Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc
By Garvin
#23644
rachelnguyen wrote:Garvin,

Interesting post!
and was always appalled to see the stiff arms that folks would approach the dundun with.
Do you mean African players, or non-africans? The Africans in these parts look very relaxed when they play. It is the Americans that look stiff, LOL.
Yes, I meant non-Africans...
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By djembefeeling
#23645
rachelnguyen wrote:When I was talking about this issue with my teacher, he said that dununfolas learn the technique of relaxing by necessity. They would be playing at a party for hours and there was no way they could take a break or complain about being tired, so they just had to figure out how to do it for long periods of time. I think maybe because it is something that every drummer would just discover on their own, they don't really think to teach it to others until the issue comes up.
That´s true, but life is rough in Africa and we neither can apply the methods to our students nor ourselves, can we? My teacher from Senegal told about his harsh lessons: when he couldn't keep up, other members of the band just smashed his djembe. And the kids on the kenkeni often have to endure physical punishment instead of advice when they don't get the right pattern or do not keep it. The strongest survive, others will have to give it up.

I think Garvin is right about the lack of technique in WA drumming. I know two people first hand ( I used to play with them in bands) who had to quit drumming because of chronic pain in their wrists after trying to speed up and play louder. I really miss to play with them, they loved the music and were good players. Two more people I know of are limited when it comes to play the duns even at medium speed after 10 minutes because due to increasing pain in their arms and shoulders, one of those because she forced herself to practise Adama Dramé technique on the djembe for two hours and more every day. She finally had to give up with that project and ever since has to be careful or to endure the pain. My best buddy who concentrates on the ballet style duns since two and a half years and plays for dance classes also has increasing problems with his wrists lately, although his playing does not appear to look stiff at all.

This is part of the reason I don't want to force my drumming into speeds I feel uncomfortable with. Better to pay attention to the signals of your body then to play hard and loud for a very limited time and then drop out of playing for the rest of your life. And perhaps taking some lessons from a professional drummer with stick technique is not a bad idea after all, especially for those who past their 40s. Wouldn't like to read from any of you giving up drumming due to chronic pain from overstraining.

cheers, jürgen
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By e2c
#23646
Jürgen and Garvin -

I understand what you're talking about in regard to injuries and pain; also bad technique. I think it's important for teachers to focus on ways to help keep people from hurting themselves, and to learn the best ways to produce the sounds and strokes required in this music.

It only takes a few minutes to do warm up and cool down exercises and stretches that can help a lot. For people over age 30, this is very important, so that we can stay healthy, keep injuries to a minimum, and be able to play for many more years.

There seems to be a kind of macho attitude at times, that the only way to be able to play well is to keep playing regardless of whether you're in pain or not, and to keep pushing yourself past the point where it would be better to take breaks or quit altogether. And that is very unfortunate, because it leads to the kinds of injuries and problems that you described above.

I know some people might not agree with me, but I do believe there is a way to carry the "soft wrist" technique needed for duns into djembe playing. I just wish some of the prominent WA teachers would figure out ways to demonstrate it and teach it to students.... because I think that many (or most all) of them actually do it, but have not figured out how to explain it.
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By Michel
#23647
Playing cowskin also causes problems.....

I recognize the macho-thing.... But after a while in a class with 10 drums or so you tend to play louder and louder just to be able to hear yourself. And that was extra the case in my first year of djembe playing. Since my technique develops it's easier to use less force to create the right sound. That still sometimes makes it a challenge to play for hours but a steady accompaniment is possible for quite some time.

But on duns sometimes it's hard. What suits me most is the konkoni or the jelidunun. And our teacher Moussé is always trying to convince us that using your wrists quite loose is the best technique. Let the stick bounce and use little as possible force, use the natural movement of the stick, just a little pressure at the right moment is enough to make a good hit. And what helps me sometimes is switching the stick from between my thumb and my index finger to between my index finger and the middle finger. Which I saw mostly Burkina dununfola (and balafola!) do.

hang loose
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By e2c
#23650
Michel wrote:But after a while in a class with 10 drums or so you tend to play louder and louder just to be able to hear yourself. And that was extra the case in my first year of djembe playing.
Of course! That's one reason that I asked to go back to the duns; from there, I could hear all the djembe parts more clearly and I learned them more easily. (Of course, I was also working very hard to learn the sangban parts... so I was quite preoccupied.)
Since my technique develops it's easier to use less force to create the right sound. That still sometimes makes it a challenge to play for hours but a steady accompaniment is possible for quite some time.
Of course (to both points).
But on duns sometimes it's hard. What suits me most is the konkoni or the jelidunun. And our teacher Moussé is always trying to convince us that using your wrists quite loose is the best technique. Let the stick bounce and use little as possible force, use the natural movement of the stick, just a little pressure at the right moment is enough to make a good hit. And what helps me sometimes is switching the stick from between my thumb and my index finger to between my index finger and the middle finger. Which I saw mostly Burkina dununfola (and balafola!) do.
You have a wise teacher!

and... my sangan was headed so that one side is closer to the konkoni feel/sound than to a typical sangban. (My teacher headed it up for me; the "konkoni" part was a surprise - a very nice one!)

