Discuss drumming technique here
By sungminkwon
#26831
Hi, I've just seriously started trying to learn the djembe, and need some opinion on technique.

From information that I gathered on the Internet, it seems that most djembe players seem to play with their dominant hand on the down beat. So for example, a right-handed player plays the down beat with their right, and the off-beat with their left. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

But I've played other percussion/drums in the past, and I've developed a habit of playing the downbeat with my left hand, for all instruments. BTW, I'm right-handed. I don't know how unorthodox this is, but I know that if trying to play the "orthodox" way will take more effort for me.

Should I try to fix my habit and try to develop playing the downbeat with my right hand, or just go ahead with my already developed technique?

Thanks in advance.
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By the kid
#26833
It's hard to say. Any african teacher you meet will show you one way to do most riddims or solo phrazes. They can adjust it to try to suit you if you play lefthanded.
I'd try to play both handed if i were you. It'll help you more to get your 2 hands hitting with equal power and accuracy
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By rachelnguyen
#26835
I am going to preface my comments by saying that I have never studied kit drumming, so concept of a downbeat is kind of foreign to me.

When you say you have started seriously studying djembe, are you talking about with a teacher?

When you study traditional djembe, there are set patterns for each rhythm, just as the Kid has said. Each rhythm pattern has a particular handing. Some patterns traditionally start on the right, some on the left. I have heard here on the forum that some players switch it up, but my teacher has never taught me to do that. (I wonder if it is not so common to do that in Mali? Or maybe I am not at that level of skill yet.)

If you aren't studying traditional djembe rhythms, but want to know the traditional way to play the drum, it still might make sense to find an African teacher who can show you the correct way to play the drum. (Correct=the way to make the best sound!)

Good luck and keep us posted!
Rachel
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By michi
#26848
sungminkwon wrote:From information that I gathered on the Internet, it seems that most djembe players seem to play with their dominant hand on the down beat. So for example, a right-handed player plays the down beat with their right, and the off-beat with their left. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)
Yes, that is standard practice. You play the down-beat and the up-beat with the dominant hand, and the off-beats with the non-dominant hand.
But I've played other percussion/drums in the past, and I've developed a habit of playing the downbeat with my left hand, for all instruments. BTW, I'm right-handed. I don't know how unorthodox this is, but I know that if trying to play the "orthodox" way will take more effort for me.

Should I try to fix my habit and try to develop playing the downbeat with my right hand, or just go ahead with my already developed technique?
It's a really difficult question to answer. You need to work out whether your want to play right-handed or left-handed. Either is fine. Some people are so ambidextrous that it doesn't matter. However, what is important is that, once you decide, you keep playing the same way. Don't flip back and forth between left- and right-handed playing. A lot about drumming is about working the various patterns into muscle memory, and that happens by playing the same thing the same way over and over again.

Occasionally, when I'm bored in dance class or some such, I play everything left-handed, just to keep me interested. But, for serious playing, make a decision and stick with it.

Cheers,

Michi.
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By the kid
#26851
I think it's good for beginners to try both ways so as to strengthen up which ever side is not dominant. Playing riddims both ways does give you more power in your weak side and thats a good thing.
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By michi
#26852
the kid wrote:I think it's good for beginners to try both ways so as to strengthen up which ever side is not dominant. Playing riddims both ways does give you more power in your weak side and thats a good thing.
I agree that playing on the weak side can help to strengthen it. But I would not recommend that for beginners. Many beginners have both hands full (so to speak) just sorting out the left-right and bass-tone-slap thing (not to mention the rhythm).

One of the most important things for beginners is to start to feel the rhythm so they stay anchored, and to get comfortable playing polyrhythms without getting lost. In other words, they have so many things to worry about already that then telling them to try something left-handed instead of right-handed only makes it worse.

Once people have sorted out the basics and can hold an accompaniment fairly comfortably with traditional handing, by all means, they can go and practice doing it left-handed. (With my more advanced students, pretty much every lesson, I include a section that deliberately forces playing from both sides, such as by inserting a three-roll into a binary pattern, so the pattern gets thrown to the opposite side in each cycle.)

But, for beginners, I would strongly recommend to play traditionally first, with the dominant hand on the down-beat and up-beat.

