Discuss drumming technique here
By Loveablesurfer
Hi Folks! I'm new to the forum but not new to drumming. I'm a self taught percussionist (mainly from books or watching people), I've been told of three different kinds of slap for the djembe. I'm curious as to which one is actually a proper/traditional djembe slap or does it differ from region to region.

The first variation I learned from a djembe book, it's essentally hitting the rim with the tips of the three middle fingers, with the underside of the top knuckles lining up with the edge of the rim. (Gives a good variety of closed slap sounds depending where the other hand mutes the drum).

The second variation I've learned from watching online videos and is essentially the same as an open tone but with the fingers relaxed and spread. It does make a bit of a different sound but not as distinctive as hitting the rim (as described above).

Finally the third variation (which I always thought was a Conga technique) which is to hit the drum with a curved hand and cup the air as the hand strikes the surface. This definitelt gives the loudest closed slap "pop".

My guess is the second variation is the correct one, but I find it the least distinctive from an open tone. I am aware that my general playing style is more on the cuban style than proper afro style (so I ain't a proper djembe player). I'd just like to learn more about the traditional way of playing it.
By Legba
I prefer (insert, however I am the last one you should take advice from).
The slap for me is a tone with the fingers relaxed, but not really spread apart.
If you put your hand flat on the desk, this is the tone position from the start of the fingers forward. If you look at the hand with the computer mouse in it, you notice the natural (relaxed) hand is curved and the fingertips are all that would be touching a flat surface, for me this is the slap.
So flat fingers requiring muscle tension for tone, same position without muscle tension resulting in curved hand/fingers for slap.
Hope that makes sense?
Although I tend to find myself moving my hands in slightly when playing a loud slap or emphasizing one slap over the other.
By Loveablesurfer
I think I'm the last person I should take advice from! :rofl:

How different is your slap to your tone then? Do you get a slight poping sound or just a slightly higher pitched tone with a bit more ring?
By Legba
They are both very distinct from each other.

Nevertheless, I must admit that I had little or no problem playing the slap, I instead am one of those weird folks that actually have to spent time and thought on my tone, slap just seemed to come naturally.
I was a Respiratory therapist for 20 years back in the day, and we had a procedure called CPT or Chest Physical Therapy, where we would cup our hands and play rhythmically on the backs and sides of our patients to mobilize their secretions, for anywhere from 5 minutes per side to 20 minutes per side, so this may explain my endurance and the tendency for me to curve my fingers naturaly and easily? It was not unusual for me to spend 1 hour to 6 hours of my day standing over patients percussing their backs.
By johnc
tone slap hand position same

slap means slap (claque, french spelling?)

tone means "touch the tree" but dont slap (sharp wrist movement)

slap (claque) touch the tree but wrist staight

the above are my basic understaings from my second lesson with Mady Keita when he really worked on my finger, hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder technique. In watching Mady play it is the sound rather than hands that indicate the pe or pa ( his vocalisation)

At school I get the kids to spread their fingers for a slap sound as they often hurt themselves trying to slap.


By djembeweaver
Sounds like your 'first variation' is more of a rim shot than a slap. Not widely used as far as I've seen, except in djembe kan (although Famoudou uses every sound available!)

The cupped hand conga pop is used by some (Seckou Keita uses this a lot on djembe and bougarabou, though he uses other slaps too).

The open finger version (or rather relaxed finger version) is the most common, though there are still a million individual ways of acheiving it. This slap, played well by djembe folas, has a high metalic ring that with the tones actually produces a melody.

Mamady has at least two different slaps and can produce a discernable melody with them.

Nansady Keita has a higher pitched slap he throws into roulements too.

If you can't get a big difference using this type of slap that's because you need to play with good djembe folas for several years (I've been working hard on mine for over 10 years and I'm still not quite there)
By BarefootJoe
My first post on this forum. :-)

Before I played a djembe for the first time, I searched for "djembe" using Google and the video of this "master drummer" called Lamin Jassey kept turning up. Here he is explaining the 3 basic sounds of the djembe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IPoTsqoujM#t=1m14s

He uses the same "rim shot" slap technique as described by the OP. I wonder if this is a regional variation? According to an interview (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/world/onyou ... amin.shtml) he has Senegal and Gambian roots.
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By michi
BarefootJoe wrote:Before I played a djembe for the first time, I searched for "djembe" using Google and the video of this "master drummer" called Lamin Jassey kept turning up. Here he is explaining the 3 basic sounds of the djembe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IPoTsqoujM#t=1m14s
I don't know where he got the title "master drummer". What I do know is that some master drummers I know would take one look at the guy and tell him "you need to work on your technique". No-one who knows what they are doing plays a slap like that.


