Djembe opinions

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Djembe opinions

Postby dan » Wed Jun 14, 2017 6:57 pm

I'm looking for opinions on this djembe for a beginner. I picked it up from a private seller and was wondering if anyone can tell what type of wood it might be, possible country of origin. Also, do you think it is a decent drum? The head was pretty loose and I've tightened it up with 20 knots, I'm not really sure how tight to go. It sounds just ok to me, big bass but I'm still working on the basics.
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby dan » Wed Jun 14, 2017 6:58 pm

Here's a shot of the bottom.
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby dan » Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:04 pm

Now, my other concern is how crooked it is. Not only is the edge a little uneven but it is way off level. This is 23.5" tall with a 12" head. It's off by about 9/16".
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby djembefeeling » Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:10 pm

Don't worry about its being crooked so much. The wood is a light wood, not really the good hardwood stuff that sounds great. But for a beginner it is ok. How much did you pay for the djembe?
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby dan » Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:50 pm

$60 U.S. I figured it was cheap enough that I could at least get started.
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby djembefeeling » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:06 pm

That's reasonable. When you get hooked and get better you can get yourself a quality hardwood djembe.
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby dan » Thu Jun 15, 2017 12:41 pm

I suppose I was hoping to hear that this was in fact a hardwood djembe. Oh well, hopefully it will hold out while I play on it for a bit, then I'll upgrade rather than try to replace the head. Thanks.
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby drtom » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:08 am

dan wrote:I suppose I was hoping to hear that this was in fact a hardwood djembe.


Here's a rule of thumb dan. If you press your thumbnail into the wood and it leaves a dent, it's not hardwood.

dan wrote:I picked it up from a private seller and was wondering if anyone can tell what type of wood it might be, possible country of origin.


If I had to guess, I'd go with tweneboa from Ghana.

dan wrote:Now, my other concern is how crooked it is. Not only is the edge a little uneven but it is way off level. This is 23.5" tall with a 12" head. It's off by about 9/16".


DF is right. I've seen angled bearing edges so often I long ago began to suspect it's done deliberately. Since djembes are usually played at an angle, the angled bearing edge can be an advantage. It's the jagged edge that should cause concern.

dan wrote:Oh well, hopefully it will hold out while I play on it for a bit, then I'll upgrade rather than try to replace the head. Thanks.


You scored dan. This drum should serve you well as a beginner and beyond.

The rope looks good. If the rings are too large (can't quite tell), they aren't ridiculously so (this I can tell). The drum may not be particularly well skinned, but it should sound fine if you tune it well.

IMO the drum is worth another skin. Despite the shell not being of the highest caliber, if everything else is done right, the drum can sound great - maybe not world-class, but great just the same.
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby batadunbata » Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:14 am

First off, $60 for a full size Djembe that's ready to play is a steal. It's as simple as that.
The slope isn't a significant issue at all. Sometimes they're made that way for easy playing.

Softwood is fine, it has a big round bass. Just make sure the skin is tuned up tight. If not, look up how to pull diamonds (aka mali weave). Later you can spend up to a hardwood, but there's so much value in a cheap drum like that. Play it for a few hours and you've gotten your money's worth and it's all free from there. Generally a used softwood full size will run $100-150 (+ shipping if on ebay).

At $60, I figure you basically got the drum for free.
Skins cost, rope costs, rings cost, wood costs, and the work of putting it all together costs. And I didn't even mention the cost of someone turning the wood into a Djembe shell, and shipping it from Africa!
If Djembes all cost what they should, $60 wouldn't even cover the tax!

It's very likely Tweneboa or Melina. If Tweneboa, likely from Ghana, if Melina, could be from Mali.
They're not very soft, in fact they'd be called "hardwoods" if they grew in North America, but they're not very hard by African standards. Varies from piece to piece of course.

It's the Mali shape, but they do make some like that in Ghana. (Ghanian typically have a narrower taller bowl shape, with more parallel sides, whereas Malian have more of a tapering rounded bowl. The difference is subtle but noticeable)

It looks like a fairly legit african Djembe, and a great buy for a beginner or student. A lot of people have to start on cheap junk from big box stores. (which usually ain't so cheap by the way, $60 is really low price to start out - I paid $80 for a PVC Toca - looking back I realize it was basically just a light manual powered subwoofer with some ringy tones to go with it)
If you have the spirit, this drum will help you on your path, and buy you some time to save up/earn some money for a hardwood drum.
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby dan » Sat Aug 05, 2017 2:27 pm

Thanks for the replies. I have added knots all the way around but I'm leary of tearing the head. The only thing I don't like are my slaps, they sound very much like a snare drum.
I was in NYC and wanted to visit Wula drums but circumstances prevented that. Maybe next trip. Meanwhile I'm trying to get an hour a day or every other day...
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Re: Djembe opinions

Postby batadunbata » Sat Aug 05, 2017 7:08 pm

I hear ya on tearing the head. Don't worry though, that's a proper skin. You can tell by the dark line down the middle, that's from the spine area of the goat, which makes it considerably stronger.
It can handle proper tension.

You can crank it until the bass starts to fade. It has to fade a little to get the loud slaps, but not so much that it's gone. A low tuned skin has great bass, but poor slaps. It's a matter of finding the balance. It might be fine now, lets talk about other issues that may be causing it:

1. Object contacting the skin:
It should not sound like a snare drum. That sounds like it's either still tuned low, or possibly there is something contacting the skin on the inside. I would take a look inside with a flashlight, and check all the way around the inside of the rim, looking for a splinter or other reason why the skin is causing an additional vibration sound.

2. Technique and/or adjusting to a fussy drum:
If there's nothing there, and you've tightened it to the point where the bass starts to fade a little, and it still makes that sound, it may be that you can adjust your technique a little to make that drum sound good. Some drums are harder to work with, but a master can play almost any drum.

The key to a good slap or tone is finding the balance of:
-Force of strike
-Speed of strike
-Placement of strike
-Part of hand used
-Delay before lifting hand <- (very likely why you're getting a snare sound - lifting too early)
-Timing of strike*
*:If the skin is already vibrating from a previous strike, there's a specific moment you can hit it again, otherwise you'll get dissonance and the vibrations cancel each other out and it will sound flat, you have to either wait or time it just right, which takes listening, practice and instinct.

It takes time to get the slap to sound crisp, hard, and loud. And it won't be as easy on a softwood djembe, but you can still improve your technique on that drum, and it will make playing on a higher quality drum seem easy.

I might be able to help you, if you want? You could either post a video of your slaps (and tones to make sure you're differentiating enough) for me to give feedback on, (and/or) we could try skype so I can give suggestions in real time, which would make faster progress than posting back and forth, but the mic on your computer might not be as good as what you'd film with.
It's a lot better to get feedback than simply watching videos and trying to replicate what you see/hear. There are such minor adjustments that make major differences in the quality of slaps and tones.
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