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Why Does My Rawhide Drum Sound Flat?

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weaver is a sacred drum birther—she birthed her first drum over 25 years ago…

tied rawhide handle in the back of a drum…

tied rawhide handle in the back of a drum…

Wondering why your rawhide drum is sounding flat?

Here’s a tip i learned a long time ago...

Often i receive the question from folk asking me why their rawhide drum is sounding flat or even sounding dead. It’s not the easiest question to answer - especially if i can’t see the actual drum in question... as it could be a number of reasons why.

For those who have birthed drums with me, i have written quite an extensive article about drum care and feeding that pretty much addresses how to take care of your drum and what can happen if care isn’t taken - including ways one can raise or lower the tone of their drum.

I feel one of the most important things to remember with any kind of natural hide drum, be it a frame/hoop drum or any other kind of rawhide drum, is to be aware of extreme temperature changes.

Rawhide drums are energetically ‘living, breathing beings’... and will shift + change with humidity and changes in the weather. They like to ‘drink water’ just like we do... and, what i mean by that is, because they’re made out of natural materials... ie., skin + wood... they shift and change with the weather + humidity.

I, also refer to the west coast style hoop drum where the hide face is tied to the frame with either rawhide or synthetic lace.

So, examples could be...

  • If it’s raining and you + your drum live on the wet west coast of Canada (rain forest)... your drum will literally ‘drink’ lots of water or... if the skin/wood absorb lots of moisture, it will sound flat + low... so much so that it sounds almost dead, because it’s taken on so much water.
  • Or... if you + your drum live in a very dry + hot environment like Kamloops, BC or any hot area like in a desert, your drum’s skin/wood frame is going to dry out... the skin will dry out and sound higher... sometime so dry, that it could break - if that environment is extreme...
  • Also, if the environment is dry + cold, your drum will sound high too...

What’s happening is that when the drum takes on water, the skin gets heavy with water and loosens = flat sounding. Or, if the drum dries out, the skin tightens = high sounding.

So, there are some simple ways you can raiser or lower the tone...

Extreme temperatures can be very hard on rawhide drums... hence why i wrote that article on drum care to let you know what you can do to either raise or lower the tone. So, another rule of thumb is to remember... you wouldn’t leave your child or a pet in a very hot or cold car - nor should you leave your drum in either of those environments.

my treasured bongos—my first set of drums…

my treasured bongos—my first set of drums…

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If your drum sounds ‘dead’, too flat or low... here’s a possible easy fix...

If you’ve tried to raise the tone by the simple ways i mention in my other article - here’s a cool trick i learned many years ago...

Back when i was a kid, when i acquired my first set of bongo drums, i remember, when my mom and i were walking out of the music store... the fellow who sold us the bongos, said,

“Now, when you get home with your drums, turn them upside down and fill each drum with some cold water and them sit for a bit... what that will do, once the heads (hide) are dry is they’ll tighten up and they should sound nice + crisp!”

I remembered what he said... and tried the same procedure on a frame (hoop) rawhide drum that i had, that had gone completely flat... I’ve managed to fix a few drums this same way... though it hasn’t always worked - as sometimes a drum just needs to be taken apart, re-skinned or re-birthed.

Instructions: How to re-tighten your rawhide drum...

  • these instructions are for laced natural hide drums only...
  • in a bin large enough to fit the diameter of your drum or in a bathtub, fill with about 3 inches of cold water...
  • place your drum upside down (face down) and float it on top of the water...
  • splash some of the water on the inside (back) of your drum as well - though don’t fill this side up with water - only enough to get the hide wet...
  • try not to soak the wood frame/hoop too much - place your drum ‘on top’ of the water - let it sit/float on top - the trick her is to try and not soak the wooden frame...
  • keep an eye - don’t let the drum sit in the water too long...
  • let the drum sit this way and soak the hide for about 20-30 minutes or sooner - as the water soaks the hide, you’ll see the hide change colour (darker) - if you keep an eye, this process could be shorter...
  • once you feel that hide has had a chance to soak, pull it completely out of the water, dry off with a towel, and allow the drum to completely dry - with hopes the hide will tighten up again - thus sound higher...

NOTE: It’s important to not soak the wood frame too much - as that could cause the frame to either buckle or depending how the frame/hoop was made, to come apart - as most hoops are laminated with glue... you don’t want the glue to loosen...

The goal is to soak the hide - with the hopes that this process may tighten + renew the sound of your drum.

Good luck and wishing you + your dear drum well...

with much love + light, weaver x (((o)))

• All of the above written and sourced by weaver—please do not copy without written permission—it’s not good for your karma…

• If you found good value with this article, consider letting me know with much appreciation, thank you!

rawhide drums move + change with humidity…

rawhide drums move + change with humidity…

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 weaver

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