By BarefootJoe
freefeet wrote:Hi BarefootJoe, are you a full time barefooter as well? Good to have you here and welcome
Thanks, and indeed I am! Been running barefoot since October or so of 2009 and then going completely without shoes, walking around barefoot since around April of 2010. Always good to see another footwear-free person around. :-)
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By freefeet
Been at it for over 6 years now. My only annoyance is being asked all the time if my feet are cold.

Shoes are a tax on walking! :D
By Ned Lyons
May I add a third technique to the subject. I am a percussion teacher of contemporary music
but I naturally began with traditional history of the Djembe. A slap often used in Congas is to reach across the head and play a closed finger slap so the fingers contact the opposite side near the edge. An extremely high pitched LOUD slap is produced with little effort. The had reaches directly across the drum using the traditional Djembe hand placement.
Although this produces a perfect slap sound (higher pitched) it limits mobility of quick movement of the hands back to the "tone" position. Anyone else ever try this?
By davidognomo
Loveablesurfer wrote:My guess is the second variation is the correct one, but I find it the least distinctive from an open tone.
your guess is right, but if you find it the least distinctive one that's because your technique isn't yet "there". There is no louder slap than the open slap, and it's very very distinct from a proper tone. The bass, the open tone and the open slap are the three basic sounds on the djembe, and, in my humble opinion, you shouldn't go very deep rhythmically or in terms of other sounds, before you get these three sounds satisfactory. I often get solo phrases and breaks on workshops that I find over my control on sound quality. It's good to have complicated, fast phrases to push you, but at this moment, I'm debating myself with corrections I feel I must do on my hand/wrist positions. What I think is that there are no shortcuts to good technique. Work, work, work, and good guidance.
All this talk, of course, if you're aiming to the (IMO) "right" way to play djembe, the traditional way. Of course, you can do on the skin whatever you want. I played djembe for several years before I started get really curious about the traditional way of playing, and after that, starting to try to get tones and slaps, and finally starting to take classes. What made me want to learn the proper way to play djembe was the fact that when I heard people playing that way, it made sense to my ears, and I felt that, if I wanted to know about all that the djembe has to offer in terms of sound and phrasing, I would have to learn it as it is, as it was meant to be. My way of playing changed radically. Sometimes I miss my old spontaneity, but I was basically reproducing drumkit grooves on a djembe, mostly using bass and rim shots. The cajón is a much better instrument to do that, IMO.
By Ned Lyons
To all the true professional Djembefloras- I am drawing the conclusion that the traditional Djembe slap is NOT the same as the Conga slap and wasn't intended to be. The slap, although not quite as distinct, is much easier to play and certainly faster. As I learn the Traditional style I have now realized out that the method is intentionally different. As a local US private instructor of standard rudimental drumset teaching I find the Djembe as an instrument- the most versatile single hand drum in existence. Do the masters agree? Should we expand this feature in contemporary teaching
as well as following the heritage of the drum?
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By e2c
"...the most versatile single hand drum in existence": not sure I can agree with you there. and you might find your opinion changing as you study and learn more of the traditional technique and rhythms.

I'd put congas in the "most versatile" category for many different types of music; djembe tends to be too cutting and overwhelming to work well in many accompaniment situations. (Assuming that we're talking about an African hardwood djembe with a goat or calfskin head, not a Remo or a djembe-shaped object made out of PVC pipe, or whatever.)

I think what you might be noticing is the versatility of goblet-shaped drums as opposed to the design of modern congas and similar drums. I have been playing both darbuka (aka dumbek) and Middle Eastern frame drums for quite a few years now, and actually think that various sizes and types of frame drums are incredibly versatile as well. I love darbuka, and - since it's also a goblet drum - can understand why that design would appeal to you re. djembe.

to be frank, though, I think your musical vocabulary on djembe will greatly increase if you take the time to thoroughly study/learn W. African technique and rhythms. I don't have a problem with people who play *well* in a non-traditional style, but very often those same people have also taken the time to learn as much as they can about the core repertoire of the djembe.

I doubt many dedicated conga players would suggest that people avoid learning Afro-Cuban/other Afro-Latin rhythms and proper technique. The same holds true for djembe. It really is a shame that the market has been flooded with cheap, poorly-made drums, because they don't even begin to give an indication of what the sound of a high-quality drum is like. I think that once you've had the chance to try out a top-notch instrument, a whole different world begins to open up. but that'll never happen with cheap, mass-produced djembes - they're the contemporary equivalent of the cheap, poorly-made bongos that flooded the US market from the 50s-80s. trying to get decent sounds out of them was well-night impossible, and it's pretty much the same with many of the "djembes" that big companies churn out.