south american bongos
Tools and Gear

Rhythms of the World

Percussion is the heartbeat of music all over the world.  No matter where you are from, or what style of music you enjoy, the percussion is what inspires you most to move your feet and sway your body to the beat.  Although there are thousands of types of percussion, the most well-known instrument for percussion all around the world is the drum.  Drums come in a variety of shapes and sizes; some of which you may be familiar with, and others that you may have never imagined.  Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known drums from each area of the world!

south american bongos

North America

North America is one of the most modernized places in the world, and as such percussion has been subject to great advances in technology.  Although more traditional drums are often used, the majority of commercial music in North America is derived from a standard drum set which is comprised of a bass drum, a series of somewhat melodic toms, a crackling snare drum, and an array of cymbals.  Developments in electronic music, such as the Dubstep movement, use electronic recordings of percussion sounds so that one performer can use thousands of drum sounds simultaneously to produce completely synchronized music.  Sites like Beatport offer compilations, such as Top 100 Dubstep songs, can help familiarize you with new musical trends.  Keep in mind that drums used in North America are almost all adopted from other parts of the world.


South America

South America offers a rich array of music, along with a vibrant history of percussive instruments.  There are maracas, steel drums, and wood blocks; but the drums that are the most symbolic of the Hispanic culture in South America have to be the bongos and congas.  These drums are made of wooden cylinders, varying in size from about a foot in height up to four feet or more.  The heads are covered in animal hide; often pig skin but it can vary depending on what is available and plentiful in the area.  By depressing the skin of the drum head with one hand, and striking with the other, you can create a beautiful variety of tones and percussive strikes.


UK and Europe

Scotland and Ireland have their own brand of rhythm that is not found anywhere else in the world.  The Gaelic style of music uses an unusual syncopation of beats often organized in a 3/4 or 6/4 time signature, and also transforms stringed instruments into percussion with rhythmic strums.  One thing you will rarely miss in a traditional Irish or Scottish band, however, is a frame drum and a bone.  The frame drum is only a few inches in depth, but has a very broad head made of either skin or a synthetic material.  It can be played with different types of sticks, but for more old school percussionists a bone, such as the femur leg bone from a small mammal, will work perfectly.  Although they are not as versatile tonally as some of their South American cousins, they can create a very striking mixture of percussive sounds at a very controllable volume.  This is especially valuable since this style of music is typically performed acoustically and volume control is of the essence in a live performance.



Although there are a variety of different names and styles of the drums of Asia, one very noticeable difference is the size.  The drums of traditional Asian music tend to be much larger than those of any other culture.  Although constructed similarly to the drums of South America, they can easily be 10 times as large, which produces a much more deep and thunderous tone that can be physically felt in your body as a result of the sound waves.  One well known example of this is the famous Japanese Taiko, which can range from the size of a large pumpkin to the size of a small car in some instances.


Just as we all came from Africa, all of our percussion did as well.  Describing a typical drum from Africa is nearly impossible.  The music of the African people is largely based on percussion, and as such they use every available wood, skin, gourd, and animal part to create an amazing array of percussive tones.  In many cases the percussion is both the rhythm and the melody. The array of tones and rhythmic patterns intertwined is beautifully melodic and intoxicating.

Drums are the perfect travel souvenir or representation of the place you long to visit; they are decorative, culturally significant and are fun to play around with. While flying home with large instrument may not be necessarily practical, retailers like West Music offer over a whole slew of diverse of drums from around the world so you can bring the percussive tones of Africa and the electrifying beat of the bongos to your home.

Great for kids and adults alike, drums can help us get in tune with the beat of our hearts and the rhythmic pulse of life around us. While it would be an undoubtedly amazing experience to travel around the world to experience varying styles and kinds of instruments, most of us do not have time to do so or cannot afford such a journey. West Music offers over 100 different types of drums from around the world so you can bring the percussive tones of Africa and the electrifying beat of the bongos to your home. Find which one calls to you today.

A generation 'y'er from Ireland, living his dreams and convincing you to do the same. Traveling through more than 90 countries around the world and showing no signs of slowing down