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Joining a drum circle is an incredible experience that will offer you a fun time along with other benefits like stress relief and connection with others. The best thing about drum circles is that you don’t need to have any prior musical knowledge before joining one.
Some drum circles require you to bring your own drum, so you may be wondering what drum you should get. Here are the best options.
Remo Mondo Key-Tuned Djembe – Best Overall
The Remo Mondo Key-Tuned Djembe (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an incredible djembe in terms of tone and design. This would be my top suggestion for a drum circle drum, as it’s very easy to use.
You just need a drum key to alter how it sounds, which is a lot easier than working with the ropes on a rope-tuned djembe.
The overall sound is very warm, but you get a tight, punchy sound when playing the edge. I also love how responsive it is to varying levels of playing intensity.
The other benefit that this djembe has is that it’s extremely durable. The overall construction is similar to an acoustic drum, meaning that you can feel safe that it won’t get damaged if it falls.
There are more affordable djembes out there, but I recommend investing in this one if you want something really good for drum circles.
Drum type: Djembe
Size: 14” x 25”
Material: Acousticon Recycled Shell
Pearl Elite Series Oak Tumba – Premium Option
The Pearl Elite Series Oak Tumba (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of Pearl’s highest-quality congas. This conga is referred to as a Tumba due to its size, but it gives you the same sound that you’d typically expect from a conga.
The tone is very warm and rich, giving you a good amount of low end from every strike. It has a Thai oak shell, which is what gives it such a musical character.
I’m a big fan of Pearl’s Contour Crown rims on this conga. They’re polished steel rims that make striking the conga with your hands very comfortable. This means that you can play for extended periods without wearing out your hands.
While congas are very big, the tone of this one is what may convince you to take it with you to a drum circle. It can be played while standing on the ground, but you’d just need to seat yourself high enough to be able to play it comfortably. Otherwise, it will be easier to stand and play it.
Drum type: Conga
Size: 12.5” x 30”
Meinl Percussion African Style Mini Djembe – Best Budget Option
Firstly, it’s very cheap. You could buy several of these to use in a classroom drum circle, or you could buy one of them to have something for a personal drum circle that won’t set you back by much.
The second benefit is that it’s so small that you can carry it around easily. It’s a great drum for a drum circle instructor to play while walking around and monitoring what everyone else in the circle is doing.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the most amazing tone. It’s too small to have a lot of tonal richness, and you only get one sound, no matter where you strike it. Other djembes give you a sharp sound when you play the edge. You can’t get that same sound with this smaller one.
Drum type: Djembe
Size: 4.5” x 8”
Pearl Primero Cajon
The Pearl Primero Cajon (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another great option to use in a drum circle. It’s one of my favorite cajons on the market, as it’s decently priced and offers more sound variety than most.
It comes equipped with a bass port and snare wires, so you get fairly deep sounds from striking the center and tight and cracking sounds from striking the edge.
The cajon also has five very unique finishes to choose from, giving options to various types of personalities that may buy it.
The benefit of getting this cajon for a drum circle is that you’ll also be able to use it in a multitude of other settings. Cajons are one of the go-to options for acoustic gigs, and the Primero Cajon will serve you very well for those as well.
In terms of tone quality, the sound you get from this cajon isn’t as good as what you get from higher-quality ones, but it’s perfect for a drum circle.
Drum type: Cajon
Size: 11.75” x 11.75” x 19.25”
Material: MDF with Meranti Faceplate
Latin Percussion Aspire Series Bongos
The Latin Percussion Aspire Series Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are always one of my top suggestions for anyone looking for a solid pair of bongos. These things are solid, and they have fantastic tones.
They’re made from kiln-dried Siam Oak, and that’s what gives them their responsive musical qualities. They also have LP’s EZ Curve rims that make playing them feel very comfortable.
Apart from the mini-djembe from Meinl Percussion, these bongos are the smallest option that I’m recommending, so they’re excellent for people who don’t want to lug a big drum around with them to every drumming circle.
You also get the benefit of having two distinct tones from each drum that are easy to utilize. Overall, these are an amazing pick because of that.
You also get three distinct finish options with the Aspire Series bongos, including Oak Natural, Jamjuree Natural, and Oak Vintage Starburst.
Drum type: Bongos
Size: 6.75” and 8”
Material: Siam Oak
Remo Bahia Bass Buffalo Drum
The Remo Bahia Bass Buffalo Drum (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a very unique option to pick for a drum circle. It’s a frame drum, which is a large circular frame that is covered with a synthetic skin to get a deep tone.
You play it with a soft mallet, and you can play it in different areas to get varying levels of intensity with the sound.
I love the sound this drum has, and it’s a drum that will set you apart within a drum circle. You won’t play it with your hands as you will with all the other drums I’ve suggested so far, meaning you’ll have a unique role in the circle.
The drum also comes pre-tuned, so you don’t need to worry about getting a great sound by altering lugs or anything. It will sound great straight out of the box.
Drum type: Frame Drum
Size: 16” x 3.5”
Material: Acousticon Shell
Latin Percussion Aspire Series Timbale Set
The Latin Percussion Aspire Series Timbale Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an excellent set to get if you’re looking for brighter and more aggressive sounds. These timbales have piercing tones, but they’re extremely fun to play.
