Advice and questions on keeping your instruments in top form
By grahamother
This is my first post, Ladies and Gents, on any forum of any kind. Sorry if it's redundant.
I've just redone my bearing edge, and began drumming on the sides of the shell and it sings at a perfect Bb. The key of the universe itself! And N America's 60 cycle electrical system. I digress.
Does anyone recommend attempting to match the new skin's tension to Bb?
Too much of a good thing?
Maybe try to tune to G, the relative minor?
Or, is pitch completely out of my control, and will it end up Bb regardless of tension?
Thanks for your thoughts.
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By drtom
Greetings GM,

Welcome aboard and sorry for the delayed response. Been really busy with work (that's a good thing).

I'm surprised no one's offered an opinion on such an interesting question. I mean REALLY interesting - my mind wants to explore in different directions simultaneously.

Let's see if I can get the ball rolling by answering one facet of your question with pretty good certainty - you do have control over the pitch of your drum.

The thing is that tuning a djembe to a particular key is not something that most people would concern themselves with. In general, a djembe is considered tuned when the voice is crisp and clear and overtones are minimal. This is a very basic but (I believe) generally accepted view.

There is more to it. For example, if you want to play lead you're probably going to want a higher pitched drum, but if you want to play accompaniment, you're probably going to want a lower pitched drum.

Thanks again for your great question!
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By batadunbata
Love this concept! Any updates? Did you tune the djembe up? I tried this with my frame drum after reading this thread. (results below)

I agree with Dr Tom that the guideline for tuning a rope Djembe with a natural skin is basically to get the skin as tight as you can, without completely losing the bass. The skin will loosen as it breaks in, and shift with humidity changes, so it's not a precise tension. If you tune it lower than that sweet spot, it won't sound as crisp, and if you tune it higher, it will lose bass and risk popping when the weather changes.

But, it might just be that when you tune it up like that, it gets quite close to Bb. I found this was true for my key-tuned frame drum. The shell rings as "A" (well a little sharp of that), and when I tried to tune it to A, I found I had to crank it as far as it would go. Any further and I felt like I was going to damage it. So it might have something to do with the higher the tension, the more membrane becomes "stiff" and "unifies" with the resonance of the shell. Or it might be a coincidence, I don't know? The best way to be sure is to experiment!
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By drtom
Thanks for chiming in bdb! I'm grateful that you've caused me to revisit this topic.

I'm going to begin checking the voice of every shell before I skin it (I skin a lot of drums of all types), then check what the drum tunes to when done. Who knows what I'll find?

Maybe I'll find that drums ring when they're not in tune with the shell. Or they ring when they ARE in tune with the shell. Or they sound best when tuned an octave higher. Maybe I'll be too dumb to figure out the correlation.

One thing I'm pretty sure of - there is SOME correlation.
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By the kid

Fuckit i could rewrite that not in capatils but that would lose the drama.

Afican sound engineering is da bomb. Love ali Keitas balafon dvd with them explaining the acoustics tricks/effects in a bala. Tis primordial m'kay...