Homemade Steel Drum

By Elizabeth Mackey ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Coffee can or paint can
  • Rubber mallet
  • Wooden stick
  • Marker
  • Ruler
Make your own steel drums.

A steel drum is a Caribbean percussion instrument that uses a steel resonator with a dented surface. The dents help create a pitch based on how far the sound bounces back and forth or "resonates." These drums can be made at home using everyday household items.

Find an empty can, preferably a coffee can. Make sure the can is completely cleaned out before working with it. Once the can is clean, turn it upside down. Looking down on the bottom side, section off equal areas of the circle with a marker and a ruler. Consider using four sections so that you only have to make two marks. This will make for a relatively easy first attempt.

Take a rubber mallet and gently tap one section until a dent is created. Test the dented area by lightly hitting it with a wooden stick and listening for the sound that it makes. Notice that the further inward the dent is, the higher the note will be. This is due to how far the sound has to travel--a smaller distance creates a higher note.

After finding the right sound, move on to the next area on the coffee can. Tap the area until the dent is visibly and audibly different from the previous one. Continue on to the next two sections, leaving one section without a dent if desired to create differentiation in sound.

Test the whole drum. If you think the sound is unsatisfactory, alter the dents until you find the right sound. Once the sound is satisfactory, play the drum.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mackey began her writing career in 2007, working as a writing center consultant. She now writes for the marketing and community relations department of Lutheran Health Network. Mackey received a B.A. in English composition and is working toward an M.A. in rhetoric and composition.