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Caring For Your
Precious Drum

7 Tips To Keep Your Thunder Valley Drum Partner In Tiptop Condition 

Congratulations on owning a Thunder Valley Drums Hoop Drum! You are now in the company of a very special, sacred instrument and partner. And partners need love! It is part of the joy of partnering with an all-natural drum, in that each partner gets to know each other and to rely on one another for a lifetime. Your partner has needs, just like you, so here are some helpful insights and suggestions.


ONE: Your Drum Is Made For Drumming... And Hugging!


When you first receive your drum, you will of course want to play it! Generally speaking, though, the drum has been on a long journey and may need some orienting to your environment. If it’s a wet day when the drum arrives, it may even sound a bit flat. If so, see #3 below for how to tune it up. Otherwise, give it a hug then play it as long as you like…drum on! 

TWO: Bonding With And Smudging Your Drum


(This in only a suggestion, but I guarantee it will help you to bond even more with your drum.) Plan to spend some quiet time with your drum. Lay the beater (drumstick) aside and simply hold the drum. Slowly rub your hand over its surface while closing your eyes, and try to sense the drum’s energy and soul. Lay your hand gently on the center of the drum head. Talk to it and welcome it into your life. Pledge to care for it, and explain your intentions on how you hope the two of you can proceed to be of service to each other and to all of life. You can do the same with the drumstick, too. 


If you like, you can incorporate the above into a beautiful “smudging.” The term denotes a ceremony for cleansing and empowering. I’ve provided a small quantity of smudging materials for you to do so. The small sachet pouch contains herbs that are good for spiritual cleansing when it is burnt during your ceremony. It has some resin pieces in it to help produce smoke once you light it. (You should probably do your smudging outside in a place you consider to be special.) Be sure to smudge yourself (wafting the smoke clockwise all around yourself) first and any visitors who are with you. Then smudge the drum and drumstick. While doing so, you may pray, chant or choose any other means of expression that your heart may lead you to as a way to express appreciation and gratitude for the cleansing and preparation of your union with the drum, and of its union with you. 

If you like, you may want to add the Lightning totem that Bob includes as part of the drum. It consists of a small Lightning bead (made from Lightning-struck wood), and a few small emerald chips on copper wire, (see illustration, right). Simply twist the wire loosely around one of the binding laces on the bottom of the drum. Read more about lightning and shamanism here.


Take your time and enjoy the experience even after the herbs burn. When finished, play your drum partner reverently, then invite others to join in with their drums, if others are present. It is a wonderful way to start a beautiful relationship with your drum.

THREE: Tuning Your Hoop Drum


This is a subject that new drummers can find confusing, and that even experienced drummers can forget!

The rawhide drum head, no matter whether it is cow, goat or any other animal is subject to stretching and contracting when humidity is high, or under other conditions like extreme temperatures. As a result, it may sound flat—sometimes very flat! OR, it may sound “too tight” and high-pitched. Here’s what to do.


When it sounds flat, heat it slightly on top and from underneath with a hair dryer or other heat source for a minute or two. If you are near a fire, just hold it at a safe distance away from the flames, and before long you’ll discover that it has its good voice again. You can place it in the sun for a few minutes, too, and that will work great. But don’t let it in the sun too long! A good rule of thumb is to not heat the rawhide any warmer than what you can stand on the back of your hand. Too hot and—ping! The hide splits or a tie-down breaks, and the drum is no longer functional. Overheating can also eventually diminish the hide’s elasticity, so stay on the moderate side with heating the skin. If you stay moderate, the elasticity will remain. It really doesn’t require much heat to tune your drum. In fact, holding it against your chest can also restore its tone in a little while, and you get the bonus of loving your drum. Best of all, it will return the favor!

Conversely, if your drum’s pitch is too high, dampen the drum head with a bit of water on your fingertips or spray bottle. Lightly rub in the water from the center outward. Wait a few minutes, and it should be ready to play. If not, repeat with a little more water. Be aware though that you should not do this if your drum is painted! An alternative means of loosening the drum head is to step outside on humid days, or to place the drum in a humid room in your dwelling (like the bathroom or kitchen) for a short time.

