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American Indian Drums

Drum

The most important Native American instrument was and still is the drum, as you can tell by going to any powwow or Indian event. Different tribes have different traditions about the drum and how to play it, but the basic construction is very similar in most tribes: a wooden frame or a carved and hollowed-out log, with finely tanned buckskin or elkskin stretched taut across the opening by sinew thongs.

Traditionally American Indian drums are large, two to three feet in diameter, and they are played communally by groups of men who stand around them in a circle. However, there were also some tribes in which each drummer had his own instrument, and it is possible to buy a smaller Native American hand drum for either musical or decorative purposes. (These hand drums are the ones that are sometimes called "tomtoms" by non-native people--contrary to popular belief, tomtom is not an American Indian word, but rather an old British word for a child's drum toy.)


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