Advice and questions on making and fixing instruments
By Trumpet
#26881
Ok,
At the risk of being crucified here, I have a few questions. Now, I'm very well aware of the "purist" movement and am not judging it in any way (I'm a bit of a purist with some of my firearms, so I completely understand). I know that if it's key tuned it's not a "real" djembe in most eyes. However, tradition aside it seems to me that the biggest objection is that key tuned djembes (at least that I've seen online) are generally using bad synthetic heads, on a crap-tastic fiberglass shell.

Has anyone ever tried fabricating a way of mounting a quality skin on a quality shell via "cleats" or whatever you choose to call them?

Here's my thinking...
I have a drum group that I teach at my school. I do not know how to rehead a Djembe properly, and I don't have a lot of time (I know lame excuse) nor do I have a lot of money to pay Baile's Drum Works to rehead them.

I was thinking of trying to rig something like that up on one of my first (the Irietones djembe seemingly made of balsa) drums. The head hasn't been changed in four years, I can't tighten the ropes anymore, etc. Since it's a good drum to experiment on, I was thinking of getting some Meinl Djembe lugs. Heck, I could just use the Remo Djembe tension bracket assembly. Would it conceivably work to just hook the "claws" down on the crown ring? Perhaps coat the flesh ring in rubber to give a little extra grip?

I'm just thinking that if this would work well, it could really help me out with time and money. Any reason (other than tradition and cosmetics...then again my big drums are from Ghana and the small ones are Indonesian..so I'm not really breaking any that haven't already been broken) I shouldn't give this a shot? Might it work, or am I "dividing by zero" and inviting a plague of locusts on my family for centuries by doing this? Keep in mind, it's not like I'm doing this to a Wula Master Series or anything.
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By michi
#26884
Hand-carved drums are rarely completely round. Also, the prefab hardware used for Meinl drums is available in only a limited number of sizes. (I also imagine that it would horribly expensive if ordered as a spare part.) So, you'll have a hard time finding hardware that will properly fit your shell.

If you have metalworking skills, you could make a lug tuning system yourself. But then, that's probably more work than just learning how to rehead a djembe the traditional way… (Sorry, couldn't help the plug :) )

My recommendation would be to stick with rope tuning. Simple and effective and looks a whole lot better than all that hardware…

Cheers,

Michi.
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By e2c
#26885
I'm thinking that Baile McKnight might have some ideas as far as coming up with a workable system for your students' instruments.

Can't hurt to ask!

(I don't know him personally, but have heard great things about him from people who do, including one who learned a *lot* about drum-making and repair from him.)
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By rachelnguyen
#26901
I have a better idea: teach your students to tune their own drums! For the ones that are tuned as far as they can go, take out all the diamonds and pull the verticle ropes tighter... Then teach the kids to pull diamonds.

As far pas the lugs are concerned, one of the biggest issues is that you have so few attachment points compared to rope. Also, the hardware might get in the way when you play.

But since these are your drums, you could try expeimenting on one of them to see how it works and take it from there!
By Trumpet
#26907
rachelnguyen wrote:I have a better idea: teach your students to tune their own drums! For the ones that are tuned as far as they can go, take out all the diamonds and pull the verticle ropes tighter... Then teach the kids to pull diamonds.

As far pas the lugs are concerned, one of the biggest issues is that you have so few attachment points compared to rope. Also, the hardware might get in the way when you play.

But since these are your drums, you could try expeimenting on one of them to see how it works and take it from there!
I'd love to, but I don't see them enough. The drums are mine and the students don't get to take them home and some of the teachers don't like them pulled out of class as it is.
By Trumpet
#26908
e2c wrote:I'm thinking that Baile McKnight might have some ideas as far as coming up with a workable system for your students' instruments.

Can't hurt to ask!

(I don't know him personally, but have heard great things about him from people who do, including one who learned a *lot* about drum-making and repair from him.)

Good idea. Maybe I'll shoot him an email.
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By e2c
#26913
There's also Mahiri Edwards (Keita) and Menes Yahuda (both are members of Farafina Kan), who teach locally - they're both associated with Tam Tam Mandingue. One of the places you can contact Mahiri is http://www.facebook.com/people/Mahiri-F ... 1174776447

Menes teaches in Baltimore; his business is called Urban Foli: https://www.facebook.com/menes.yahudah

But I think Baile is "the man" re. drum building and repair... he's been doing it for decades now.

I hope things work out for you - please keep us posted!
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By Rhythm House Drums
#26970
You're looking at a lot of money to outfit a drum with lugs.. You'll need the sideplates, the lugs / claws, and a super fat crown ring. You'll be drilling or putting screws into the shell at precise spots that light up with the crown rings. It's a lot of work, and a lot of cost, and if you do it yourself, it'll probably be ugly and not very effective.

I've noticed some cultures cling to their tradition while others don't take it as seriously. Take Conga for example. These drums didn't start out with metal hardware, but now this is whats in demand even by the traditionalists. A lot of the pros even prefer synthetic heads because they are easier to play and you don't have to de-tune them after you play. Heck, a lot of them even prefer the laminated wood shells from LP as opposed to solid wood slats. Most conga players de-tune their drums after they play, could you imagine doing that with the Mali Weave? Not me! Sure it only takes 5 min or so to put in a few diamonds... but no thanks. A few quick turns with a key and it's all tuned up.

The 'attachment points' aren't an issue with good quality hardware. It's much thicker than the flimsy rings we use in the djembe. I know Manito Percussion uses thick Stainless Steel for the crown ring and flesh hoops, and they use flat stock, not round. So there is no give at all between the lugs. He does solid log drums that are pretty sweet.

It's rare to see a rope tuned conga because they're not really in demand. The best conga builders, Volcano Percussion, Moperc, Manito Percussion, etc. make their own hardware, and I do believe some of these guys make djembes using good skins and hardware.. however, their expertise is in conga. They also price these djembes like they are congas.. in the 600 dollar range. I'm not sure if anyone wants to fork out 600 for a key tuned drum?? I recently got a quote from some of these guys as I'm venturing into building custom conga as well.. looking at 200 - 300 USD at least for hardware per conga. Compared with 30 bucks rings and rope... :) There is a reason these builders fork out the money for hardware.

As far as teaching your students how to tune their drums.. that's a good idea. Somehow all the djembe players around here don't know how to tune their own drums, so when ever I go out drumming... I always get, "hey Kev, what do ya think? Need some more diamonds?" ..aka.. pull 'em for me. :) I don't mind, but do think if you play often you should know how to tune your drum.
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By michi
#26972
Rhythm House Drums wrote:A lot of the pros even prefer synthetic heads because they are easier to play and you don't have to de-tune them after you play.
I've never quite understood the de-tuning thing. I don't de-tune my dunduns or my djembe, and they are doing just fine. In addition, the endless tuning and de-tuning will shorten the lifetime of the skin, because it is inevitable that a few more collagen fibres break during each cycle. This is probably less of an issue with buffalo or cow skin than with goat skin, but still. I suspect that the de-tuning is probably unnecessary. (Here is Michi, world-famous conga player, making assertions about an instrument he knows very little about ;) )
As far as teaching your students how to tune their drums.. that's a good idea. Somehow all the djembe players around here don't know how to tune their own drums, so when ever I go out drumming... I always get, "hey Kev, what do ya think? Need some more diamonds?" ..aka.. pull 'em for me. :) I don't mind, but do think if you play often you should know how to tune your drum.
I feel that everyone who has been playing for more than a few weeks should know how to tune a djembe. Not knowing this, given that it takes all of five or ten minutes to learn, is ridiculous. A bit like a guitar player who doesn't know how to tune a guitar.

And, yes, I think that all the cheap tuners that are available now aren't helping. If my ear isn't good enough to tune an instrument without help from a computer, should I really be a musician? When I was a young lad, I had to tune my guitar by ear, while my siblings were screaming all around me, a jackhammer was demolishing the building next door, and the whistle on the tea kettle was going at the same time. Oh yes, I had to walk uphill to school too (both ways)! Them were the days… ;)

Michi.
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By e2c
#26979
Congas and bongos with natural skin heads really do need to be de-tuned after playing... the skins are pretty thick and there's a *lot* of tension on them, from multiple points. It's hard to get the cross-tension (think of drawing a line across the drum heads from one lug to the matching one on the opposite side) even in all cases, anyway.

You can warp the shell (at the top of the drum) if you keep them tuned up all the time.

I think this is one of the reasons that some people prefer to play cajon now, rather than congas.

As for traditional-type shells, there are a few people in the US that make them, but they're not on rhythm House's list... their waiting times are long, but if I were ever to buy a set of congas, those are the people I'd go to. (but then, I like the "old-style" drums a lot better than anything that LP or any of the other makers sell... a lot of the shells today have extremely large "bellies" and the sound is less appealing to me than that of the older, Cuban-style drums.)
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By michi
#26984
e2c wrote:Congas and bongos with natural skin heads really do need to be de-tuned after playing... the skins are pretty thick and there's a *lot* of tension on them, from multiple points. It's hard to get the cross-tension (think of drawing a line across the drum heads from one lug to the matching one on the opposite side) even in all cases, anyway.
I hear you. But then, a djembe with a cow skin has a lot of tension on it too (more than the average conga, I would think), and cow-skin djembes seem to be doing just fine without de-tuning. (I don't want to argue, seeing that I'm largely ignorant of congas. It's just that the de-tuning thing surprised me.)

Cheers,

Michi.
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By e2c
#26985
"largely ignorant of congas": well, that makes two of us, but the detuning thing is as I've always been taught (and shown) and it also was customarily done when tympani were headed with natural skins. The good synthetic heads (like Remo makes - and they *are* really good) can take much more tension and there isn't the worry about heat, humidity, dry air, cold, etc. etc. etc.

Keep in mind that congas are a different shape - not goblet drums, like djembes - and that tension at the top (when up to playing pitch) + the shape of the shell + stave construction = a very different set of parameters and stresses than is the case for drums carved out of tree trunks.

** I have seen congas that went out of round due to the skins not being detuned. (They probably weren't tuned right to begin with, in terms of not having even tension all the way around the heads.) The skins got warped, pulling far over to one side in this case; pulling toward the "inside" of both drums and starting to slip out of the rims on the "outer" edges. (Two conga setup, one of the packages sold by LP under its cheaper iteration, Cosmic Percussion.) That's a good way to wreck one's investment in the instruments, I'd say.
By megaduns
#27030
For me I'd say the rope system is better, I think a lot of the conga tuning and detuning comes from the hardware fittings, as said above with hardware you only have a few points of tension 4-6 typically, with the rope system depending on how many verticals you have you have a lot more. Wood does not like to be drilled through and have bolts put under huge pressure. If you don't detune your bongos/congas you get cracking in the wood eventually. Look out for it on second hand congas. I've never seen this type of cracking on rope tuned drums as the system is better placing the pressure over a greater area.

If I were you I'd by a decent pulling bar and just retune your drums by the time you've come up with a system your happy with you'll have cracked lots of drums and I'm not sure giving kids the ability to tune so fast with hardware is a good choice. you may find your self replacing skins quicker than you thought.

Whatever you choose to do good luck!
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By nkolisnyk
#27031
In terms of key-tuning a goatskin, I've had some good success in doing this when such a drum has been passed my way. The only other danger I see is that it is very tempting to crank the lugs tight right off the hop to get the drum up to playing pitch. While it seems efficient, I'm sure it does a lot more long-term damage to the skin than slowly bringing it up to pitch using ropes - so beware!

If you want to retrofit, here's an idea: try to acquire some old kick drum hardware. The lugs are nice and long, and they usually use claws to grab on to a hoop (as opposed to a snare's hoop which has preset holes). I've seen kick drums as small as 16", so with a bit of messing around with old hardware (and finding a crown/flesh ring that is large enough to fit the 'claw fingers' between it and the shell), it might work. Maybe experiment on your crappiest drum first, just in case!
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By Waraba
#27032
I've had 380 9-year-olds construct and learn to play their own mbira nyunga nyunga (thumb pianos). It's a year-long program with both the art teacher, music teacher, and an outside consultant helping. Having kids learn to tune or build anything is an enormous time commitment. It would be its own workshop. And such programs in my area dealing with drums are billed as such--where the experts come in with materials ready for the kids to work on. If you only work with the kids once a week, you'll never get to play music with them.

An alternative might be to teach one or two of the children really well, and have them teach partners during their recess or something like that.

How old are the kids you're working with? I've taught African drums to 8, 9, and 10 year olds and have tried teaching them rope pulling but it's surprisingly difficult for them, with many opportunities for them to hurt themselves (which fortunately never happened, but the opportunities were there). I satisfied myself with demonstrating it for them. One of them got pretty interested and dedicated himself to learning the weaving pattern. But most of them felt like they were getting the bait-and-switch: Hey, I signed up for drumming--what the heck is this?

That said, I remember Djoniba Moufflet playing on a lugged djembe way back about 22 years ago at Lezly Dance & Skate in NYC. His studio is Joneeba Dance, I think.