How to Play Hang Drum

The Hang Drum, more accurately known as Hang is an instrument from just two decades ago. Invented by a pair of Swiss musicians, the instrument has gained significant popularity over the years. If you have bought one, you know it is a strange instrument. This is what we will be trying to explain today – how to play hang drum? Let us begin.

The Hang

The Hang is a made from two halves of a nitride steel sheet, stuck together at the rims and edges. The inside is hollow and it gives the instrument a convex like shape. The top surface has a central dent, which is a note. Surrounding this are eight more dents, which create different sounds.

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How to Play Hang Drum
Photo by: Kyle Cox

Without further ado, let’s start talking about exactly how you will be playing a hang drum.

Placing the Drum

Playing a hang drum will require you to place it on your lap, for the most part. Unlike a lot of other drums, you should not be placing it on the floor or a table. However, it may depend on your comfort factor on how you deal with placing the hang drum.

What You Will Play With

To play the hang drum, you will be using your fingers. This is done in some fairly complicated ways, as you will find out soon. Some people also tend to use mallets for playing.

Playing the Notes

The top side of the drum has the notes made in a circle, going from high to low. You can start playing by flicking these dents, or notes to get your desired sound in each case.

By flicking each of the notes you can get a resonating sound in accordance to the instrument. You will have to remember which note is where at first. However, this will eventually imprint into your muscle memory eventually.

Now will come the more difficult part of the playing. You may end up getting used with just hitting the notes with your left and right, but music is more than that. You have to follow a specific set of rules and grammar to be able to get your desired outputs. For today’s lesson, we will be giving some brief description on music theory.

How Music Works on a Hang Drum

Let’s try and understand some music theory on the hang drum while using a simple harmonic minor scale for exercising.

Playing a Scale 

Someone who is familiar with other instruments will already know about this. There are a total of 12 notes in the chromatic scale, 8 (sometimes 7) are on the top surface. The chromatic scale has the notes:



Just about any and all music is composed of these 12 notes today. The harmonic minor scale, or Hijaz scale is a scale that is also composed of these notes. Your hang drum will have all the notes available to play it on the top surface.

Here are the notes on the Hijaz scale, just for your own convenience.



To play this scale, you have to first hit the central note, which is a D. Now you will be climbing up the note scale in an ascending order. Continue playing the notes as your fingers flick the dents only slightly, but not too slightly.

Are you being able to maintain order? Although it is not completely necessary, it helps you learn the order of notes. After you have climbed up to the highest note, go down in the order but in reverse. Continue to do this till you have this pattern down.

You can try practicing different patterns of notes to experiment. This can help you learn different ways to master the playing. However, you will need to get your touches perfectly. Remember that the touch has to be just forceful enough for it to be audible enough – too hard and it will sound terrible.

Mastering the Touch

Hitting the hang drum is not just a matter of force. The goal is not to hit the hang drum as hard as possible. Rather to the contrary, you should aim to hit the drum as if you are touching a stove to test how hot it is. At the top side of the drum, hitting it too lightly will not make the note audible. Hitting it too hard will make it blare and squeal.

Is there a Right way to Play?

There is a definite right and wrong way to play the hang drum. You can simply identify this by considering what music it is made for. The hang drum is made for soothing, calming, ambient music, it is not meant to be played in mainstream songs, usually at least.

However, under the right circumstances, experimenting can go a long way. There is no legitimately wrong way to play a hang drum. There are various ways for you to try and find out what method of playing suits you best.

Pro Tip

Remember to try and play some tunes that you come up on your own. It will help you build your creativity and improve your ear. Listen to some music and try to see if you can play that on your hang drum. Sticking to tutorials or notations may help, but your creativity will need you experimenting a lot.


The most important part of learning how to play the hang drum is the same for any other instrument. Practice will take you a long way. What you may consider mediocre at first may just be mediocre in reality, but with enough practice, you can take your skills to a different level.

We hope this article has helped you get a grasp the basics of the hang drum, and has got you started on a new adventure.

You can also read: How to Pan Drums?

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