No, I’m not suggesting a game of Cluedo but instructions on how to make your own steel drum. Or, to be more precise, a Dudup.
[G]et a 35-gallon steel barrel from a junkyard or a cooperage and work on that. You will need to use a heavy ball-peen hammer to properly work the metal of the barrel. Make sure to have a kid around to help. And remember to wear ear plugs!
First, make your stick! (For cans, use a 6 inch piece of 1/2″ dowel with rubber bands or surgical tubing wrapped around the end. For barrels, you will need to glue half of a rubber bouncing ball – we use a Super Pinky – onto the end of an 8″ long 1/2″ dowel. Use epoxy for a strong bond.)
Set your can or barrel on a solid flat surface.
Draw a line with chalk or pen across the top of the can or barrel just slightly off center, dividing the circle into two slightly different sizes. See the diagram.
Use a hammer of an appropriate size to pound up and down the line you have drawn, forcing the surface of the drum down. This will stretch the two areas and make them resonant. You may have to pound more or less on certain areas depending on the material of your drum.
Sometimes the two notes will become apparent as you pound down the line. Use your playing stick with your other hand to test the notes as you hammer. If you are not having any luck, you may need to hammer UP from the inside of the barrel. This can raise the note areas and make them more taut and resonant. Keep trying!
Your Dudup is done when the two areas that make notes are as resonant as possible, and are about a fourth or a fifth apart. Don’t worry if it’s not in tune with your piano; the Dudup is a rhythm instrument that sounds good in any key!
As both a former cricketer and drummer this little project sums up my philosophy regarding both disciplines: just give it a whack and see what happens.
If I get enough encouragement in the comments I promise to have a go making one and video the outcome.