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problems with slap

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:11 am
by Manda
Hi,

I think i've just about got the hang of the bass and tone, but I can't seem to get a good slap sound going. My Djembe is on very small (money isuues) 8", and no matter what i do it doesn't sound like it should.
Sorry for the (probably) dumb question, can anyone help?

Thanks

Re: problems with slap

Posted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:07 am
by James
Hey Manda,

Don't worry about it too much. As long as you know what you're supposed to be doing and you're thinking slap in your head it'll eventually turn into a slap.

If you haven't already done so, read this - http://djembefola.com/sounds.php and keep playing basic exercises, like these http://djembefola.com/beginnerexercises.php for 30 minutes a day

Your drum probably isn't helping but if you can't do anything then just keep going. I can get a slap and tone off a table, so you have enough to learn with.

Patience :)

Re: problems with slap

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 8:52 am
by Manda
Thanks James.

Never been good at the patience thing\but i try! :lol:

Thanks for the advice andthelinks. I'll keep trying. Oh and by the way,how do you get a slap out of a table!?

Re: problems with slap

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:38 pm
by Marc_M
I've found it very frustrating that every djembe teacher I've ever had (at least five) told me to change my technique and have given different (sometime erroneous) advice - everything from extending fingers to "whip actions" to striking the rim with the fleshy part of the hand and having the fingers "curl" into the head. In the end, focusing on any of these didn't really seem to matter.

The best advice I've received came from a workshop with Famoudou (no surprise there). He recommends that the musician "forget" about the "baby" finger and concentrate on the middle three fingers for the tones and slaps.

I would recommend spreading the baby finger slightly away from from your middle three fingers. I also find at high speeds it is faster to switch between tones and slap and that I have more control over the middle three fingers than all four. Now when I watch real djembefolas, it looks to me like many of them do the same. I also notice that some seem to turn their outer wrist down slightly for slaps, which is what I do as well. I think experimenting with these two techniques as well as curving, spreading and relaxing the three middle fingers will help. After that, it is a matter of listening to yourself and other master djembe players to find the right tone. As James says its practice, practice and more practice after that.

Again, I'm sure many will say "well whatever gets you to make the tone is good", but I found that not getting it right in the beginning means having to relearn later.

As for the table djembe, it is a good parlour trick and a great way to practice when you have a few seconds to spare, but play lightly to prevent injury.

Hope this helps.

Good luck.

M.

Re: problems with slap

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 8:59 pm
by bops
Marc_M wrote:I've found it very frustrating that every djembe teacher I've ever had (at least five) told me to change my technique and have given different (sometime erroneous) advice - everything from extending fingers to "whip actions" to striking the rim with the fleshy part of the hand and having the fingers "curl" into the head. In the end, focusing on any of these didn't really seem to matter.
It's not all that surprising that different teachers would explain technique differently. They might each have a slightly different technique, and they might all be correct. There isn't a "right" way to make a good sound on the jembe. Listen to what each of them has to say... and take it with as many grains of salt as you wish.

The longer you've been playing jembe, the harder it is to explain how to make a tone and slap. That's because, at some point, you stop thinking about it altogether and just do it. It's a matter of developing "muscle memory" - just like walking and talking. Try explaining how to walk, and you'll find that there's a lot more to it than you can express verbally.

When a master drummer like Famoudou or Mamady Keita explains how to make a slap, they're not telling you how they do it. They're telling you how to get started. From there, you have to... well, you know...
...its practice, practice and more practice after that.

Re: problems with slap

Posted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 12:59 pm
by rachelnguyen
I have a few suggestions.

First, try tuning your drum. In the beginning, I found it easier to work the slap on a tight skin. It is very hard to do it on a slack drumhead when you are first learning.

Second, learning to do it on an 8" drum is more difficult, so, as James said, just try and be aware of what you are intending and don't worry too much. It was about 8 months of playing constantly before I could reliably do slaps and tones distinctively.

For me, it helps to shift my fingers a bit. In both slap and tone I hit the edge of the drum in the same place... right at the base of my fingers on the pads of my upper palms. (Now I have big callouses to prove it, LOL.) To make the slap, I separate my fingers slightly. To make a tone, I close them together. That mutes the sound for the tone and creates a kind of ringing sound for the slap. My teacher says that different players make the sounds differently, so experiment a little bit and just try and make two distinctive sounds.

Find a teacher. That is probably the best advice I can give you. If you are at all serious about this instrument, it will help you enormously to be taking classes with other students. Even just a couple of beginner classes will get you started.

Hope this helps!
Rachel