Recomended Drums

What drum should I buy?

We get a lot of questions about “what drum do you recommend I buy”? We put together recommendations for you ranging from a $30.00 Frame drum, to a professional $600.00 djembe. We have three highly recommended drums ranging from $169 to $240.

Three “highly recommended” drums

Let’s get right to it. The following three drums get the Whale Spirit “highly recommended” rating. We have two 12″ Djembes, and a 12″ tubano in this category.

TOCA Freestyle II Mechanically Tuned Djembe $170.00.

A favorite with drum circle drummers

Highly recommended

This drum is the most popular drum being purchased by our drum circle members. It has the synthetic head we need in this climate. Comes in several designs. Sounds great. Has a not to heavy, not to light feel to it. The drum sports a plastic shell that you can play on the beach. You can replace the head if you break the head. You can play around with tuning the drum if you like. You don’t need to worry if you are outside and get caught in the rain. The TOCA Freestyle II is not cheap, but not expensive either. This drum hits the sweet spot on about any way you could evaluate a drum to be used at drum circles. If pushed to recommend a single drum to first-time drum circle drum buyers, this one gets the nod. And as mentioned, many of the Whale Spirit Drummers bought this drum as their first time drum. 

Remo Tubano

100 Series $240

Highly recommended

Everyone wants to buy a djembe. But for most people a Remo Tubano is actually better. Drummers like that deep sound. The thump. And a Djembe is built to have a hight slap tone. The Tubano has a thick head and has a take your breath away deep, satisfying sound. Drum educators who buy dozens of drums for the class room usually buy a collection of tubano’s rather than Djembes. The “best” tubano is the Remo 100 series. They cost around $240. The 100 series are indestructible. This reviewer has two the are over 30 years old that still get played every drum circle. You can play them standing up or sitting down. You can use your hands, or a mallet. Try one before you buy a djembe. You may find a tubano is just right for you. (The 10′ is also good, but the 12″ is the balance between too small and too large.) Buy this drum and you will have a friend for life.

Remo ArtBEAT

$233.00 for 12″

One of the best sounding synthetic Djembes in the world

Highly recomended

The undisputed king of djembes used in professional recordings is the 12” Remo Mondo. This is the first successful synthetic head, synthetic shell, mechanically tuned Djembe. The Remo Mondo come in sizes from 10 inches to a whopping 18-inch head. But more is not better in this regard. The sweet spot for the Remo Mondo is (you guessed it) 12 inches. The 14 inch Remo Mondo also sells well, but has a more pronounced high pitch overtone ring than the 12 incher.  We don’t recommend anything larger than the 14″ head. They sound bad.

The Remo Mondo drum has a proprietary shell.  It is wood fibers suspended in resin, then cast into shape.  The inside of the shell is then coated with an acoustic coating. These shells are substantial like wood, but won’t split like wood. They hold up well. There are 25-year-old Remo Mondos still going strong.  The outside of the shell is covered in cloth. This takes the beating for the drum when moving it around. The heads are of course made by REMO. It only takes a few minutes to change a head. Though a head may last decades and may never need to be replaced. These are serious professional musical instruments that will last a lifetime (or two).  You can find them used, but they still command a high price. There is a musician in Seattle who sits on top of a 12 inch Mondo while performing on the sidewalk. Hour after hour, day after day the artist grinds this poor Remo Mondo into the concrete. But the drum lives on to play the next day and sounds wonderful.

Remo has a new Mondo model called the ArtBEAT. The artwork is special, but that is not the reason to buy the ArtBEAT. Remo is using a new style head on the ArtBEAT. It has a coated head that to this reviewer sounds close to what you get with a goat skin head. (But without all the problems with natural skin heads.) The head is called Black Suede. The cost is a bit more for this drum, around $233.00. Highly recomended.

Djembes

Synthetic headed Djembes work well on the Oregon Coast.

On the Oregon coast, the drum circle drum of choice is a djembe with a 12-inch synthetic head, and a synthetic shell. Smaller than a 12-inch head does not sound deep enough for most people. Larger than a 12-inch head and the drum starts to get unwieldy and can pick up unwanted overtone ringing. Animal skin heads fall out of tune when the humidity goes up. Animal skin heads also break in our climate when they get soft. You can’t go wrong with a 12-inch djembe with a synthetic head.

TOCA Freestyle II Mechanically Tuned Djembe $170.00.

