Bear, Buffalo, Elk, Horse and Moose Drums and Rattles

Steven Kauder

I have retired after 20 intense years of drum making. Click here to see drums from my personal collection.

Questions and Answers

These are questions I frequently got ... and my answers

What is a Shaman?
Shaman is a word from the Tungas tribe of Siberia. It has evolved into a generic term for healers and spiritual leaders in tribal and modern societies. Shamans work via trance states achieved through drumming, rattling, singing, dancing, fasting, or other means to attain the shamanic state of consciousness. While in such reverie, the shaman becomes an intermediary between the ordinary visible world and the hidden reality.

What do Shamans do?
Shamans work with compassionate healing spirits. Shamans help recover parts of you that were lost through physical, emotional, or spiritual trauma. They heal in the past and the present. They heal the living and those no longer living. The great majority of shamans around the world do their healing with drums and rattles to assist them in their work.

You can experience the shamanic state of consciousness yourself with a drum or a rattle or even a journey CD.

Why did you Perform a
Drum Awakening Ceremony?
Drums are magical healing instruments for our world and our intentions strengthen them. In my ceremony, I gave thanks to the animals, trees, and plants who have given so that I could make the drum. I welcomed the drum's life and existence. I awakened each drum with prayers for the drum and for its highest possible use.

Should I Get a Kit or a
Completed Drum or Rattle?
This is very much a personal choice. It was great if you would put your own energy into completing your drum or your rattle. Making your own drum or rattle was "highly doable," even if you had never worked with rawhide before. I had very positive feedback on my kits, instruction sheets, and web pages that show nearly every step. Still, not everyone felt confident in making their own drum or rattle, and I was willing to make them for those individuals.

What are the Sources of Your Hides
for Drums and Rattles?
I got hides from reputable sources around the country. I worked with most of my suppliers for years. Once in a while, I found a new supplier, such as an Indiana ranch that had buffalo and elk hides left over from hunting. The hides I obtained were always the byproduct of something else. For more than ten years, I ordered from Lietzau Taxidermy. They are a very nice combination of quality, service, and price from a family-run business that "does things the old fashioned way":
Lietzau Taxidermy
353 Milkyway S, Cosmos, MN 56228
phone 320-877-7297

What are the Qualities of Each Type of Hide?
In general, buffalo and moose are thicker hides and make heavier drums. Those hides stand up best to changes in humidity and temperature. Thicker hides also have a deeper sound. Bear, elk, and horse hides are thinner, make lighter drums, and vary more with the weather. Thinner hides have a higher sound. However, every hide was an individual and there were sometimes thinner moose and buffalo hides and sometimes thicker horse hides. There were also other qualities, such as the intradermal layer of hair in bear or the elastic quality of horsehide, that make each type of hide unique.

What will My Drum Sound Like?
The quality of your drum's tone is determined by the quality of the hide and how the drum is made. The bigger the drum, the bigger the sound. There is no unique sound to any one type of hide. A buffalo drum, for example, does not have a tone distinct from elk or moose rawhide drums of similar size.

If you were working with me, you were getting the best hides I could obtain plus my many years of experience making hundreds of drums and drum kits.

Where do You Get Your Drum Frames?
I worked with many types of frames over the years, including cedar, maple, and hickory. I also worked with many frame styles including round, oval, bowl, and heart shaped. The best provider I found was Cowichan Drum Frames in Duncan, BC Canada, and I worked with them for many years. The quality was excellent, the prices were fair, they had a large variety of shapes and sizes, and they were very responsive to my needs:
Cowichan Drum Frames
phone 250-597-8362

Why did You Ask About My Intentions?
Making a drum is a spiritual process as well as a physical process. I focused on the work you wanted to do with your drum as I made it. I also called upon the helping spirits of the animal who provided the hide, the helping spirits around me, and the land I live upon. The drum-making process and the quality of your drum were aided by knowing your intentions for your drum and the work you planned to do with it. I made a drum for your intentions, your work, and the climate where you live.

What is the Right Drum Hide for Me?
I often heard this question, and I always asked if you had a special relationship with some animal. For example, had you seen buffalo in your dreams? Had you always been drawn to elk or some other animal? If you were not aware of such a relationship, then I encouraged you to ask for the right animal to appear in your journeywork, dreams, or meditations. When you had that connection or the animal appeared to you, I think you had answered your question about which hide was right for you.

When would I get My Drum?
It typically took one to two months to create your drum. I began by selecting the right hide for your intentions and for the climate where you live. I soaked the hide, cut the drum skin, shaped the drum skin for the drum frame, and cut lacing. Then I made your drum, which I let dry naturally and slowly. Once your drum was dry, I tested it with up to a dozen drum mallets to find the right one for your drum.

This process included ceremonies for the animal and the trees involved and for Drum Awakening.

What would My Rattle Sound Like?
A rattle's tone is determined by the quality of the hide and the rattle's filling. Corn is the most traditional filling, and it has a pleasant sound. Quartz crystals have a stronger, sharper sound, while anthill stones have a gentler sound. Please remember that every rattle is an individual and no two rattles sound exactly alike.

What is the Color of Rawhide?
These hides are natural materials, and the colors do vary. Typical colors are dark chocolate, light chocolate, brown, light brown, tan, light tan, and even amber or beige. Hides were rarely uniform in color or thickness, and some hides had mottled coloring. I was more focused on getting the best quality rawhide and less focused on any particular coloring. If you were looking for a specific dark or light coloring, I attempted to accomodate your desires.

How do I Paint My Drum or Rattle?
I recommended acrylic, which is very forgiving. The best source was an art supply store. You should have asked for a quality starter set of acrylic paints. Those generally included 6-8 different colors and typically cost $15-$20. You should have also bought a good thin paint brush ($5-$10) and a matte fixative ($5). I recommended applying the paint in several thin coats. When you were done painting, I recommended spraying on the matte fixative to protect your creative expression.

Painted Buffalo Drum with Image of Four Shamans

Buffalo Rawhide Drum with images of medicine people.
I included painting instructions and a small piece of rawhide for painting practice with each drum and each rattle.

Why do You Make Drums and Rattles?
I love doing this work. I was very, very pleased to be a supplier of things that help others on their spiritual paths. When I did my own shamanic work, I was always welcomed by the spirits of the animals whose hides I used for drums and rattles. Who could ask for more than that?

Where Have You Sold Your
Drums and Rattles?
...In the United States: 46 states ... every one except Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, and West Virginia
...In Europe: 20 countries ... Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom
...In the rest of the world: 9 additional countries ... Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Taiwan

How Many Drums and Rattles
Have You Sold?
...during the 20-plus years from 1999 through 2022 (including some after retirement):
599 completed drums and 231 drum kits,
895 completed rattles and 329 rattle kits, and
...let me also mention 1233 drum mallets, including the ones I provide with every drum and drum kit.

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Bear, Buffalo, Elk, Horse, Moose and Wolf Rawhide Drums and Rattles
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Steven Kauder

The small fine print: © 2002 - 2023 by Steven Kauder.