Obviously we can’t touch on every membranophone in world in one entry – but let’s explore a few of them.


A membranophone can be conical with sloping sides, held together with strings. They can be open ended, and steadied by the feet. You can find cylindrical drums, which are often double headed with straight sides. Frame drums are those with a shorter body than the width of the skin. Goblet drums native to the Middle East and Asia are, as I’m sure you assumed, golbet shaped!



The Daf is a large frame drum, recognizable by the metal ringlets on the underside. The ringlets on the underside make the sound of the daf, in certain respects, comparable to that of a tambourine. These drums have be used in religious, and non-religious ceremonies in the Middle East for centuries.




The bohdrán is an Irish membranophone. A frame drum, unique for the way it’s played. The bohdrán is played with one hand on the head, or skin of the drum, to control the pitch and timbre, and struck with a tipper to create a sound.




The tonbak is officially referred to as a Tompak in Persian, however there are many synonyms. This drum is shaped like a goblet and played with the fingers and palms. The shell of this membranophone is carved seamlessly from a single wooden block. The Tonbak has been used in Persian music for over 1000 years.



Drum Kit

Drum kits are unique to everyone. Typically this collection of membranophones and other percussive instruments consists of the following: a snare, a bass, one or multiple toms, a high hat, and at least one cymbal. As I mentioned, drum kits are unique to everyone, and highly customizable. Playing a drum kit takes requires a lot of skilled multitasking. Drum kits are used in rock, pop, concert, orchestra, jazz and many other genres of music.



The timpani, informally the timps, are considered a kettle drum. A struck membranophone from Italy. These drums are a close relative of a military drum, though through evoloution they are now considered a staple in orchestras. A large, natural skin is stretched over the flesh hoop, and fastened atop a copper bowl with a series of additional hoops and tension rods to secure it.



The number of membranphones, and percussive insturments that exist varies depending on who you speak to. Our in production documentary Gimme the Beat takes a deep dive into a broad range of instruments, all considered membranophones.


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