Over the years, we have evolved into making many different kinds of Hand Drums. The technique is the same for all of them—raw hide pulled over a wood frame—but there are so many different uses for Hand Drums that there are many different subtleties to the building.
Starting with the Hide:
We live in a region of Quebec where families hunt for food. The old ways are not forgotten, people still have a close connection to the land and the animals which live around them. Throughout the season we gather Deer and Moose hides. These wild hides are a hugely important part of the finished hand drum—there is a strong energy and medicine which comes from wild animal skin.
Moving on to the Frame:
We make two basic styles of wood frames: the traditional steamed Ash frame and the modern pieced-together (mitered) frame (Butternut, Pine and Cedar).
The old traditional frame would have been made of some local wood which could easily be bent. Not all woods are made to be bent. Out west the drums were made with Cedar; in the middle of Turtle Island, Brown Ash; up north, Birch was used. We have a great supply of White Ash living around us, so we cut White Ash to width, and dimension and steam the wood. After enough steaming, the wood can be bent into an approximate circle. Although I am going for round, few hoops are perfectly round. The only way to get them all perfectly round is by using factory techniques. I have a feeling that the drums of our ancestors were not exactly round either, and I have noticed that Life is kind of like that—not always perfect. The modern, perfectly round hoops are made with plywood.
And Now, Back to the Hides:
We make our Hand Drums with Deer, Moose and Buffalo hides. There is a huge difference between the different animals. Deer is thinner, open pored, louder, and tends to be popular for Round Dance Singers, Smoke Dances and Women’s community singing. We usually describe Deer as more of a singing drum.
Moose and Buffalo are tighter, denser, and tend to be used more for ceremonies and sweatlodges. The old ceremonial healing hand drums were Moose or Buffalo. I also believe that the perfect Round Dance drum is a Moose drum. At countless powwows, when the Hand Drum competition starts up (late on Saturday night), every Deer drum in the circle is flat but our Moose drums are singing loud and clear (guess who wins the competition?). Moose is very resistant to humidity issues, so if you know you tend to drum in humid situations, consider a Moose drum.
Coloring of our Hides:
Our most common Hand Drum is the natural tan colour which everyone is well accustomed to. We also make a modern dyed Hand Drum for those who are more visually inspired. We take our Deer or Moose hides and then soak them overnight in a Black Walnut dye. The effect is unusual and really cool!
13" - 14" Deer Natural $85 Dyed $95
14" - 16" Deer Natural $125 Dyed $135
14" Moose Sweatlodge Drum $200
16" - 18" Moose Natural $225 Dyed $250