Djembe – Buying Guide, Opinions and Analysis
Known in Africa and many other parts of the world, the djembe is one of the most versatile and fascinating percussion instruments. It is capable of enchanting both those who play it and those who dare to dance to its rhythm. In addition to the range of musical tones, which its goatskin head allows to achieve, the Meinl Percussion ADJ7-M stands out with a distinctive design, made with colored nylon cords. For its part, the body of the Double Duck 20 cm is a piece of professional wood painted and decorated in the best aboriginal style. In addition, its height of 20 cm makes it ideal for children who dream of being great percussionists.
If you want to surprise everyone with your ability to play the djembe, then you need to make sure you have the best possible model. So don’t make a purchase without first checking what to keep in mind when evaluating a djembe, to get the best out of it.
When checking a guide to buy the best djembe you should take many things into account. However, the first on your list should always be the materials that have been used in the creation of the instrument.
Since their inception, djembes have been made using wood for their main structure and animal skin to make the patch. However, with modernization, new types of djembes have hit the market and these use synthetic materials, both in the structure and in the head. The items used can affect how much each djembe costs and will also affect things like its use, durability, and type of sound.
Traditional djembes use, most of the time, woods such as cedar and mahogany, the latter being the most common. The reason why these woods are the most recommended is because they are dense and this allows the sound to be brighter, as the vibration will be more vivid and clear.
On the other hand, the patches are usually made from goatskin and, more recently, from cowhide. This type of material manages to transmit sound in a clear way and, additionally, it is usually quite resistant.
As for synthetic djembes, these instruments usually have a plastic main frame and a head made of fake leather or other similar elements. These are sought after by certain people because, unlike traditional ones, they do not need as much care and can also be used outdoors without problem. Besides that, djembes of this type are usually cheaper.
After making the djembe comparison taking into account the materials, then you can focus on the size of these instruments. As you can see, these vary from one model to another, so you should pay close attention before making a hasty choice.
At these times, the first thing to keep in mind is who will be playing the instrument and what skill level this person has. For example, if it is a child, it is possible to find children’s models that adapt to the requirements of children. These djembes are typically 10 to 12 inches tall, light weight, and small in diameter.
However, if it is an adult, then it is best to focus on models that are approximately 50 to 70 centimeters tall. This is because it is a height that will allow you to comfortably play the instrument while sitting. It is recommended that the diameter be greater than 30 centimeters, if you want to play like a professional, although a 30 head is also suitable for amateur musicians.
The reason diameter is important is because the more surface area there is, the greater the musical range you can get with each hit you hit the djembe. This will give you more opportunity to try different combinations and rhythms.
If you want to dedicate yourself to playing traditional African percussion music, then it is recommended to purchase an African djembe. That is, made of natural materials, and with a large patch. However, if you want to limit yourself to other musical rhythms, then a small djembe will suffice.
Like almost all instruments, if you want to move the djembe safely, it is advisable to have a carrying bag or cover, which can protect it from bumps and falls. It is possible to purchase this accessory after purchasing the instrument, however, there are options on the market that include this accessory and others.
If you want to get more for less, and you are determined to find a good and inexpensive option, then it is worth keeping an eye out for complete sets that give you everything in the same set.
There are several models of djembes that come with carrying cases for effective mobilization and many of these have beautiful designs, similar to the decorations that these instruments sometimes have on the bottom. However, this is not all that can be found in one of these sets. Some djembes made for beginners, for example, also include instructional books or videos to guide the learning process step by step.
These little details could make a difference and could also give you the opportunity to save money. Therefore, they are worth looking for.
Frequently asked questions
Q1: How do you play the djembe?
Like any drum, the djembe is played by tapping rhythmically with the fingers on the head.
Q2: How to change the skin of a djembe?
Over time, the djembe patch may deteriorate and may even break open if the skin wears or comes into contact with an object that could damage the material. Even when the patch looks in good condition, it may require a change if you have already been with it for a certain time giving it constant use.
To do this, the first thing you’ll need to do is remove the string ring and the second tie ring. This should be done carefully, avoiding damaging the strings to be able to use them later.
When removing the patch, make sure that the edges of the wood do not have chips and are completely smooth to continue with the next step, which will be to prepare the skin, letting it soak for about 4 hours, and stretching it. Place it on a clean surface with the hair facing up and put the fixing ring there. Using string, fold the skin inward and tie it up.
Now, you can put the skin over the djembe, with the string facing up, and install the string ring. At this point you should do the braiding. For this, it is advisable to watch video tutorials or consult with an expert, as the braiding can vary from one djembe to another. The easiest thing to do is take a photo of your djembe before making the change and repeat the braiding with the new head.
When you finish tying everything, loosen the top rope that holds the skin in place and let it dry for a few days. During these days, go stretching the vertical braiding and, when the skin is dry, tighten it horizontally, avoiding that the rings are twisted.
Q3: Where is the djembe from?
Also known as Yembé, this instrument originated in the ancient Mandinga region. Currently, this territory is shared by Mali and Guinea.
Q4: How to tune a djembe?
To tune a djembe you only have to stretch string by string, starting from the right of the one with the main knot. Upon reaching her again, untie the knot and tie it again with the new tension of the whole braiding.
Q5: How to make a djembe?
Unless you are an expert in woodworking, it is very difficult to make a djembe yourself, as these instruments have unique and quite specific structures, which can be difficult to replicate.
What is possible to do is find the wooden body of a djembe and make the assembly of the skin, doing the braiding yourself. This, although it may take several hours, is not very difficult to do, as long as you have experience with these instruments.
The process for applying the skin is the same as explained above, omitting the step of removing the old patch. And for braiding it is recommended to review a tutorial in detail and practice to do it correctly and know exactly which ropes to buy to do a better job.