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(Scroll down for video). The Gato Drum is an form of tongue drum. This drum is an elaborate hard wood box that has tongues (slits) carved out of its top. The tongues have different width or thicknesses, producing different notes in a scale. When a tongue is played it vibrates up and down producing a warm woody tone. Songs and melodies can be played either with provided rubber mallets or with the tips of your fingers.
Playing the Gato Drum is enjoyable and easy. Since all tones are in harmony there are no “wrong notes”. You can use the rubber mallets to lightly strike the tongues or you can play the drum with the tips of your fingers.
The small Gato drum has 4 tongues and the large Gato drum has 6 tongues.
The ends of a Gato Drum are closed so that the shell becomes the resonating chamber for the sound vibrations created when the tongues are struck, usually with a mallet. The longest tongue on the drum makes the lowest note in the scale. Find the scale by playing from the longest note to the shortest (high) note. Two or more notes played in unison create harmonies and chords. Create songs by playing three or four notes in a repeated pattern creating a melody. Add complexity by playing your pattern on other notes of the drum. Try to make up patterns in the same song.
Play one note repeatedly for a drone note effect and create a melody by playing other notes around it. Experiment! Try to remember the distinct note of each wood tongue or think of songs and melodies as patterns on the drum. A quick tap of one or more fingers across the wood tongue will produce a earthy woody tone.
It is used throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.