Frame Drum Basics (upright)

Watch the beginning chapter from instructional DVD “Worldpercussion 1 – Frame Drums”

This is a type of framedrum that has many names and you find it in a lot of different countries and music-cultures. It is basically a simple frame with a skin and sometimes a thumbhole or space for the thumb. It is part of the middle-eastern percussion section, and also used a lot in spiritual music around the world.


Most tars have a thumbhole or a space for the left thumb. Form a “U” with your left hand, and put the thumb through the hole. With the tip of your right hand thumb you stabilize the drum from the side ca 90 degrees from your left hand. It is important not to grab the drum with your left hand. The drum has to be free to move a little while playing. It just needs some time to find the balance.

stroke stroke


For the bass stroke use the right ringfinger. You reach towards the center of the drum, hit the skin and let your finger bounce off immediately. All the strokes with the right hand are done with a movement also from the wrist, not only the finger.

stroke stroke


The rimstroke is done with the right and left ringfingers on the edge of the rim. Try not to dampen the skin and to make the sound as open as possible

stroke stroke


For this stroke your hand should be slightly cupped. Then you hit the drum as much towards the center as possible and keep the hand on the skin for a moment to dampen the sound.
stroke stroke


Below you see the accents of the middle eastern rhythm malfuf.

Now some additional strokes are added.

In the next pattern all the spaces are filled up. These strokes should be played softly and the accents stand out clearly. You can also play hand to hand (rlrlrlrl). For practice it´s good to play it both ways.

Here the accent taks are exchanged for slaps. Also this one can be played hand to hand, but then one of the slaps comes to the left hand which is more difficult to play.

The next rhythm is a 6/8 from Morroco. The nice thing about this groove is that the first half feels ¾ and the second 6/8. Here the basic version:

Now you can add some extra notes

You can also play slaps instead of taks:

Ok, now some odd-meter grooves, first in 5/8, then in 7/8. Both grooves are first notated “empty”, just the dominant strokes and later the spaces are filled up. Keep in mind that the accents should be always stand out so the structure of the groove stays clear.


  1. It’s a sliding scale. Write me an email through the contact form and we can figure out the details.

  2. Absolutely, I also do that.

  3. Just wondered,if it,s OK to play the ka sound with your left middle finger,as I find it so much easier.

  4. Hello David,

    I am from California and live in Berlin. How much do you charge per hour for frame drum lessons?


  5. HI Sabine,

    Worldpercussion 1 – Frame Drums should work well for you. If you already have all the basics down, check out Advanced Frame Drums 1 or 2.
    I do give lessons via Skype, and teach locally in Berlin on appointment – basis.

  6. Sabine Tara Sacher

    Hallo David,
    which dvd is helpfull for a little progressed beginner in playing the frame drum ?
    Do you give lessions for beginners too in Germany, switzerland or austria?

  7. Charlie Pizarro

    I appreciate your skill and technique. I play the frame drum in Puerto Rico professionally with a different technique, distinctive of Afro Puerto Rican folk music: Plena. I will like to share ideas with you about this instrument. You can watch me at trough “El Tumbador” and/or “Charlie Pizarro”.

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