Best Dhol and Dholaks For Beginners

For our first article on the Indian drums, we are looking at the Dhol and the Dholak which we absolutely love. The Dhol is a larger version of the Dholak (or Dholki). Being big fans of Indian music (one of us owns a sitar) this was an immediate choice for the percussion instrument. This may be controversial as there is also the beloved Tabla, but don’t worry, we are reviewing that too. Whilst researching this drums, as well as the mridangam, the ersaj, the sarangi and many others, some of us became quite infatuated with the music and so please forgive us if we ramble on.

 

What Is A Dhol?

Whilst the Tabla you may see being played on the lap, the Dhol drum is attached to the player buy a woven strap, slung over the shoulder and struck with two wooden sticks usually made out of cane and bamboo wood. The two sticks are different –  there is a curved drumstick called a dagga which is heavier and used on the deeper side of the drum, whilst the chanti, a lighter straight stick is used on the high pitched side. The traditional Punjab dhol is large and bulky and that’s where it gets it loud bass sound from, although the size varies between regions.  If you are looking to learn how to play this instrument we would recommend getting a few lessons as it can be pretty tricky, if not check out this instructional video to get you going.

 

The Dhol In The 21st Century

 

Whilst used in traditional Indian music, weddings and popular Bollywood films, this has spilt over to contemporary culture, such as Bhangra beats and fusion mixes, all have which have been greatly affirming for Asian music and brought it into mainstream pop culture. It is some of the most infectious music out there, getting even the stiffest person to start throwing down some shapes. We have looked at another two-headed drum called the Bata from Africa which is solid but cannot compete when it comes to adaptability and versatility. Here you can see the drum in action fusing bhangra, rock, go-go, hip-hop and jazz:

 

 

They are incredibly adaptable and they incorporate modern music with ease, as you can see in this video of a wedding band switching up between the Game of Thrones theme tune and Ed Sheeran – Shape of You (Shape of You is at 6 minutes)

 

 

 

If like us you only planned to watch the first two minutes and ended up watching the whole thing then you are probably hooked, in which case the dhol may well be for you. Whilst you are at it check out this cover of Despacito with the Dhol playing backing.

 

What To Look For?

Ok so by this point you are probably wondering if we are ever going to stop sharing videos and actually share some information. Here’s just one more video…. joking. So the dhol can be made from a number of woods or synthetic materials such as plastic, fiberglass or steel –  the most traditional of course being wood. The same goes for the head which has seen a switch from animal skin to synthetic materials. The skins are tightened or loosened with an ingenious mechanism made from interwoven ropes or in some cases nuts and bolts, which will in return alter the pitch.  As well as this your dhol can either be unpolished or polished to protect from damage and termites but it isn’t necessary. Our view on the best Punjabi dhol is, of course, a wooden shell and if you are completely committed then a very popular dhol is Kaali taali or Sheesham (rosewood) however they are a bit pricier and not necessary as a beginner as they are more for an intermediate player. The same goes for the Kachi Pakki. As a beginner you do not want to get an overly large dhol. We would recommend a medium sized one, at most 12-inch diameter for both sides, 24” length, with hooks on both sides. You probably don’t want something that takes up too much space. We would also advise strongly against tuning ropes on both sides until you know what you’re doing, you will thank us later.

 

Our reviews will look at the best brand of dhol and dholaks and whilst you would expect to find amb (mango wood) many are made these days with Sheesham and are still inexpensive. Some of our reviews include products with the more affordable amb wood. Some would say that it is too cheap and not worth wasting your money as it pales in comparison to Sheesham or other wood. However, this isn’t the case as they still sound good and you may not want to fork out too much money for your first foray into Indian drums. These instruments are hard to source and we would always recommend buying from a music store if you can find one, as it is always best to hear how they sound and respond before committing to one. If however, you are struggling to locate one, then this list should help you buy a high quality, full sounding Dhol and Dholaks hassle free from Amazon.

 

Top 5 Best Dhol and Dholaks

For all of these, their sizes are approximate as they are all beautifully hand-crafted which means no two are exactly the same. So yours will be unique!

 

ModelName/ RatingSummaryCheck Price

Dhol Drum by Maharaja Musicals (PDI-GE)

Score:    (4.70 / 5)

Authentic dhol, immaculately crafted. For serious beginners
AMAZON
 Percussion Plus Bhangra Dhol (UK only)

   Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Mini-dhol. Inexpensive and compact. Perfect for beginners with limited space.
AMAZON

Special Dholak Drum by Maharaja Musicals (PDI-BBC)

   Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Gorgeous natural finish. Sounds great and good on a budget 
AMAZON

Maharaja Musicals Dholak/Dholki Drum (PDI-AJE)

    Score:    (4.50 / 5)

Classic look and authentic craft. 
AMAZON

Maharaja Musicals Dholki/Dholak (PDI-FJ) (Best for a beginner!)

 Score:    (4.70 / 5)

Great entry-level drum. Lug tuned (not rope) so easy to tune.
AMAZON

Dhol Drum by Maharaja Musicals (PDI-GE)

Best Dhol For Beginners
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One of the few products to look better in person than in the pictures, this authentic amb wood dhol is shipped straight from India to your door for under $300. It is a full size genuinely hand-crafted dhol made with the expert craftsmanship of Maharaja Musicals. This drum comes well packaged and once easily tuned, sounds absolutely perfect. It is a full-sized barrel and you can hear this when it is played. You have to be a bit wary that in humid climates the tuning will suffer quite a bit, but otherwise it sounds perfect. It has a rounded, full-bodied bounce when hit with the dagga and a lively and crisp tone from the chanti side. Overall this is a perfect dhol for beginners to practice on and looks and sounds good enough that it can be played in front of friends and family.

Specs

  • Barrel Shaped – Perfectly Symmetric Round Dhol
  • Made with Amb (Dried Mango) Wood
  • Decorated with Colored Phumans
  • Nylon Strap – to carry the Dhol around the neck
  • Treble Side – Synthetic Head
  • Bass Side – Goatskin Head
  • Nickel Plated Bolts and Nuts
  • Handmade in India
  • One Tuning Spanner
  • One Set of Drum Sticks
  • Extra Synthetic skin (one side only)
  • One Nylon Strap
Dhol Dimensions:

  • Length: 24 Inches approx
  • Bass skin size: 12 to 13 Inches approx
  • Treble skin size: 12 to 13 Inches approx
  • Treble skin size: 12 to 13 Inches approx
  • Weight: 6 to 7 KG approx

Percussion Plus Bhangra Dhol (UK only)

percussion_plus
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Next up is a mini-dhol that is only stocked in the UK, which for the Brits is great news. At under $60 this lightweight mini-version of a full sized dhol is perfect for anyone who wants to play but doesn’t want a huge dhol lying around taking up space. Also great if you don’t want to spend too much. It may be mini but considering its size it produces a big sound. It isn’t a toy, it is just a shrunk down version of the traditional Indian drum. At only 1ft high, this compact drum is perfect for traveling around with and will make practicing easier. It comes with 2 strikers and really stands out.

Special Dholak Drum by Maharaja Musicals (PDI-BBC)

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Again by the masterful Indian drum maker is another affordable drum and this time it is a Dholak which as we mentioned above is smaller than a Dhol. Good news is that it also makes them more affordable. This slick, natural looking drum is made from high quality sheesham wood which sounds the best when it comes to the Indian drums. As a result, this dholak has an incredibly rich and vibrant sound.  Considering its price you would not expect such masterful construction or depth of sound. Whilst it is a good price for a beginner, this instrument could easily be used by more advanced players. Despite it being rope tuned as is traditional, it is fairly easy, especially if you compare it to the African Djembe (link)

Specs

  • Made from Sheesham Wood
  • Dark Wood Color
  • Wax Polish
  • Nickel Plated Bolts and Nuts
  • One Padded Bag
  • One Tuning Spanner
Dhol Dimensions:

  • Length: 16 Inches
  • Bass skin size: 9 Inches approx.
  • Treble skin size: 7 Inches approx.
  • Weight: 5kg approx

We loved this dholak, not only because you get a full size, well-constructed, sheesham dholak and a padded bag for under $180, but also because it looks and sounds the part. You wouldn’t look out of place playing a wedding

Maharaja Musicals Dholak/Dholki Drum (PDI-AJE)

pdi-aje
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This dholak is the most authentic looking dholak you will get on a budget.. At a little over $150, this dholak looks like a classically styled Indian drum made for weddings and ceremonies. Fully rope-tuned and an incredible natural wood that is finished immaculately, you would look at home at an Indian wedding. It is made from mango wood (amb) and unfortunately you can tell the slight difference in sound between this one and the one in our number 3 spot as it loses some of that depth and warmness, especially on the deeper side. The higher side is a bit too high pitched and not as controlled. That being said, the bass is deep and full-bodied and the treble is still crisp and pingy. This is a great dholak if you want the natural traditional look however if opting for sound over style then we would recommend the one above.

Specs

  • Made from Dried Mango Wood
  • Rope Tuned
  • Includes padded bag
Dhol Dimensions:

  • Length: 16 to 17 Inches
  • Bass skin size: 9 Inches approx.
  • Treble skin size: 7 Inches approx.
  • Weight: 4 to 6 KG approx

Maharaja Musicals Dholki/Dholak (PDI-FJ) (Best for a beginner!)

pdi-fj
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Our last dholak is on this list because of how incredibly affordable it is. Maharaja Musicals have produced in this a full-size, high quality dholak at a little over $100, which is unfathomably cheap. It is made from amb (dried mango) wood with a stylish black finish and it is tuned with bolts not ropes so it strays away from the traditional dholak however as a beginner this shouldn’t be a problem if you are looking to learn and practice. In fact, it is easier to tune with bolts so this is a big plus. As it is still full size you don’t lose that depth of sound and it still projects excellently. Overall it sounds great and is the perfect dholak for a starter who doesn’t intend to use it ‘professionally’. For a rookie on a budget and looking just for something to practice on, this is the best choice for you and at just over $100 you can buy it without losing too much sleep!

Specs

  • Made from Dried Mango Wood
  • Bolt Tuned
  • Nickel Plated Bolts and Nuts
  • Includes Padded Bag and Tuning Spanner
Dhol Dimensions:

  • Length: 16 to 17 Inches
  • Bass skin size: 9 Inches approx.
  • Treble skin size: 7 Inches approx.
  • Weight: 4 to 5 KG approx

Dhol Yourself Up

So hopefully now you have decided to play the dhol and if so you should have enough information from our reviews to find one that suits you. It’s not an easy instrument to play but once you master it is truly incredible, plus you will be invited to every Punjab wedding within a 10-mile radius.

 

You may have thought we were done with the videos but we will leave you with one more which is from Denmark’s Got Talent. Enjoy!