[Elfsea] drumbs

Sluggy! slugmusk at linuxlegend.com
Fri Oct 5 23:19:18 PDT 2001

Ctopher069 at aol.com wrote:

> I am looking at starting to learn how to drum and I was wondering what
> would be a good low cost drum to get to take to events with me.

Welcome to our obsession! :)

There are probably almost as many opinions about drums as there are
drummers, so bear that in mind as you read my opinions below.

Music stores are good places to try out drums first and I like to
support such places when I can, but part of the drawback to them keeping
it on their shelves is that they cost more.

If I'm buying one locally, I prefer to support any of the several belly
dance studios in the area. Some include Crescent Moon, Desert Dancers
and Isis studios in Fort Worth. They don't usually have a large stock of
drums, but they can order anything you want and a goodly number of them
are SCA active. Most of them also offer drumming lessons. I have taken
quite a few from Cresent Moon, but expose yourself to as many drummers
and styles as possible.

You can also look around on the internet, especially for Mid East
Manufacturing in Florida. Don't forget eBay. Search for doumbek,
darbouka, djembe, etc.

Now that we've talked a little bit about where, now we can talk about
what kind of drums :)

Drum names are funny. You can generally refer to any open bell hourglass
shaped drum as a doumbek, but most drums have a formal name. Sometimes,
the drum owner knows it, sometimes they don't :)

As I see it, there are three or four main designs that are prominent
amongst SCA drummers.

Probably the most common are cast aluminum drums, typically called
darbouka. These things are just about indestructible and are unaffected
by temperature or humidity. The heads on them are usually mylar,
replaceable and tunable. Because the body is aluminum, mounting straps
and other convenince hardware is pretty simple. They have a bright tone
and always turn heads, especially in competant hands. Expect them to
start at about $80 online, though some nicely decorated ones can get
real expensive real fast.

Next most common is the brass sheetmetal drums. They are often nickle
plated and have replaceable/tunable heads, usually a synthetic skin.
Sometimes, they do have natural skin heads, which can be sensitive to
humidity. Natural skin will often have to be kept warm and dry to keep
them from absorbing enough moisture to stretch (and thus detune). In
extreme conditions, you may not be able to keep up at all. These drums
tend, in general, to be deeper in tone that similar sized drums of other
designs, making them really good anchor drums. Anchor beats are easy for
beginning drummers to play and feel confident with, so having a bass
drum that can be heard makes the drum circle more fun for everyone.

Probably next are the ceramic doumbeks. These are my personal favorites
for their sound. They have bright teks (the high pitched tone from the
edge of the head) like a darbouka, but still has a deep doum (striking
the middle of the head). They have synthetic heads that are not tunable,
but they require only a light touch to play. Their main drawback is that
the body is made of ceramic materials and are thus a bit delicate. Mine
has been broken twice, once before I got it and once at this last Elfsea
Defender. I carefully fitted the parts back in, applied duct tape and
drummed away Saturday night. I now need to disassemble it and epoxy it
back together again. I need to cover it noew because all these cracks
are beginning to show :)

The next most common drums in my meager experience are Remo drums or
similar drums. Remo is a manufacturer that makes light weight fiber
composite drums with synthetic heads that look natural. They look more
modern than most of the other drums, but they sound great and are very

Remember also that drums are the basic instrument, but not the only one.
A riqq is a kind of tambourine, hand cymbals are called zills, and there
are various other hand drums, bells, rattles and cymbals.

I think I have rambled on long enough....


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