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Frame Drums -'Finger dancing'

Introduction to framedrums

Paul Marshall © 2002Thanks are due to the Yahoo Frame Drum Group for their inspiration.


Framedrums are perhaps one of the earliest forms of drum made by many civilizations across the world, in essence they are a piece of animal skin stretched over a circular frame that has a depth less than the width of the head, or another definition is where the frame is half or less than the diameter of the head.  There are examples where the drum frames may not be circular, square & many-sided drums exist.  (see image below)

Playing the drum

The drums in the family are most commonly played with the hands. Specifically the fingers. Some, such as the Bodhran from Ireland are played with a stick, others are shaken and others still use a mixture of playing styles and strikes.  The playing styles vary hugely from drum to drum, from country to country, from region to region and indeed from player to player.  Frame drums can be held in one hand away from the body and played with the other, they may be rested on the knee, on the lap, or held between the knees. Some mounts are available for having them mounted imdependently of the player.


Many treatments can be added to a frame drum to augment the sound, the most common is to add one or more sets of ‘jingles’, small cymbals set into the frame.  These are generally grouped by the public under the humble title ‘tambourines’. If you listen to a skilled, Kanjira, Riqq or Pandeiro player you will certainly get your eyes (& ears) opened.  Other treatments include the suspension of rings from the rear of the drum as shown in this image of my Persian Daf. Gut, leather or nylon strips may be stretched across the underside of the head to give a ‘snare’ sound as with the Moroccan Bendir.

This section attempts to gather together a list of all the different types of frame drums available.  Clicking on a blue link will take you to more information regarding a particular drum.

Snare drums such as are usually associated with drumset also qualify as frame drums apparently, however they are dealt with in the drumset section of the site.

For more general or specific information or if you wish to take up frame drumming I highly recommend that you subscribe to the framedrumming Yahoo group, there is so much knowledge assembled with the immensely talented and experienced participants there that you should never need to look further.  I also recommend that you visit the excellent Rhythmweb site run by Eric Stuer for framedrum central and information on all types of drumming around the world.

Frame drums of the world

See specific section on Asia, North Africa and East Europe

Without sounding attachments

With sounding attachments

More about the Frame Drum / cultural information




Frame drums in Asia, North Africa and East Europe

Peyman Nasehpour ©2002


Daf is one of the percussion-skinned instruments of Persia that it has become very popular these years. In Middle East there is a broad class of drums known to musicologists as Frame Drums. In this article I will discuss these percussion instruments.


Frame Drums are the musicologist's term for a class of percussion instruments constructed of a shallow cylindrical frame over which a skin is stretched and may or may not have jingles. Persian Daf (left) is a good example of a frame drum with jingles. The history of the frame drum begins in the ancient Middle East. The following is a list of frame drums:


Daira - Daira is a frame drum similar to Persian Dayereh.


Dap - A medium to large sized frame drum without jingles similar to the Duff. It is used mainly in classical and folk music. Other spellings of this instrument are Daf and Def.


Ghaval - A medium to large sized frame drum with jingles same as Persian Dayereh. It is used in classical and folk music. It is usually played by singers. Ostad Latif Tahmasebi-zadeh, Persian Ghaval player is a pioneer of modern method of Ghaval playing.

Egypt and Arab Countries

Riq- Small, tambourine-like frame drum used in classical, popular, and dance music. Other spellings are Riqq, Req, Rik, and Rikk.

Mazhar - A bass version of the Riq common in popular, dance and folk music.

Duff - A large diameter frame drum with no jingles used to provide bass rhythm accompaniment. Other spellings are Daf and Deff, and Taf. These names and the ancient name Tof must have the same root.

Bendir: A frame drum with jingles. The Bendir is a typical frame drum. Similar instruments are common in the whole Near East from Morocco to Iraq and also in Northern Africa. The special feature of this Instrument lies in the snare strings that run inside the instruments body near the drum skin.

Tar: A frame drum with a single head, played with the hands. Often has a hole in the rim for the left thumb. This drum is found all over North Africa and has many names and one of them is Tar. It is common throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East also. Traditionally, this drum is played with the fingers, holding the drum in front of you, drumhead facing out. You can use your hand or a stick if preferred. Skin headed Tars are very temperature sensitive and will crack if left in the heat, such as in direct sun or in a car. If the drumhead is too tight, lightly mist with water.


Daf - In India there are many different types of Frame Drums, one of them is Daf. It is interesting to say that Indian Daf is played by drumsticks. It is quite large, about two feet across, with a conspicuous absence of jingles. It is commonly used in folk music but is rarely heard in other styles. It is also called dapphu, daffali and number of other names.

Kanjira - Kanjira is a small Frame Drum from South India. Stretching lizard skin over a wooden frame with one metal jingle mounted in it makes it. The skin is kept loose, and the pitch manipulated by squeezing the head at the bottom, near the rim, while striking it with the other hand. The lizard skin is very susceptible to changes in climate.


Daf - Daf is one of the most ancient frame drums in Asia and North Africa. As an Persian instrument, in 20th century, it is considered as a Sufi instrument to be played in Khanghah-s during Zikr ceremony. Daf has recently become very popular and it has been integrated into Persian music successfully.

Dayereh - Dayereh is Persian Frame Drum. There is variety of names for this instrument in different regions of Persia. It is called Dariye in Kashan, Dizeh in Bojnord, Deyreh in Birjand, Das-Dayereh in Mazandaran, Dayereh in Bushehr, Dara in Dezful and Diyareh in Talesh.

For more information please refer to Encyclopedia of Persian Percussion Instruments.


Doira - Doira is a frame drum similar to Persian Dayereh.


In Turkey there are many different types of Frame Drums. One of them is Tef. It is the same as Persian Daf.

Mazhar - This is a percussion instrument made by stretching a skin over a wooden hoop. Rhythm is produced by striking it with the fingers.


In Uyghuristan there are two basic kinds:
Kichik Dap is about 25 cm in diameter, with a wood frame, and is used for playing the rhythm part in the Twelve Muqams (Kichik is a Turkish word and literally means small Please compare with the Persian word Kuchak which means small also). The larger Dap is about 75 cm in diameter and used for dance tunes.


Dayera - Dayera is a frame drum similar to Persian Dayereh.


The author wishes to thank Hormoz Dilmaghani for his technical support and Prof. Nathan Light for the information on the Frame Drums of Uyghuristan. Some of this information has been gathered from Internet.


B. Chaintanya Deva, Indian Music, New Delhi, 1974.
David R. Courtney, Fundamentals of Tabla, Vol.I, Sur Sangeet Services, Houston, 1998.
Mehran Poormandan, The Encyclopedia of Iranian Old Music, Tehran, 2000.
Cemsid Salehpur, Türkçe Farsça Genel Sözlügü, Tehran, 1996.
Mehdi Setayeshgar, Vazhe-Name-ye-Musighi-ye-Iran Zamin, Tehran, Vol. I (1995) & Vol. II (1996).