A favorite with drum circle drummers

Highly recommended

This drum is the most popular drum being purchased by our drum circle members. It has the synthetic head we need in this climate. Comes in several designs. Sounds great. Has a not to heavy, not to light feel to it. The drum sports a plastic shell that you can play on the beach. You can replace the head if you break the head. You can play around with tuning the drum if you like. You don’t need to worry if you are outside and get caught in the rain. The TOCA Freestyle II is not cheap, but not expensive either. This drum hits the sweet spot on about any way you could evaluate a drum to be used at drum circles. If pushed to recommend a single drum to first-time drum circle drum buyers, this one gets the nod. And as mentioned, many of the Whale Spirit Drummers bought this drum as their first time drum. 

12” Remo Mondo $225.00 for standard models.

This drum will last a lifetime!

The undisputed king of djembes used in professional recordings is the 12” Remo Mondo. This is the first successful synthetic head, synthetic shell, mechanically tuned Djembe. The Remo Mondo come in sizes from 10 inches to a whopping 18-inch head. But more is not better in this regard. The sweet spot for the Remo Mondo is (you guessed it) 12 inches. The 14 inch Remo Mondo also sells well, but has a more pronounced high pitch overtone ring than the 12 incher.  We don’t recommend anything larger than the 14″ head. They sound bad.

The Remo Mondo drum has a proprietary shell.  It is wood fibers suspended in resin, then cast into shape.  The inside of the shell is then coated with an acoustic coating. These shells are substantial like wood, but won’t split like wood. They hold up well. There are 25-year-old Remo Mondos still going strong.  The outside of the shell is covered in cloth. This takes the beating for the drum when moving it around. The heads are of course made by REMO. It only takes a few minutes to change a head. Though a head may last decades and may never need to be replaced. These are serious professional musical instruments that will last a lifetime (or two).  You can find them used, but they still command a high price. There is a musician in Seattle who sits on top of a 12 inch Mondo while performing on the sidewalk. Hour after hour, day after day the artist grinds this poor Remo Mondo into the concrete. But the drum lives on to play the next day and sounds wonderful.

Remo ArtBEAT

$233.00 for 12″

One of the best sounding synthetic Djembes in the world

Highly recomended

Remo has a new Mondo model called the ArtBEAT. The artwork is special, but that is not the reason to buy the ArtBEAT. Remo is using a new style head on the ArtBEAT. It has a coated head that to this reviewer sounds close to what you get with a goat skin head. (But without all the problems with natural skin heads.) The head is called Black Suede. The cost is a bit more for this drum, around $233.00. Highly recomended.

10″ Remo Festival Djembe Drum $126.00

Lightweight – “Black Suede” head. Great for dancing and carrying.

The 10″ Remo Festival Djembe drum sounds a bit weak because it is only has a 10-inch head. But as an entry level djembe, it is a real drum and not a toy. Remo is the king of synthetic drum heads. So the head on this drum is the real thing. It weighs around 5 pounds. You could strap this on your shoulder if you wanted to take it to a political rally, or even dance around a fire on the beach. The head slides on to the shell. The shell made from recycled materials. When you pick up the drum you can feel that the shell is thin but strong.  The head is also special in the world of Remo drumheads.  The head material is a new design called black suede. Only a few top end Remo djembes have this black suede head. Interesting drum overall. This drum is absolutely carefree. Grab it and start playing. If you want to drum and dance at the same time, this is YOUR drum.  

Meinl Viva Rhythm 12” djembe $100.00

What is nice about this entry level djembe is that it is a full 12-inch size. The size is correct for a djembe. Most of the djembes that have removable heads that are not adjustable have 10-inch heads. The 12-inch size and replaceable head moves this drum into the realm of a “real drum”.

Frame Drums

Toca Freestyle Rope tuned $126.00

This Toca is also called a “Freestyle” like the first drum in this review. What is different about this drum it that it is rope tuned. Normally rope tuned drums are difficult to maintain. But this one may never need to be tuned. It is all synthetic and may well stay exactly like it comes out of the box for years. The sound is good. It is a 12″ drum. And it can be played across your lap because it has no metal tuning rods to stab your legs. A different kind of drum, but a nice drum overall. A wonderful value as well.

