This page explains my beginings in djembe.
It just explains my experience and im not an expert so
take it as is. i hope it may help a reader.
According to me, music is composed of only 2 things: sound and silence.
The silence is the delay between the sounds. It is often overseen
but it is as important as the sound. It is even more visible
To be able produce a silence of the desired length
requires a good time perception. I find it harder to learn than
sound as it is more void. Silence would an absence, sound
more an presence and the interaction between the two is music.
The simplicity is only apparent, even people who play djembe
for more than 20 years still improve their sound and silence.
- learn to walk before running: beginners are often eager to
learn and to be as good as their model. They see their hero running
(aka playing) and try to imitate him/her.
Some people will try to run before they can confortably walk.
They may even run before the others who learn to walk first
but they will limp while running.
The guy who know how to walk, will run straight and win
the race in the long term.
A solid castle needs good fundation.
- think about the whole sentence: while playing a beat,
think about the whole sentence. If you think only about the
current sound, your music won't be smooth. It like reading
loudly a text: if you read ahead, you are nicer to hear.
- Dont look at the hands:
While listening a new rythm, try not to look at the hands of the
other players. They are too fast to be analysed. try to recognize
the sounds and reproduce them. If you can't reproduce the whole
rythm, reproduce what you can. As the rythm loops, you will have
other chances to play the rest.
Moreover when you are playing, try not to look at your own hands
but to look at others players/dancers, it will increase your
communication with them.
- Listen to the others players: while playing in group, listen
the others. If you can't hear them, something is wrong in the
volume: you play too loud or they don't play loud enought.
- always play clean: aim to always play clean sound and
Thus you get used to hear clean music and will realize faster when
you get off it. If a beat is too fast for you, play it slower
or play only a part of it. don't hit whatever very fast, it would
noise, not music.
- Train both hands: Most people have a favorite hand (the
right one for righthanded people). It is faster, stronger and sharper.
The easy way would be to use the strong hand as much as possible
while playing. But it just increases the inbalance between both hands
and will penalize you in the future. to train both hands early
provides a better liberty on the long term. A simple exercice
to train your weak hand is to swap the hand side: each sound
usually mades with the right hand will be made by the left one
and vice versa.
sounds are produced by the vibration of air. On a djembe, it is
the vibration of the skin and the box. Nevertheless as
the box is much more rigid that the skin, the vibration of the
box has less influence on the sound.
The sound of the djembe by the hand hitting it.
The main componants of a sound are:
- where the hand lands on it
- the shape of the hand when it lands on it
- how long the hand stays in touch with it: the contact of the
hand on the djembe change the way it vibrate, so change the
- the speed of the hand when it lands on it:
Typically the fastest is the hand, the louder is the sound.
The louder you play, the harder it is to play fine sounds.
Beyond this point, the page is mostly notes in progress, hardly readable.
- be aware the usual bass, tone and tap are only the basic sounds.
- percussion is often dispised. My opinion is people thinks percussion
is easy because to produce the first sound is trivial, much
easier than with a violon say. but to masterize it is way longer.
- if you are off time, dont try to rush to get back in the beat
- Left/right tone: just do pe/te/pe/te etc. for a while. try
to have the same delay between each sound. it will increase your
How to make a tone
- The hand should stay on the skin as shorter as possible
- don't move the arm, only the wirst and the hand should