Best Steel Drum: Ultimate Buying Guide (2022)

This post is the ultimate guide for buying the best steel drum according to your:

  • skill level
  • budget
  • needs

You won’t waste time on further research since I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you.

Here is my top pick upfront:
13 Note Handpan in D Minor

I picked 8 models and I will go through the pros and cons of each but first, let me point out a few decision makers while buying

Best Overall

9.7

ThatScore

Bang for Buck

8.9

ThatScore

Runner Up

8.5

ThatScore

Best sound

9.8

ThatScore

Best for kids

8

ThatScore

Most versatile

9.7

ThatScore

Most unique sound

9

ThatScore

Most Durable

8

ThatScore

What to know before buying a steel drum

Before you even buy your first steel drum, you need to consider some things.

Scales

Drum scales determine the sound of a drum, meaning they play a leading role in how the sound will make you feel. Luckily, you only need to know five major scales: 

  • Diatonic
  • C major(best for experts)
  • Pentatonic
  • D major (best for beginners)
  • E minor

Since you are most likely a beginner drummer, a D major is the best choice to go with.

Notes

The steel drum is capable of producing a certain amount of notes. If you want the ability to create a wide range of tunes, choose the 13 notes drum. However, if you are a beginner, the best choice is to go with an 11 notes drum.

Material 

The material from which the steel drum is created is crucial since it is closely tied to its durability. 

Often, steel drums are made from either alloy or pure steel. Some reliable manufacturers use stainless steel, ensuring that it never comes to rusting in a short period. 

It would be best if you always aimed to choose the stainless steel drum since it is more durable, and the price difference is negligible. Stainless steel drums consistently outperform alloy or pure steel drums, quality and durability-wise.

Tuning

Many steel drums require to be tuned twice, once before color application and once after. Some drums that are tuned again after painting will have changes in scale. 

You will need to tune them once again when you purchase them. Tuning steel drums is not as easy as it seems, and the best solution is to bring your steel drum to a trained steel drum trainer. 

However, if you prefer to do everything on your own, here are three main steps to tune your steel drum:

  1. Coarse Tuning – in the first phase of tuning, the metal of the notes is softened, and you must put the notes at the right pitch before actual fine-tuning starts.
  2. Fine Tuning – here, you need to adjust pitch and timbre. All that must be done while the pan is hanging in its playing position.
  3. Blending – the last tuning phase occurs when the surface has been finished, and you need to undergo one more final tuning.

Steel drum case

You will need to buy a steel drum case to further protect your instrument from potential damage.

Steel drum lifespan

The average lifespan of a steel drum is 20 years. Initially, they were designed to be reused indefinitely, meaning that if you take care of the instrument, it will last you for a long time.

Best Steel Drums - Editor's Choice

9.7Expert Score
13 Note Handpan in D Minor Pro Series

Best Overall

Built quality
9.8
Sound quality
9.8
Value for money
9.6
Pros
  • Improved sound quality and clarity
  • High-quality stainless steel
  • Wide range of playing styles and dynamic range
Cons
  • Not the best option for beginners

13 Note Handpan has improved sound quality and clarity compared to the previous manufacturer models, making it even more enjoyable to play. 

Its build material, stainless steel, makes it almost impossible to damage and ensures your drum will last longer. 

The drum sounds are great for 1-hour yoga and meditation sessions and allow you to achieve more profound relaxation. 

However, this drum is probably not the best choice for beginners since 13 notes are more suitable for professionals. 

Nevertheless, a wide range of playing styles and dynamic range finds it impossible to find something you can’t play on this drum, making it very versatile.

8.9Expert Score
Original 12” Tongue Drum

Runner Up

Built quality
8.4
Sound quality
8.5
Value for money
9.7
Pros
  • High-quality sound
  • Great value for money
  • Excellent for relaxation
Cons
  • Build from alloy steel

 

Original 12″ Tongue Drum is a relaxation drum ideal for drumming sessions that aim to neglect stress through producing high-quality melodic sounds. 

Twelve notes make it very straightforward to learn, and in just a couple of weeks, you will be able to play it entirely since it is 100% intuitive. 

In addition, it is straightforward to learn how to play this drum since you can play it in a free-flowing way, and that is because it doesn’t require any musical knowledge. 

However, the drum is built of alloy steel which makes it not the best choice durability-wise. 

Finally, 12 notes enable this drum to produce high-quality sound waves that are the best for reducing stress. Furthermore, constantly playing this drum will slow down your mind and take you to a calm mood.

8.5Expert Score
Meinl 12" Steel Tongue Drum

Most Calming

Built quality
8.2
Sound quality
8
Value for money
9.4
Pros
  • Comes with a bag
  • Great pitch
  • Firmly built
Cons
  • Not built from stainless steel

 

The drum is pre-tuned with individual notes allowing it to be used straight from the box and also making it great for non-musicians. 

This steel drum’s particular definition and volume make it excellent for breathing exercise sessions and for invoking feelings of relaxation even more. 

In addition, the drum comes with the bag making it easy to be carried around and protected from excessive damage. 

However, the drum is not made from stainless steel, making it less durable at shortening its lifespan. 

Finally, the drum is designed by the German company Meinl, a family company with a great history of manufacturing drums since 1951. 

Furthermore, their expert designers have a thorough understanding of sound quality, making it almost impossible to acquire the low quality-sound drum.

