Balloon Drums


Many people have made balloon drums, and these are my entry into the field. The typical balloon drum has balloon latex stretched as a membrane over the end of a tube, perhaps 2” or 3” in diameter and between about 6” and 30” long. (In the set shown here, flat latex membranes were used in place of  balloons.) They lend themselves very well to playing in multiples, so balloon drums are typically made in sets. They produce recognizable pitches, but some complexity arises, pitch-wise, in the interaction between the modes the vibrating membrane and those of the tubular air column below. With that in mind, balloon drum sets are often left random in pitch; yet the idea of tuning them more prescriptively is not hopeless. Indeed, the set shown here has been deliberately tuned (though not with a high degree of precision), and has shown it can hold a tuning a little better than one might expect. The reason I love these drums is: they produce a very warm and full tone, like a quieter version of a much larger drum (in recordings they may even fool the ear in this regard). Yet they’re light, compact, portable, inexpensive, easy to make.

In the audio clip, the balloon drums are joined by bass toombah, Disorderly Tubling Forth, and a lot of percussion. 


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