Advice and questions on making and fixing instruments
User avatar
By djembefeeling
#38413
Some time ago I was so thrilled about a djembe with 45 knots. It did sound so amazing that I asked frequently in this forum about the significance of the amount of knots on the ring for the sound and wasn't easily satisfied with the answers. So I started experimenting with many knots. Not exactly 45, but I now do between 31-39 compared to around 25 before. I think the sound is a bit more evened out with this technique, but it doesn't explain the amazing sound of this djembe I heard a year ago.

Lately, I did hear it again, and it doesn't sound that amazing any more. It did hold its sound for half a year, then it significantly lost tension and quality. After two rounds of diamonds, it starts to sound good again, but not that awesome good as before.

So I wonder. My impression is that those modern djembes all have an incredible wet pull, which first sounds awesome, but after a while not so much any more. I shared my view with Eike from the webshop in Berlin and he agreed that cranking wet pull sort of brings goat skins to their limit much faster. The Wula drum he brought for me to try was a good example of that.

Do you guys agree that this rather recent development of heavy wet pull doesn't benefit the sound in the long run?
User avatar
By Dugafola
#38417
i think it depends on a lot of factors overall...you all know them: shell, edge, rings, skin, rope, climate etc etc etc

I will agree that a skin with a heavy wetpull will have certain characteristics throughout the life of the skin.

although i'm not sure what constitutes a "heavy wet pull" anymore. some ppl may think Drumskull do a super heavy wet pull but i can attest that they do not. I probably load more tension on my wetpulls than they do, but their skin finishing/tuning is just on an entirely different level compared to mine and most.
User avatar
By boromir76
#38426
Good sound is sum of all factors, and everyone of them contributes to the end result in their way. The age old question is to what amount and how. I would be surprised if very strong wet pull would not change sound properties of the skin in comparison with mild wet pull. Strong wet pull makes more shere physycal strech, and therefore compression and also more thinner skin. So it probably also sounds different as the one which was loosly pulled when wet I guess.

With rings I did not find much difference with number of knots abowe the 32. The evenes of tensioning is more important from the one who is doing pulling than from number of knots in my opinion..

When it comes to tensioning, my phylosophy is "good things come to those who wait". In that sense, rushing and making extremely strong wet pull do not contribute to good sound over long period of time, only short hand,...and of couse it also sounds differently.
User avatar
By drtom
#38427
djembefeeling wrote:Do you guys agree that this rather recent development of heavy wet pull doesn't benefit the sound in the long run?
It's a good question, and I'm glad you asked. We need to take such details into consideration in order to advance the art/science of drumming. Such details never even cross most peaople's minds.

I do not agree. I suspect that those amongst us who like to break skins in by wringing, stretching, stomping and beating skins before mounting would also not agree.

I'm pretty sure Taiko drum makers would disagree as well. They do TWO wet pulls per drum head to make sure they get it right, and they do this in between just to make sure:
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User avatar
By the kid
#38433
I got a drum which was 17 years old and had a skin mounted in ok state when i got it. It sounded ok. Probably no wet pull or 'modern advanced engineering',lol, applied to the build. But was tidy little drum, had some history and plenty of potential i thought. I've put a few skins on it since and did pull hard when wet, and imo and of some who heard it, the drum has a really nice sound and held it's sound well through different stages of tuning and tightness. I prefer the sound which i achieved rather than the sound when i bought it. I didn't find the sound fell of a cliff after so much time even after loads of play, and periods when not played for a while or whatever. It has had maybe 3 skins in 10 years and always sounded classy.

I will surmise that all drums that i got in Gambia sounded better when i put new skins on them, possible using more wet pull than originally and better rope etc. So i wonder is it true when people say you can go to far with a technique and the end result is a bad sound due to too much stretching or whatever. If it doesn't break then it can always modified to a place when it sounds good whether by up tuning or sometimes down tuning. I like clocking drum with mallet or hoping drum upside down of a carpeted floor to adjust tone quickly.

It is possible that too much wet pull thins down the skin but i think people should use thick skins anyways as they sound better to me. I kindof don't like a tinny sound unless Famoudou Konate is playing it. Other wise use a thick skin and beat it til it sings i reckon.

Sometimes the resonance of the room just suits a particular drum too. I think that is possible. We associate the sound of a djembe with something special but really, you sit out doors with no walls to reflect the sound , and the sound is not as impressive. We can sometimes be blown away by the wow factor and think something is amazing when it is not. It's like buyers remorse sometimes, then you hang up the drum and forget about it and then come back a few months later and give it a bang and realize it is the bomb and you love it greatly and it's sound suits your sound profile.

Then there is mixing that drum which you adore at home into an ensemble and you notice another drum has better projection and cuts into the music better.

I've seen some modest looking drums totally stand out in a group of drums and sound louder, cleaner and better. Just whatever set up is going on produces a nice sound integrity which stands up nicely with other loud instruments.

