Build djembe drumming speed, stamina and improve your djembe technique

Super fast Thomas Guei - (C) Associazione DJEMBE -

There are many different core skills needed to play djembe well. All of these areas need attention and often the fastest way to improve your drumming is to focus on each of these core aspects individually.

On the forum, some people were discussing what they are working on, and I realised that a youtube video that claims to show a Thomas Guei solo phrase was getting some attention. I had come across it myself recently and I’ve even heard it mentioned here in Berlin, by a friend of mine who’s been playing it for a while.

I decided to give it a go as it has a few characteristics that are interesting and I have a few reasons for thinking that it could be good for my drumming.

Having figured out and written down what it actually is, I’m less convinced that this is an actual solo phrase. It’s timing is straight, and I don’t find it particlarly musical, but then Thomas does do some crazy stuff that you don’t really see other people doing. He must be one of the fastest djembe players in history. Here’s a little clip of him showing us what he can do.

It would be very interesting if someone could post a video clip of Thomas playing this phrase, or tell us that he taught it to them. I commented on the original video, and the person who posted it says that it’s a phrase that Thomas often plays, but that it wasn’t Thomas who taught it to him.

Regardless of it’s origins, I think it’s definitely useful for working on your technique, stamina and speed.

Once you’ve begun to create clear on consistent tones and slaps, one challenge that comes next is to be able to maintain the same clarity in pitch at speed. It is very common to see the quality of your notes deteriorate at speed, and focusing on improving this requires playing the same thing repeatedly.

If you were to play this phrase, starting slowly and then building up speed it would certainly begin to push your abilities.

The phrase is interesting in that the first part cycles every 5 16th notes and is a mixture of slaps tones and flams. It is also interesting that the last 4 notes are played <right hand><right hand><left hand><left hand>, which would certainly pull me out of my normal way of playing. It also makes me wonder about why the handing would be such, unless you were doing magic miming with your hands at the same time.

I have notated the phrase so that anyone who’s interested can learn it at their own pace. The big letters are for dominant hand (right hand for most) and the smaller letters are for non-dominant hand.

Let me know what you think? How do you work on improving your djembe technique? What about your stamina and speed?

Credits: Thanks to Associazione DJEMBE –, for the cool photo of  Thomas.