FOUR: Where to keep your drum?


It's best to keep your drum wrapped in a blanket when you're not using it. But since it's a member of the family, some people like to keep it close by and out in the open. That's great, but keep the following in mind.


Hanging the Drum on the Wall: Yes, it is okay to hang the drum on the wall, so long as it is not hung by one of the cross-laces on the bottom nor from the suede lacing around the sides. Better to hang it from the frame on a padded and upward facing nail or hook. Avoid hanging it near a heat or air conditioning vent, as either can make it too taut and potentially damage it. It is not advisable to hang a drum near sources of humidity, like the bathroom or kitchen, unless you intend to do so a short time to tone down your drum a bit (see above paragraph). Also, it should be kept away from windows where the sun may shine on it. And! Check your drum occasionally if you hang it on the wall. It may require a bit of water rubbed in, or a quick warm-up, depending on temperature and humidity. (Frankly, I keep my drums wrapped in blankets most of the time.)

Placement Elsewhere: It's inevitable that sometimes one simply places a drum on a shelf, table or anywhere it can rest. If that's the case with you, please refer to the previous paragraph about avoiding heat / air conditioning ducts, etc. Also, make sure it's away from stretching arms, wagging dogs' tails, raucous children or any perilous location where it could be knocked onto the floor. (And yes, your dog may think your new drum is a new chew toy!)

FIVE: Cleaning Your Drum Partner


I advise not to attempt to clean the drum head unless it’s an emergency. Over time, the drum will take on a wonderful patina if allowed to mature naturally. If you spill something on it, daub it out with a slightly damp rag. Don’t rub, though, or you could end up making the stain larger, (or ruin the painting on painted drums). In extreme circumstances, if there is a stain you can’t stand, attempt to clean it with a small bit of soap and water and a soft brush before it has a chance to dry. But never dampen the entire surface at the same time. Allow to dry thoroughly before playing, as the top will be soft from the water.


Do not use saddle soap or anything like that, or anything with oil in it, as it may permanently soften the rawhide and the drum will not be usable until you replace the top.  For a drum without a painted top, you can add a little gloss to your drum over time by rubbing in some unscented shea butter, but only an itty-bitty amount on a clean cloth. A little goes a long way.

SIX: Other Suggestions 


It’s worth repeating, and that is, don’t leave your drum in the sun or in freezing temperatures! Too hot or too cold and the drum head could split, or the frame could be damaged. Treat the rawhide like you would treat your own skin. But better! The old way of treating a drum for protection from the elements was to apply some bear grease on it. But that’s no longer possible for most people. So, if exposure is unavoidable, wrap the drum in a blanket to help insulate it from either heat or cold extremes. 

SEVEN: Painting Your Own Drum


It is a wonderful act to paint your own drum. Our artist, Glenn Lewis, suggests using acrylic paint, should you decide to take the plunge. He advises to keep the paint well thinned and build it up with layers, making sure each layer is completely dry before adding another.

In Summary: Showin' Some Drum Love

A natural drum is not like a synthetic. It’s better! Its personality is evident, its appearance and sound is authentic— wrinkles and all, and it is as alive as you are. It is a true sacred helper.

If you can make caring for it a part of your ceremony and regular practice, you will come to appreciate just how special it is. The two of you are healers, so healing and maintaining each other first is a good rule. That way, then, you’ll both be fully ready to help others.

Please feel free to communicate with me any old time. I am dedicated to service. I certainly invite your suggestions on how you think I could improve my craft or the service I provide. 

And finally, I sincerely thank you for your purchase, and for your friendship. I wish you a wonderful lifetime of love and joy with your new healing partner.    


Aho & Namaste,  


a woman hugging her shamanic Drum
A Pennsylvania man secretly purchased a 12" "Hummingbird"-type drum for his wife's birthday, then caught the big reveal the moment she opened her package. She loves her drum! (You can read more about the couple on the Hummingbird Customer Comments page here.) Thank you, Brad, for sharing such a wonderful photo! --Bob
Hummingbird illustration
a shamans lightning addon for drum
hammer illustration
nail illustration
a long-haired artist paints a Thunder Valley Drum
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