Much of a muchness anyways.
User avatar
By djembefeeling
#38435
I can tie in with what you write. I gave a little mali shell a complete revision and took it to the dance class to try it's sound. I did fit the room so well, the Afrians all wanted to play with that drum. Sound was awesome. But is still sounds good in my little studio where I teach. It has a very rare balance of the three sounds, a bit leaning towards the tone, but bass and slap are also great. In my experience this drum will sound well with other skins, too.

On the wet pull issue I think I side rather with Michi and Boromir. I especially like what the latter said about good things come with time. But I can also see that if you take thick skins in the beginning, tough wet pull might be a good idea. There is a point of optimal results of sound when you apply tension to a skin. When you pass that point already with the wet pull, no good things can come from that. I usually need time to play with a drum to find out where the weeknesses and powers are in order to develop a feeling for this optimum.

It's hard to get easy knowledge for making djembes. So many factors come together. There is another "knowledge" I thought I found but is put in question lately. I did hear a couple of djembes from the German builder Djembe Art in recent yeary. They tend to do the inside of the bowl as smooth as the outside. All these djembes are pretty expensive, but do not sound that nice. So I learned to avoid djembes with such smooth surfaces inside the bowl. But now another guy does exactly that to Baragnouma drums and swears that they do sound awesome and do not develop metallic ringy sounds. What do you think about that topic?
User avatar
By Dugafola
#38436
i agree with kid.

i have drums for dance class that cut and are loud. i have lower tuned drums for practice or smaller jams.

there's one drum that sounds good everywhere with this particular thick ass senegalese skin and i got it from michi! thanks buddy!
User avatar
By drtom
#38437
the kid wrote: Sometimes the resonance of the room just suits a particular drum too. I think that is possible. We associate the sound of a djembe with something special but really, you sit out doors with no walls to reflect the sound , and the sound is not as impressive. We can sometimes be blown away by the wow factor and think something is amazing when it is not. It's like buyers remorse sometimes, then you hang up the drum and forget about it and then come back a few months later and give it a bang and realize it is the bomb and you love it greatly and it's sound suits your sound profile
You touch on a couple of points that I find interesting and valid.

I agree that a drum may sound better in one room than in another. Sound is an amazing phenomenon that cannot always be explained. Have you ever heard a sound (a radio for example), then got further away from the source, maybe into another room or even building, only to have the sound get louder? It's perfectly plausible that the acoustics of one environment may be more favorable for a drum than the acoustics of another.

Less tangible but just as real is our receptiveness to certain sounds depending on our mood or vibration. Suppose I'm vibrating in A flat and a drum is tuned to C sharp. This drum is just not in tune with me at this particular moment. Later on, when I'm tuned to C sharp, this drum will be just right for me. Or who knows, maybe the C sharp is just what I needed at this particular moment.
djembefeeling wrote:There is a point of optimal results of sound when you apply tension to a skin. When you pass that point already with the wet pull, no good things can come from that.
Absolutely. The trick is to know know that point.
djembefeeling wrote:It's hard to get easy knowledge for making djembes. So many factors come together. There is another "knowledge" I thought I found but is put in question lately. I did hear a couple of djembes from the German builder Djembe Art in recent yeary. They tend to do the inside of the bowl as smooth as the outside. All these djembes are pretty expensive, but do not sound that nice. So I learned to avoid djembes with such smooth surfaces inside the bowl. But now another guy does exactly that to Baragnouma drums and swears that they do sound awesome and do not develop metallic ringy sounds. What do you think about that topic?
I cannot prove it, but I do believe a textured inner wall is preferable.

