Questions and Answers

If you have any other questions for Patrick, please email him.

Do you have a recommendation on how to tighten the skin on the surface of the drum? I’ve read with a bit of water and placing it in the sun can help but I wanted to ask yo directly first since you’re the one who created my drum. Thank you!

Hi Kristen,

The natural law of skin is heat constricts and water expands.  If the drum is too tight, it has a high “pingy” sound and when relaxed, can go “flat”.

The intention is to have the balance.  All drums have a  sweet spot of perfect balance.  When you make a drum in a wet climate, usually you pull it as tight as possible to get as much elasticity out of the skin as possible.  The sweat lodge is a good indicator of wet climates.  Usually  I use two drums, and one we tighten them up between “rounds” by placing them next to the fire, which tightens them up.   Any skin drum does not remain “constant”.  We want things to stay the same, yet they keep changing.  Some of my drum go flat near the ocean as there is more moisture in the air.  When traveling in dry climates or wet climates, I usually keep the drum in a cover (drum bag)  and spray with water to keep the drum hydrated and away from extremes.  Most professional musicians “tune” the drum prior to using it.  If it is too loose, gradually apply heat to the face and it will tighten.  If too loose, apply heat.  You can always re-make the drum to adapt to your climate, hope this helps!

Who Owns Cedar Mountain Drums?

Patrick Pinson is the founder, maker and keeper of the drums… .

The drums belong to the earth, and are to be worked with. The idea of “ownership” is an illusion. I never considered myself to own these drums and I deeply believe that the drum seeks the one who seeks it. I prefer to give information rather than “sell”. I have intentionally kept Cedar Mountain Drums “right sized”, resisting the lure of more money. To be in balance is to have the space for friends, family and Ceremony.

Back in 1988, an Oglala man helped me with a Ceremony where I spent four days on a hill with no food or water, in prayer. My prayer was to find my work. I had a dream of a young girl rolling a hoop down a hill, and the hoop transformed into a bear. After working with my teachers to interpret the dream, my guidance was to follow the drum, follow my heart. Full of doubt and fear, in 1988, I began Cedar Mountain Drums. I provide the daily stewardship of the business and provide information to those who seek to make these sacred products.

Where is it located?

Cedar Mountain Drums was “birthed” at 2237 E. Burnside St. in Portland, Oregon, and is still at this location. I have acquired another twenty acres in Carson, Washington where I intend to create a lifelong dream of a self-sufficient small community that is both “off the grid” and abundant with many “cottage industries” to support it. I and others will teach seekers to work with their hands to create. Bear Creek Heartspace.

Who makes the drums?

Over the years, I have had apprentices who make drums after going through a process of training in aspects of drum making. Currently, Myself and Mandi make most all of the drums, rattles, talking sticks, drum kits and drum beaters.

How did you learn?

For years I was a part of a circle where the old ways were taught, including drum making. An Osage man taught me the way of lacing the drum using the four directions tie. Being in recovery from drugs and alcohol, I turned my obsessive/compulsive nature to something positive – making drums. I gave away my first 100 drums. At the time I was working as a fund raising consultant traveling across the country, and every time I went to a new place, I sought out the drum makers to learn more. It never occurred to me to make it my business until my vision quest where I was guided to follow the drum.

When was Cedar Mountain Drums founded?

Over 30 years ago. In 1988, I began to manifest the dream of Cedar Mountain Drums.

Where do you get the hides?

The only legal way to obtain wild animal rawhide is through hunters, who often donate the hides to various service clubs across the Northwest who in turn sell them to tanneries to be processed into tanned leather or rawhide. I buy these hides and each time I get a shipment in, I smudge and offer my prayers to each hide that I work with. Drum making is a prayer, and I am honored to work with the energy of the wild animals and the tree spirits. Since I don’t know how these animals were killed, I offer my prayers of gratitude that I can use these to create the drums and rattles. For more info about our rawhide, see The Medicine of the Drum.

Where do you get your hoops?

Over the years there have been individuals, who make drum rims in a good way, and these have been my source – We are currently constructing our own hoops at the Bear Creek location. The other hoops I currently have in my home are ones that I obtain overseas and from local woodworkers. My plan is to eventually produce all of our own hoops. For more info about our hoops, see Qualities of the Woods Used in our Drums.

How do you make these drums?

I prefer to cut all components of the drum from the same hide and work with each skin to hand cut the lacing myself, cut and punch the drum head and go out in nature to get the sticks for the beaters. I have learned over the years to only make the drums when I am clear of resentments, anger and am taking care of myself. Each drum I make is unique and I have never lost the wonder of creating these one drum at a time. I smudge each hide with sage and offer my prayers to the spirit of the animal and tree spirit. If I am making a drum for someone I have consulted with, I offer my prayers for that person and pray for right relationship and deep healing.

Are you Native American?

Although I am not a “registered” member of a Federally recognized tribe (my tribe, Mingo, isn’t recognized) I have Native blood as well as so many of us who have a variety of ancestors. The State of West Virginia does recognize the Mingo peoples and I am a member of the Appalachian Indians of W.Va. and have my tribal enrollment there.

How do I take care of my drum?

