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

Steven Kauder

Questions and Answers

These are questions I frequently get ... 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 do you Perform a
Drum Awakening Ceremony?
Drums are magical healing instruments for our world and our intentions strengthen them. In my ceremony, I give thanks to the animals, trees, and plants who have given so that I can make the drum. I welcome the drum's life and existence. I awaken 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. I think it's great if you put your own energy into completing your drum or your rattle. Making your own drum or rattle is "highly doable," even if you have never worked with rawhide before. I have had very positive feedback on my kits, instruction sheets, and web pages that show nearly every step. Still, not everyone feels confident in making their own drum or rattle, and I am willing to make them for those individuals.

What are the Sources of Your Hides
for Drums and Rattles?
I get hides from reputable sources around the country. I have worked with most of my suppliers for years. Once in a while, I will find a new supplier, such as an Indiana ranch that had buffalo and elk hides left over from hunting. The hides I obtain are always the byproduct of something else. Most recently, I found this very nice combination of quality, service, and price from a small 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 is an individual and there are sometimes thinner moose and buffalo hides and sometimes thicker horse hides. There are 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. You can listen to sound samples here.

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

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

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

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

When Will I Get My Drum?
It typically takes one to two months to create your drum. I begin by selecting the right hide for your intentions and for the climate where you live. I soak the hide, cut the drum skin, shape the drum skin for the drum frame, and cut lacing. Then I make your drum, which I let dry naturally and slowly. Once your drum is dry, I test it with up to a dozen drum mallets to find the right one for your drum.

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

What is the Size of Your Rattles?
Rattles are made with natural materials, and natural materials do vary. Still, my rattles will have these general dimensions: The head is 4 inches (10 cm) across and 2 inches (5 cm) deep, and the handle is about 8 inches (20 cm) long. That gives an overall length of about 12 inches (30.5 cm). Rattles with cholla branch handles will have a greater length. Other rattle sizes are available, so just ask.

What will 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. You can listen to sound samples here.

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 are rarely uniform in color or thickness, and some hides have mottled coloring. I am more focused on getting the best quality rawhide and less focused on any particular coloring. If you are looking for a specific dark or light coloring, please let me know and I will attempt to accomodate your desires.

How do I Paint My Drum or Rattle?
I recommend acrylic, which is very forgiving. The best source is an art supply store. You should ask for a quality starter set of acrylic paints. Those generally include 6-8 different colors and typically cost $15-$20. You should also buy a good thin paint brush ($5-$10) and a matte fixative ($5). It is best to apply the paint in several thin coats. When you are done painting, spray 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 include painting instructions and a small piece of rawhide for painting practice with each drum and each rattle.

What did Native-Made Drums Look Like?
This is a picture of Old Bear Dog, the son of Sioux Chief Iron Shell. The picture is more than 100 years old. Note that his handmade drum and drum frame are far from round and the drum is warped.

Native Drum held by Old Bear Dog

Why do You Make Drums and Rattles?
I love doing this work. I am very, very pleased to be a supplier of things that help others on their spiritual paths. When I do my own shamanic work, I am always welcomed by the spirits of the animals whose hides I use 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: 8 additional countries ... Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Taiwan
...You can see the country maps here.

How Many Drums and Rattles
Have You Sold?
...since I started making drums and rattles in 1999:
563 completed drums and 210 drum kits,
868 completed rattles and 315 rattle kits, and
...let me also mention 1162 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
(316) 799-2989

The small fine print: © 2002 - 2018 by Steven Kauder.