You can play them in the center to get rounder tones, or you can play rimshots on them to get cracking tones.
This set also comes with a mounted cowbell, which you can opt to use in a drum circle as well. They’re very commonly used in this sort of setting, but it will add plenty of variety to your sound.
The stand that comes with the set is extremely solid, meaning it will last many years of frequent use.
I’d suggest getting this set if you’re part of a drum circle that already has many members that play all the other percussion and hand instruments. If you use these in a smaller circle, they’re going to sound too aggressive.
Drum type: Timbales
Size: 13” and 14”
What To Look For In Drum Circle Drums
Types of Drums
You mainly want to look out for unpitched drums when getting a drum for a drum circle. These can either be hand drums or ones that you use sticks or mallets for.
If you get a pitched drum, it will have melodic notes that play different tones. There isn’t anything wrong with using a pitched drum, but the pitches may clash if someone else is using one in a circle. So, that’s why it’s better to just use unpitched drums.
Here’s a list of different drums to consider getting, along with descriptions of what they are and how much you can expect to pay for each one.
Bongos are the smallest drums to use in a drum circle. They’re often the most affordable as well. You get two bongos in a set, and they’re joined by a wooden block. The smaller bongo produces a tight and high-pitched sound, while the large bongo produces a deeper and more resonant sound.
You mainly play these with your fingers, and you’ll be able to rest a pair of bongos on your lap while sitting in a drum circle.
Bongos have very piercing tones, so you’ll mainly hear them in the upper registers in conjunction with all the other drums in a circle.
Bongos have an easy learning curve, so they’re an excellent option!
Djembes are African drums that have a large surface that shrinks down to a smaller body. They’re designed to be held between your legs, but you need to keep the bottom part from touching the ground so that the drum can resonate fully.
You get two different types of djembes. Rope-tuned djembes are the traditional design, and they have animal skin drumheads that are tied to the drum using ropes. Key-tuned djembes have a design that is closer to acoustic drums. They normally have synthetic drumheads and lugs holding the head on the drum.
You can get a bass tone from hitting a djembe in the center and a cracking tone from striking it on the edge. This makes djembes quite versatile.
They range in price according to how they’re made. Some are very affordable, while others can cost hundreds of dollars.
Congas are the closest relative instrument to the bongos. These are very large drums with long bodies and deep tones. They’re not the most ideal option for drum circles due to their size, but they’ll sound very cool if you go through the effort of taking them to a drum circle.
They’re often played in pairs, but I’d suggest only using one for a drum circle setting. The conga will be the deepest drum in the circle, and that will add a lot of depth to the combined drum sound.
Congas are the most expensive option out of all the types of drums to choose for a drum circle. That’s simply due to their size.
Cajons are often referred to as box drums, as they’re shaped like a box. You sit on a cajon and play it with your hands to get different sounds depending on where you hit it. You can also play it with certain types of drumsticks.
They have metal rivets placed around them so that you get a snare sound when you hit the edge. You also get a deep bass sound when you strike the center.
Cajons are extremely common in drum circles, and you can get a good cajon for a relatively low price.
The best thing about a cajon is that you can sit down and play it anywhere. Some people even get kick drum pedals to use on their cajon to free up their hands.
Timbales are shallow drums with metal shells that have very loud and aggressive tones. They’re not always welcome in a drum circle, as they can sound too aggressive. However, they’re a great option for a larger drum circle where volume and energy are welcomed.
You typically buy two timbales that are mounted onto stands. A complete timbale setup would also have a cowbell mounted to the same stand. You play all of these with drumsticks.
Best Drum Circle Drum Brands
In the hand percussion world, there are four major brands that offer the most variety with their products. When looking for a drum circle drum, you can’t go wrong with these brands.
Pearl is mostly known for producing high-quality percussion products. The brand doesn’t offer many affordable options, so expect to pay higher prices when looking at Pearl hand drums.
With that being said, Pearl offers some of the best drum circle drums out there. They all sound amazing with rich and detailed tones. They also have top-tier construction quality.
Meinl Percussion is another excellent brand to consider. The brand has dozens of hand drums available, and many of them are quite affordable. I’d suggest looking into Meinl’s product range if you want the cheapest options that still have great tones.
Latin Percussion is one of the larger and more well-known percussion brands. Most of the top percussionists in the world play LP instruments. The brand has a mixture of high-end and entry-level options, and all of them are very attractive options.
Latin Percussion have the most impressive range of bongos, so I’d suggest checking those out if that’s your drum type choice for a drum circle.
Remo is primarily a drumhead brand, but they’ve been making a few percussion instruments for years. You won’t find as many options as the other percussion brands, but Remo hand drums are also great options to consider. I’m a big fan of their unique hand drums.
Top Drum Circle Drums, Final Thoughts
As you can see from the list above, there are several types of drums to get that will work wonderfully in a drum circle, and they all feel slightly different to play.
Decide which one you like the most, and then find something in that drum type that suits your budget. It can also be very fun to get a few different drums, adding a bit of variety.