Obviously, 2000+ drums deep, we’re a little biased about the awesomeness of steel tongue drums. We trust you can decide for yourself whether the steel tongue drum is the “perfect” instrument for you.
In this post, we’ll discuss the attributes and benefits of the drum itself that have inspired life-long obsessions across cultures and generations to create beautiful sound experiences.
1) It’s The Perfect Instrument For Beginners
How is it that a Manastone sounds beautiful no matter who is playing whether beginner or expert musician?
A steel tongue drum is an instrument that has only notes that are all perfectly in tune with each other, as part of a scale (specific series of notes). This means that almost any combination of notes (chords) or sequence of notes (melodies) will be harmonized and sound good to the ears.
2) Easily Learn To Improvise or Ad-lib
The perfect tuning of our scales allows the beginner to easily learn to improvise patterns of notes (melodies, licks or riffs) and groups of notes played at once (chords) that feel and sound good without having to learn how to read music or understand music theory.
Practicing is made even easier because of the layout of notes on a Manastone. Unique from the original open source steel tongue drum layout by Dennis Havlena, the Manastone progresses the notes in a left and right pattern up the drum that doesn’t skip around. This makes it easier both to move around the drum while playing, and to remember patterns you enjoy.
Check out the feel of this relaxing music made on the fly by improvising on the E Akebono Japanese Scale Manastone:
3) Steel Tongue Drum Is A Bridge To Finding Your Voice
Instead of having to first learn music theory to make the notes and chords harmonized as with many other melodic instruments, you get to focus simultaneously on rhythm patterns and subtleties in dynamics (soft, loud, tone, texture), often without realizing it!
As a result, your playing develops quality and character, storytelling or song-writing with all these qualities comes easily, and jamming with other musicians becomes accessible. You’ll begin to notice that your playing has a unique quality, personal to your expression.
Check out the simple melodies repeated with varying dynamics in this piece by Manastone's very own Nicholas Penn using the N'goni West African Harp Scale Manastone:
4) It Never Gets Old
Even with 9 notes, there are enough notes in our scales that, when combined in slightly different order or when played even with a different rhythm, they offer a huge diversity of feelings, moods, or “vibes” which keeps things exciting.
Not only that, but the range of tones and sounds available on a Manastone are limitless. Most handpan players prefer to use the hands to play as this offers the greatest range of sounds. This is because more complexity is possible through making chords with two fingers at a time and through using more dynamics thanks to the versatility of the human hand. The pads of the fingers, for example can produce a huge range of sounds that are very different from the sounds produced by the sides of the fingers or knuckles, or palms of the hand.
The rubber-tipped mallets included with each drum present an entirely different tone and sustain (how long the tone lasts) than what's possible with the hands. And did we mention pool noodles? Yes, pool noodles make a beautiful sound on our floating steel tongue drums.
If you're one of those people who knows they will want more, then it's not much of a leap to consider building your own double-sided Manastone!
5) It’s A Gateway Instrument
We think a gateway instrument to more musical experiences is a good thing. The physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of developing a relationship with playing music are endless.
This diversity and playability of a steel tongue drum allows you to quickly expand in your ability to translate feeling into rhythm and melody. What's more, your ability to relate to many instruments and styles of music can lead you to musical collaboration in the form of jamming, or recording your instrument to mix with other instruments to create a track. We even offer a hookup to add to your drum if you think you may end up wanting to record your Manastone!
This video was made by owner and drum maker Noah Pulver with Kurd Scale 10-note Manastone where you can hear how our drums sound recorded and mixed with a mandolin:
6) Meditation & Sound Healing
We’ve all heard of meditation by now and maybe you’ve tried it. Perhaps you didn’t know that playing an instrument is also a form of meditation, especially when played with that intent and refined in a personal practice.
Sound healing is rooted in ancient tradition across many cultures that takes the form of personal spiritual practice to group ceremony. Nowadays, especially in Western culture, credentialing and standards of practice have emerged based in these traditions because of the myriad health benefits many have experienced in various formats of treatment.
Steel tongue drums are used by sound healing practitioners, yoga teachers, music therapists and school teachers. Manastone drums can be used in combination with other instruments such as singing bowls, tablas, gongs, didgeridoos, and chimes. They also combine well with a variety of other instruments such as tanpura, n'goni harps and harmoniums.
Our many customer testimonials speak to the profound effects of playing a Manastone on their own well-being and even that of their children, pets, plants, elders, clients, and patients!
7) Manastone Steel Tongue Drums Can Float!
You read that right. Inspired by the sacred waters that flow in our neck of the woods, the Manastone floating steel tongue drum was designed to be played while floating.
The sound quality you get while playing a Manastone in water is utterly magical. You will want to take this with you into the bath by candlelight, out to the pool, into the creek and hot spring.
Check out the Big Bear Chinese Scale Manastone being played at our local hot springs. And we weren't kidding about the pool noodle in #6 above! PS: our rubber-tipped mallets included with each drum float! 😉