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Drums Of The Native Peoples Of North America

Sep 12, 2008
The music of the drum is probably one of the most common ideas associated with the native peoples of North America, or Native Americans. These cultures used drums in politics, religion and social applications, often combining them with dancing and singing. Because so many of these cultures were tragically damaged by the arrival of Europeans, it is all the more important to learn about and recognize the importance of the drum to the native peoples of North America. The tribes of North America were and are varied and complex societies, and it would be impossible to cover them all in depth. The following is therefore only a basic explanation of some of the different styles of drums used by a few of these peoples.

Some of the most common drums used by the Native Americans were frame drums. These were could be small and designed for use by a single person or large and meant to be played by a group. They are still used by tribes today, usually during religious and social occasions. A frame drum's diameter is greater than its depth, and among the Native Americans, it is made by stretching rawhide over a shell of bent wood that has been jointed together. Historically, most regions and cultures across the country had frame drums.

The sizes and styles of North American drums vary by region. For the native people of the plains, hand-held drums come in many sizes, ranging from 12 to 30 inches in diameter. These usually had just one drumhead stretched across the wooden frame and were two or three inches deep. Occasionally, drum makers also crafted two-headed hand-held drums, but this was not the norm. Additionally, certain cultures produced drums with tonal-adjusting snares stretched across the skinhead. The other widely used drum in this area was, and still is, the powwow drum. These instruments were two-headed and could be up to over eight feet in diameter. They were usually suspended on poles or placed on a blanket and were meant to be played by a group of people.

To the east, the Iroquois traditionally use water drums in some of their ceremonial practices. This instrument is created by filling the chamber of the drum with a certain amount of water. The distinctive sound of the drum is determined by the amount of water in it. Water drums are usually played with a thick drumstick that has a loop on the end. Although the most sacred of water drums are made from the wood of special trees, these instruments can also be made of iron, brass or copper. Such metal water drums are much more common.

In the north, the Arctic people's drums have large, light frames with stretched hide like those of the more southern groups. But instead of striking the drumhead while playing the instrument, the rim is usually struck. These drums are made from a variety of materials such as deer skin, caribou, mountain sheep or even whale or walrus intestines. Originally, these people made much smaller frames from baleen, a specific kind of whale bone. Today they use wooden frames, a material that has become readily available. Drumsticks are antler, bone or wood.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for drums, frame drums, Native American Drums, sheet music, guitar tabs, and home theater audio.
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