Discuss drumming technique here
User avatar
By Carl
I've had a couple of Ntama lessons fro Mamadou djop out of Boston.

I have since lost touch with him.


I would definitely advise to find someone to work with. the left hand technique takes a lot of work and having someone start you down the right road is key. Keeping the left hand relaxed and getting a good sound is a difficult combination. I spent many months just doing slow single stroke rolls to try and keep the hand and stick sounds balanced while staying relaxed and not cramping up!

I found a cool dissertation published online which covered one man's studies in I think senegal, and it covered a lot of basics and had some notation (classical staff notation). I'll see if I can find it and post it to the group.

User avatar
By Carl
Ok, found him...


Ryan Jeffers, student of University of Denver. he has a thesis on "the Talking Drum of Senegal".

From his stated "Learning Goals"

"The purpose of this research was originally to investigate the interpretation of
the difference between modernity and tradition, as felt by Senegalese talking-drum
players in Dakar. In preparation, I sought out talking-drum lessons and attended as
many popular music concerts as possible. During the month before the formal
research period began, I slowly began to realize that learning how to play the talking
drum was in and of itself a considerable undertaking. At first I was anxious to
recognize rhythms that I had learned as I heard them in popular music; however, the
increasing depth, complexity and difficulty of each rhythm that I learned, forced me
to re-assess my initial goals. After having learned basic technique and simple
rhythms, my new learning goal became the acquisition of a profoundly deep
understanding of as many rhythms as possible."

I thought it was a good read and would be interested in what others think. I have not had the time to follow up on some leads on a teacher in Boston or some other online leads, but if I do, I'll let you konw.

User avatar
By bops
I have a friend in Providence R.I. who plays sabar and tama. He's the brother of Doudou N'Diaye Rose, his name is Momar Sene. He goes by Mor. If you know any Senegalese in Providence, they could probably hook you up with him. I don't think I have his current number but send me a message if you need it and I can get it for you.
By komadich

I'm entering in the ntama world as well:) Did you guys find finally any written material?

And one question for the ones that have some knowledge about the technique: for the left hand, do you strike with one finger (ring) or do you use more of them?

User avatar
By e2c
komadich wrote:And one question for the ones that have some knowledge about the technique: for the left hand, do you strike with one finger (ring) or do you use more of them?
hi komadich!

while I don't (yet) play ntama, I do play various frame drums. The position I like to use requires the use of one hand resting on the top of the drum, very much like the way in which the "free" hand in ntama is used. In that position, it's possible to create many different effects - finger rolls, "hits" (with one or more of the fingers striking the skin), and presses (one or more fingertip/finger lightly pressing the skin), and muted strokes (done with the fingertips or with the whole finger).

I'm guessing - from watching some ntama videos from a number of W. African countries - that the use of the fingers (middle finger, ring finger) depends very much on the sounds and effects that each individual player wishes to create. It's generally easier (for me) to use the 3d ("ring") finger to create accented strokes with the hand is in the position that both ntama players and many frame drum players use; there seems to be more strength in it than in the middle finger. But I would guess that it is important to practice using both the middle and 3d finger.

With this kind of playing, it's *very* important to have a relaxed wrist and fingers. It would probably help to do stretches for the lower arms, wrists and fingers, too. And it will take some time to build up strength in the hand/fingers that are used to press/strike the head of the ntama. it will probably be a slow process - so just keep practicing and don't give up!

I would also think that the amount of strength used to create presses and strikes is very much dependent on how you hold the ntama. I've noticed that many Nigerian players tend to hold their talking drums lower down (against the side of the torso, not directly under the arm). I know that Senegalese (etc.) ntama players tend to hold their drums right under the arm, but I would guess that it's possible to hold the smaller ntamas lower down on the body... However, I haven't tried this myself, so I don't really know for sure.

But I do think that holding the drum lower (against the side rather than directly under the arm) is much easier in terms of not having muscle cramps, tight shoulder and neck muscles, etc. Again, though, since I don't (yet) play, this is just a guess. (Taken partly from my experience with playing darboka, where the "free" hand and arm rest on top of the drum, as with the frame drum position I mentioned earlier in this post.)

Hopefully, someone who *does* know about ntama playing will be able to provide some information and help here... :)
User avatar
By bops
I've been teaching myself some ntama over the past few years. It's not an easy instrument.

Part of what makes it so challenging is the technique. Another part is the language. I'll try and explain what I mean later. Sorry guys, been really busy lately.
User avatar
By Carl
I use the middle two fingers, seems to be the strongest, most consistent sound.

I try to balance the sound between the left hand and the right "stick". I mentioned in another post that I spent a long time just playing alternating strokes at various speeds, this was the most helpful thing for me as a beginner.

Once I 'got' the left hand technique, I did not have any problem with the drum tucked up high on the body, actually if feels "right" to me now. It feels funny to me, and becomes harder to play if the drum gets too low. Having a relaxed left hand is critical for making it work. I strongly recommend finding someone who knows how to play to get you going on left hand technique.

As to the language, that is another whole issue. As with any instrument, lots of listening is required. It would probably help if you knew some of the speaking language a well. (I do not know the language, so I'm making some huge assumptions here)

Bops- please post more, as a fellow self taught player, I'd be interested in your experience.

User avatar
By the kid
e2c wrote:re. position, I think that's largely dependent on what each person feels comfortable doing
Actually due to the size of the Ntama the position is very important. Its pretty small and for the hand without the stick to strike the skin one must use a tight strap and have the drum wedged in the arm pit. You not really aiming for comfort rather play-ability