How To Play The Djembe For Beginners
Beginner Djembe Lesson. Get the full DVD at Amazon.com A step by step lesson on how to play the West African Djembe drum. Includes bass, tone, slap, flams and more. You can also get the full 2 hour Rhythmic Foundation : Interactive African Drumming for Everyone DVD at JimDonovanMusic.com Jim Donovan is the original drummer of the band Rusted Root where he was a member from 1990-2005.
Step 1: Striking the drum:
Let's talk about striking the drum. The first thing you'll want to do before anything is to take off any jewelry that you have on your hands and your wrists. This is to keep the drum heads from getting dents and also to protect your jewelry. Now I'd like to show you several tones that this beautiful drum is capable of making.Striking technique: Bass toneLet's start with the bass tone. The bass tone is the big resonant sound that the drum is capable of making. When you're holding your hands to make the bass tone, we'll start with one hand. If you turn your hand over and look at them your fingers should be together, your thumb should stay in. If you look at your hand at an angle it should be relatively straight. You want to avoid curning the hand up like this. If you do you open yourself up to injuries here on these knuckle joints. Just, as you look at your hand, nice and flat. When you're holding your hand, it should be firm, but still relaxed. Now some people, when they do the bass tone they do it right dead center, which is correct. It creates one kind of bass tone. Other people play the bass tone over on this part of the drum, which is just off-center. And so if you look at your wrist, your wrist should stay even with the edge of the drum, this is also called the rim of the drum. And as you strike the drum, this is the important part: when you strike the drum, instead of bringing your hand down and keeping it on the head, crushing the drum, what you want to do instead is as you strike the drum, let your hand bounce off of the head so the drum can resonate, like this. You can see I'm using the full weight of my arm. When you're using both hands the key with this technique is that each hand sounds like the other. The term for this is called "Evenness of Tone". And so, as you practice, practice allowing each hand to strike and sound identical. That's the goal. One thing you'll notice as I play is that I'm not using any extra motion, I'm not lifting my hand up really high. I'm not swiping my hand back like this. I'm not coming in on an angle like this, just the motion is just straight up and down. And so the goal as you do these tones, not only to have evenness of tone, but also efficiency of motion, using as little energy as possible to achieve the result you're looking for, which in this case is a great sound. Please make sure as you play, that you are still breathing. Sometimes when people are learning something new the tendency is to hold your breathe. Very good!
Step 2: Open tone technique:
Striking Technique, open tone: The second tone we're going to work on is called the Open Tone. And so, if you look at your hands, this was the position we were just in for the bass tone. To get to the open tone, what I like to do is back my hands up half-way, and then tilt wrists in. Let your elbows drop, be comfortable. I want you to notice right now that my thumbs are faraway from the edge of the drum. This is so I don't accidentally smack this this knuckle joint right here, there's a nerve there. And if you happen to strike that on the side of the drum like this, you will feel it in the most terrible ways! And so, when you're doing this tone- this is the open tone-this is the bass tone, you're aiming for this part of your hand. And you're also aiming for the fleshiest parts of your hands and your fingers. And so, again as you're holding your hands for this, they should look flat. Avoiding curving your hands up like this- That will lead to an injury, keep your hands nice and flat. Now for this open tone you can bend your wrist a little bit more, and as you strike the drum, you'll notice that the tone is little bit more of a hollow tone. It's more of a direct sound. As you're playing this you'll want to be very careful never to hit the drum at an angle, like this. Instead make sure that you're again hitting the drum straig