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How to detect a hidden tear in a skin (which explains why it's suddenly less tight) - Djembefola - Djembe Forum

Advice and questions on making and fixing instruments
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#44471
[This is an edited version of a reply I wrote to someone who may have this problem. I thought I should re-post it with a clear title since their thread wasn't just about this issue, so that it's easy to find for people searching about this topic.]

Skins often don't tear where you can see. If they tear enough, it can become obvious, but a small tear can be hard to spot at first. You may just notice the drum sounds awful all of a sudden.

One way this might be detected is that the upper rings will appear lower where it's torn. This is because the skin is no longer pulling them upward and against the tug of the ropes, so they get pulled down there.
So check to see if the ring is 100% level, or if there's a tilt.

Then, inspect carefully all the way around the top of the shell, just below the rim.
The easiest thing to spot is an open tear above the rings, so the wood is visible through the skin. It will be darker, so it shows by contrast. It can be very small.

Harder to spot, but still noticeable, is a hidden tear that has let the rings and skin edge drift down a bit.
So if you see anywhere that looks like there is a line where the skin is darker or lighter above and below that line, (like a tan line or waterline) it could mean the skin has torn below that. This is because the ring has slipped, and so the skin edge has drifted downward away from the rim a little bit, exposing the skin that was previously covered by the edge of the skin, which is paler than the sun-exposed or grimey skin. It's a subtle difference, but it can be helpful as a way to spot a tear.

Another way to spot a tear, is if the surface of the drum is not completely flat, like there is a wavy bumpy area on the skin. Normally it should be flat like a table. Not necessarily level with the ground, or perfect like glass, but there should be no major dips, or bumps. (The rim may not be perfectly smooth, I don't mean small bumps on the wood, I mean the skin itself buckles up or down away from the rest of the skin surface. It may even feel looser there, like it's not as tight.

Last but not least, inspect carefully below the rings, so you are looking up under the rings, preferably with a flashlight or good light source illuminating the crevice.
You are looking for anywhere that the skin appears to have split, it could be that the flesh ring is visible for an inch or more(darker than the skin, so peeking through). Be really thorough. It can evade detection if you are looking quickly. It may be necessary or helpful to lay the drum on it's side on a towel or something to inspect it closely.
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