Top 5 djembe drumming techniques you need to master

Top 5 djembe drumming techniques you need to master

When it comes to percussion instruments, the djembe drum is a great addition to any musical performance.

Growing in popularity all the time this African drum will add real depth and tone to your music. Played with the hands, almost anyone can pick up a djembe and have a go; but learning the top 5 djembe drumming techniques is a little harder.

Here, we’re going to teach you how to play the djembe drum, and the five main techniques you will need to master:

The basics

Starting in a seated position, rest the djembe between your knees. Angle the head away from your body and tilt the drum off the floor. This will allow the sound to escape and means you can position your hands correctly.

Holding the drum at this angle also ensures that the djembe is positioned with the natural orientation of your arm. This will allow you to play with ease and more power.

To get the correct hand position, form a triangle with your hands and place it on the drum head; make sure that your thumbs rest on the rim. The key here is to maintain this triangular shape whilst you play. Here, are the top 5 notes you need to know:

1. Bass

The first drumming technique you need to learn is the bass. It might be the easiest to play, but it is fundamental to djembe playing; it is the most commonly used note, and forms the base of any song or performance.

Holding your hand flat with your fingers together; strike the centre of the drum with the palm of your hand. As soon as your hand hits the drum head, pull it away immediately. This allows the sound to escape and the technique to be executed correctly.

2. Tone

Played with the fingers and not your palm, the tone produces a higher pitched note than the bass. To master this technique, strike the rim of the drum with slightly cupped fingers – remember to keep them firmly together.

Each finger should hit the drum at the same tone, with the centre joint of your fingers meeting the edge of the drum. Like the bass, you need to pull your hand away immediately after impact to emphasise the crisp sound of the note.

3. Slap

The slap is the final ‘beginner’ djembe drumming technique, but it is considered to be the most difficult to play. As you would expect, the slap is played by using a ‘slapping’ motion. You should be careful not to use too much force though.

Cup you hand – like your trying to catch a fly on the djembe head – and bring your hand down onto the drum sideways. Keep all your fingers together, and play the slap somewhere in between the centre and rim of the drum.

This should be a single, swift movement but one that will take a little practice to get completely right.

4. Ping

The ping is a slightly more advanced technique, but one that can add great depth to your music. It is similar to the tone, but has a higher pitch. This note is played on the very edge of the drum, with the very tips of the fingers.

Place your hand so the first joint of your fingers is on the rim; this may mean that only your second and middle finger will hit the drum. Like the tone, strike the drum head so that all your fingers hit the head at the same time. As with all these four notes, pull your hand away after striking the drum.

5. Muffled tone

The fifth and final drumming technique is the muffled tone. This variation of the tone is played in exactly the same way with one key difference. Instead of pulling your hand away after hitting the drum, keep it on the drum head. This will muffle the sound, creating his unique effect.

So there you have it; 5 djembe drumming techniques you can get practicing today. Once you’ve nailed the individually, work on adding them into a rhythm to create those wonderful pieces djembe drums are famed for.

Written by Djembe Drum Shop, an online retailer of African percussion instruments, with a wide variety of djembe drums for sale. To view their full range of products and find out which is the best for you, visit their website.


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