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Learning to play the Doumbek

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Like any hand drum, playing the Doumbek can be an uplifting experience. This beautiful goblet shaped drum has a sound that differs from other hand drums. The sound comes across as crisp and the slaps yield an openness that carries across the room. When you are listening to the Doumbek being played, you are immediately drawn into a feeling of being surrounded by Middle Eastern culture, and it's impossible to not want to join in the fun.

Meinl Copper Doumbek, Hand Engraved played by Christoph Schacherl, Percussion Student

To master the Doumbek, you need a sense of rhythm and timing, as well as knowledge of the basic hand techniques that will bring this instrument to life. Your first step should be to find a timing chart that is specific to the Doumbek, and master the sounds that accompany each note on the chart. Timing is truly everything when playing the hand drum, and it is important to play the correct beat with the correct note. When you vary the high notes with low notes, your music will come across as energetic.

There are three basic sounds you can create on the Doumbek; Doum, Tek, and Ka. The 'Doum' sound is created by using the four fingers of the hand you primarily use when drumming and striking the center of the drumhead. When hitting the drumhead, you should be trying for a resonating tone. To achieve that, pull your fingers away quickly as though touching a hot object.

The 'Tek' sound is also created using your primary drumming hand. To make this sound on the Doumbek, you should focus on the space where the head leaves the rim of the drum and use the tips of your fingers. You can use one finger or two when creating the Tek sound, but your focus should be on removing your fingers quickly so that the sound resonates across the drumhead. The sound should be tinny or slightly ringing in nature.

The 'Ka' sound is similar to the Tek, except for that it is created using the opposite hand. When creating a Ka sound, you strike the drum in the same area but you can also include hitting the shell. The Ka sound is said to be more difficult for a beginner to master, as you are required to angle your arm across the drum or grab at the drum to make the sound.

In addition to Doum, Tek, and Ka sounds you can create on the Doumbek, there are also many advanced techniques that you can master on this drum. Open slaps, snaps, and rolls are used together to create inspiring music that will have your audience captivated. These techniques are more difficult to master than the average beats, and as you advance in your drumming career you will be able to develop an ear for alternating beats on different areas of the drumhead.

The Doumbek has an almost mystical quality, both for the individual playing it as well as those listening and dancing to the beats. Work on increasing your skill by mastering simple techniques, then work your way up to more advanced drumming.

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