Caribbean drums

Posted in Other Drums on February 5, 2016


Caribbean drums OVERVIEW

The most Common type of Caribbean drums are the Steel drums or steelpans. They are large round metal drums with the center, about 1 mm thick, bent inward like a bowl, so by playing on various shapes on the drum, you can get different pitches. The lower pitches are generally on the outer edge while the higher pitches are positioned in the center.  The larger ovals give a lower pitch while the smaller ones give you a higher pitch. The more larger notes you have, the less different pitches you can have on the drum. Some steel drums are tuned with 4rth and 5th intervals for better sounding overtones.

There are several types of steel drums depending on which pitch range you're looking for. The higher pitched Soprano drums, lead, or tenor drums give you higher pitches. Below that you have the double tenor drum, then the double Second. Then getting into the lower baritone range you have the Double Guitar, Quadrophonic (4 pans), Triple Guitar, Cello and Six Pan drums. The lowest steel drums for the bass range are the Tenor Bass, Six Bass, Nine Bass and Twelve Bass steel drums.


Steel drums originated from Trinidad when the French emigrated there in 1789 during the French Revolution.  With them came Carnival. When the slaves could not participate, they created their own celebration called "canboulay". Using bamboo sticks called Tamboo-Bamboo's, they would strike other sticks giving different pitches depending on where they were struck.  After violent riots in 1880, African percussion music was banned.

In the early 1930's, various pieces of metal such as brake drums from cars were used in Tamboo-Bammoo bands. By 1937, new instruments were made from frying pans, dust pans, and oil drums. in 1940, steel drums were mainly used for Carnival celebrations. When the American Navy arrived in 1941, the new sounds became popular among the officers.

From the late 1940's into the early 1950's, all steel drums were made from old 55 gallon oil drums.Today, companies manufacture steel drums by design using various metal thicknesses and different tunings. Hammering the metal into shape was, and remains today, a common method for manufacturing and tuning steel drums. Others spin the metal on a lathe to make the necessary indents in the metal.


The drums are played usually with rubber mallots. In addition to being extensively used today by steelbands in Trinidad, steel drums have become the most common of all Caribbean drums. They are used in Carvinal celebrations and have even expanded into latin and jazz fusion groups, as well as pop! Let's see what the market can offer. A few examples:

Jumbie Jam Steel Drum, Steel Finish

Fancy Pans Mini Diatonic Steel Drum

Panland Trinidad & Tobago - Rainbow Pitipan Steelpan MIPI02RB 

Have you heard about the Brazilian Drums?