How To Make A Steel Drum: The Best Method

We know that you are here because you want to learn how to make a steel drum. When you want to have an alternative way to have fun, creating steel pan drums (or steel tongue drums) is highly recommended!

A steel drum is a percussion instrument popular in the Caribbean areas. Specifically, it comes with a dented resonator. By the way, the dents enable the creation of pitch. Meanwhile, the level of pitch depends on the resonation of the sound.

There are a lot of ways you can create your steel drum. Of course, you can use a variety of materials as well. In this article, we will be teaching you how to do this with the use of our daily household items.

Some of us have a lot of unused items in our garage. It would be a waste if we just threw them away, right? So why not convert into something beneficial (and fun)?

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How To Make A Steel Drum

Things you need:

  • Rubber mallet
  • Paint can (or coffee can)
  • ​Marker
  • ​Ruler
  • ​Wooden stick

Steps:

  • Look for an empty can (ideally, coffee or paint can). If the can is dirty, you have to wash it first. You should know that any blemishes will affect the overall sound of the drum. Once you are done the cleaning, you have to turn the can in reverse.
  • Now that the bottom part of the can is already facing you, you can already start marking it. Use the ruler and a marker to divide the surface of the circle into four equal parts. Apparently, you will only be needing two marks for this. We are sure that you won't get a hard time doing it.
  • ​Next, get your rubber mallet and use it to create a dent in one section of the circle. After creating the dent, test it with by tapping a wooden stick. You will notice that the lesser the dent is, the higher note it can produce.
  • ​When you are satisfied with the sound created by the first dent, you can move to the next section of the surface. Use your rubber mallet to make another dent. Of course, you have to make sure that the depth of the dents is not equal. Otherwise, you won't be able to sound variations.
  • ​Test the drum once you completed the process. If you think that the sound is not right or seems awkward, then you can change the depth of the dents. Do this repeatedly until the drum you created can produce satisfactory results.

Building Your Mallet

There is no way you can play the drum without the drumstick (or mallet). Your first option is to buy a pair of the mallet in your nearby music store or various online retailers.

Drumsticks don't cost that much. Therefore, you should hesitate on buying them. However, if you have some spare tools in your home like a dowel or unsharpened pencil, then you can create your mallet.

Just cover the ends of the dowel or the pencil with either an electrical tape or rubber band.

Moreover, you can enhance the softness of the sound by attaching several Q-tips to your stick. The resulting sound would be so subtle that you would mistake it for the real thing.

We also recommend that you will create various pieces of mallets. In this way, you can find out which one can produce the best output for your steel drum. Since the process is easy and doesn't consume your time, crafting multiple mallets won't be a troublesome task for you.


Steel Pan Creation

A lot of innovators nowadays are using steel pans as the primary material in their drums. Of course, it is not an easy process. In fact, it takes five days before manufacturers can produce these steel drum.

Meanwhile, each of these drums has a price of more than $1,500 or more. Now, that's a satisfying job!

Primarily, manufacturers use high quality 55-gallon drums. Specifically, they inspect the steel of these drums and decide if they are ideal for musical applications.

After they finally find the right drum, they use a large hammer to tap the bottom portion of the barrel. They will continue to strike the barrel until it forms a concave shape. They call this process as sinking.

Sinking is the most exhausting part of making steel pans. Moreover, they have to be careful in striking the barrel. The stretch they have to achieve should be as even as possible. They have to avoid deforming or tearing the rim.

After the sinking process, manufacturers will temper the entire drum to enhance the strength of the steel. Specifically, they apply heat (via the use of a torch or fire) to the metal until it turns red.

At a particular time, they will instantly splash water to the pan to quickly call it down. They call this method tempering, and many metal artisans use this to increase the resiliency of their products.

It essential for them to harden the barrel so that the latter can withstand the tuning process. Notably, the tuning involves the use of a chisel.

Makers cut the "skirt" or the side of the barrel. Furthermore, they also drill holes on the rim portion so that they can hang the drum with the use of a rope or wire.

After this, the drum maker uses stroboscope or a melodica for tuning. Specifically, they hammer the areas of the drum to find the distinct notes.

They will smooth these areas until they can produce the appropriate vibration. Moreover, all of the notes of the drum must be in harmony with each other.


Conclusion

Learning how to make a steel drum is an essential skill for every music lovers. Even if you have the standard drum set, you cannot still use them in outdoor applications.

It will be fun if you have a portable drum that you can take anywhere. And during those times, a steel drum would be essential.


Did you learn from this article? Do you know other methods of making a steel drum? Share it with us in the comment section below!

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Briana Renee
 

I am Briana Renee from Amsterdam. Currently, I am living in Los Angeles and has a recording studio. This site showcases of my skills. Furthermore, I am hoping that through this, I can help fellow musicians and enthusiasts like me to get the right audio components they need! Feel free to ask anything! I am just right here!

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