Construction

The basic form is the simple frame drum. The drum-maker uses a wooden frame, bent, carved or pieced together and covered on one or both sides. Indigenous peoples have used deer, moose, caribou, elk, cow and even fish skins to make drum heads. The choice of hide depends on either what is available or what a specific tradition might prescribe. The drum-maker completely soaks the hide and then attaches it to the frame, using only medium tension. As the hide dries, it shrinks and pulls tight.  How the maker attaches the hide varies greatly, from thongs and various styles of lacings to tacking the head to the frame with wooden or metal pins or tacks.

On frame drums, the lap joint is critically important. A poorly joined hoop can lead to drum failure.

A log drum requires a carefully chosen and hollowed-out log. This assures stability and durability. Some drums have one head while others have two.

The typical drum frame throughout most of Canada now consists of a wood board bent into a circle. Similar drums are octagonal or poly-sided. The crafter pieces this frame together, or grooves the board inside at several places, then bends it into the desired shape.
The wood’s thickness and depth varies. The form depends on local cultural traditions as well as what kinds of wood are available. In the more northern parts of Canada, the trees are smaller so the drums become thinner. I have seen drums ranging from very thin and light to very solid and heavy. Drum sizes can range from 10 – 20 centimetres to well over one metre.