Best Of The Rest – Other Popular Hand Drums

 

If you are looking to get into one of the 4 most popular hand drums then we have written articles on Bongos, Congas, Djembes and Cajones which you can click on their respective links to read about.

This page is dedicated to the best of the rest. This of course not even a drop in the ocean of the best hand drums available but we had to start somewhere. We are always looking to expand this section, so if you have any of these wonderful instruments that you would like to see on this list, please feel free to comment and we will take a look. These drums have roots in Africa, Cuba and Latin-America and, as with our big four drums, you rarely see someone playing these without a big smile on their face. We have assumed for the sake of this article that whoever is searching for these is a beginner and have taken this into account. So without further ado let’s jump straight into it.

 

So Why These?

A tough question with an answer that can’t please everyone. It is possible that we knew that it is popular enough, so there will be a demand for this information or perhaps that it serves a particular purpose, for example, the Doumbek and Darbuka more travel-friendly versions of the Djembe. That being said, we are sure right now there is a man sitting with his Ashiko in his lap shouting at the screen. Or perhaps a taiko player leaving a scathing review of this site as we speak. You can’t please them all! There are so many types of hand drums for such a wide berth of genres and our end goal is to review each and every one of them, but for now hopefully these will be enough to appease our rhythmic overlords.

 

Best Doumbek and Darbuka for Beginners

Here are two more instruments from the goblet drum family just as Djembe was; played with similar technique, they are very closely related in their construction. However a large Djembe, if properly tuned and played has a wider range of tones as we saw in our guide to the best beginner djembe – being able to hit up to 25 different notes. The sound is also warmer and, depending on the setup and tightness, it will be much louder. This is the reason that the doumbek and darbuka are less popular than their more versatile cousin, or at least less prevalent. Having said that there are benefits of having a doumbek and a darbuka.

They are extremely portable. Smaller and lighter than the Djembe but despite their size, they retain impressive volume. If tuned high enough they can cut through a number of other instruments. They are easy to take around in your backpack which is invaluable especially as they are great traveling instruments especially for any drum circles you plan to find yourself in. The heads tend to be made of fiberglass or plastic which means they are not affected by a change in climate and temperature like many Djembes and so again are great for traveling the world.

 

If you have ever been lucky enough to witness a Kirtan – a devotional song to Krishna- then you may have noticed these instruments. You may hear a suggestion of getting a compact conga but we wouldn’t recommend it as you typically need it to sit on a snare stand as it is quite awkward to play in your lap. Another reason to opt for a Doumbek or Darbuka is that their sharper tones are well-suited intimate or close up on stage performances in which the attention is on the dancer and not the drum. The Darbuka, whose height usually ranges between 9-16 inches, is smaller than the Doumbek, which stands around 18 inches tall. Whilst doumbeks have a large head surface they are notoriously hard to change and access unlike the Darbuka whose lugs and rim are externally exposed. Both drums normally made from metal with a synthetic head. The Darbuka, having a smaller head will produce a sharper sound on the rim as demonstrated incredibly by this talented individual (ignore the video title, it is certainly not a bongo!):

 

 

Best Doumbek for Beginners

We have arranged these in price order, starting out at $80 going all the way up to $170, with the 2 in the middle both being around $135. Each and everyone one of these is a quality doumbek and perfect for a beginner.

 

Toca Freestyle Doumbek

Best Doumbek for Beginners
Shell and head:
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The cheapest and also our favorite as an entry-level, as it can really take a bashing. It is all fiberglass with a fiberskin head and great for traveling as it is lightweight at 6.3lbs. On top of that, it just looks funky with a stylish hieroglyphic style finish. Some may think it is a bit cheesy, but we loved it. You get distinguished tones from the center and the edge and it is a really big sound with a nice 9″ head, not flat or lifeless in the slightest. Remarkable value for an extremely competent instrument.

 

Meinl Percussion HE-3018

Menil Doumbek he-3018
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Another fantastic option and this time by legendary percussion producer’s Meinl. If you read our article on Cajones you will see we favored Meinl for their sound and quality of product and so it will be no surprise that they are up here with their doumbek. It is a stylish finish to high performing drum. Whilst the highs may not be as defined and loud as the professional level doumbeks and the bass isn’t as deep and rich, it definitely gives the high-end ones a run for their money. This lightweight drum (approx 6lbs) has good depth to the bass and a crisp snap to the high tones, which makes this doumbek really feel like a quality piece and as a beginner you won’t feel like you are missing out. The head may need a bit of tuning at first but once you have tuned it this drum will sing and not with unwanted overtones or reverb. Meinl has once again brought budget percussion up to a new level while lowering costs but not compromising on quality.

 

Toca Jamal Aluminum Fiberglass

Toca Jamal Doumbek
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Up next is another winner by Toca and again finished with a wrap that we think is stylish but we are sure some will think is not. We love the look and we especially love the sounds. Again lightweight at 6.5lbs this doumbek has a wide 9.5” head which really gives you exceptional versatility and a wide range of sounds you can draw from it. The bass is good and the highs are snappy. Overall a great drum, although at a few dollars more than the Meinl in at number 2 we would say it is slightly outdone by Meinl.

