Percussive Arts Society

the official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

Slit drums are among the oldest types of percussion instruments, found in Asia, Africa and South America. The earliest slit drums, dating back 750,000 years, were made by cutting, burning or gouging a slit in the wall of a hollowed-out piece of wood. The instruments vary in size from gigantic ones, made from entire tree trunks and housed in their own roofed shelter, to portable ones, including the orchestral woodblock and temple block. On many of the drums the two sides of the slit are carved to different thicknesses in order to produce two tones. In some cultures, slit drums are found in sets with a range of sizes and pitches. Slit drums are sometimes used for signaling as well as for musical purposes. Some signaling codes are made up of sequences of long and short beats, while others attempt to replicate the pitch phonemes of human speech. In many cultures, slit drums are also played at ritual ceremonies and feasts or to accompany dance.



Donated by Emil Richards 

This large slit drum is typical of the ornate instruments of Oceania. It is intricately carved in the shape of a porpoise. The eyes are inlaid sea shells. It is struck with its matched wood beater, which also features decorative carvings.




Donated by Florence “Flip“ Manne 

These very resonant instruments may be played by sticks or hands and are common to the Pacific islands. The shorter slit drum with the handle is made from a very dense hardwood, contrasted with the larger, soft wood drum, which weighs considerably less.




Donated by Vida Chenoweth 

This instrument was collected by Vida Chenoweth during her work in New Guinea. Human faces are carved in the handles at each end. The sides of the drum vary in thickness and sound a whole step apart.

New Guinea



Donated by Emil Richards 

These pairs of slit drums are brightly painted and beautifully carved to resemble beasts and birds, each perched on a pedestal. This pairing of instruments is common in some cultures, attributing male and female characteristics to each instrument. The slits in each pair are of a different length and depth to offer a variety of tones.


Source link