Cheers,

Michi.
By megaduns
#27145
I was speaking to Seckou Keita about this very subject the other day and he says if your more comfortable playing the down on your left then play that way. He plays the down on his left but will write with his right etc. As for swapping to strengthen one side it's fine for basic rhythm like Mitchi says but stuff doing it for long complex solos and as you play more Duns and do more offbeat solo stuff you'll balance out.
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By Waraba
#27149
michi wrote: I include a section that deliberately forces playing from both sides, such as by inserting a three-roll into a binary pattern, so the pattern gets thrown to the opposite side in each cycle.)
Switching handed-ness with 3-rolls, do the Africans do that? From what I've seen, they seem to anticipate the change in handedness that would come and begin the 3-roll on the non-dominant hand, so that the phrase begins again on the dominant hand. I totally get what you're saying, and why one would do it, but am wondering if it's an Americanism (I guess a Westernism). :uglynerd:
By djembeweaver
#27223
Switching handed-ness with 3-rolls, do the Africans do that? From what I've seen, they seem to anticipate the change in handedness that would come and begin the 3-roll on the non-dominant hand, so that the phrase begins again on the dominant hand. I totally get what you're saying, and why one would do it, but am wondering if it's an Americanism (I guess a Westernism).
No it's not just a westernism. I've learned several phrases from top folas that use this technique. My favourite is to play a tone followed by a slap flam, then repeat with the opposite handing using the smallest subdivisions (i.e the triplets in 6/8 or the semi-quavers in 4/4). Start with a left-hand tone so the first slap flam falls on the downbeat. Play several of these in a row to create a nice phrase. It's really tricky, expecially to get nice crisp tones on each side, so it's a great one to throw into your practice routine. I've been obsessed with this for about a year.

Here's a link to a video that has another nice phrase that switches hands over successive 3-rolls (the second phrase he plays 10 seconds in):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_WulZiKxpI
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By michi
#27225
Waraba wrote:Switching handed-ness with 3-rolls, do the Africans do that? From what I've seen, they seem to anticipate the change in handedness that would come and begin the 3-roll on the non-dominant hand, so that the phrase begins again on the dominant hand. I totally get what you're saying, and why one would do it, but am wondering if it's an Americanism (I guess a Westernism). :uglynerd:
I don't think there is a definitive answer to your question. It depends on the player. Some players are strongly ambidextrous, so they will roll from either side, depending on what's more convenient. Other players have a strong preference for rolling from one side or the other and will adjust handing to accommodate the roll as necessary. (For example, Mamady has a very strong preference for rolling left and will roll right only rarely.)

Needless to say, no matter how inclined, there are brilliant players either way.

Michi.
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By Waraba
#27247
djembeweaver wrote:
Switching handed-ness with 3-rolls, do the Africans do that? From what I've seen, they seem to anticipate the change in handedness that would come and begin the 3-roll on the non-dominant hand, so that the phrase begins again on the dominant hand. I totally get what you're saying, and why one would do it, but am wondering if it's an Americanism (I guess a Westernism).
No it's not just a westernism. I've learned several phrases from top folas that use this technique. My favourite is to play a tone followed by a slap flam, then repeat with the opposite handing using the smallest subdivisions (i.e the triplets in 6/8 or the semi-quavers in 4/4). Start with a left-hand tone so the first slap flam falls on the downbeat. Play several of these in a row to create a nice phrase. It's really tricky, expecially to get nice crisp tones on each side, so it's a great one to throw into your practice routine. I've been obsessed with this for about a year.

Here's a link to a video that has another nice phrase that switches hands over successive 3-rolls (the second phrase he plays 10 seconds in):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_WulZiKxpI

I've been obsessed with that flam lick for three years. It's impossible.
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By michi
#27250
Waraba wrote:I've been obsessed with that flam lick for three years. It's impossible.
That is a self-evidently incorrect statement, seeing that there are quite a lot of people who can play it :) But it's difficult, yes, if not impossible :)

Michi.
By djembeweaver
#27255
Indeed. I tried on and off for months and thought I'd never get it. So last summer, when I had hardly any work and a nice practice room I thought right, I'm gonna nail this. So I started playing it super-slow (about 40 bmp in 6/8) for about 10 mins in my practice routine every day, really concentrating on nice tones and even flams. I can play it quite nicely now, though I still struggle at full concert speed (annoyingly I've never pulled it off live :x )

Playing really slow like that is something I picked up from a classical training. Oddly non-classical musicians often don't think to slow stuff down to this sort of speed. Yes it's boring but any phrase is playable at a slow enough speed. If you practice at this speed, however slow, and avoid the temptation to speed up until you can play it consistently at that speed, then you will definitely nail it. Then speed up maybe 5 bpm and play at that speed for a while. The trick is to only up the tempo when you can play it perfectly. It's a slow, boring process but it works.
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By michi
#27260
djembeweaver wrote:It's a slow, boring process but it works.
Yep. Getting good at playing djembe actually involves hard work. Surprise, surprise :-)

Michi.
By mountain
#27474
djembeweaver wrote:My favourite is to play a tone followed by a slap flam, then repeat with the opposite handing using the smallest subdivisions (i.e the triplets in 6/8 or the semi-quavers in 4/4). Start with a left-hand tone so the first slap flam falls on the downbeat. Play several of these in a row to create a nice phrase. It's really tricky, expecially to get nice crisp tones on each side, so it's a great one to throw into your practice routine. I've been obsessed with this for about a year.
I just got obsessed with it. :)

I think it's the one of the hardest, if not the hardest phrase on djembe.