Make and Play a Skin Drum

What is a Skin Drum?

According to Native American music historian; Tom Bee, the first pow-wow drum played was probably a skin stretched between many hands and played with mallets or beaters. A drum like this can be played by many people at the same time and is easy to make and enjoy!

How Do You Make It?

You'll need a large piece of durable fabric like vinyl, suede, leather or fake skin from a fabric store. Cut your fabric to resemble a large animal skin. You’ll also want to make a beater for each drummer.

Playing the Skin Drum

Drummers situate themselves around the drum, holding the skin in one hand and their beater in the other. Then, they strike the drum together – at the same time. Pow-wow drumming is done with all drummers playing together. Everyone’s mallet should strike the drum at the same time. It makes for a powerful sound and shows how any activity can be stronger when it is powered by cooperation and created by the joining of many hearts and minds as one.

Drumming Together

To practice drumming together, you may wish to try a simple song used by DARIA while teaching music and English in the Middle East. The students wanted to learn the days of the week in English so they drummed to…

(one beat) Sunday,
(one beat) Monday,
(one beat) Tuesday,
(one beat) Wednesday,
(one beat) Thursday,
(one beat) Friday and
(three beats) SAT-UR-DAY (beaters must stop and be raised in the air).

Play Along

Visit the CD section and you can play along with a song called “Ride, Horse, Ride” or check out the powerful music by the Starfeather Group from the Jemez Pueblo here in the instrument section.


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