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Tips for Buying a Dholak Drum

A dholak is a traditional South-Asian percussion folk instrument, primarily from India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The dholak includes two drum heads connected by one piece of wood. When purchasing an instrument for you, consider several factors for your size, pitch preference, and skill level.

What Should I Look for When Buying a Dholak?

Similar to when buying any used musical instrument, you'll want to check for a few major details in this Indian drum.

  • Wood Quality: Often made of a hard wood like Sheesham or seasoned Indian Rose Wood, the density and strength of the wood determines the sound quality. Invest in a stronger wood when making a serious investment in the life of the drum.
  • Hardware: The tuning and connection hardware should meet standards specific to dholak construction. Inquire about the materials used for the hooks and nuts on the treble skin, the dhol sockets on the shell, and tension rings on the base, to name a few. All should be rust-protected and fortified in high heat during construction.
  • Base and Treble Skin: Base skins are traditionally made from goat skin while treble skins are often plastic. Thickness and coating determine the pitches range of treble and bass pitch, so be sure to note your preference before purchasing.

What Are the Main Parts of a Dholak?

The dholak is a smaller version of the dhol, and is often known as a dholaki. This Indian hand drum variety typically has three main parts:

  • Large and Small Aperture: On either side of the drum, the drum head or large and small apertures produce a low and high pitch respectively. The large aperture tends to be coated in a dholak masala: a mixture of clay, sand, and tar, which lowers the pitch of percussion. The small aperture on the other side makes higher, treble notes.
  • Shell: Made of a variety of hard wood just around 16 inches long. The hardness of the wood determines the clarity in sound of the musical instrument.
  • Tuning: The adjustable lacing or turnbuckle tuning sits on both sides of the dholak by the two apertures. Bolt-tuned drums are becoming more common, but both are seen in this two-headed drum.

What Are Some Tips When Learning to Play a Dholak?

When learning any percussion instrument for the first time, it's important to find a teacher who can directly comment on your growing technique. Overall ips for early dholak playing include:

  • Start Slow: Each stroke of the dholak produces a specific timbre and pitch, so it's important to master clarity before speed.
  • Study its History: The history of dholak playing has a rich past in India and surrounding areas. By researching and growing a respect for the music itself, you approach learning the instrument with more artistry.
  • Practice Meditation: Based in its Indian roots, playing such a specific percussive instrument requires incredible focus. Teachers often suggest mediation to improve rhythmic skills.