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african drumming techniques from Drumculture

 

African Drumming Techniques - Tone, Slap and Bass

I was once told by one Djembe Master (Mamady Keita) that there are over 36 different sounds that you can get from the djembe and one night when I heard Mamady playing a 25-minute djembe solo, I must have heard him make almost all of them. He was able to make the djembe 'talk' and 'sing' in a melodic way that truly inspired me and the rest of the appreciative audience.

Below is a very simple guide to the three techniques but please contact us if you would like to receive proper instruction in how to play like a professional; it's much easier than you might think. Alternatively, book one of our AFRICAN DRUMMING HOLIDAYS at our school in The Gambia where you will be in the ideal environment for learning this wonderful instrument.

There are, however, only 3 basic hand techniques; the 'Tone', the 'Slap' and the 'Bass'.

African Drumming Techniques - Tone

The tone is played on the edge of the drum and the fingers should be relaxed yet held together so that there is no space between the fingers. The hand should be positioned as shown in the diagram below. Please remember to raise your thumb so that you do not damage it when you hit the drum. The hand should be shaped such that no part of the hand should ever hit the wooden rim.

The note is played by raising your hand about 6 inches above the drum (bending at the elbow only) and striking the drum positively but not hard (volume comes from technique, not strength). To get a clear note the hand should immediately be raised again as soon as it has struck the drum.

African Drumming Techniques - Slap

The slap is played on the edge of the drum (exactly the same place on the drum as the tone note) and the fingers should be relaxed again but this time allowed to open slightly. The hand should be positioned as shown in the diagram below. Please remember to raise your thumb so that you do not damage it when you hit the drum. The note is played by raising your hand about 6 inches above the drum (bending at the elbow only) and striking the drum positively but not hard (volume comes from technique, not strength). To get a clear note the hand should immediately be raised again as soon as it has struck the drum. Many people think that a good slap comes from striking the drum hard; it isn't. DO NOT STRIKE THE DRUM HARD WHEN LEARNING TO PLAY THE SLAP - YOU WILL SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HANDS. Rather, the crisp, clear slap sound comes from relaxing the fingers when they strike the drum. Keep trying and experimenting with finger and hand placement until you hear the right sound. Again, the hand should be shaped such that no part of the hand should ever hit the wooden rim.

African Drumming Techniques - Bass

The bass is played in the centre of the drum and the fingers should be relaxed yet held together so that there is no space between the fingers. The hand should be positioned as shown in the diagram below. Please remember to raise your thumb so that you do not damage it when you hit the drum. The note is played by raising your hand about 6 inches above the drum (bending at the elbow only) and striking the drum positively but not hard (volume comes from technique, not strength). To get a clear note the hand should immediately be raised again as soon as it has struck the drum.

 

african drumming techniques tone
african drumming techniques slap
african drumming techniques bass
     

The Tone

(note thumb raised to keep it away from the rim)

The Slap

(note thumb raised to keep it away from the rim)

The Bass

(note thumb raised)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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