Friction Drum

The friction drum is a musical instrument that has a membrane extending from a sound box. It creates sound from the friction made on the membrane of the instrument with either a stick or string. A pot or jar could be used as a sound box for the friction drum. A shoulder strap of the instrument allows its musician to hold it with the friction drum sitting at chest height. 

Brown Wooden Friction Drum
unnamed; Smithsonian released as CC0 image, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Painting of Orlando Gibbons
See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The first friction drum was made in the 16th century and was invented by Orlando Gibbons. It originates from Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa in many different forms. 

The friction drum is made in a variety of different ways. For instance, in the country of Malta, this instrument’s pot is made out of clay alongside with bull skin. On the other hand, in Romania, the friction drum is composed of a wooden bucket and animal skin.

View of a Brown Wooden Friction Drum from underneath
unnamed; Smithsonian released as CC0 image, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Friction Drum
JoachimG, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The friction drum is mainly used for religious purposes. For example, Germany celebrates a tradition called Rummelpott, where masked children on New Year’s Eve sing various Rummelpott songs with their friction drums.

How do I play the instrument?

You can play the instrument by producing friction on the membrane. Friction can be created by rubbing the membrane with the player’s fingers, a stick, or a piece of cloth.

Are there any instrument silimar to this one?

Mirliton or kazoo are both instruments similar to the friction drum. They both need friction in order to make musical sounds.

How long does it take to learn?

It takes about 10-12 months to become a great friction drummer.

Is there special equipment needed for the instrument?

Along with the instrument itself, the friction drum also needs a sound box. Any type of hollow object like a pot or jug can be utilized as a sound box.

Friction Drum
El Pantera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rock with a Star!

Let’s enjoy the sound of the friction drum through this wonderful performance.

Pearl Percussionist Rafael Pereira demonstrates the Cuica… a friction drum with an 8 feet Goatskin head and included sponge for grip on an inner bamboo stick.