A friction drum is a musical instrument found in various forms in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. In Europe it emerged in the 16th century and was associated with specific religious and ceremonial occasions.
A friction drum is a percussion instrument consisting of a single membrane stretched over a sound box, whose sound is produced by the player causing the membrane to vibrate by friction. The sound box may be a pot or jug or some open-ended hollow object. To produce the friction, the membrane may be directly rubbed with the fingers or through the use of a cloth, or a stick or cord which is attached to the centre of the membrane and then rubbed or moved with a hand, sponge or cloth, generally wet. The membrane may be depressed with the thumb while playing to vary the pitch. When a cord is used the instrument may be referred to as a "string drum" or "lion's roar."
In some friction drums, the friction is obtained by spinning the drum around a pivot.
The composer Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625) wrote a keyboard fantasia in which he quotes the Dutch melody De Rommelpot. In modern times the friction drum has been used by several Western composers. Edgard Varèse used it in Hyperprism (1924) and Ionisation (1933). Alexander Goehr specifies a "lion's roar" in his Romanza for cello and orchestra (1968). Carl Orff used a whirled friction drum in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1934–52) and Benjamin Britten, in his Children's Crusade, (1969) calls for a string drum to be struck with drumsticks and bowed by means of the stretched string.
The Rommelpot features in several paintings by Dutch painters, including Two Boys and a Girl Making Music by Jan Miense Molenaer (1629, National Gallery, London) and The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel (1559, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).