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Left hand roll?

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:33 pm
by Kaitaro

Mohamed Bangoura told me once that he does every roll starting with his left hand. Also I heard from another drummer that Mamady does same. I do understand that by beginning roll with your left hand, right hand will be on next pulse and I do see benefit of that. However, does this method limit where you insert roll? Maybe their hand is fast enough to do anything they want. Also how about if you want to do two rolls in a row? I do not see the benefit in starting both roll with left hand in this case. I have observed lots of other Africans on youtube and they do seems to do roll beginning with both hands. Any idea?

Thank you!


Re: Left hand roll?

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:28 pm
by bubudi
hi kai, we've had discussions on this before. one member who has spent a good deal of time in many villages in eastern guinea was saying that traditionally one always begins rolls with one hand (right, i think). some will prefer the left hand but basically they will always do single rolls starting with the same hand. double rolls are a modern thing, but i've seen them played two ways: if the rolls are very close together, then the drummer alternates the hand. if there is a little gap (e.g. 1/16) between the rolls, both will start with the same hand. this is practical because to start and end both rolls with the same hand in a closely placed double roll will be difficult to play. hope that helps.

Re: Left hand roll?

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:15 pm
by davidognomo
I was thinking about bringing this subject up also, glad you did it. It has been discussed a lot already (look for threads on hand dominance/dominant hand on search).
I had a workshop with Fode Seydou Bangoura, who grew up playing in Les Ballets Africains and Les Merveilles de Guinée, so, a ballet djembefola.
I noticed during the workshop that he would start all his rolls with his left hand; not only rolls, but a lot of other phrases and techniques that most of us naturally play starting with the dominant hand. Some of my buddies who were with him at his camp in Conakry had already wondered about if he is left handed, but no, he's not.
So, I got myself wondering the reason why he would start rolls with the left hand, knowing that Mamady Keita also has this particularity.
One of the reasons that has been pointed out here in the forum on the discussions on this matter is the fact that a lot of rolls, starting on the right (or dominant) hand, and ending usually on the week hand, would force you to resume playing after it with switched hands, or to double a stroke for it not to happen. (I hope I'm making myself clear - english is not my first language).
But I really don't know if that would be the main reason to start rolls with the non-dominant hand.
Most of rolls, I believe, end with the opposite hand to wich it has started. In a lot of these occasions, the accent is on the stroke that ends the roll. So, if you start the roll with your strong hand you will close it with your non-dominant hand on the stroke with the accent. You end up putting the emphasis on the start of the roll, and having to do the accentuation with your week hand. So, if you start the roll with the non-dominant hand you sort of get things in place, so to speak. This is one of the justifications I came to. It makes sense to me, but I haven't checked it with anyone with authority/knowledge for it.
One other thing that I believe is a fact is that if you start a roll with your dominant hand, it will have an emphasis on its beggining. If you start the roll with the non-dominant hand, I think the roll will get more even, uniformed, along its duration. Starting with the week hand will give it a totally different swing, more delicate, or at ease, than if you start a roll with the dominant hand, wich gives it that emphasis on strengh.

So, to the deciding matter. What would/should one do?
My buddies are a lot more advanced players than me. I've noticed that they don't follow this thing, they start their rolls with their dominant hand, eventhough they revere Fode. I guess they have it already too deep in their habits to change now, or they don't see a strong enough reason to change.
These matters are kind of delicate and it always depend on how serious you take your playing and how deep you want to go. And you should have a teacher, or a master on whom you can trust entirely, who can advise you in these and other matters.

One useful thing would be asking one of these djembefolas that do this (start rools with the non-dominant hand) why they do it. It would be really nice if we could get one of them to give a non-evasive answer...

Re: Left hand roll?

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:03 pm
by bubudi
personally i don't hear much difference in what hand i start my rolls. i do understand what you mean though. with some people you can definitely hear a different emphasis. it is a good idea to work on such weaknesses. i know mamady and bangurake have both been asked why they start rolls on the left hand and they say it is to get them back to the desired hand afterward. bangurake will teach some rolls starting with the right when it's more practical to play that way. there are 3, 4 and 5 stroke rolls featuring most commonly, and obviously if you start all rolls with the same hand, rolls with an odd number of strokes will end in a different hand to rolls with an even number of strokes. the swing and space after the roll are also to be considered. double strokes tend to be avoided on djembe, so like i said earlier, if the ending of the roll would force you to play a double stroke (or follow on with the opposite hand to the one desired), many djembefolas will start the roll with the opposite hand.

Re: Left hand roll?

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:17 pm
by davidognomo
bubudi wrote:mamady and bangurake have both been asked why they start rolls on the left hand and they say it is to get them back to the desired hand afterward

well, I guess that settles it. There goes my theory.
So, when one of these accomplished djembefolas does a roll that is relatively isolated and doesn't need a quick come back to playing, I guess that if they still start the roll with the weak hand is out of habit.

This topic is a bit out of my league. I mean, this talk about how to come out of a roll is a practical and needed thought for those who are advanced to professional players. I'm still working on speech and technical rudiments. Eventhough these are usefull hints. Thanks

Re: Left hand roll?

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:37 pm
by bubudi
on the other hand, like you hinted above, good habits are best formed early. discuss with your teacher and go with what will be best for you long term.

Re: Left hand roll?

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:12 pm
by michi
Mamady says that most people have a natural "built-in" preference for rolling from one side of the other. I've observed him more than once at workshops going through the students one by one and getting them to roll from each side and telling them "you roll right" or "you roll left". Very occasionally, there is someone who can roll from both sides equally well, maybe one thirty or forty.

There are some phrases that cannot be played without rolling from the uncomfortable side, so it's good to work on strengthening that weaker side. I regularly do exercises in class where I get students to play patterns that force rolling alternately from the left and right. With some practice, you'll be able to considerably improve the weaker side, even if it may never be quite as precise and fast as the stronger side.