Advice and questions on making and fixing instruments
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By Waraba
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.
By Trumpet
As to the "teach them to do it"....yes and no. I'd love to, and they would certainly be able to do it, but I only get to see the kids once a week (if I'm lucky) for 45 minutes. The students are all in middle school, and it's not even a graded class, but a "pull out". I do it during my lunch/planning time and keep in mind I also have to teach K-8 general music as well as two choruses. The only reason my admin. lets me do it is because the kids are good and the school/families love it. What little time we have, I don't want to (for lack of a better term) "waste" it.
Also, these are my drums (not the school's) and they stay with me. The issue isn't the tuning. I have a pull bar and can do that without any problems. The issue is head replacement. On a few of my "inferior" drums (that although not traditional, but still sound OK), I don't want to have to spend $100+ each to rehead them and I don't know how to rehead a Djembe (yet). So in the meantime, I thought I might experiment on a couple of the cheaper drums with the keytuned setup. I might try the used kickdrum hardware.
In the meantime, I have to order 9 drums from Wula....
By Trumpet
nkolisnyk wrote: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!
Any tips or techniques would be appreciated.
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By michi
Trumpet wrote:I don't want to have to spend $100+ each to rehead them and I don't know how to rehead a Djembe (yet).
Sounds like you need to read my book :)
So in the meantime, I thought I might experiment on a couple of the cheaper drums with the keytuned setup. I might try the used kickdrum hardware.
I suspect you'll be largely breaking new ground here. I suspect it will work well only with shells that are unusually round, if you happen to be able to find hardware at reasonable cost and that matches the size of the shell.

I understand where you are coming from but I honestly suspect that the more cost-effective way would be to learn to re-head a djembe.


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By michi
Trumpet wrote:No can do with the iPad.
Yes, I know, that's a serious limitation. I'm thinking of republishing this in ePub 3 format. That would make the book available on the iPhone as well as the iPad. ePub 3 can't do the fancy layout of what is possible with iBooks Author, but the content would be the same, just laid out in simpler ways.
How is Shorty's DVD?
I found out about Shorty's DVD while I was in the middle of creating the videos for my book. I bought a copy from Shorty after I was done filming because I didn't want to bias myself. It's a fine video, not quite as complete and comprehensive as what I did. But you will certainly learn how to re-head a djembe that way.

There are differences in approaches, and I don't agree with absolutely everything Shorty says, but that is just a reflection of our different styles; I'm sure Shorty wouldn't agree with absolutely everything I say either :)

Shorty, if you have an iPad or can borrow one, drop me a note and I'll send you a download code!
I'm thining about one of his tables as well. As I mentioned in another post, I actually herniated two discs pulling diamonds.
Do get one. I'm certain you won't regret it!
As to the key tuned I was looking at getting 6 or 8 of these... ... t-assembly
and seeing how they work.
Hmmm... That might work. What were you thinking of using as the crown ring? I strongly suspect that a normal round crown ring will not work because it will flex too much between the tension points. You will probably have to replace the normal crown ring with a piece of flat bar.


By flambeau
I made a stave djembe years ago that had a home brew lug tuning system made from turnbuckles hooked to eyebolts that went through the shell. The eye at the head end of the turnbuckle was unbent so that it grabbed the top ring just enough to stay put but not enough to puncture the skin. Worked really well with an appropriately sized set of turnbuckles- I think the turnbuckle body was 3 - 31/2 inches long. The eyebolt holes were smaller than the eyebolt threads so that I had to thread the eyebolt to where I wanted it. I had a fender washer and nut on *both* sides of the threaded part of the eyebolt since it was going to withstand considerable lateral pulling forces.
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By michi
Interesting! Personally, I don't care much for the looks. But there is something to be said for the ease of tuning and re-heading.

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By djembefeeling
It certainly isn't that beautiful, but I could get used to the looks. Reheading would be much easier that way. What bothers me is the metal which would do some mean drilling into your legs when you try to hold the shell with the legs while playing. Congas are different in that respect. So you also need a stand for this kind of djembe and even then - the metal could also be in your hands way.
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By michi
I was worried about hitting the rim, too. It's difficult to judge how much of a problem that really is without actually playing the drum. Some players might have to adjust their technique to keep their palms and thumbs out of harm's way.

Not sure wether a stand is really necessary. Again, I'd have to play the drum to find out.

The concept has merit in terms of making it quick and easy to tune the drum or replace a skin. As a traditionalist, I think I prefer rope tuning. But then, for someone who is touring with a band or some such, this could be useful. (You'd still have about a two-day turn-around time to replace a skin though, unless it is force-dried.)

With djembes, the only way to be moderately safe for performances is to carry two of them, in case one of them pops…

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By korman
If the verticals are not replaced (which does not happen at every reheading) then I don't see much speed advantage - you still have to put on and shape the skin, trim it and wait for it to dry. Plus the rope system stretches the head much more evenly.

The advantage of metal lug system on congas and bongos is that LP, Meinl etc. sell pre-shaped drumheads that you can just put on like the plastic drumset heads - without any soaking. But guess what, serious rumberos still use the rawhide as the sound from factory heads is not the best! And it's the sound that matters, right?
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By boromir76
As sugested in previous posts, I would recomend staying with rope system. Not because it is more "traditional" but because it has simply many more litlle advantages over one single when using pricey metal "cleat" tightening system which is: fast and easy tigtening.
This are:
- ropes are much cheaper,
- in contrast to bulky and cold metal cleats, ropes are more pleasant to play with, as they do not poke players thighs,
- less chance to overtighten and therefore breaking the skin with ropes,
-no drilling into precious djembe wooden body,
-ropes simply look better,...

Try to learn to tighten the djembe and with some time and practice you will get more comfortable with it and also faster. If not to young, try at least engage kids into pulling some horizontal diamonds when tightening the drums.
By smokinjokin
Wow, old thread but here goes. I imagine lugs on a djembe would be digging into my legs as I play. Ouch!!! :p