Water drum

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This article is about musical instrument. For steam boilers, see Glossary of boiler terminology#Water drum.

Water drums are a category of membranophone characterized by the filling of the drum chamber with some amount of water to create a unique sound. Used in Iroquois, Navajo, Cherokee, Creek, and Apache music,[1] water drums are common in Native American music, and also found in African and Southeast Asian music.

They are used today both ceremonially and in traditional Longhouse social dances and are the traditional drum for the Huron/Wendat/Wyandot and Iroquois/Haudenosaune tribes.[citation needed] The Ojibwa, Ottawa and Pottawatomii called them midegwakikoon,[2][3] with "Mide" referring to Midewiwin.

The water drum is considered the most sacred of all drums, is almost always the property of religious and ceremonial persons, and has status as a person, not as an object.[citation needed] They are made always of special wood from certain trees.


Today they are made of both wood and clay. Wooden water drums are made either by hollowing out a solid section of a small soft wood log, or assembled using cedar slats and banded like a wooden keg. Clay drums are either handmade or an old crock is used. Wyandot and Seneca/Cayuga traditionally used a groundhog skin (daˀyęh) for the drum covering,though a piece of deer skin works well. An Iroquoian or Wendat/Wyandot drum stick is carved from a piece of hardwood with a small rounded tip. Each drum style has a unique way of tightening the hide to maximize the sound. The drum head must be both tight and saturated with water for best results.

Native American Church ceremonies often use a water drum made from iron, brass or copper kettle. These styles of water drum are more common than the woodland form and can be purchased in numerous locations.[4][5]


Each drum creates a unique sound because the amount of water varies. The drums are usually played with a thick drumstick that has a loop on the end. The usual accompaniments are horns and/or bark rattles.

Pop culture[edit]

Since approximately 2006, the American heavy metal band, Mushroomhead have used water drums in their live show.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Green, Rayna (1999). The British Museum Encyclopedia of Native North America, p.56. Indiana University. ISBN 9780253213396.
  2. ^ Depasquale, Paul; Eigenbrod, Renate; and Larocque, Emma; eds. (2009). Across Cultures/Across Borders: Canadian Aboriginal and Native American Literatures, unpaginated. Broadview. ISBN 9781460403037. "Mitigwakikoog (Little Boy Midé Water Drums)."
  3. ^ Nichols, John D. (1995). A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe, p.88. U of Minnesota. ISBN 9781452901992. "mitigwakik na Mide drum; pl mitigwakikong; dim mitigwakikoons
  4. ^ King, Claire. "Tuning the Water Drum". From Cradleboard to Motherboard. Archived from the original on 20090719. Retrieved January 22, 2007. 
  5. ^ Shore, Alexa. "History of the Seminole Tribe". FSU World Music Online. Retrieved 18 September 2012.