Spires: the Aztec 12-Key | 2022 Holiday Season

"This season, I wanted to do something to celebrate the Aztec heritage of tongue drums, and I wanted to do something very different from melodic drums: a focusing and meditative instrument." - Michael Thiele

It's that time of year again! We are proud to share with the world a new HMC tongue drum design for our 2022 Limited Edition Holiday instrument: Spires - the Aztec 12-Key.

In keeping with tradition, only 12 Instruments will be built and each will be accompanied by certificate of authenticity signed by Michael Thiele himself. 

Spires was inspired by ancient Mesoamerican architecture and features 12 pinnacle-shaped keys arranged to create a dramatic diagonal cleft reminiscent of the mid-day sun on the pyramid at Chichen Itza. This phenomenon only occurs twice each year, at the height of both the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox. Spires is tuned in a haunting minor sequence and employs the acoustic principle of the "standing wave," a precise tonal sequence that creates a rich sustaining sound. Rooted in harmonic balance, the musical personality of this instrument is one of peacefulness and centering, making Spires an ideal instrument for open improvisation, active relaxation or meditation practices.  

It took some convincing, but we managed to get Dad to sit down and give us an interview about his inspiration behind the Aztec Spires design and tuning. Not only that, but he gave us some playing demonstrations as well! Enjoy. 

 Aztec Inspiration

Dad touches on the ancient Aztec instrument, the teponaztli, a hollowed-out log drum thought to be used for ceremonial purposes.


The Story Behind the Sound

Spires is new. The Standing Wave 12-Key tuning is not. Here, Dad notes that this "meditative" tuning was for him a middle ground between Major and minor, and felt focusing in its composition. 

 Playing Demo

Just remember to wear your headphones for this one! 🎧 🎶 🎧


If you can walk, you can play!

Many are frustrated by Dad's insistence that he is "not a musician." Labels aside, Dad loves to draw an analogy between walking by alternately stepping your right and left foot to playing a tongue drum by alternately tapping your right and left mallet. Grab those headphones again for a final musical demo here.