12.5 inch LP 720 $445.00 Plus synthetic head $70.00 total $515.00


12.5 inch LP Galaxy $530 Plus synthetic head $70.00 total $600.00

Ok, on the top end of the professional and serious amateur djembe market are the LP 720 and the LP Galaxy. There is a reason these drums cost between $500 and $600. The shells are made like a barrel. Strips of wood are glued together then turned on a lathe. The head size is 12.5 inches. The individual pieces of wood form an incredibly strong shell. Far stronger than a single piece of wood. The drums come with a goatskin head but professionals don’t want the natural skin head going limp when the weather changes. Remo came to the rescue of LP percussion and created a synthetic replacement drum head just or this drum. The model number for the synthetic head is [M5-1250-FD]-DJEMBE DRUMHEAD, 12.5″, FIBERSKYN, LIGHT. If you buy this drum, order the head when you order the drum. The hardware on this drum is amazing! The top ring is contoured so you can slap this drum as hard as you want and you won’t hurt your hand. Replacing heads take only a couple of minutes, but you may never need to change the head. You can tweak the tone to exactly where you want if Charley Watts asks you to sit in with the Rolling Stones in their next recording session.  The drum will last a lifetime. A professional instrument to be sure. It will also look like a work of art sitting in your living room.

Remo Tubano

100 Series $240

Highly recommended

Everyone wants to buy a djembe. But for most people a Remo Tubano is actually better. Drummers like that deep sound. The thump. And a Djembe is built to have a hight slap tone. The Tubano has a thick head and has a take your breath away deep, satisfying sound. Drum educators who buy dozens of drums for the class room usually buy a collection of tubano’s rather than Djembes. The “best” tubano is the Remo 100 series. They cost around $240. The 100 series are indestructible. This reviewer has two the are over 30 years old that still get played every drum circle. You can play them standing up or sitting down. You can use your hands, or a mallet. Try one before you buy a djembe. You may find a tubano is just right for you. (The 10′ is also good, but the 12″ is the balance between too small and too large.) Buy this drum and you will have a friend for life.

Tubano 50 series $169.00

This is the mid tier tubano from Remo. The head is not tunable. You simple push the head on the frame. The head is easily replaceable. Actually the easiest of any drum head to replace. The shell is sturdy. The sound good. This model is designed for use in classrooms. It also works well for general recreational drumming. This is a nice alternative to the Djembes costing similar amounts. This is a drum you can store in the trunk of your car and pull out and play whenever the mood strikes you. The drum is not as sturdy as the tunable 100 series, but is a fine recreational drum.

Cajone

Meinl Cajon

$100.00 Model HCAJ1NT

The Cajon is all the rage in hand drumming. These drums are being “gigged” everywhere. You sit on the drum. You play the drum with your hands between your legs. The front has a deep base sound. The sides have a higher-pitched sound. The drum is a bit softer than a djembe, just perfect for playing at home. Still loud enough for a drum circle. Use your hand in the center and you get a nice base note. Hit close to the top of the drum face and you pick up a bit of a snare sound. With practice, you can coax many different sounds out of this box. The most “musical” of any style of drum. Every major drum company makes several models. Spend at least $100.00 and you will have a fine instrument. The Meinl is a great entry-level Cajon. Made of hardwood. You really don’t need to spend any more than this to have a great sounding drum.

Frame Drums

Remo 14″ frame drum $30.00

Frame drums are used all over the world. If you want to test the waters and buy an inexpensive, but playable drum,  get a recreational synthetic 14-inch frame drum. Remo makes a non-tunable 14” drum that sells for around $30.00. Frame drums are used in most cultures around the world. They are at home in a drum circle. You can use your hand, or use a beater. If you want to step up to a djembe or some other kind of drum latter, you can lend this to a friend when they come to the drum circle with you. 

We don’t recommend:

“Authentic” wood shell, goat head, rope tuned, African djembes. I know, I know, these drums are beautiful. When everything is just right they also sound amazing. But they don’t work for us on the Oregon Coast. These drums fall out of tune in our climate. They are difficult to tune even in the best of climates. It is common to see a drummer with one of these djembes off to the side of the drum circle pulling in the ropes to try and bring the drum back in to tune. You also see these players moving the drums close to the fire to try and dry out the drum head to get it to shrink back into shape. It costs at least $120.00  to replace the head on one of these drums. This is important as the heads do break. Online you will read how these are the only “real” djembes. But look, we are not playing authentic African music at a cultural center.  We are playing at drum circles and around beach fires in a climate that borders on being a rain forest. 

ANY drum with an animal skin.Animal skin drums don’t work for us in our climate. It is sad to see someone move to the Oregon Coast with a beautiful elk skin frame drum they bought in Taos. These drums fall out of tune as soon as they arrive to our shores. Even if they are re-stretched the skin head goes limp every time the humidity goes up, or a few drops of rain falls on the drum. If you want this style of drum, pick up a synthetic head frame drum. It does not need to be a $30.00 entry level frame drum. There are plenty of nicely made frame drums that come with synthetic heads and professional models are even tunable. 

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