9.8Expert Score
Guda Drum Freezbee

Best sound

Built quality
9.7
Sound quality
9.7
Value for money
9.9
Pros
  • Creative and stylish design
  • Built from stainless steel
  • Hand-made
Cons
  • Hard to see notes in the dark

The remarkable thing about this drum is its creative and stylish design. The drum design looks like a mandala, making it impossible not to get noticed and giving a unique pleasure to your eye. 

In addition to the beautiful and creative design, the drum is also built from stainless steel, making it last you longer and harder to be damaged.

This drum can be played with both mallets and hands, making it fun to play, and you don’t need to worry about forgetting to bring your mallets ever again since the enjoyment and the actual sound of playing with both mallets and hands are the same. 

The only thing I find as a downside to this drum are notes, which are not seen clearly in the dark because of the design. However, the last model on our list, Pearl Steel Tongue Drum, is perfect for playing in the dark since you can clearly see its notes.

Nevertheless, the drum is engraved by hand, making it look even more beautiful and of better quality.

regis steel tongue drums
8Expert Score
Regis Steel Tongue Drum

Best for Kids

Built quality
7.6
Sound quality
7.7
Value for money
8.7
Pros
  • Hand-made
  • Great for beginners and kids
  • Small and portable
Cons
  • Built from alloy steel

Regis steel tongue drum is hand-made, making it enjoyable to use since the quality is top-notch. 

The sound quality is crisp, beautiful, and great for relaxation sessions to remove the stress from your shoulders further. 

The drum is very versatile and can be used on many occasions, such as concerts, yoga, meditations, etc. 

The only downside is the material, which is alloy steel, since it makes less durable. 

Finally, the drum is excellent for beginners and kids since it has 11 notes, making it just perfect for people who are starting to play drums. Also, the weight of the drum is perfect for kids since they would easily carry it around the house without any problem.

9.7Expert Score
Multi ScaleTongue Drum

Most versatile

Built quality
9.7
Sound quality
9.8
Value for money
9.6
Pros
  • Multi-scale
  • Comes with a case
  • Wide range of styles
Cons
  • Unsuitable for kids due to its weight

This multi-scale drum has 6 different scales, making it suitable for both beginners and professionals. 

The tuning system is also great since it allows you to switch from one scale to another effortlessly. 

The drum also comes with a case, making it easy to be carried around and protected from any potential damage. 

However, this drum is only unsuitable for kids since it is hard to carry around due to its weight. 

Furthermore, this steel drum is hand-decorated and hand-tuned, making it the highest quality.

9Expert Score
Zenko Melodic Percussion Steel Tongue Drum

Most unique sound

Built quality
9.4
Sound quality
8.9
Value for money
8.7
Pros
  • Built from stainless steel
  • Comes with a case and a support pad
  • Built from stainless steel
Cons
  • Not the best option for kids due to its weight and size

Zenko steel drum is a beautifully designed drum that is excellent for relaxation and music therapy. 

It is also built from stainless steel, making it almost impossible to damage. In addition, it comes with a case that is excellent for protecting it from any potential damage. 

However, the size and weight of this drum are not the best options for kids since it can’t be carried around easily. 

Furthermore, the drum comes with a support pad, which is excellent for making your drum more stable and, in turn, easily played.

8Expert Score
Pearl Steel Tongue Drum

Most options

Built quality
7.6
Sound quality
7.7
Value for money
8.7
Pros
  • Excellent for beginners
  • Unique design and color
  • Great sound quality
Cons
  • Doesn't come with a case
  • Not built from stainless steel

Pearl Steel Tongue Drum has 9 notes, making it the best option for beginners since they will learn to play it more easily. 

Also, the color of the drum, red, is unique and gives a nice edge to its design. The sound quality is excellent and suitable for relaxation yoga or meditation sessions. 

However, the drum doesn’t come with a case and is not built from stainless steel, making it less durable and more prone to damage. 

Lastly, the drum is an excellent option for your kids since the 9 notes will enable them to learn and become more familiar with drums quickly.

What should I look for when buying a steel drum?

When buying a steel drum, look for the material from which it is built, its sound quality, and how many notes it has. Stainless steel is the best option regarding material, and 11 notes are best for beginners, whereas 13 notes are more for experts.

Is it hard to learn steel drums?

Learning to play the steel drum is very straightforward, and that’s why many people who don’t like complicated instruments start with it.

How thick is the metal on a steel drum?

Most drums are 1.2 mm thick, and you can see that when you find the three numbers like 1.3/0.8/1.4, where the first number represents the top, the second the body, and the third the bottom. 

Conclusion

Let’s sum it up!

We have learned that you need to know about scales, notes, material, and tuning before buying the best steel drum for yourself. 

In addition, having a nice steel drum case will ensure your drum lasts longer and further protect it from any damage. 

It would be best if you always aimed to buy a drum made from stainless steel since it is the most durable material and will protect it from any potential damage. 

Furthermore, our top pick is the 13 Note Handpan in D Minor since it is built from stainless steel and is designed more for professionals. 

Let us know in the comments below which drum is your top pick and why.

Denis Loncaric

Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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  1. […] pieces of mallets. In this way, you can find out which one can produce the best output for your steel drum. Since the process is easy and doesn't consume your time, crafting multiple mallets won't be a […]

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