The Troupe
This drummer's journey with other drummers.

You play a what? Part 2: Tar, Bendir, Daf, Tambourine and Riqq

Part 1 was essentially all of the lap drums.  Now for the hand held, frame drums.



This is a very basic frame drum, usually somewhere between 10” and 18” in diameter, although some are certainly larger.  It is held by the frame with the left hand at the bottom of the drum, pinching the drum between the thumb and forefinger.  This allows the middle and ring fingers to be open and free to play counter beats and rolls.  Obviously, this takes a great deal of hand strength, and it seems like the first year or so of learning to play this drum is spent getting strong enough to hold it comfortably.

The tar is typically made of a wooden frame, with a natural hide.   Synthetic heads are becoming more and more popular, because of their durability and their consistent tone despite humidity and temperature.

This drum has a low bass tone, and medium tones along the rim.  It can also be played by rapping your knuckles on the frame, dragging your hand along the drum head for a low hum, and countless techniques in between.



Bendir are a variation of the basic frame drum, where a series of threads or wires are stretched from edge to edge of the frame, underneath the skin of the drum head.

Striking the drum causes the strings to vibrate against the drum head, and creates a low buzzing sound.   Much like a modern snare drum from a jazz kit, but with a lower tone.

I have seen everything from brass wire to nylon fishing line used, and bendir come in sizes that range from 9″ all the way up to 24″.

A bendir has a low bass tone, with a good sustain on it, and a medium tone on the rim, accompanied by the buzzing of the strings.



Yet another variant on the tar, a daf is essentially a frame drum with metal jangles or links on the inside of the drum.  It is held and played the same way as a tar.

Dafs are made of wood frames, with a natural or synthetic drum head.  The jangles are often brass, but I have seen tin and steel also.

The daf has the same range of tones as a tar, but with the added bonus of the jangle sound that is not only created on the original strike, but also echoed inside the drum.   The drum can be shaken, causing the jangles to contact with the drum head, which produces a low tone buzzing sound all its own.



Ah!  An instrument we all recognize from elementary school and church choirs.   Tambourines are usually between 8” and 12” in diameter, with 8 – 12 jangles imbedded in the frame.  Some tambourines have single jangles; some have double, triple or even quadruple jangles.   Some have an open frame, and some have a drum skin on one side, or both sides.  You can have a lot of variation, and it can still be called a tambourine.

Frankly, tambourine is kind of the catch all category for frame drums.  If it is a drum looking thing and you can hold it in one hand, hit it with the other, (or even against your hip or leg, or even just shake it with one hand) and it makes a sound with a jangle involved somewhere: Congratulations!  You have a tambourine!



The riqq is a specialized tambourine.  It is usually about 8” in diameter, has a 2” deep wooden frame, as well as 5 double jangles mounted equally along the frame, and a drum head on one side.   The jangles are heavy brass and about 2” in diameter themselves.  The drum head is traditionally fish skin, but modern riqqs have synthetic heads.   The fish skin heads have an amazing tone, but are horribly affected by humidity and temperature.   I got to play a fish skin riqq once, and it literally changed tone before the song was over, because my hand warmed it up too quickly.   Also, sadly, they smell like fish.

Riqqs are played in a couple of ways.   They are held in the left hand, just like a tar.  But, the ring finger of the left hand primarily strikes the jangle underneath it.  Or better yet, strikes it in double time for each strike.   I cannot tell you how long it took me to get that down, because after 18 months I am still working on it.   The right hand plays a series of strikes, from single finger doums, to teks on the rim.  A mute, pops, rizzes, rolls, slaps, and even grabbing the riqq and shaking it like crazy to get a super jangle are all in play.

A well played riqq is almost its own drum kit.

There is also a two hand style in which the riqq is held with both hands, centered, and both hands perform dominant and support techniques as needed.   It is amazing to watch a good riqq player.

For all of that, the riqq is often a backing instrument, meant to fill in spaces and compliment the other drums in the ensemble.


Now, obviously the pictures and descriptions are nice and all, but you cannot hear what I am writing about.   For that, please just go to your favorite video sharing website, and type in the name of the instrument as the keyword.

If you are a fan of percussion, you will hear and see some of the most amazing players in the world.

I personally am very hesitant to suggest any single player, or promote any individuals or groups on this blog, because there are so, so many great players out there.   Someday in the future I will probably do a “My favorites” post, but for now, do your own searching and enjoy the journey.

And again, any comments, corrections, knowledge, or opinions are completely welcome.

One Response to “You play a what? Part 2: Tar, Bendir, Daf, Tambourine and Riqq”

  1. thank you for the information. it was very useful. cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: