The Ocean Drum: A Drum That Requires No Technique to Play

A few weeks ago, I presented to a group of people who were interested in providing music to individuals as a means to provide relaxation, sensory input, and quality of life. As a music therapist, I showed them examples of some music experiences that could fulfill those requirements, but was answered with some questioning looks. “I am not a trained musician,” one of the group members said to me. “How would I be able to do something like what you just showed us without training?” 


I thought for only a moment before I pulled out my ocean drum. “This,” I said as I brought it to the table, “you can use with no training at all.”


Since that presentation, I’ve thought some more about the ocean drum. I have always found the instrument to be stimulating in a number of ways, and it has never ceased to amaze and captivate my young clients. Infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers alike have all almost bowled each other over to get at the drum once I introduce it to their group.


As I stated to the group to whom I was presenting, the ocean drum is a wonderful instrument in that it requires no technique at all. Mothers, fathers, siblings, and children by themselves can play it. The tiny metal beads housed inside the drum roll and bounce around, creating a potentially soothing “swish” sound or a loud and raucous crashing sound. When I use the drum in a directed experience, I will sometimes call it a “blizzard drum,” for instance, and ask the children in my group to move the drum in a storm-like way. Or, if there is a rainstorm outdoors, I’ll ask the children to make the sound of the thunderous storm. 


Often I will use the drum at the end of my group time. I will go to each child, one-by-one, and hum or sing a familiar, calming tune while tipping the drum side to side. With children who have sensory needs, I like to rest the drum on the child’s knee while I tip it side to side. The child can see the beads drift around as well as feel them on his or her knee or leg. The coupling of visual and sensory input is usually very engaging.


The drum is a versatile tool and can be used to help soothe a child or a group as well as function in creative expression. If two or three children are together and could benefit from some peer interaction, this drum is a nice way to join them in cooperatively moving the drum. 


Of course there are instances in which the sound of the metal beads are grating and intolerable to a child. When I encounter such an instance, I take the drum away. I never want a child to associate pain or discomfort with an instrument.


For those of you who are looking for easy and unique musical instruments to use with your children, I highly recommend the ocean drum. I especially like the 16” ocean drum made by Remo, which you can find at Prices for such a drum vary according to size and brand, but usually range from $55.00 to $75.00. 




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