Percussionist Kalani has teamed up with Toca Percussion to create a new and innovative drum that could appeal to many players. It’s called the Flex Drum and sound and playability aside, it’s actually the construction and versatility that could be the real selling point. For lovers of convenience and the next new thing, read on.
The Flex Drum is essentially a hand drum that has a couple of really cool party tricks. The bare basics are a drum that is 23” tall and made from synthetic PVC, with a unique pattern for a finish - shadow grey was the look on the model I sampled. The Flex Drum itself vaguely resembles a skinny conga with a smaller rubber lined opening at the bottom and widening to an 11.5” diameter top with a pre-tuned head. There’s also an adjustable shoulder strap for wearing the drum.
The party tricks on the Flex Drum are cool. First of all, it’s light - really light, like less than two kilos. Basically, you can throw the thing around. To be honest, when I went to open the box initially, I actually thought it was empty. The weight is a real surprise, but the tricks don’t stop there. The pre-tuned head is actually easily removable from the shell, giving you an instant frame drum. Super cool.
Toca claims that with the head removed, you can actually stack these drums inside themselves and this is basically the coolest storage solution ever - more drums, less space. They also claim that six Flex Drums stacked inside one another adds up to less than 30 pounds (13 kilos). Ever tried lifting six congas? Portable is one way to describe the Flex Drum.
The Flex Drum has a familiar sound. I’ve mentioned congas a few times, but actually the drum has a different vibe. The pre-tuned synthetic drumhead is your normal type skin and when played, instantly resembles a Djembe or even a lower tuned Darbuka. It’s a versatile sounding instrument when attached to the shell with a distinct low end and easily achieved bass note, but the real sound is from the open tones near the edge that have a lovely sustain and cut. Slap tones are also easily achieved with super clarity, and they’re quite loud too. The synthetic lightweight shell probably doesn’t deliver the extremes of tone that you might get with a wood or metal shell but in many ways, the drum is so unique, it’s kind of doing its own thing - and it’s a good thing.
Taking the head off the shell is another thing altogether. As a frame drum, the pitch is instantly higher with lots of cut. Holding the frame allows you to use the head with a stick or by hand with the ability to mute strokes. The notion of a hand drum isn’t particularly revolutionary, but the fact that you can just use it with the shell as desired is really cool.
If you’ve played a Djembe before, you’ll feel at home on the Flex Drum, albeit on a smaller playing surface, and you’ll instinctively get the rhythms going straight away. Some people might lament not being able to tune the head themselves and prolonged use might be something to consider but straight out of the box, there’s a very ‘musical’ instrument.
The Flex Drum would be a great drum for large groups as it’s easily transportable and light enough for anyone to use for long periods of time. Even finding a way to mount one off a drum kit wouldn’t be super hard, even if it was the head/frame by itself. The sounds are really musical and the versatility is a winner. Worth a look.
Hits and Misses
Super light and clever construction allows for great portability, storage and versatility
Great tones straight out of the box
Wonderfully playable, similar sound to a Djembe
Head can’t be tuned
Some might feel the PVC shell isn’t as special as wood/metal