 

Meinl Copper Doumbek

Meinl Copper Doumbek
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If you are willing to spend a bit more then we would highly recommend this doumbek which at $180 represents incredible value for money given how stunning it looks and how defined and beautiful the tones are. The build is exceptional, it is truly fantastic quality and the copper really helps project the sound and carry it. Due to the copper construction, this doumbek weighs in at a featherweight on 2.5 lbs (or 1 bag of sugar!) so carrying it is a synch and it comes with a shoulder bag so that you can. The drum can hit the highs and the lows of its range wonderfully with a full, rich sound and punchy bass. The head leaves a little to be desired but overall it is head and shoulders above the others on this list and so if you have a bit more to spend, don’t hesitate to get this one.

 

Best Darbuka

The smaller and cheaper cousin of the doumbek will give you a sharp crisp sound and is perfect for intimate and compact playing. Startingout we would say go for cheap, as to get a decent darbuka you really have to spend quite a bit. That is why we would recommend only 2:

Best Darbuka for Beginners
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At just under $50 this represents the affordable option by Meinl which still has some quality about it. With an aluminum body of height 14 1/2″ and 8″ width, this compact drum is great for the beginner. The head is tunable and replaceable and the shell is hand engraved. The sound is fairly crisp and not flat, it has some bounce to it although the rim is metal so until you get used to it it could hurt your hands to play it.

Meinl Aluminum Darbuka

Meinl Aluminum
Shell and head:
Sound:
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This small stature darbuka measure up at only 9.25″ by 5.25″ and costs just under $20, so you have to be realistic about your expectations. As far as budget end small headed darbukas go, this is the tops. Despite being lightweight it does produce a good sound is the perfect compact travel companion to practice on.

 

Best Bata Drum

 

This double-headed sacred drum slipped in because one particular staff member saw this played once at a rehearsal for a religious ceremony and has said that it left a lasting impression. It is known as the ‘talking drum of Nigeria’, where it credits its origins even though it eventually found its way into Cuban culture. It was only used or religious ceremonies at one time but has since been secularized. They have started in more and more genres most notably in hip-hop, jazz and timba and have been incorporated into big-band and the group Son Bata which you can check out after our reviews if you have a minute. They’ve become so popular that even Orisa Ultimate from the game Overwatch is even using them!

 

So if you have somehow stumbled across the bata and want to incorporate it into your music, or if you have any Nigerian religious ceremonies coming up then you may need a Bata drum. Unfortunate,ly they are not cheap and so we aren’t going to review any as we would probably recommend renting one or looking 2nd hand. If you really want a new one then it is going to cost you a few hundred dollars and we would recommend the Tycoon Percussion TBA-IYAN Bata Druma for overall sound, quality and construction.

 

Best Pandeiro

Off to Brazil for this next one. A hand frame drum described as the unofficial instrument of the nation it resembles the tambourine and has holes around it with little copper or steel cymbalettes. Often used to accompany Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian dance martial art that has become so popular around the world. This instrument is played with joy and energy, but that doesn’t mean you can just pick it up and bash it around, especially not in Brazil, the home of rhythm and carnival. After our reviews we have included a video of how to play this hand drum. Here are our favorite 2:

 

Latin Percussion LP3012-SM LP Stanton Moore Pandeiro

 

LP Stanton Moore pandeiro

At 12″ in diameter, the Pandeiro by Stanton Moore is wonderfully sized to be placed easily around a drumkit. It also will fit snuggly into a snare stand or mounted to a cymbal or drum using the included shell mount that fits onto a standard 3/8 inch rod. The hardwood shell is high density and will be sturdy enough to withstand the torque from impact when the drum is played this way and having seen it in

use it can really take a beating without damage.

The pandeiro is fitted with seven sets of jingles and a number of tuning rods to help it produce a typically Brazillian sound. A Remo Emperor head gives it wonderful depth and provides durability if hit with sticks. It comes with a convenient carry bag too. At just under $100 whilst the priciest on our list, it represents the best quality. LP are known for their Latin Percussion (it is their name after all) and with a Remo head this represents a quality drum

 

 

Mid East PAN1 10-Inch

Best Pandeiro for Beginners

Our other choice is for the much more budget Pandeiro, in at under $40 this represents the perfect low-end choice. It is a handheld Pandeiro, unlike the Stanton Moore which is for mounting. As a handheld, it is a bit heavy but you get a good sound out of it and it is very solid. Not for weak hands (although if you play this for a few weeks you will have wrists of steel). It looks like the authentic pandeiro’s you would see in Capoeira.

If you want a lighter option then you should check out the LUEN 10″ ABS Plastic BRAZILIAN PANDEIRO with Synthetic Head (Red)

 

 

 

 

Others:

There are some interim models such as the LP RIO 10 inch Tunable Wood Pandeiro with Natural Head LP3010N which looks really authentic with a natural head and it is a similar price as the one without the mount. There is also the Latin Percussion LP3010 LP Brazilian Wood PaPandeiro which is very slick if not a little heavy and damp, but still great quality. Again this will be personal preference and ours was the Stanton Moore which included the mount.

Here’s a quick video to get you going: