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Djembe Drum: Wood vs. Synthetic

Posted by X8 DRUMS Tuesday, March 25, 2008 0 Comments
So you're in the market for a djembe drum but not sure if you should go with a wooden based shell or a synthetic shell.
Synthetic DjembeAfrican Gold Synthetic Djembe
Well, you've stumbled onto the right site. Shopping for a djembe drum can at times be a bit overwhelming. There are such a wide variety of choices, sizes, and features that sometimes you lose sight of what you want. Hopefully after reading this blog you'll have a better understanding of the distinct differences between wood and synthetic djembe drums so you can make a more informed decision.

MATERIALS
One of the big differences between wood and synthetic djembe drums is the type of material used. Djembe drum shells are typically made of wood or fiberglass. Fiberglass drum shells are extremely durable and tend to more easily produce drum tones when played. This can make them idea for beginner player whose playing technique is not quite developed - sort of allowing more room to play with tones without completely missing the mark. Many experienced players also report that fiberglass djembes produce a brighter sound and will seek them out when playing in an amplified ensemble where they need to cut through the mix.

Synthetic shell djembes will be less affected by changing weather conditions, which means less tuning time, and may be a better choice for those planning to travel frequently with the drum or for classrooms where the instruments need to withstand a lot of use and mobility.

Wooden DjembeWooden Shell Djembe
On the flip side, traditional wooden shells will have a warmer and typically fuller tone than fiberglass shell djembes. Most professional players will prefer the warmth and fuller sound of a wooden shell djembe as their primary drum. Most of our customers choose a wooden shell djembe as their first drum primarily because of the tradition behind them and the hand-carved craftsmanship that goes into each shell.

If you're planning on gigging out a bunch and transporting your djembe around town, keep in mind that wood tends to show scratches more easily, though both are very durable. A drum usually gets most of its scratches when traveling, so be sure to transport your drum in a djembe bag to reduce the chance of damage.

DRUMHEADS
Another difference you need to understand is the type of drumhead used. There are essentially two types of djembe drumheads. The first type is the more traditionally based goatskin drumhead. The tones produced by goatskins vary immensely based on the quality of skin used and whether or not the skin has been treated. Unbleached, thick skins tend to produce deep rich tones. The best way to identify a high quality goatskin drumhead is to look for a stripe down the middle of the drum. The stripe indicates the spine of the back of the goat which is the thickest and strongest skin available. Other skins may be very light or almost completely white. These skins have been treated with a bleaching product to remove all excess goat hair and pigmentations and typically produce more mid-range and higher tones. The lighter skins tend to tune up faster on rope based djembes.

The second type of drumhead is a synthetic head that was created to produce the tones of skin based on heads, however are more durable, in many cases are waterproof, and tend to last longer. In addition, synthetic heads are typically easier to play because they 'crack' a little louder and have a brighter tone when struck. Again, this could be beneficial for a beginner player who is still learning to play.


QUICK REFERENCE:

X8 Drums manufactures both traditional wooden shell djembes with goatskin drum heads and an exclusive line of fiberglass shell djembes with synthetic drumheads. As musicians ourselves, we are dedicated to developing true performance-ready instruments. And whether you choose wood or fiberglass, you can rest assured that sound quality is our number one priority.

Toca Percussion manufactures a PVC shell in their Toca Freestyle Djembe series. PVC is essentially a hard plastic.

All Remo djembes are manufactured using a synthetic shell called 'Acousticon' which is similar to fiberglass. Additionally, all Remo djembe heads are fitted with a synthetic material called 'Fiberskyn'.


Next: Rope Tuned vs. Key Tuned Djembe

Djembe Buying Guide


 


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Key Tuned vs. Rope Tuned Djembe

Posted by X8 DRUMS Monday, March 24, 2008 0 Comments
There are essentially two types of tuning systems found on most djembe drums - key tuned and rope tuned. To help you make a more informed decision when selecting your new djembe, I will discuss each type of tuning system and touch upon some of the differences.

Key Tuned DjembeKey Tuned Djembe
Key tuned djembe drums tend to have a more modern feel and are tuned using a wrench to tighten the bolts around the djembe head. They are also known as 'mechanically tuned' or 'bolt tuned'. The distinguishing feature of key tuned djembes is a bulky, metal rim that fits around the head and is secured to the body using metal tuning hooks. The additional hardware on this type of djembe adds weight and is a bit of an eyesore. The trade-off in aesthetics is a tuning system that is relatively easy to understand. Just grab the wrench and begin tightening the bolts found on each tuning hook as you go around the head. Tightening the bolts will tighten the skin thus pitching up your djembe head.

Rope tuned djembes are more traditional in their design and are tuned by tightening the ropes around the head of the djembe. Depending on the djembe, there are either two or three metal rings fitted around the head of the drum.
Rope Tuned DjembeRope Tuned Djembe
However, unlike mechanically tuned djembe drums where there is a most prominent metal rim wrapping around the djembe; the metal rings of rope-tuned djembes are tucked under the skin, are much thinner and not very noticeable. Additionally instead of the tuning hooks, as found on mechanically tuned djembes, rope tuned djembes are fitted with a bunch of vertical rope runners that run up and down the bowl. These vertical rope runners are fastened to the metal rings around the djembe head and are used to place tension on the skin when pulled tightly. To tune the drum you would place horizontal knots on the various sets of vertical rope runners by pulling what's called a diamond. This is known as the Mali Weave. Tuning a rope based djembe can be done quite confidently by a beginner and doesn't take long.

Making a determination of whether or not to go with a mechanically tuned djembe or rope tuned djembe is really a matter of personal taste. However, it's probably safe to say that most players today are choosing rope based djembes due to their traditional aesthetic appeal, and better sound quality. Djembes that are fitted with a mechanical tuning system just seem to lack that "real" djembe sound. Additionally, I've found the bulkiness of the mechanical rim to get in the way of playing.


Next: How to Tune a Djembe

Djembe Buying Guide


 


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Prince Charles plays in Jamaican Drum Circle

Posted by X8 DRUMS Friday, March 14, 2008 0 Comments
Prince Charles and his wife made what appears to be an unscheduled stop during their tour of the Caribbean promoting environmental protection.

As the couple approached a street-side group of hand drummers, Prince Charles accepted an invitation to join the group. He and his wife Camilla both participated in a light round of hand drumming on djembes.

Start a Drum Circle, Success Story

Posted by X8 DRUMS Sunday, March 9, 2008 0 Comments
Thanks to the efforts of Moya Moye at the University of South Carolina, many students are enjoying the positive health benefits of hand drumming.

After only a month, his drum circle turnout has grown from one participant to groups of 20-25. All it took to get that far was a single drummer and a sign up form.

The story is inspiring and testimony that drumming plus the energy of drum circles has amazing health benefits for people of all ages.

If you are interested in starting a drum circle, follow these simple steps that have made the drum circle at USC a success:

1. Be your own drum circle.
Moya started his drum circle by playing his drums outside of a local cafe with a sign next to him that read "Sign Up for Drum Circle". As people came over to sign up, he let them know that all types of musicians are welcome and no experience is needed.

2. "The only thing we discriminate against is negativity." - USC drum circle participant
Make sure that you, as the leader, always provide positive feedback to your members. Your attitude and actions will be reflected by the rest of the members.

3. Create a webpage for your drum circle
Moya created a FaceBook profile page for his drum circle so that members can connect online. FaceBook provides an easy interface for you to maintain a schedule of events and locations, upload photos and the ability for members to leave comments (no HTML knowledge is needed). Drum Circle Meetup is also a great place to promote your drum circle online.

Tell us about your drum circle success using the comments link below!

X8 Drums provides special packages to drum circle facilitators. Contact us to dicuss djembe offerings and other hand percussion instruments for your events.

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Best Beginner Conga

Posted by X8 DRUMS Tuesday, March 4, 2008 0 Comments

Congas for Beginners

Shopping for conga drums can seem a bit overwhelming especially if you're new to the market or not sure what questions to ask. As a hand drum store owner and percussion enthusiast I'm frequently asked questions from customers regarding the best set of conga drums to purchase for beginner players. Let's face it; there are many congas in the marketplace all vying for your attention and all pretty much look the same. However, the unique differences in each conga can make a big difference in playability, sound, and overall enjoyment.


After reading the information below, you'll be able to make a clear and confident decision in selecting the best conga drums for beginner players.