With each drum I make, I include an information sheet on taking care of it. The drum represents our Mother Earth and is sacred. We take loving care of what we hold as sacred. The general answer is to treat it like you would a child – keep it away from extremes in heat and cold and in dry environments, keep the drum hydrated. In winter, we often use gas heat which dries out our skin, so keep the drum in an environment away from extreme dryness. If you hang your drum on a wall, keep a humidifier in the room to keep moisture in the air. I treat my drums with Shea butter, a natural conditioner that keeps the drum from drying out and splitting. Storing the drum in a case protects it when not in use. The drum is alive and expands and constricts depending on climate and environment – the general rule is water expands the skin and heat constricts. The drum constantly changes as we do, and I encourage drum owners to work with the drum, develop a relationship of respect and in journeying with the drum, you can always ask the drum what it needs.

My drum has a hole in it ! What do I do?

One of my first lessons in drum making was that of releasing my perfectionism. I was taught that all trees are perfect, and none are perfectly symmetrical. My teachers drums were never perfectly round and were more natural. He also never avoided a hole in a drum. The holes represent the wound, and how the wound heals is to go into the pain and allow the tears to flow, thus the term the “wounded healer”. If your drum has a hole in the skin, it in no way is weak or defective. If you place your hand over the hole and drum, the vibration goes through the hole. My teacher said “don’t you have holes in you?”

Many customers specifically ask for a hole in the drum as a reminder… to go through our pain – only in doing so can we access the true joy vibration. In many traditional cultures, holes are portals — gateways to other realms.

What does the drum mean to you?

The drum has been my teacher since 1986. When I made my first drum, I was hooked. The drum called to me the moment I put my hands on it. I had never been what I would consider very skilled with my hands, yet when I began to make drums, this did not seem to matter much. Once I start something I like, I do tend to get obsessive about it. I made drums with a compulsion/passion. There was something magical about working with my hands to create a drum. The energy of working with the natural…the trees and animals that goes into the drum that spoke to my soul.

There is something magical in making things with your hands, and making them in prayer. This process shifts the energy out of the head, which incessantly works to figure things out, yet doesn’t “do” anything. In order to master anything, I had to be willing to make mistakes and do it “wrong”. My first few drums were pretty pitiful in retrospect, yet they were perfect. I had no idea what this was about. I only knew that creating with my hands felt good. The simple act of intention, will and completion followed by reflecting on my work was feeding my spirit. I had no agenda. It never occurred to me what I was to do with these drums. I gave my first one hundred drums away. I know that hoarding the drums was just creating clutter for me, so I circulated them. Only now after 24 years years of drum making is the information coming to me. A sioux friend told me the other day that the spirits come in on the vibrations of the drum. This is ancient knowledge, and he was laughing about all of the books on sound healing, that the indigenous peoples have always known the power of the songs and the drum. The drum is the foundation of my business and my life.

I have learned to pay attention to my own spiritual energy (or lack of) when I sit down to make drums. If I am feeling conflicted, this goes into the drum. When I am feeling joy, the drums I create are joyful. As I put in or what I put into the drum is carried by the drum. Just as walking into a fast food resturant and observing the attitude of the cooks can affect the taste of the food, attitude can enhance or distract the creation.

To teach drum making is to teach life. Drum making is a process that offers us the potential to develop artistry. My joy is in the creating of these drums. The drum helped me reclaim my hands. I make my living with my hands, which would make my Grandfather proud. The drum offers me a Gestalt – the definition of which is the total is equal to more than the sum of the parts. My drums are my legacy, although they are not “mine” in the sense that I own them. Each drum is as unique as each person I meet, with its own personality and voice, which constantly changes with the environment. When I have the honor of making a custom drum for an individual, I journey to spirit and offer my prayers for the healing medicine for that person. The drum’s voice is what calls in the spirits. The drum touches a deep place within us that in many cases is atrophied and longs for expression. The drum is the foundation of rhythm, and grounds those who would seek it. Part of the phenomena of the magic is how the drum brings our spirit into our bodies. In the Course in Miracles is a beautiful truth which says Nothing Real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists. The drum and drumming brings both the drummer and the witness down into the density and into our senses. Our souls are touched by the vibrations of the drum. I have been a witness of the cleansing tears that these vibrations educe. The drum, connected with the drummer who is prayerfully expressing spirit through the drum is indeed medicine that transcends all logic. The drum belongs to us all. The drum is our heart, and is a relationship between our masculine/feminine energies. The beater is the male, the drum female, and without this relationship, the voice sits idle. The beater is that which touches the drum, be it our hands or a stick.

What’s the difference between working “on” a drum and working “with” a drum?

The idea of “owning” a drum, a person, a child or land has pretty much been drilled into the dominant culture. This is “my wife”, “my child”, “my house” et al. Wear life like a loose garment, as all is borrowed. Indigenous cultures language differently as did most all of our ancestors. The drum is not a possession. Love does not possess nor will be possessed. The attitude shift is an important part of the shifting into a higher vibration of service versus self. The drums I make I take loving care of, as we take loving care of what we hold sacred. When we hold ourselves sacred, we take loving care of us and have less desire to “own” anything. We can have everything without possessing anything. The drum can be a teacher for you from this new expanded state. You can journey with the drum or rattle for information. I even suggest to people that they journey to the drum to ask it how to care for it. I get calls asking what to do because their drum has gone flat (has no voice). I counsel them to ask the drum. When we neglect the drum, it often cracks, splits or teaches us in hard ways.

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If you have any other questions for Patrick, please email him.