also known as a “natural” scale. The D Akebono scale originates from Japan and produces a meditative / exotic sound. It sounds great when played along with other eastern instruments. It is totally a personal choice on how the scale makes you feel.
Most tongue drums offer two methods of playing - by using hands or mallets. Pay attention to whether the supplier include mallets in the package, as a few of them may not include mallets, or they need you to place another separate order for mallets (sometimes from another supplier). The sound under the mallets will be more penetrating and ethereal, while playing the drum with hands demands higher standards of hands’ power and more accurate tapping position.
As for the last standard feature, to know how the sound of a specific tongue drum is like, you could hear it from sources below:
- The video on the left of item photo in the amazon link
- The videos in the customer reviews in the amazon link
- Search of videos (of this specific item) on Youtube uploaded by the brand's official account
- Search of videos (of this specific item) on Youtube uploaded by customers
- Unique and Special Designs
- Availability of Finger Picks
Some of the tongue drums apply unique designs. For example, they use lotus flower style to shape the tongues, or soft rope as decoration, which takes the cold steel musical instrument to another level in terms of aesthetic style.
Finger picks (or finger sleeve, finger knobs) could be a plus to the sound effect when played with fingers. Some people may like this accessory as it takes full advantages of both the agility of fingers and the pureness of sound under mallets.
Tongue drums in one fixed scale may seem monotonous to some players. If you hope to try something different, there are tongue drums with tones tunable as well. They allow you to adjust the drum into different scales from time to time in order to meet various playing needs and create different feelings. Normally it's tuned by moving magnets. There are magnets beneath each tongues. To raise or lower the pitch, move the magnet away from the center towards the edge, or away from the edge towards the center. The use of a tuner app will make the process easier.
The Best Tongue Drums
1. Best for Kids - Vbestlife Steel Tongue Drum 5.5 Inch Percussion
If you are looking for a steel tongue drum for your kids or any young learners, this one may be the best option. It is durable, made of premium stainless steel material just as other tongue drums are, yet much lighter as it is small in size - only 5.5 inch. So kids can easily carry it around.
It has 8 notes and is easy to learn. Children are more likely to play with ease and will not feel bored, comparing to those with more notes.
It has got quite high ratings (4.8 out of 5 stars) from customers who have bought it for their kids or grandkids.
Along with the small musical instrument, you'll receive 1 pair of mallets and 1 carrying bag.
- Small size and light weight
- Simple design
- Solid and stable, not easy to deform when played by kids
- Only 2 colors available (gold and coffee), may not be attractive enough to children
2. Best for Beginners - Asmuse Steel Tongue Drum 8 Notes 10 Inch
It is in F major pentatonic scale (3A, 4C, 4E, 4A, 4G, 5C, 4D, 3G) .
Why we put it as a perfect choice for beginners:
1. High quality made and beautiful sound
2. Reasonable price and recently on sale (Oct 2019)
3. Highly recommended by customers (5 out of 5 stars)
4. Dozens of videos that show the drum being played and uploaded by customers, so you can experience the sound for reference (very important for first-time buyers)
The drum comes with a nice and protecting backpack, a pair of mallets and a mallet bracket.
- Everything above average, except the price
- No biggest selling point for it
3. Ideal For the Enthusiast - Pyle Professional Pan Drum 8 Inch
The slogan of the PYLE brand is "High End Performance at an Affordable Price".
Drum is 8 inch and the scale is F Major. The sound is fabulous if you play it right. It's a bit difficult to master according to the reviews. But once you get familiar with it, it will produce wonderful sound that outshines other tongue drums at the same price point.
It's perfect for novice and professionals alike, but even more perfect for professionals.
- Heavy and sturdy built
- Comes with a stylish handwoven travel bag
- A little difficult to get the hang of it
4. Premium and Stylish Design - GUDA DRUM Freezbee
This tongue drum really stunned us with its design. The surface is engraved by hand, with soft rope as decoration. The GUDA brand made a series of designs for their tongue drums (as shown below). Use the keyword "GUDA drum" you'll be able to find dozens of their products with premium designs available in brown or black.
The GUDA drum is 14.7", weighs only 4 pound thus very slim, making it ideal for outdoor gig.
It comes in Arcane scale (A C D E F G A C) as default, but they can do custom scale on request as well. You can put a note with your order if you like other scales. All free of charge. This is another unique feature in addition to its design.
The GUDA drum has a percussive sound with some wooden overtones. As opposed to the more harsh metallic sounds that a lot of tongue drums have, this one has more of a soft tone to it. It sounds better with your hands.
It comes with a nice felt bag. Mallets are not included.
- Stylish design with engraved patterns and soft rope edge
- Custom scale on request
- More of a soft "wood" tone
- High quality
- Run out of stock from time to time
5. Tongue Drum with 9 Notes - Pearl 9 Note Tongue Drum Lydian
The 9-tongue drum provides a full octave of tones, which offers a wider range of playing experience and makes it far more interesting than the 8-tongue drums. It redefines the boundaries of playability and creativity.
This drum is in C Lydian scale (G, A, C, B, G, E, C, D, F#). Drums in other scales like the Japanese C Akebono (G, C, Eb, D, AB, Eb, C, D, G) are available as well.
- Has 9 notes and is more versatile
- Great sound and resonance
- Precise laser cut tongues for accurate and consistent tuning
- No bag included
- The selling price fluctuates a bit from time to time
6. Budget Friendly - OcarinaWind 5.5 inches C Major Steel Tongue Drum
- Budget friendly with pleasant sound quality
- The size may be a bit too small for some adults
This is a great starter tongue drum and could easily be considered the best tongue drum for the money. It is budget friendly but yet still comes with all the standard features and sound quality you’d expect.
7. Tunable and Versatile - Idiopan Domina 12-Inch Tunable Steel Tongue Drum
As you may know, most tongue drums come in with a fixed scale. If you want to try another musical scale, you have to buy a new tongue drum. This is changed by Idiopan steel tongue drum which can be tuned to suit your mood. All tongues are tunable to several pitches by moving magnets that are included with the drum. This allows you to easily tune your drum to dozens of scales. The magnets are strong enough to keep in scale.
The tongue drum also has a round rubbery ring to keep the edges from getting scratched and dinged.
They have six colors available (magenta, ruby red, sapphire blue, emerald green, off white, and onyx rainbow), and four different sizes for you to choose from (6", 8", 12", 14") . These should be able to meet requirements of most customers.
- Great sound and timbre
- Different colors and sizes available
- It may be difficult for some people to play 6 or even 8 inch drum with hands because of its design (tongues are small)
- No extra magnet available
- Out of stock often
This review list and buying guide should help you determine which features are most important to you when buying a tongue drum, enabling you to narrow down your choices. Many features are standard and should not be sacrificed. The quality of sound is one of them. Many features you can do without, especially if you aren’t looking to spend the extra money.