Do you want to learn how to make a drum for your kid who loves drumming so much? Have you always wished to buy your own drums and good drum machines, but you think they’re too pricey? In this article, we’ll take a look at a few steps for creating your own simple drums that sound relatively good.
People have different reasons for making drums from scratch:
- It’s a fun activity for kids and their parents.
- They simply enjoy the challenge.
- Others do it for personal fulfillment or to become more productive.
- Some people might use them for practice purposes.
- They’re not yet ready to invest on a brand-new, entry-level drum kit that costs hundreds of dollars.
Whatever’s your reason, creating your own drum kit from scratch is completely worth the effort and time.
Before you make your own drums, it’s important to know how they work. The next section of this article will briefly go through the basic structure of drums and how they produce sound.
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Drums: Structure and Sound Principles
The batter head (also called the top head) of a drum has a flexible material (made of animal skin or synthetic fiber) that’s tightly stretched across a wooden or metal shell. When you hit the skin, it vibrates and produces sound waves, which echo inside the hollow, circular chamber of the drum shell.
There are several factors that would determine the sound of your drums, like the type of drumstick you use. The basic drumsticks offer a fuller sound, while brushes are quieter and just have enough texture, making them suitable for Jazz musicians. If you want a more powerful but clear sound, mallets make great choices.
The size, depth, and tightness (or looseness) of a drum skin also affects its sound. For instance, the tighter the top and bottom heads, the higher the pitch. Drums that are eight to fourteen inches deep usually produce a deeper and more dull sound.
If you use a large, hollow object, like a 5-gallon water bottle, it creates a lower pitch because there’s more room for sound waves to travel between surfaces. On the other hand, when you strike a small, hollow object, it creates a higher pitch because the vibrations are fast.
Dampening is one way of controlling the frequency, sustain (the amount of time a tone lasts), overtone (extra harmonics), ringing, and volume of a drum. Simply put, it helps change the sound of a drum. Some of the objects drummers use for dampening are pillows, dampening gel, cotton balls, blankets, and paper towels.
We don’t want to bore you with too much technical information, so let’s get to the more exciting part of this article—creating your own drums at home.
Homemade Drum Set: The Materials
The first thing you need to do is decide on the number of pieces you’re going to make. Are you going to make only one drum or a five-piece standard drum set?
After you’ve made up your mind, it’s time to get all of the materials you need. You can get them for free if you recycle everyday objects, like your household items (pots pans, wooden spoons, and metal lids), or slightly defective drum parts.
These are other places where you could find and collect the materials you need for your homemade drums:
- Junkyards – This one’s quite obvious.
- Fast-food restaurants – Some of the fast-food restaurants that might give you five-gallon buckets for free include Tim Hortons, Chick-Fil-A, Wendy’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
- Dumpster diving – Make sure you’re not violating any local regulation by dumpster diving. This isn’t for everybody, and we would recommend this as a last resort.
- Local operations and maintenance departments
- Retail warehouses (like Sam’s Club)
- Ice cream shops
So, what specific materials should you get? Here are a few of our suggestions:
Round metal pieces, such as a saucepan lid
Cymbals that are slightly cracked or chipped around the edge
Drinking glasses (two to three pieces) filled up with varying amounts of water
- Metal tins
- A post office box
- Ice cream tub (one gallon)
- Heavy-duty molded plastic containers
Note: A floor tom is sometimes used as a replacement for a bass drum, also called as a kick drum.
- Metal drum (twenty, thirty, or fifty-five gallons)
- Tin can (100-oz. or 603 x 700)
- Plastic bucket
- Ice cream containers (for instance, a five-quart ice cream container and a one-gallon ice cream container)
- Large plastic drum (two hundred liters)
- Cardboard barrel
- Orange buckets or round trash receptacle (fifty-five gallons)
- A five-gallon plastic water bottle
Another important consideration is the drumsticks you’re going to use. If you already have a pair at home, then that’s great. If you don’t, you could use spoons (recommended), wooden dowels, wooden barbecue skewers, and a lot more.
Homemade Drum Set: The Steps
Do you want to learn how to make a steel drum or actual drums? You can, but that would require money, skills, extensive knowledge (about the structure and sound principles of percussion instruments), and the right tools and raw materials.
We want this to be an activity that you could easily do by yourself or with your children. We’re going to give you the basic steps, and you can just tweak them to suit your liking.
- Two tubs of ice cream (five quarts and one gallon) with lids
- Small decorative pebbles
- Remove the lid of the five-quart ice cream tub.
- Pour less than a handful of the small decorative pebbles on the top of the one-gallon ice cream tub.
- Get the lid of the five-quart ice cream tub, and then use it to cover the ice cream tub with pebbles.
- You can adjust the sound by adding (or removing) more small decorative pebbles.
Here’s another way of making a snare drum.
- Metal jar lid
- #10 tin can (100 oz.)
- Eight to ten small cents (or other coins that are less than an inch in diameter)
- A blanket or soft trousers (like sweatpants)
- Place your small cents into the tin can.
- Place the metal jar lid—facing down—on the small cents.
- Stuff the tin can with a blanket, soft trousers, or other similar materials. Do it carefully to avoid moving the metal jar lid and small cents.
- Gently turn the tin can upside down then start to play.
- Kraft paper jar or tin can
- Rubber bands, masking tape, or wooden hoops
- Two corks
- A pair of scissors
- Chopsticks, skewer sticks, pencils, or any wooden sticks
- Art materials: Stickers, spray paint, and/or colored papers for decoration
- A pair of disposable gloves
- Take one of your balloons and cut off the bottom part with your scissors.
- Stretch out the balloon (with the bottom cut off) over the top of the kraft paper jar or tin can.
- Secure it with a rubber band, masking tape, or wooden hoop.
- Remove the bottom surface of the kraft paper jar or tin can. Repeat steps one to three.
- Decorate the container, but make sure to cover the top and bottom surfaces if you’re going to use a spray paint.
- You can use pencils as your drumsticks. Or, you could also use the bottom part of a cork and put it on a skewer stick or chopstick.
To change the sound of your tom-tom drum, you can create several holes in the bottom head. Compare the sound of each tom-tom by striking the edge of the top head then work your way towards the middle.
Bass Drum and Base Pedal
- A 5-gallon plastic or metal bucket (You could also use a trash can.)
- Packing tape
- A pair of scissors
- Tightly stretch a length of the packing tape across the open end of the 5-gallon bucket, and then pressed on the side of the bucket (around 1.97 inches from the edge). Follow an “X” pattern.
- Each area should at least have two layers of packing tape. Make sure there are no holes.
- For the kick pedal, you can make your own, but buying one might be a more practical option. Fortunately, there are many cheap kick pedals (under $20) online, like the Baosity Single Spring Bass Drum Pedal with Drum Wool Beater for Children.
There are a lot of ways to design and create your own homemade drums. This article serves only as a starting point for learning how to make a drum, so feel free to explore and experiment.