The djembe is a musical instrument originally played in West Africa. It is a single-headed open goblet drum, played with bare hands.
Its name comes from the saying in Mali “Anke djé, anke bé” which translates to “everyone, gather together in peace.” Playing djembe is not difficult, however, they are a few techniques and rules to follow. Read on to discover how to play the djembe.
Holding the Djembe
The posture used in holding the drum is an essential part of playing. There are different ways you can hold the djembe. However, you have to ensure that you don’t slouch and that you are sort-of comfortable with your posture.
You can sit down or stand, but your back has to be kept straight. Let your shoulders hand back and down, and make your chest open. Try not to overdo it by making your chest too puffy, but relax and hold it comfortably. Also, try not to hold your breath or grind your teeth when playing.
When sitting, put the drum between your legs and hold the drum between your legs. Lean the drum a bit away from you, so the notes of the drum will not be restricted. Sitting is usually the best position for a beginner.
You can also take a standing position and use a shoulder strap to help your balance. Alternatively, you can sit on the drum, with the drum lying down. You can do this in a relaxed setting. However, you cannot play for long hours in this position.
In playing, you need to understand the notation. The djembe notation is simply the written rhythm. It may seem easy to just watch people play and follow the rhythm of their hands. However, you will play better when you understand the djembe notation of the music you want to play.
It will give you a better grasp of the music and make you a better musician. There are four rows on the chart of the djembe notation which are read from left to right.
The first row represents the passage of time and shows the spaces to play the notes. The second row shows the notes to be played. The third row shows the hand you should use. Finally, the fourth row shows the verbal representation or phonetics of the note.
Once you master the basics of the djembe notation, you’ll be well on your way to become a great djembe player.
Three main notes are played on the djembe. The bass note, tone note, and slap note.
The bass note is usually the easiest to play and the best for beginners. The hand position is simple, and the technique is based on the control of your arms. The arm gives the resonance of the note and determines the timing. It has to be strong enough to give the right not, but not too tense, so you don’t get tired out quickly.
The tone is the middle note on the djembe. It isn’t a sound quality or pitch, but rather the note played at the edge of the drum. It is the most popular note played but, it has a core skill.
The slap note is the most difficult note on the djembe. It takes time and consistency to learn. It, however, produces a clear and consistent high-pitched note.