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#38463
Hello everyone. I got this djembe from a local guy who apparently has a bunch of experience playing African percussion. He made it from cedar I think and seems to be a bit soft , he also said he used a skin from a guy he knows from Guinea but I can't tell if the skin is from Africa or somewhere else. Also, I'm from Costa Rica (if that's relevant).

My problem is that the djembe sounds awful compared to what I hear in youtube. Mine has a lot of overtones(?) and no matter how much I tighten this thing, it still sounds very echoey. So I just want to have some expert advice on what to do with this thing, whether I need to replace or do something or just use it as decoration and get a real djembe.

Attached is an audio recording and some photos of the djembe.

Pura vida! :D
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#38465
Your issue may be the internal carving of the bowl, plus maybe the dimensions and possibly the wood. By the looks of the stem the carve is not great. Inside the bowl you would want a even carve leaving a spiral with the walls being of equal enough width. The stem simply looks hacked out with out the carver trying to make it circular like the outside of the drum. You could try to re-carve the inside which would be very difficult. You could try using weather stripping to muffle the sound inside the drum like in the technique described in this other thread
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5814
Other than that you could change the skin and go for a calf skin which would probably sound better although there is no guarantee, also this is a difficult job also unless you've done it before.
#38471
Just tune that thing. It does sound awful.

You might think the skin is pulled tight now and it probably is, but djembes have to be pulled EXTREMELY tight to sound right.

It's possible that the skin is slipping as you add diamonds, so you're losing tension that way. Think back - was that much hair visible on the sides before you pulled the diamonds? If not, then the skin has slipped.

If the skin was mounted with the rings that low to begin with (for some reason) and the skin is not slipping, then undo the diamonds and start the tuning process again. Undo the diamonds, pull the slack, then add diamonds as needed.

Your drum needs tuning.
#38482
Thanks for the tips, guys!

I did notice that the skin was mounted a bit weird.. the upper ring looks like it's too low.

I noticed that the drum started to sound more bassy a few months ago and I untied the rope and started from zero doing all those rows of diamonds which took me like 4 hours. It sounded a bit better but still too "echoey", and now it seems like it's back to sounding bassy, so I guess you're right - the skin it's loosening itself. So, how do I prevent the skin from loosening while tightening the rope with diamonds?

I'll see if I can find that weather stripping here in CR. Do I need to put the strips inside the bowl or can it be just on the base? Because in order to put them inside the bowl I'll probably have to remove the skin altogether. I also read something about adding rubber tape on the rim, but I don't know exactly where to add it and I don't see any pictures of that on the net so I'm not sure how to apply it to guide myself.
#38484
aguacatedan wrote:I noticed that the drum started to sound more bassy a few months ago and I untied the rope and started from zero doing all those rows of diamonds which took me like 4 hours.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but it would be pointless to undo the diamonds already there only to pull them again.

In order to tune a djembe with diamonds already there you add more diamonds OR you undo the diamonds already there, PULL THE SLACK and add diamonds as needed.
aguacatedan wrote:It sounded a bit better but still too "echoey", and now it seems like it's back to sounding bassy, so I guess you're right - the skin it's loosening itself. So, how do I prevent the skin from loosening while tightening the rope with diamonds?
You're in luck. All that excess skin on your drum is usually cut off. As it is, you have plenty of skin to really start "from zero".

Remove the skin, soak it and mount it again. Before you mount the skin, replace the rings if they are too large. Also, make sure the flesh ring is wrapped with a material that has a textured surface that will grip the skin. Also, give the skin one full week to dry before you tune the drum.

Lots of work.
#38485
I should add that it may well be relevant that you're in Costa Rica.

From what I understand, it can get ridiculously humid there. This might mean that the skin never fully dries and you need to pull it even tighter than EXTREMELY tight. Also, I do believe that very humid conditions keep the skin at least somewhat pliable and more likely to slip.

If any of this applies to you, you might consider keeping your djembe in a controlled environment as much as possible - indoors with heating/air conditioning.

At best, these are educated guesses, since I've never been to Costa Rica, but it's the best I can do from here.
#38781
Might be a bit late, but in case you're still having the problems:
The others are right, the big issue is the skin slipping and being loose. It's almost 3" below the playing surface! It should be about 2/3" to 3/4" or so, up to about 1" at most.
The wood is fine, likely it's Spanish Cedar, (Cedrela Odorata), related to Mahogany, which is related to Djalla and Acajou. It's not very dense wood, but it's not too soft. It's used for Guitars, cabinetry, etc. The drum sounds good except for the tuning issue IMO. Also it's a very nice color!
But, if you wanted to improve the wood sound, it might help to oil it a few times with shea butter (dissolved into essential oil*), inside and out, until it sounds "wetter". Allowing the wood to absorb the oil for a while before adding more. At first it will absorb it quickly, but over time it will need it less and less often, until it's just about "perfect".
(*: I use Citrasolv household cleaner which is made from orange peel oil, because it's cheap and all natural)

So, don't bother with putting the foam inside the drum, until you've fixed the skin/ring/rope problem. If you still have the problem then, you can add weather foam to the bowl while the skin is still on (I've done it, it's not that hard. Three strips is enough to make a difference. Don't need to add anything to the stem, just the bowl, sloping slightly from skin to hole)
Forget about putting tape on the rim. Not necessary, and would dampen too much.

1. The main issue is that skin is way too loose, and it has slipped through the rings.
2. The skin can't be tightened until the skin is pulled through the rings, and the rings are sitting higher.

Here's a rough description of how to do it, but it's important to get proper instructions from a video, thread, or website:

Loosen the ropes, soften the skin with water or moisture, pull the skin through the rings, stitch the edges together in the center above the drum (looks like a closed sack) to hold it while it dries , and adjust the ropes until the rings sit almost level with the playing surface. Pull the ropes tight, but don't let the rings slip down. Then let the skin dry. Then when it has dried, you finish pulling the ropes to tune the drum up more, the rings will come downward, maybe 1/2", and over time with playing and diamonds, up to about 1" at most.

(BTW this would be a good opportunity to sand the outside of the Djembe with some fine-grade sand paper, oil the wood, then buff it with brown paper. This will bring out the color of the wood, and make it look nice and new and fresh )

As Dr Tom said, the humidity is a challenge, because the skin needs dry air to dry. You might be able to make a drying chamber from a box and a fan. Air movement tends to cause evaporation faster than still air, but if the air is moist, it's a challenge. A heater/fan might be needed, but be careful or it could rip if it dries too fast.
Also, once you do get it dried and tuned, you can lightly oil the skin with the same mixture of shea and essential oil, to make it more resistant to absorbing moisture from the air. I would add a little at a time, and see how it sounds, because too much will eventually dampen the sound, but a little can be good.