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How to learn to play the steel tongue drum

The steel tongue drum: a new musical instrument that is accessible, intuitive, harmonious, resistant and borderless! Add to this its undeniable vibratory qualities and you will understand why this melodic percussion instrument is so successful! But as is often the case with new musical instruments, this success is not yet accompanied by the publication of quality teaching aids. Just like instrumental practice, which is still almost non-existent in the structures that teach percussion (conservatories or other music schools).

However, solutions exist to learn to play the tongue drum. Find here our advice and tips to practice the steel tongue drum according to your desires whether you already have an instrument or not.

Learn the tongue drum

I don't have an instrument yet. How do I learn to play the steel tongue drum?

Before buying your first tongue drum and choosing the right instrument, there are many questions to ask: Is this drum made for me? Can I afford a tongue drum? Which model of tongue drum is suitable for beginners, where to buy my first tongue drum, etc... If you have any of these questions, you will find the answer in our article "How to choose a steel tongue drum".
In the meantime, let's get back to our main topic: How and where can I learn to play the tongue drum if I don't have an instrument yet?

Participating in a tongue drum workshop or course

As with the handpan, there are many workshops and courses to discover and practice the tongue drum. If you browse the internet, you will find a wide range of courses, from a few hours to several days, for different levels.
Most workshops offer the loan of instruments, which is essential to allow you to discover the tongue drum before making your first purchase.

Getting started at a festival

If you don't have anyone around you who owns a tongue drum, you can easily go to festivals or meetings dedicated to the steel tongue drum. On a regular basis and all over France, events are organised offering opportunities to practice this instrument. Exhibitors' stands often offer steel tongues for sale. You can take the time to try them out, to ask the seller to introduce you to the basics of the tongue drum, as the environment lends itself very well to this.

Don't hesitate to join Facebook groups dedicated to tongue drum, to find an event near you.

Discover the steel tongue drum at the craftsman's or in a shop

You can also discover the tongue drum by going directly to a manufacturer or a retailer. Depending on the venue, you will have the opportunity to try out the instrument.
The zenko® from Metal Sounds is available in many sales outlets in France and abroad. To be sure to find a shop that offers tongue drums near you, think of consulting our map of retailers. And if some of them don't have Zenko in stock, they should offer other brands.

Learn to play the tongue drum with friends

As the popularity of the tongue drum is skyrocketing, you may have someone in your circle who owns one. Learning to play the tongue drum with a relative or friend can also be a great solution. It's a way to learn the instrument in a friendly and simple way, because that's what music is all about: sharing and having a good time with those you love. Simply receiving some technical advice on the arrangement of notes, the direction of the scale, and the playing positions will be more than enough to get you started. Then, playing will quickly become a reflex and you will be able to exchange and repeat what you have been shown to better discover this unique instrument.

I own a tongue drum, and I would like to learn how to play it.

You are already the proud owner of a tongue drum but you don't have any idea how to learn or progress? Is your desire to play well or to explore new horizons becoming obvious?
There are also several solutions to help you start and/or progress with your tongue drum.

4 tips to improve your tongue drumming

If you're interested in learning to play the tongue drum, you've probably already noticed that there are online resources to help you get started, such as song books, online courses and tutorials. You can read more about the pros and cons of these materials in our article on tongue drum courses and tutorials. But, if you really want to immerse yourself in playing the instrument, it would be appropriate to take a tongue drum lesson or participate in a workshop. Obviously, combining the use of teaching materials with regular practice with a teacher will help you learn quickly and with great pleasure.
Here are four different options for learning to play the steel tongue drum.

Tongue drum lessons, workshops or courses: Face-to-face learning (individual or group)

Taking lessons can be a great option if you are a beginner and want to learn the basics of the instrument. A teacher will be able to teach you techniques such as playing positions, hitting notes and hand coordination. In addition, he or she can also give you personal advice on how to improve your technique and work on rhythmic and melodic aspects.
To find a tongue drum teacher you can search in your area using specialised websites or by contacting local music schools or associations. If you can't find anyone in your area you can also look for online teachers who can offer distance learning via video conferencing.

In addition to taking lessons, participating in a steel tongue drum workshop or course can be a unique and very rewarding experience. Workshops are often held over half a day and clinics are usually held over a weekend. One of the advantages of attending a workshop is the opportunity to meet other tongue drummers and share your passion for the instrument.
If you decide to attend a steel tongue drum workshop, find out in advance what options are available. Look for clinics that meet your specific needs, such as skill levels, musical genres and playing styles. Also make sure that the course is run by qualified professionals and that the programme is well organised.

Finally, to give you an idea of the prices charged (for one person), you will find below - purely as an indication - a range of prices proposed according to the teachers and the regions:

- Private lesson (1 hour): between 15 and 50 euros

- Small group workshop (1/2 day): between 40 and 100 euros

- Workshop (weekend): between 120 and 300 euros (depending on accommodation and meal options)

Learn to play the tongue drum with YouTube tutorials

Opening your computer, turning on your smartphone or TV, and logging on to YouTube is probably the quickest way to learn and progress on the tongue drum. You can watch them at any time and from anywhere, provided you have an internet connection of course. And it's free (or almost)! We know that YouTube can be a real goldmine in the vast world of tutorials! You will find many videos that will help you learn the basics of playing the tongue drum. You can choose the tutorials that best suit your learning style and skill level.
Video tutorials allow you to see the instrument in action, which can be very helpful in learning to play correctly. You can see how the fingers are placed on the different areas of the steel tongue drum and how to hit the notes with the sticks or fingers. Some of these are presented in a way that guides you step by step in your learning. Teachers can show you how to play individual notes, then very simple pieces and finally teach you how to combine them to create more complex melodies.

But YouTube also has its limitations, especially when the tutorials are in a foreign language with no subtitles, or when the teacher is actually giving poor advice! It's hard to be aware of this and avoid developing bad habits.

If you own a Zenko® tongue drum, check out the Metal Sounds YouTube channel for all the tutorials dedicated to your favourite tongue drum!

Learning with tongue drum methods (physical or digital)

Going through the good old book + DVD medium would be a good option if it existed! But to date - apart from a few "song books" which unfortunately do not serve as a learning method - there is not much to put on your lap!

To make up for the lack of teaching material in the form of a method, Metal Sounds and professional percussionist Conny Sommer have worked on free teaching manuals to get you started with the Zenko® steel tongue drum.
If you already own a Zenko®, you can now DOWNLOAD THE FREE TEACHING MATERIALS (zip, 55 MB).

Finally, there is a method in the form of an online course at Master the Handpan which is dedicated to a harmonized steel tongue drum, the Rav Vast. For those of you who have a Rav Vast or who own a steel tongue drum with a pattern identical to that of a handpan, then you can use this method which is very well done. You can find the link to the MTH website here.

Playing tongue drums with other people

Yes, that's right! Provided, of course, that you know or find one or more tongue drummers in your circle. You will quickly notice that the community that surrounds the practice of the tongue drum greatly facilitates exchanges, sharing and meetings.
So don't hesitate to get started! Make requests on groups and forums, be a driving force, initiate and solicit meetings. You will have the pleasure of jamming with other amateur musicians and at the same time progress in your playing while having a great time.

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