I would like to learn to play jelidunun, too, but can only do the drum, not the bell.
Last edited by e2c on Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
By davidognomo
#23651
Michel wrote:hang loose


yeah, that's the key.

About the macho-thing, I think it's not a macho thing, it's an enthusiastic thing. People recognize the time where they should stop. When you want to stop and you're not allowed by the situation, it'll mostly be "visible" in the quality of your playing. In that case, as Rachel's doing, you better work on your stamina.


About wrist technique, on the dununset, I think it's very similar to the wrist technique of snare, drumset and a lot of vertical drums played with stick. at least that's the tchnique I incorporated. You turn the inside of your wrists down, instead of facing each other. That's what I learned from a classical percussionist who played drumset and marimba. It works for me. You use the boucing back of the stick, its weight, you learn to listen to the bounce.
When it comes to play just one dunum, layed horizontally, it's a different thing. Unfortunately, I haven't got enough experience to talk about it. Hopefuly a year from now I will.
By bkidd
#23652
Michel wrote:
And our teacher Moussé is always trying to convince us that using your wrists quite loose is the best technique. Let the stick bounce and use little as possible force, use the natural movement of the stick, just a little pressure at the right moment is enough to make a good hit. And what helps me sometimes is switching the stick from between my thumb and my index finger to between my index finger and the middle finger. Which I saw mostly Burkina dununfola (and balafola!) do.
Interesting suggestion for a grip. I'll have to try this out!

Best,
-Brian
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By djembefeeling
#23654
Wow, I am thrilled! So much good advice. This should be posted in the technique section:
e2c wrote:About holding the sticks loosely: yep, you want your thumb and fingers to act as a pivot for the sitcks, no matter whether you're using a Mali-style dunun stick or a straight (Guinea) stick. It's made all the difference in the world for me, as not only is it easier on the wrists and hands, but it takes advantage of what set players call natural rebound - the way the sticks bounce back from the drumheads.
rachelnguyen wrote:Good comment about the pivot for the sticks. That is exactly what I am trying to develop. It almost forces you to relax your hands and (more importantly) your arms and shoulders. Sometimes when I am practicing, I hit the sweet spot and feel all the tension release. I have yet to be able to sustain that for very long, though.
e2c wrote:Also, those super-light weight Mali konkoni sticks are (imo) much easier to work with re. a looser grip. I like straight dun sticks, too (different sticks for different sounds), but I think I have more of a tendency to tense my wrists and arms when using them. The lightweight sticks allow a player to maintain a very loose grip for a longer period of time, imo - and if you look at vids of experienced konkoni players, they all seem to have very relaxed wrists and forearms.
Garvin wrote:Stick technique is something that almost never gets any attention among WA drummers. I came to this music as a drumset player and was always appalled to see the stiff arms that folks would approach the dundun with. I think its great just to get that little tidbit about relaxing the hands and wrists. Gravity does a lot of the playing for you, and you really want to use as little of the "arm" as possible. Obviously the rebound is different on duns than on a regular drumset, but you should pay attention to the natural rebound of whatever dundun you are playing.
rachelnguyen wrote: My arms just can't move fast enough, but my relaxed hands and wrists CAN.)
Michel wrote:What suits me most is the konkoni or the jelidunun. And our teacher Moussé is always trying to convince us that using your wrists quite loose is the best technique. Let the stick bounce and use little as possible force, use the natural movement of the stick, just a little pressure at the right moment is enough to make a good hit. And what helps me sometimes is switching the stick from between my thumb and my index finger to between my index finger and the middle finger. Which I saw mostly Burkina dununfola (and balafola!) do.
davidognomo wrote:About wrist technique, on the dununset, I think it's very similar to the wrist technique of snare, drumset and a lot of vertical drums played with stick. at least that's the tchnique I incorporated. You turn the inside of your wrists down, instead of facing each other. That's what I learned from a classical percussionist who played drumset and marimba. It works for me. You use the boucing back of the stick, its weight, you learn to listen to the bounce.
When it comes to play just one dunum, layed horizontally, it's a different thing.
I think all of this advice is helpful. And I have the same problem with the horizontal layed drums played high speed -- my upper arms and shoulders burn like hell after only 15 seconds! On stage this is hell. You do and can not warm up, and the African drummers I used to play with love to start really fast, at least double time in comparison with the hours of practise as a band. I tried to use a konkoni stick lately and the loose wrist technique you approach in playing the konkoni, but it did not work, the angle is different on the dununba. I wonder if Daniel (afoba) has some good advice for this, since he specialised on the horizontially layed duns (how did your concert/workshop in Berlin went, anyway?).

e2c, I wonder if stretching works, though. In the last couple of years I have heard that scientists could not find evidence of stretching having any positive effect on the prevention of injuries in sports, especially applied before the phyical excercises. In fact, stretching could cause injuries themselves if not done properly.
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By rachelnguyen
#23658
Djembefeeling,

Nice recap! It really IS helpful to see it all pulled together.

