The Whale Drum - A Giant Amongst Steel Tongue Drums

Found by following a link at the bottom of Dennis Havlena’s webpage on building a Hank drum, come the ‘Whale Drum’.  Giant-sized steel tongue drums that come in a range of sizes, from big, to monstrously huge.  Constructed from recycled propane tanks, upto and including 1000 gallon, ‘hot-dog’ style bulk propane tanks, Whale drums, are truly a giant amongst steel tongue drum.

Created by ‘Jim Doble’, Whale Drum, are especially suitable for use within playgrounds, and museums.  Where their deep, resonant tones, have proven incredibly popular with adults, and children, alike.  Available in a variety of scales, and colorful finishes, prices range from around $400 for the 24” ‘Heavy duty Whale drum’, up to around $1200, for the 36-42” ‘Super heavy Whale drum’.

So if you’re looking for something a little larger than the average Hank, go check out the Whale Drum: HERE.

The Hang Music of Janet Spahr - Listen With Your Eyes Closed

Today, I’d like to introduce to our readers, the music of ‘Janet Spahr’, a seasoned, and enthusiastic Hang musician, who’s producing some of the most serenely beautiful Hang music we’ve yet heard. In fact, initially, I found it a little too down-tempo, and 'magickal', for my tastes, but it didn’t take long to hook me, and hypnotise me, with its melodic tranquility, carrying me away, like all good Hang music should, on a journey laid out by the musician, to be experienced by the listener.

And it was no surprise to learn that the Hang music of Janet Spahr forms the soundtrack to a documentary about a fairy festival, as in many ways you can imagine Elven folk, and the like, dancing delicate dances, in beautiful floral woodlands, to the tunes of Janet Spahr.

Having first started playing the Hang back in 2006 (a relatively long time ago considering how recently the Hang was invented), Janet Spahr, has recorded two delightful albums (to date): ‘Hang Suasion’, and, the appropriately titled, ‘Listen With Your Eyes Closed’. That feature Janet on both the Hang, and singing vocals.

And I can personally promise, without reserve, that I’m sure in addition to being ideal for many other situations, the latter album, is perfect to relax and paint to, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Although, If I’m being honest. While ‘listening with my eyes closed’ proved to be a truly divine experience. Painting with my eyes closed, produced some seriously questionable results...

You can find Listen with Your Eyes Closed for sale, along with other serene offerings from Janet Spahr over at her website: HERE.

How to Play the Hank Drum

While a MILLTONE will be played differently from something like the 1TONE Eclipse, and a home made propane tank drum played differently again, with each different model of Hank requiring its own unique style of play. All Hank/steel tongue drums have certain qualities in common, that make at least one playing technique necessary across all formats, in order to produce crisp, clear notes from your instrument.

Drop it like it’s hot!

Or rather, slap/tap it like it’s hot. This technique, as recommended by Dennis Havlena (inventor of the Hank drum), is considered the best method for coaxing the best sounds from any Hank drum, and essentially involves playing the Hank as if it were red hot, with each stroke of your hand making only the briefest of contact with the surface of the tongue. Or in the words of Dennis Havlena: ‘a far better tone is obtained if you hit very quickly - not allowing your finger to rest on the tongue even for an instant -- tap it as if you were testing a stove burner to see if it's hot.’

Additionally, when playing a steel tongue drum, try not to restrict the natural vibrations of the tongues as you strike them.  Playing the Hank drum with single digits (or two) rather than an open palm, helps to reduce this tongue restriction.
Get that right and your pretty much home free from there. With practise and experimentation being far more important than any form of formal tuition. And YouTube videos can make an excellent resource from which to gleam inspiration, and techniques, from your fellow Hank drum musicians.

[EDIT] While more specific to HandPans, you may also find these YouTube lessons useful: HERE.

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