How to Play the Djembe Drum – A beginner’s guide
Learning to playing the Djembe drum (Known as Bembe in Yoruba) can be one of the most fulfilling experiences for anyone who wants to learn to play a few African rhythms. When you think of the variety of rhythms you can get out of a simple music instrument like Djembe, you will conclude that it punch well above it weighty musically.
The best way by far to learn the Djembe is in a one to one tuition or in a group lesson. Djembe classes are very popular both in the rural areas and in the Cities, in North London for example, Djembe lessons for beginners of various abilities is available at Finsbury Park Art club.
If you are reading ‘How to Play the Djembe Drum’ article online, it probably means you don’t have easy access to Djembe classes and you want to learn to play at home, that is fantastic, hopefully, with the easy to follow steps described below, you can learn to play the Djembe to a reasonable standard.
Are Your Sitting Comfortably?
You can play the Djembe sitting down or standing up, for beginners, sitting down is strongly recommended. You should sit on a stool or an armless chair, ensure the seat is the right height for you. Place your drum in front of you and tilt it slightly away from you, use your legs to hold your drum in position and pull your upper arms laterally. You can also use a strap to hold your Djembe in place as done by the Djembe player in the above picture.
The Three Main Tones of Djembe Drum
The Djembe has only three major tones: Bass, Tone, Slap.
Playing Djembe Bass Tone for the First Time
The bass is the lowest pitched you can get out of a Djembe drum. To make a bass sound, position your thumb parallel to the rest of your fingers,tilting all your fingers up slightly, bring your hand down, right in the middle of your Djembe, with the base of the palm. To get a clean, crisp bass sound you need to remove your hand as quickly as you brought it down. If you do not withdraw your had very quickly your will not get a nice clean bass sound.
Playing Djembe Tone
The tone is probably the most difficult Djembe rhythm to master. With a lot of practise and patience you should crack it eventually. Starting from the position your hands were for the bass, keep your four fingers together and let the thumb assume its natural distance from the index finger. Bring your hand down firmly onto the drum head and very quickly withdraw them.
Playing Djembe Slap
The slap is the second easiest rhythm to master after the bass. The bass is also the highest pitch sound you can get out of a Djembe drum. Continuing from where your hand was when you play the tone, bring it down on the edge of the Djembe, relaxing your wrist a bit and take your hand off as quickly as possible.
Believe it or not, you have just learn how to play the Djembe drum. You just need several hours of practising to play very well. As indicated at the beginning of this article, playing in groups is one of the best ways to master Djembe. You will also find videos online that demonstrate the above techniques, perhaps slightly differently to the way it’s described above. Once you have mastered the three tones, you can put them together in complex Djembe rhythms.