Of all the musical instruments we’ve collected this year, our bell drum is the easiest to play and the most wonderful to share. It’s a musical instrument for the non-musical, as it’s a percussion instrument that is tuned to always sound harmonious.

Hapi bell drum, July 2013
Our bell drum is easy to play and it's impossible to hit a wrong note.

I was first introduced to the bell drum at Didge Fest earlier this year. It was there that I met Col who up-cycles expired gas cylinders into meditation bowls and bell drums. Later in Melbourne, we stayed at a house where one of the occupants brought out a Hapi bell drum, and I was hooked.

I chose to buy a Hapi drum because they offer one “mini” model that fits easily into the bus. The gasongs made by Col are too large for us to travel with. Many musical instruments are bulky, but the mini bell drum is portable and easy to play.

Lana playing a Hapi bell drum, July 2013
Whenever I have the bell drum out, the girls like to have a turn playing on it.

Lana sings, July 2013
As she plays, Lana likes to sing little songs (usually about Cloud "the cutest rat I've ever seen").

Before we came to Mundo Perdido, Bruce was already planning on converting his own gas cylinder into a bell drum. Our mutual friend Brian has already had experience doing this, so this week Bruce got a quick lesson from Brian on how to make his own.

Bruce playing the bell drum with Sophie in the background, July 2013
I like to hear how others play the bell drum. Everyone has their own style, and with all the notes complementing each other, it always sounds great!

The first step in making a bell drum is to look at the configuration of the tongues. The length and width of the tongue determines the note it will make. Most bell drums are configured so low notes alternate with high ones.

D Akebono scale on the Hapi bell drum, July 2013
This diagram shows the notes on my little bell drum. The D Akebono scale originates from Japan and produces an exotic sound like many meditative musical tracks.

Making a bell drum from a gas bottle, July 2013
After marking out the square on the top of the gas canister, Bruce starts to cut them out with an angle grinder.

The lower a note, the longer the tongue will be. Bruce started with the highest note he had cut (just roughly) and tweaked it to the sound he wanted, and from there he carved out the lower notes around it.

Making a bell drum from a gas bottle, July 2013
He completes the cuts using a metal-cutting blade on the jigsaw.

There are many different instrument tuners available for the phone, or a traditional tuner works as well. Hapi have shared the pentatonic scales that they use for their bell drums, and they can be used as a template for a home-made bell drum.

Making a bell drum from a gas bottle, July 2013
A rubber ball on the end of a stick acts as a mallet. Bruce listens to the note each tongue makes as he checks it against a phone app that reads the tone.

Making a bell drum from a gas bottle, July 2013
The bottom of the bell drum needs to have a hole cut out to improve the bell drum's resonance. Bruce has made his into a love-heart.

Bruce plans to paint his bell drum when it’s perfectly tuned and then gift to his wife Sophie. Making a bell drum from a gas cylinder an excellent project for someone to undertake with minimal tools, moderate skill but a great result!

Let me know if you do it!