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How to Use Steel Tongue Drums in Sound Healing

The steel tongue drum is a musical instrument that has become increasingly popular in the practice of sound healing. Sound healing is a therapeutic practice that uses sound to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. The steel tongue drum, with its soothing and meditative sound, is often used in sound healing sessions to create a calming and relaxing environment that helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and tension.

During a sound healing session, the steel tongue drum is typically played in a slow and rhythmic manner, with the intention of creating a soothing and peaceful atmosphere. The sound vibrations produced by the drum are believed to penetrate deep into the body, helping to release tension and promote relaxation.

Sound healing practitioners may also use the steel tongue drum to target specific areas of the body or energy centers (chakras), with the aim of rebalancing the body's energy and promoting healing. The gentle, harmonious tones of the steel tongue drum can help to clear blockages and restore balance, promoting a sense of wellbeing and harmony.


13 Note Steel Tongue Drum D Tone


Origins of the Steel Tongue Drum

While the origins of the steel tongue drum can be traced back to Southeast Asia and Africa, the steel tongue drum is a relatively new musical instrument. It was invented in 2007 by Dennis Havlena, a metalsmith and musician from Michigan, USA. The instrument is also known as a tank drum, hank drum, or simply as a tongue drum.

The steel tongue drum is an idiophone, or an instrument that creates sound primarily by the vibration of the instrument itself, without the use of air flow, strings or electricity. It's very similar to the traditional Caribbean steel pan, which is made by creating a series of concave dents in the bottom of an oil drum and then tuning each dent to a specific note. Havlena adapted this concept by using a propane tank and cutting a series of tongues into the top of the tank, which could then be tuned to produce different notes.


12 inch steel tongue drum 13 notes 


Steel Tongue Drum's Popularity in Sound Healing

The steel tongue drum quickly gained popularity in sound healing due to its unique and soothing sound, as well as its ease of playability. Unlike traditional percussion instruments, the steel tongue drum does not require any previous musical training, and its simple design allows players to produce beautiful, melodic tones with minimal effort.

Here are some reasons why the steel tongue drum is attractive for use in sound healing:

  1. Unique tone: The steel tongue drum produces a distinctive and melodic tone that is different from other percussion instruments. Its harmonics are rich and complex, and the sound has a meditative and soothing quality that can promote relaxation and healing.

  2. Calming and meditative sound: The melodic and soothing sound of the steel tongue drum can create a calming and meditative atmosphere that is conducive to relaxation and healing.

  3. Resonance: The steel tongue drum has a long and rich resonance that allows the sound to linger in the air, creating a beautiful and immersive sound experience.

  4. Vibrational quality: The steel tongue drum produces a rich, full-bodied sound that can be felt as well as heard, and the vibrations can have a calming and grounding effect on the body and mind.

  5. Versatility: The steel tongue drum can be played in a variety of ways, allowing the player to create a wide range of tones and rhythms. This versatility makes it a popular instrument for use in a variety of musical, sound healing and therapeutic contexts. 

  6. Accessible: The steel tongue drum is a relatively affordable and easy instrument to play. It requires no previous musical experience. This accessibility makes it an ideal instrument for people of all ages and backgrounds to explore music and sound healing.

  7. Portable: The steel tongue drum is a lightweight and portable instrument that can be easily transported to different locations for use in sound healing sessions. Sizes are as small as 6 inches and come in different shapes like dolphins or flowers too. 

6 inch dolphin Steel Tongue Drum 11 notes


Playing the Steel Tongue Drum

Playing the steel tongue drum is a relatively simple process, and the instrument can be played by people of all skill levels, even those with no previous musical experience. Here are the basic steps to playing the steel tongue drum:

  1. Hold the drum: Sit comfortably with the drum on your lap, or place it on a stand or other stable surface.

  2. Use your hands: The steel tongue drum is typically played with the hands, although some players use mallets or other percussive tools. To play, simply strike the tongues, either individually or in a pattern.

  3. Experiment with different techniques: There are many different ways to play the steel tongue drum, and you can experiment with different techniques to create different sounds and rhythms. For example, you can use the pads of your fingers to create a soft, mellow sound, or use your fingertips for a crisper, more percussive sound.

  4. Listen and feel the vibrations: As you play the steel tongue drum, pay attention to the sound and the vibrations that the instrument produces. Experiment with different patterns and rhythms, and listen to how the sound changes depending on where and how you strike the tongues.

  5. Play with others: The steel tongue drum can be played as a solo instrument, but it is also a great instrument for playing in a group. Experiment with playing with others and creating harmonies and rhythms together.

Playing the steel tongue drum is a fun and intuitive process. Its unique sound and simplicity make it a popular instrument for musicians and non-musicians alike.

Playing the Steel Tongue Drum with Other Instruments

The steel tongue drum is a versatile and adaptable instrument that can be played with a wide range of other instruments. Here are some examples of instruments that can complement and enhance the sound of the steel tongue drum:

  1. Handpan: The handpan is a percussion instrument that has a similar sound and feel to the steel tongue drum, and the two instruments can create beautiful harmonies and rhythms when played together.

    handpan drum steel tongue drum

  2. Ocarina: The soft, soothing tones of the ocarina can blend well with the melodic sound of the steel tongue drum, creating a calming and meditative atmosphere.

    Ocarina flute sound healing

  3. Guitar: The guitar can provide a rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment to the steel tongue drum, and the two instruments can create a beautiful interplay of melody and harmony.

  4. Didgeridoo: The deep, resonant sound of the didgeridoo can add a grounding and meditative quality to the steel tongue drum's melodic tones, creating a powerful and immersive sound experience.

  5. Singing bowls: The soothing and meditative sound of singing bowls can complement and enhance the sound of the steel tongue drum, creating a harmonious and relaxing environment.

Since its invention, the steel tongue drum has been embraced by musicians and sound healers around the world, and its popularity continues to grow. Today, there are many different variations of the steel tongue drum, with different shapes, sizes, and numbers of tongues, each producing its own unique sound.

Overall, the steel tongue drum's unique sound, ease of use, versatility, and accessibility make it a popular instrument in sound healing, and it has become a valuable tool for sound healers, musicians, and wellness practitioners around the world.