Hand drums are the kind of drum one normally plays with one's hands.

This excludes the percussion of the modern western orchestra or band. These drums -- the snare, the timpani, the bass drum, and also the drums in the jazz and rock drum kit -- are meant to be played with mallets and drumsticks.

Hand drums are particularly prominent in African music. In West Africa, the djembe and ashiko are widely played. Latin music has its share of traditional hand drums: the bongos and the conga. In Indian music, the tabla is played with the fingertips. The doumbek of Middle Eastern music is also played with the hand.

Most styles of playing hand drums involve using different positions of the hand as it strikes the skin to generate a rich variety of sounds. For example, when playing the djembe, there are three different pitches that are produced. When struck in the center of the head, with a relaxed, but firm hand, the djembe produces a bass sound. When struck on the edge, with the fingers together and firmly contacting the head, an intermediate pitch, the "tone", is produced. When struck on the edge with a relaxed hand, such that the fingers are not close together and the tips end up splashing on the head, a high-pitched "slap" is produced. Being able to articulate the difference between the "slap" and the "tone" is an important accomplishment in the study of West African music.

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