Conga Drum Sizes

A conga drum is tall and narrow, played with the fingers and palms, often in pairs, but sometimes in other combinations, or just singly. They are available in a range of sizes; the smallest can be just 9 inches across and are worn from a shoulder strap, while the largest "supertumbas" are up to 14 inches across. Heights typically range from 28" to 32" inches. The size of drum obviously affects the sound and pitch of the instrument, with the largest drums being used to play the lower rhythms, and the smaller Quinto conga drums acting as the "singer" of the band, playing the melody.

Most beginner players should start out on just a couple of drums. It's important to first learn proper technique before deciding to add another drum to the set-up. A good starting point would be a combination of (10" & 11") or (11" & 12") head sizes.

Conga Drum Materials

Most conga drums are made in the same part of the world - Bangkok, Thailand. Bangkok's close proximity to the raw materials and skilled labor necessary to manufacture percussion instruments make it an ideal location. Although most conga drums are made in the same location there are unique differences that separate them.

One of the big differences between congas is the type of material used. Conga drum shells are typically made of wood or fiberglass. Fiberglass drum shells are extremely durable and tend to more easily produce drum tones when played. This can make them ideal for beginner players whose playing technique is not quite developed. The fiberglass shell tends to resonate louder and crisper compared to wood shell congas which, although more traditional, will not resonate as easily. On the flip side, wood congas will have a warmer and typically fuller tone than fiberglass shell congas. Most professional players will prefer the warmth and fuller sound of wood congas.

Another difference you need to understand is the type of drumhead used. There are essentially two types of conga drumheads. The first type is the more traditionally based animal skinhead. Typical animal skins include rawhide on less expensive congas and buffalo skins on pricier congas. The second type of drumhead is a synthetic head that was created to produce the tones of skin based heads, however are more durable and tend to last longer. In addition, synthetic heads are typically easier to play because they 'crack' a little louder and have a brighter tone when struck. Again, this could be beneficial for a beginner player who is still learning how to play.

How Much Should I Spend?


If the congas are for a beginner player you don't have to buy the best. There are plenty of very good congas available that sound great and won't break the bank. However, the biggest mistake one could make when purchasing a set of conga drums is buying the most inexpensive set. Conga drums are musical instruments and like all musical instruments are detailed pieces of art. They cost money to make. Better materials mean higher costs. And better materials and construction generally lead to instruments that not only sound better but also are easier to play. Also, you want purchase congas that the player can grow into as their skills increase. The beginning conga player will have an easier time learning when playing a good set of congas. The drums will sound better and make for a more enjoyable time during the learning process.

Top Manufacturers

There are many congas available in the marketplace, however four main manufacturers really stand out as the cream of the crop.

Latin Percussion: Check out the 'LP Aspire' series of conga drums. This line of conga drums is geared towards the beginning to intermediate player.

Tycoon Percussion: Check out the 'Artist/90' series and 'Supremo' series of conga drums. This line of conga drums is geared towards the beginning to intermediate player.

Toca Percussion: Check out the 'Player's' series of conga drums. This line of conga drums is geared towards the beginning to intermediate player.

Remo: Check out the Remo 'Crown Percussion' line of conga drums.


Instructional Resources:

If possible, the beginning conga player should seek out some one-on-one training with an instructor. There's no substitute for having someone, in person, teach the new player the foundation of proper technique. Beginning conga players just starting out need that extra reinforcement of when they are and aren't doing something properly. It helps to solidify the right way to play.

However, if there isn't a conga instructor available locally to get that one-on-one training, check out the following instructional material to begin. Even if the conga player has an instructor, the following instructional resources would be beneficial.

Conga Drumming: A Beginners Guide to Playing With Time (by:Alan Dworsky) – This 160 page playing guide comes with a CD.

Conga Drumming A Beginner's Video Guide (starring Jorge Bermudez) – This is an instructional DVD that covers all conga basics.

Mel Bay The Tomas Cruz Conga Method, Vol. I: Conga Technique As Taught In Cuba – (by: Tomas Cruz) –The Tomas Cruz Conga Method is designed to quickly and comprehensively teach anyone, from a rank beginner to a professional conguero, to play congas. This 72-page paperback comes with an instructional DVD as well.

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