Making a Water Drum

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What's a water drum?

The water drum is a very old percussion instrument, traditionally played in African tribes.

The bottom half of a large hollow gourd is filled with water. Another half, smaller, is placed open end down on top of the water. When the smaller gourd is played, it produces a bass tone.

Over the time, this instrument has spread over the world and evolved with the use of different materials.

This instructable aims to show you how to make a modern water drum with simple elements without nailing, drilling or gluing anything. So when you're done playing music, you can still use your container, bowl, plate, glass

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

THE THINGS YOU'LL NEED TO MAKE ONE:

  • 2 bowls
  • Rubber bands (3 for one water drum)

Adapt the thickness to the weight of the smaller bowl.

  • Clothespins (3 for one water drum)

I chose wooden clothespins to avoid unwanted metallic vibrations but I guess plastic ones will do fine too.

  • Wire
  • Pliers
  • A wooden stick

It could be anything you can wind the wire around.

  • And of course a lot of water!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

You can play it with your hands and fingers or you can build mallets with:

  • 2 sticks (wood, plastic, anything)
  • Any sort of fabric (old socks or shirt, towel, bandage,…).

Step 2: Pick Your Bowls

What they're made of don't really matter. It could be steel, plastic, wood,… try with what you have and see if you like the sound of it. The only important thing is that one should be at least half as small as the other so the bowls don't touch each other even when you hit them.

Step 3: Make the Attachment Rings

Start by winding the wire around a stick. Make 4-5 rounds. Then slide the rubber band around the coil you just made.

(Note that you'll need 3 of these for each bowl.)

Finally, clamp the rings to the smaller bowl: the one that will be floating.

Step 4: Place and Tune the Bowls

Fill the larger bowl with water. Take the smaller one and place it on top.

The top bowl should be upside down and touching the water (to make sure the air is locked inside). Slide the attachment rings to every third of the bowl then use the clothespins to bind the two containers.

By removing some of the air locked in the top bowl you can change the pitch.
The more air there is, the lower the pitch.

That's it, you have your water drum ready to play!

Step 5: Make the Mallets

Take a stick and cut off the desired length. (I find short sticks more manageable and lighter)

Then roll any piece of fabric over one end. Roll it tight and tuck the end (or tape it).

I used bamboo sticks and an old bandage but the possibilities are endless. Just try with what you have around. Note that while the pitch is defined by the size and type of bowl you choose, the kind of sound depends of the sticks or mallets.

Hard sticks or mallets will produce a clear and sometimes aggressive sound when soft ones will produce a more rounded and warm sound. The best way to know which you prefer is to experiment a lot.

Have fun!

Step 6: Recording (USE HEADPHONES)

Here's some tracks to get an idea of how it sounds.

Water drum 01 : One water drum played with my hands.

Water drum 02: 4 water drums tuned and played with mallets (+ glockenspiel and water sounds I've recorded myself)

Feel free to ask me anything and to share your experience or any audio / video if you decide to make one (or more?)

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    8 Discussions

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    livluv

    4 weeks ago

    Will definately make it! Thanks a lot for this one!

    1 reply
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    Troubahlivluv

    Reply 27 days ago

    Thanks ! Feel free to share some pictures and sounds if you want.

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    Matlek

    3 months ago

    This is great! I really like the audio tracks you have posted, it sounds amazing!

    1 reply
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    TroubahMatlek

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thank you, I'm glad you like it!

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    tomatoskins

    3 months ago

    This is such a cool idea and instructable! Thanks for sharing!

    1 reply