What is a Monk Drum anyways?

Several families, including my own, moved from the suburbs of El Paso, TX to the outskirts town of Chaparral, New Mexico in 2003. We wanted to live differently. We wanted to live a life of contemplation, prayer and service to the people around us. We didn’t know much about these things (and still don’t), but we have now been on the journey for 10 years or so. We’ve built a workshop, more housing, a dorm, and a chapel made of straw bales. Two of my kids were born into the community, and the other two have spent over half of their life here. The same with the other families. This weird life of communal living is “normal” for them, and I have to say, its become a new, “better” normal for me too. I guess you could say we’ve become “ruined”, unable to go back. We’re unfit for the old normal, because the new life we’ve found in the desert has changed us forever.

Along the way, we’ve met some incredible people. Almost every week in fact. It turns out there are lots of people tired of “regular life” where you work to make money, to buy stuff, so you can have stuff, which takes more money, so you work to make money, so you can buy more stuff, etc… We wanted to try a different type of life, where we live simpler, need less, go slower, and have more time for the people you meet on the way. To us, its began to be known as just “loving people one at a time.” We’re tying to become “people” focused instead of “stuff” focused.

We just try to love people.

We’ve met all kinds and our goal is to love all the kinds who come. Many people we’ve met, end up staying with us for a night, a day, a week, or a season in our dorms. They often need a chance to rethink life, heal from hurts, escape the fast life, or just sit around a porch and look at the stars with some friends. This has been awesome for us and them. But since many of us have jobs that take us off the community grounds during the week, it’s challenging to juggle the practical responsibilities of guests with the demands of off-grounds jobs.

Monk Drums is a step toward reconciling those areas. Jacob, our lead drummer-monk-craftsman, has been crafting instruments for several years and playing them for decades. He and his sons are gifted musicians and artists, from a family of gifted musicians and artists, and who are friends with even more gifted musicians and artists. Jacob is also gifted at mentoring young men and women on their journey of “second chances”. He’s always had someone sleeping on his couch, or on his floor, of in a spare bedroom. Many of these folks his family has taken in just needed someone to believe in them and give them a chance. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen beautiful healing happen when someone is just willing to extend a helping hand. Monk drums is an attempt at blending a craft of creating beautiful instruments with the beautiful gift of “second chances” for the people we meet in our communal-living journey. By having a workshop with regular work “worth doing”, more of us can be available during the weekdays for the next season of people who need someone to talk to. And perhaps those in need, can earn a few extra dollars or some room & board from some simple workshop tasks. Most importantly they can have someone there for them when they are ready to have someone listen to their story.

Because along the way, there are many beautiful “unscheduled” stories that come up when you are working with someone and just have the time to listen. These conversations can’t be scheduled or planned, they just happen. But we can make room for them, by making a place for them. That’s one of our hopes for Monk Drums. We want it to be a place where simple conversations over cleaning a workshop floor, or applying the finish to a drum can start someone on their second-chance. They can know that someone cares about them, and the conversation won’t have to be rushed. Over pushing a broom, or sanding some wood panels, life can begin to beat within a wounded heart again. Like a drum? Maybe.

And then finally, those people who buy a drum, won’t just be buying an instrument. They are participating in love too. It’s an eternal song. A drum of second chances. A drum song beating with the life beat of someone’s story mingled with our own. Now that’s a journey worth taking.

Feel free to read more about the community at

May peace be with you from the Desert Rain Community, and the drummer-monk-craftsmen.

– Greg Steele


We sell many drums, all custom made, but it’s an easy process to pick the ones you want. All our drums come with the Monk Double Sound Chamber, directing your sound forward to your audience instead of down to the ground or the back of the room. Our Monk Double Sound Chamber has been refined this past decade by our craftsmen in partnership with professional hand percussionists to amplify, enhance, and direct your sound at high volume with low hand fatigue. Our play surfaces maximize tone range so it feels like you’ve got a whole kit in just one drum, depending on where you strike the surface. Once you play a Monk, you’ll immediately hear and feel the difference. We guarantee them for life, because we want you to love them that long.


Monk Drum – this free standing cajon with a 10″ playing surface is the most popular but it also comes in other sizes for different sounds. It stands in front of you on the ground while you sit on a chair or second cajon, no stand needed. You don’t need to balance it on your feet, since the sound hole is in the front, and not facing down. The Monk Drum is crafted with a double sound chamber directed forward so it amplifies, refines and directs the sound to your audience, instead of the floor. This results in much less hand fatigue to get performance volume, crisp cracks, and thump’n bass. If you want to stand up while playing, we have stands or custom tall drums that you can stand in front of. We have a 12″ version with a larger playing surface with a deeper, heavier bass sound. We also have a higher toned 9″ playing surface that complements the 10″ and 12″ if you are playing them as a set. All are at the starting price of $150. We can also add a snare if desired. (+$25)

Bass Monk – We nicknamed this traditional sit-on cajon our “Bass Canon”; you’ll get more thump’n bass than you can handle. This is perfect to sit on, like a traditional cajon, but the Monk double chamber directs the sound to your audience instead of the back of the room. This results in crisper, better sound and much less hand fatigue to get the volume you desire. We have two types. Traditional with one playing surface ($250) and our new model with 3 playing surfaces: high, bass, and snare surface.($300)

Monk Bongos – these little guys are ultra portable and sit on your lap. The hole is in the front so you don’t have to balance them to keep the sound hole clear. Effortless play and broad range of tone across the play surface for portable percussion on the go. ($75)


After picking the drum style, you can then choose the type of finish and customizations you’d like. Customization examples are below.

Custom Build – Go with one of our standard builds, or if you have a special build idea, run it by us. We can make the drums have a tall, built in base, so they can be played standing up, or a customized soundhole like a celtic cross, or inlaid wood. Let your imagination run wild and talk with our craftsman to nail down the practicalities of it. ($50)

Custom Finish – Go with our basic natural wood Monk Drum finish, or if you’d like your drum to be even more unique, we have some very talented local artists who can put a custom finish on your drum. We’re very careful to maintain the playability and sound, so feel free to make your drum look amazing and unique. Check out our gallery of dozens of drums with custom finishes if you’d like some ideas of what we’ve done in the past. ($50)

Monk Drum with a Snare – Some musicians love the Monk Drum with a snare, and some don’t. Let us know if you are the snare type. ($25)

Playing Surfaces – Go with our traditional 1 surface Bass Cannon ($250), or our newer 3 surface build ($300). The 3 surface model has a high, snare, and bass surface to play.(This choice is only necessary on the Bass Monk.)

Barry Juice – Our friend Barry Martin has handcrafted guitars for the last 40 years, and he’s world renowned for being at the top of his profession. He has a special patented lacquer that he uses on his guitars to tighten the sound, and when we put it on the inside of our Monk Drums, they sound even more tight and precise, especially for studio recording sessions where every little incremental improvement counts. It’s probably not needed for normal play, but if you record in a studio, you might want to pick up this pro-grade enhancement when we build your drum. ($25)(Visit Barry at “Frets & Necks” here.)

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