I just wanted to make a note about the konkoni sticks, which is what I use exclusively. It does, indeed, force you to work at a different angle because of the little hammer on the end. For me, I have adjusted the height of my dununba so that when the sticks hit the skin, my hands are just about level. The way I adjusted the height was with a set of stick 'stands' that I tied onto the dununba. They lift the drum about 2 inches off the floor, allowing the sound to reverberate better, and saving the bottom skin from wear.

This style of playing probably requires adjustment in the position of your hands. I play with my wrists more or less facing each other because to mute, I usually rotate the stick out to hit the hammer on the outside edge. (I also sometimes mute them by turning the whole stick slightly forward and hitting the hammer on the front edge. Seems to depend on which piece I am playing.)

I am thinking that if this is not the position you usually play in, it would definitely take some getting used to. Just as it would be a challenging adjustment for me to play at speed using Guinea style sticks.

And yes, I agree about the macho thing. In my situation, that is not the case. The Malians are playing at their normal speed (Bamako speed, LOL) which is faster than village speed. My job is to be able to keep up for long periods of time. When I first started playing dunun, my teacher would put me through my paces during our lesson, but I didn't continue it at practice. Clearly a mistake!

I am so excited we are talking about this. Thanks all for your great input and comments. For me, playing dunun is such a joy!

And, just a note, I am a little over a week into my daily 30 to 40 minutes of breakneck speed practice regimen and I have already seen a significant improvement in my stamina and strength. I have also noticed that I am able to play some of the solo riffs much faster. I won't know what effect this has had on my playing until I do an actual gig and get to see how I do with the stage fright/stamina combo.
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By rachelnguyen
#23659
One more note on the macho thing. The speed is really tied to the relationship with the dancers... so in Bamako, it is the dancers who are egging on the drummers. Is there a feminine version of the word 'Macho'? LOL.
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By rachelnguyen
#23662
Hi David,

Not the curved sticks. They are a little too heavy for me. I prefer the konkoni style sticks which are made from much lighter weight wood. (It's really almost like balsa, or some kind of dense grass.)

They are very large to hold, but are what I am used to now.

Here's a pic.
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By Garvin
#23663
I've always wondered about these kinds of sticks. I guess I've never really seen them used. Are they more rounded than they look in the pic? I feel like I would severely damage a drum with those. Maybe I hit too hard? Then again, maybe these are used for more mellow accompinaments with kora/bala etc.? I don't know. Do you have any info on when these are "supposed" to be used vs. other kinds of sticks?
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By rachelnguyen
#23665
Hi Garvin,

They get rounded very quickly because the wood is so soft. And the outside of the playing surface is worn at an angle because I tilt them when I mute.
I will take a picture of mine when I get home so you can see how beat up they get, LOL.

I have hit very very hard with them and they don't damage the skins at all.

In Mali, I have observed people mostly using these kind of sticks with konkoni. They are not used for Jelidununs. (Those are the curved ones.)

When I bought my ballet dunun set, the guy that made it suggested that I use a curved jelidunun stick for the dununba and a konkoni stick for the kenkeni. I think the idea was that the Jelidunun stick would be louder on the dununba. For me, though, the pair of konkoni sticks work better.
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By e2c
#23666
Garvin wrote:I've always wondered about these kinds of sticks. I guess I've never really seen them used. Are they more rounded than they look in the pic? I feel like I would severely damage a drum with those. Maybe I hit too hard? Then again, maybe these are used for more mellow accompinaments with kora/bala etc.? I don't know. Do you have any info on when these are "supposed" to be used vs. other kinds of sticks?
I use these, too (fwiw, Famoudo Konate uses sticks made of the same wood, only a bit smaller) and they bounce (rebound) easily. I don't think you could break a skin unless it was an old one with tears in it already. They're like balsa wood - very, very light.

They do create a slightly different sound than the straight sticks used in Guinea-style playing, but I think (as with set players) it's nice to have a variety of sticks for different sounds/different kinds of gigs.
djembefeeling wrote
e2c, I wonder if stretching works, though. In the last couple of years I have heard that scientists could not find evidence of stretching having any positive effect on the prevention of injuries in sports, especially applied before the phyical excercises. In fact, stretching could cause injuries themselves if not done properly.
Yes, I read that, too, and I wonder what kinds of stretches they were looking at during that study.

I can tell you that gentle stretches of the wrist flexors and surrounding muscles have really helped me. Obviously, that is anecdotal, but it never hurts to try! (There are a couple of threads with information and links; will see if I can find them...)
Last edited by e2c on Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.