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I've been offered recently a tongue drum similar to this one:

Tongue drum, with eight tongues and numbers marked on them. The numbers are 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 5 with a dot below it, 6 with a dot below it, and 1 with a dot above it.

Exploring the Stack Exchange answers, I think it is tuned to the pentatonic scale. However I cannot make sense of the symbols on the tongues, especially the '1' with a kind of dot added on top, or the '5' and '6' with a dot on the bottom of the digit. Can anyone help deciphering it? Which are actually the notes played by each tongue?

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The numbers normally refer to the degree of the key in which it's tuned (usually C): 1 is the tonic (C), 2 the supertonic (D), etc.

The dots indicate if the note is an octave above or below the reference.

In the case above, assuming it's tuned in C, the notes are (from low to high):

  • 5̥ : G (octave below)
  • 6̥ : A (octave below)
  • 1 : C
  • 2 : D
  • 3 : E
  • 5 : G
  • 6 : A
  • 1̊ : C (octave above)

It's a pentatonic scale. With it you can play any tune based on C pentatonic major, or pentatonic minor using A as the tonic.


Download a tuner app (unless you have a physical one) and check whether the "1" is actually a C or not. If it's another note, then that's the tonic.

For instance, if 1 is F, then the notes are: C (5̥), D, F (1), G, A, C, D, F (1̊); meaning that you can play F major or D minor pentatonics.

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