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JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Do you have any ideas about making your own percussion instruments?

Asked by JeanPaulSartre (5779points) March 28th, 2010

I’m working on some music these days, and I’ve been using some MIDI drums to play the role of my drummer. The problem for me, is that these never really sound real or alive, and so although they keep the beat just fine, I find them a little lacking. The idea of getting an actual drum kit, although appealing, is unrealistic for many reasons, not the least of which is space. So I have a tambourine, and am thinking of making some shakers with seeds and cans and such. Do you think I can come up with a good percussion section this way? Any ideas on how to make other percussion instruments out of common stuff? Can you think of any must purchase items? I’m hoping to come up with a percussion sound that is as unique as the rest of my work.

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19 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I would look at purchasing or renting a variety of hand drums. Or get a percussionist to work with you.

With regards to things you can make, plastic cups and buckets offer some great sounds.

lilikoi's avatar

I made one when I was a kid out of a Folger’s coffee can….I think you could get some interesting sounds out of random stuff you find around the house. You’d have to experiment with different things to find the sound you’re looking for. A drum is basically just a hollow cylinder with a cloth stretched over the top.

Buttonstc's avatar

Ah, this q takes me back to my teaching days with Elementary aged kids and the fun times of making all sorts of interesting homemade stuff.

Beans in cans are a standard of course, but rice gives a lovely sound and if done also in a long mailing tube back and forth gives a nice rainfall effect.

You can get rubber bands of all different thicknesses and get a myriad of sounds depending upon how tightly they are stretched over various objects.

All different types of glass bottles can be filled with varying levels of water and pinged lightly with spoons or drumsticks.

With wider bowls or glasses you can lightly wet the tops and run your fingers around to get all sorts of diverse melodic sounds.

Or you could even tune them precisely to a pitch pipe a la Ben Franklins original musical glasses.

For obvious reasons with younger kids, we used sturdier things like mayo or pickle jars made of heavier glass.

The only limits really are your imagination as you just play around with whatever you find in your kitchen or house.

If you really want to take it up a notch you could look up on Hulu or YouTube the performances of a group who made it into the top five on the last season of America’s Got Talent.

They’re a punk group called “Recycled Percussion”.

In addition to the performances, there were some interesting background footage shown accompanying them to a local junkyard and watching them try all sorts of fascinating stuff to make sounds with.

I think you would probably especially like that part. Probably have better luck finding it on Hulu since it’s owned by NBC and ATG is an NBC show.

I’m on iPhone so can’t post links otherwise I would. But I’m sure you’re comp savvy enough to find it :) I think you’ll really enjoy them.

DeanV's avatar

Well, coming from a drummer myself, I’d recommend you get a drummer. Jazz drum sets really do not take up that much space, and unless you are really pressed on space that would work for you, or even just a hi-hat, snare, and bass drum.

Otherwise, I’m sure you could jig up something like this to be used as a good tom.

davidbetterman's avatar

Mickey Hart of the Grateful dead has written several books on drums and the history of drums and might have some interesting ideas for you…

wundayatta's avatar

Get some sticks. Do you have any pots and pans? Bang on them. Cast iron pans are really good, as are other frying pans.

Those plastic water jugs that you see in offices make a nice sound when banged on the floor. All kinds of sticks. Just wander around the house banging on things. Find the sounds you like. Percussion is cool because it takes little to make music. All you really need are your hands.

Hit things hard enough that them might resonate with sympathetic vibrations. Hit large things in different spots, because you might find a sweet spot that sounds great.

Find rocks, and bang them together.

There is percussion everywhere. It was the first instrument (and could well be the last).

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Thanks for the ideas everyone! Love that bucket tom @dverhey – that’s one of those sounds that’s hard to replicate. I’m thinking of using some coins in a bowl to kinda replicate a snare without sounding like snare… we’ll see – I’ll be sure to share what I do!

DeanV's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre Well, the snare is really about the snare wires vibrating against the bottom head, creating a cracking sound. I’d actually recommend seeing if you can get ahold of an old snare or a military snare drum to use. The snare sound is pretty hard to replicate, and coins in a bowl may make more of a shaker + metal bowl sound.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@dverhey Yeah – I mean I’ve played on a standard kit before – but that may be what I have to do, as you say, that sound is hard to replicate.

DarkScribe's avatar

I’d really delight in having a percussion instrument made from the skulls of rappers. (All that hollow space should provide some nice echo effects,)

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@dverhey How do you feel about cocktail drums?

DeanV's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre I think they’re actually pretty cool, but somewhat limiting in the same regard. They’re excellent for the softer, jazzy sound of some singer-songwriter stuff, but they must have good mics. The sound of them is pretty miniature sometimes, and I’ve known an acoustic guitar to overshadow them sometimes. If you are going to go with cocktail drums for recording, I’d recommend you invest in a good set of mics to really let them shine.

Their tone and timbre is great when you can hear them, but they’re no good for more rocking, louder music.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@dverhey That’s really good to know – I mean, my music certainly fits in the softer range of things, so it might be perfect. I need to find someplace where I can try them out. As for mics, I think I know what to do there… the gears start spinning

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@dverhey And would a separate snare be needed; does the bass rattle the snare?

DeanV's avatar

I’ve never had any issues with my bass rattling the snare, and I play a full set. Watch out for other instruments, though, my brother’s bass guitar has a certain note (C#) that just makes my snare rattle out of control, even though nothing else on the fretboard does. Snares are bizarre. The direct vibrations may vibrate the snare with cocktail drums, however (because of the close proximity to each other), but that is one of the fun parts about cocktail drums, as well as their main shortcoming. Their snares can be tuned to a minimal level of irritation, but there will usually be some sort of small rattle. As is any instrument. (Source)

Another snare wouldn’t solve the problem, though, in fact, it would probably overblow the rest of the cocktail kit. Another issue is with cheap snares the sympathetic vibrations (caused from other instruments, like my brother’s C#) will be large unless they are tuned perfectly, which can be difficult with some of the subpar lugs found on budget snares.

To put it simply, I’d go all cocktail or all full size. In the middle could cause some issues with the consistency of your kit, and would probably be a bit more maintenance.

For you, though, I’d really consider a smaller jazz set like this one. They’re small enough for what you need, it sounds like, and they put out a good sound for what you’re looking for, and they’re so much more versatile than a cocktail set. They’re also easier to find parts and help for if something goes wrong.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@dverhey Awesome – thanks for all the advice! I wish I could try all this stuff out – maybe a visit to a local music store or two (or six) is in order! I really appreciate the links. I know all too well of the bass guitar snare impact from a few groups I’ve played with… Resonance is a powerful force.

DeanV's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre Oh, no problem. Do you have a guitar center around where you are? They’ve always got just loads of drums, really good for trying and getting ideas of what you’re looking for. They’ve also got an insane section of cymbals, which you’ll also want to look into eventually.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@dverhey Oh, yeah! Of course, I don’t know why I didn’t think of them. Probably because I generally go in there for guitar stuff and blank out all the rest. ha!

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