To Native Americans, dance is ..
Drums are beautiful, sacred things. To maintain their sound and appearance, you’ll need to treat them with tender, loving care. Performing regular maintenance on your drum will increase its longevity and sound quality. Looking for some maintenance tips? Here’s how to care for a Native American drum.
Hang or set your drum in a dry, comfortable space. Avoid wet or damp areas; dampness facilitates mold growth, which can form on the rawhide and wooden frame. Avoid anywhere exposed to direct sunlight or copious amounts of heat—but don’t set it in a cool space, either. Otherwise, to avoid a warped, loose hide, you’ll need to adequately warm your drum before its next use.
Storage rooms, attics, or a simple pegboard on the wall are ideal. Avoid basements, and keep your drum away from windows and heaters.
To avoid a buildup of dirt, you’ll need to regularly clean your drum. Carefully and gently rub down the skin and base with a damp cloth. To moisturize the drum, use your hands. Your skin’s natural oils will keep the drum’s skin taut and lustrous. If the rawhide is especially dry, use plant-based oils such as palm, coconut, or linseed to moisturize it. Soak a soft, clean rag in the oil, wring it out, and then wipe your drum with it.
Don’t clean or moisturize your drum too often, or the hide will soften. If you live in a hot, dry climate, clean and moisturize every few months. If you live in a cooler, wetter climate, you’ll only need to do it every few years.
Another tip on how to care for a Native American drum is to protect it from the weather. Drums are susceptible to shifts in temperature and humidity. When it’s wet and cold, the rawhide soaks up moisture and loosens. The sound becomes flat, dull, and lifeless. You’ll then need to warm and dry the drum. Placing it a separate room will normally do the trick, as will holding it close to your chest, by the heart.
When the weather is hot and dry, your drum will tighten. This can affect its pitch. In worst-case scenarios, the skin will split or become so tight that it twists the frame out of shape. Putting your drum in the shade or spritzing it water can cool it down.
Treat your drum like it’s alive—because at one point, it was. It was made from the dried skin of an animal and wood from a big, beautiful tree. Give it due respect. Don’t set it on rough gravel, neglect its needs, or otherwise mistreat it. If you treat your drum with tender, loving care, its longevity will improve and the sound will remain bright, cheery, and spirited.
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