Tongue Drum with Honduras mahogany sounding board

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Project by GnarlyErik posted 09-16-2012 05:32 PM 2952 views 6 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my Tongue Drum #3, made with 5/8” x 3-1/2” red oak sides and ends, and a 1” x 8-1/2” x 18” Honduras mahogany tongue board and 1/4” recessed 6mm Okoume bottom, removable with #6×3/4” RH wood screws. I’ve tapered the tongue board on the inside or bottom side from 1” at the perimeter to 5/8” at the tongue ends as an experiment (see photo #6). The sound quality is good and seems to be pitched a little higher than the earlier drums I made.

The drum stick (mallets) are of 1” ‘super balls’ with 3/8” x 14” hardwood dowels which are ‘foxtailed’ into the balls to hold them on securely. The larger set is made from 1-3/8” hollow balls used for fetching dogs. The handles are held on by roughing the ends with shallow saw cuts and using expandable foam for sealing windows and doors to fill the insides of the balls around the roughened ends.

I have three more drums to make in order to furnish one for each grand child and I will probably make those a little deeper by an inch or so as the depth seems to make the sound more mellow and ‘round’.

UPDATE 6/26/2015: I’ve made a new blog entry to pass along a few things I’ve learned to help those who may wish to build any of these:

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

4 comments so far

View albachippie's profile


773 posts in 3176 days

#1 posted 09-16-2012 05:58 PM

This is very nice. I tried one of these a while back. It didn’t work at all! I think I’ll try a similar design to this next time. Thanks for posting,


-- Garry fae Bonnie Scotland

View bluemax's profile


35 posts in 3345 days

#2 posted 09-16-2012 09:46 PM

How do you “tune” it to make the right notes?

-- Bluemax - Risk is necessary!

View GnarlyErik's profile


312 posts in 2275 days

#3 posted 09-17-2012 02:26 PM

The sound may be changed ‘up’ by removing material from the individual tongues, either from the length, width or thickness. Changing the width seems to make the most difference in my experience but, I am not musically literate enough to know what I am doing there. I have changed a few when the tongue sounded flat to my non-musical ear but have not attempted ‘tuning’ per se.

They can certainly be tuned many ways since these are also commercially made:

Here is a guide I found online:

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

View GnarlyErik's profile


312 posts in 2275 days

#4 posted 09-17-2012 02:32 PM

I found it important to isolate the drum from hard surfaces when playing. My wife added felt ‘feet’ at the corners, and placing the drum on a cushion or your lap helps a lot. The tongues vibrate so aggressively they cause sympathetic vibrations in anything they are in contact with which can make for a ‘tinny’ sound unless the drum is isolated.

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

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