What Is a Tongue Drum?

Many of the most common tongue drums are rectangular boxes with progressively longer areas cut in the top of the box. The length of the wooden piece or “tongue” that is surrounded by a pair of slits determines its relative tone. These drums can also have additional ornate woodworking added to the surface of the drum.

Although many tongue drums are made of wood, some metal versions do exist. One of these is called the harmonic tympanum. Its design features a round metal surface with C shaped cuts, providing for a variety of tones.

The unique design of a tongue drum provides not only an attractive decoration, but a very functional tonal instrument. These drums do have their own problems with maintenance and repair, including the possibility of various tongues breaking off or becoming fractured with continual use. The quality of wood affects the longevity of these relatively simple drum models.

Although the tongue drum is still in use today by some musicians, the history of the drum tells historians a lot about the activities of various ancient cultures. The tongue drum has influenced more modern percussion instruments.