Earlier I mentioned taiko drums, which are traditionally made from carved out logs so have textured inner surfaces. Nowadays, many taiko drums are made from barrels, and drum makers make it a point to carve into the inner surfaces. I read somewhere of one drum maker that spends more time carving patterns into the inner walls than on the rest of the drum making process.
User avatar
By djembefeeling
#38438
drtom wrote: Have you ever heard a sound (a radio for example), then got further away from the source, maybe into another room or even building, only to have the sound get louder?
Yes, especially with the dunun. There are dununs with such deep frequences that you need to step outside the room to hear how mighty they sound. I used to busk with a band when I was kind of fresh to drumming. Some people came angry as hell, yelling at us that they come from their apartment three miles away and spent half an hour finding us, because the dishes in their cupboard were shaking like mad! Also, practicing with a band in a room can sound pretty awful, while when you leave the room for a pee and come back, from outside it always sounds much better.
drtom wrote: I read somewhere of one drum maker that spends more time carving patterns into the inner walls than on the rest of the drum making process.
Thanks for that! This is an argument I will lean on in future debates with people. This drum maker is a srong indication for my assumption.
User avatar
By boromir76
#38439
the kid wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:00 pm
Sometimes the resonance of the room just suits a particular drum too. I think that is possible. We associate the sound of a djembe with something special but really, you sit out doors with no walls to reflect the sound , and the sound is not as impressive. We can sometimes be blown away by the wow factor and think something is amazing when it is not. It's like buyers remorse sometimes, then you hang up the drum and forget about it and then come back a few months later and give it a bang and realize it is the bomb and you love it greatly and it's sound suits your sound profile.
Totally agree on this one. Sometimes the acustics of some places are simply in favor for the good sound, but when the same drums are played somewhere else, the sound characteristics completely change to worse. Rooms with small amount of reverberation give in general better sound as the ones with lot's of echo and also the ones that have completely dampened walls... The worse for my taste are usualy larger halls, with plain walls and to much echo.
djembefeeling wrote:It's hard to get easy knowledge for making djembes. So many factors come together. There is another "knowledge" I thought I found but is put in question lately. I did hear a couple of djembes from the German builder Djembe Art in recent yeary. They tend to do the inside of the bowl as smooth as the outside. All these djembes are pretty expensive, but do not sound that nice. So I learned to avoid djembes with such smooth surfaces inside the bowl. But now another guy does exactly that to Baragnouma drums and swears that they do sound awesome and do not develop metallic ringy sounds. What do you think about that topic?
I am litlle skeptic on this one. Here is a clip on You tube where some guy demonstrates/ plays one of their djembes and tone and slaps have some suspicious overtones that could be a result of just that- smooth interior.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2YFshzH5TM
User avatar
By boromir76
#38441
The second. If smooth interior would be something that would make difference for better, than everyone would make one, I guess. There is one other thing that proves smooth interior can be a problem. Remo plastic djembes. They have smooth interior, but if that smoothnes is reduced, they sound better- they don't have that annoying ringy overtones any more.
User avatar
By djembefeeling
#38442
A friend and student of mine, Wolfgang, who is sometimes on this forum, has this Djembe Art drum that has a smooth interior surface. I put a new, thicker skin on it so that the slaps and tones didn't ring that much, but it still doesn't sound good - apart from the bass, which is really mighty.

In class we discussed the physics of why such surfaces do not sound well and came to the conclusion that we don't have a clue. So Wolfgang went back home and started reading about sound-engineering. We have a new and now world renown concert hall here in Hamburg called the Elbphilharmony cause it is right at the river Elbe. The renown accoustic expert Yasuhisa Toyota did the accoustics for the hall. It seems that what is needed for good accoustics is the right balance of smooth surfaces and absorbing or dispersing surfaces. Complete smooth surfaces seem to produce flutter echoes that run back and forth till the energy is gone and alter the freequencies of sounds through the inteferences that are produced in the process, so some frequences nihilate each other while others add up.

That must be the reason why djembes with smooth interior surfaces sound so ringy and have bad overtones. Wolfgangs reading directly leads to the question if one could not apply this knowledge to djembes and opens up a field of manipulation in sound. If there comes no good sound from such a djembe, how can we make it better, how can we add absorbers or dispersers into the bowl? The wood is already pretty thin, it's no option to carve spirals. So we both thaught about tesamoll stripes, that is a foamed material that has adhesive stripes and insulates windows and doors against wind and cold from the outside. see for example these stripes:

https://www.amazon.de/dp/B075YZJD98/ref ... B000QB00YY

because it was much more convenient for him to reach the interior of the foot he started there:
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As you can see, he tried to put them in a spiral form.

I couldn't believe what he told me: he says the result was already amazing. Tones and slaps were shorter, but also louder and more crisp, and the enormous bass was also shorter and much more balanced. The djembe sounds much better, just with some stripes in the foot! Later he inserted them into the bowl instead of the foot but the result was basically the same. I think this is an awesome finding and I am completely thrilled. This is another dimension of manipulation of the djembe sound. Until now I took a djembe mostly as a kind of fate, tried to manipulate just with the skin and minor changes of the wood. But knowing that good sound is getting the balance right of smooth surface and absorbers or dispersers, we can engage in actual sound engineering!
Last edited by djembefeeling on Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:32 am, edited 4 times in total.
User avatar
By drtom
#38445
Great post DF. I'm going to have to try that on the next ringy djembe I meet.

Interesting that just the base and just the bowl produced the same results. Next skin your student/friend will hopefully try both bowl and base and you'll remember to let us know the results.

I may just nominate you and your student/friend for a Nobel prize.
User avatar
By boromir76
#38446
I have seen the same stripe aproach years ago on YT, where someone upgraded his remo djembe, which I mentioned in previous post. You can judge by yourself the difference in sound before and after the process:


Most hand carved djembes directly from W africa that I have seen, don't have smooth interiors. I believe that it is rebuilding in most cases resellers do, after they get original shells. In my opinion they don't do them any favor with this modification, althou it is probably not done with intetion to improve the sound...They "upgrade" them with so that they will look better and be seamingly better built (=better quality). I have learned from my "experiments" with interior smoothening, that it does make somewhat louder and sharper djembe sound, but with the cost: smoothening decreases clarity of the sound and adds ringy overtones... I believe most good djembe carvers are well avare of that smoothnes factor and therefore leave the interior rough. In principle, good quality djembe that is properly carved, does not have to be smoothened inside or anything else. It should simply have good sound...
Last edited by boromir76 on Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.