Djembe Tuning Instructions
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Part 1 - Understand the Concept of Rope Tuning
Watch this detailed video to learn how to tune a rope djembe. Understand djembe diamonds and how to find the right tone.
Part 2 - Tuning
Today we are going to run through a drum tuning session. I have in front of me a Deep Carve Djembe with a 12" head by 24" tall. Essentially, rope tuning is an easy process and you'll see as we go through the video what I mean.
We're going to start by unwinding all of the excess rope. When you purchase an X8 Djembe, most of the extra rope used for tuning will be tied around the neck and from here, it's a matter of unravelling the rope, setting the drum down in front of you and start the process.
Ok, so the first thing you want to do to find out if the drum does in face need to get tuned is to just give it a quick play.
And you can hear how this drum is out of tune. If you press down on the skin you can actually see that it is a bit loose. Plus just listening to that sound you can hear that it is too bassy, it kind of has a ringing overtone when you play it and that's not good. Ultimately what you want is a very tight skin.
So what we're going to do is tune the drum, pitch it up and tighten the skin in the process.
As I mentioned, all of the extra rope is initially wrapped around the drum.So find the end of the thread and unravel it. Don't be scared that by unwrapping the rope that your drum will come apart. That is not going to happen. It's what the rope is meant for. It is a tuning system.
Once you unravel it all the way, you'll see that it leads here. On most of our drums, we've already started the tuning process for you and here I have already put in some of the knots into these vertical rope runners.
So I am going to lay the djembe down out in front of me, like so and gather all of the extra rope. As you can tell from this drum, we've already started putting some horizontal knots into these vertical rope runners and we're going from left to right.
Sometimes you might see some of the knots going from right to left which is fine. I'm right handed so this makes sense for me to go in a clockwise direction.
Now, I am taking the tip of the rope and what we going to do is take this rope and we're going to go underneath this set of rope runners. You want to find the next two available strings on the drum and we're going to go under this piece of rope and we going to under this piece of rope here.
And you want to start high on the drum. If you start too low you'll see that the rope is resting tight on the bowl making it impossible to thread the string through. Start up top where there is room to maneuver.
Go under the first piece of rope and go under the second piece. Pull it through like this. Pull tight and then put your feet on the drum bowl to brace it. Then pull on the rope tightly bringing it as low as possible and when you have it as far down as you can get it, give it one last tug like that.
The key thing is that as you are pulling these horizontal knots into these vertical rope runners, you want to keep this line of rope you see as low (an even) to the bottom of the bowl as possible.
Then you find the tip of your rope again and know we're going to go over this rope and then under this one, so just backtracking right through the middle of the two ropes you were just working with.
So, go under here and pull it through just about all the way, leaving yourself a little slack. Now, again put your feet on the bowl for stability and then slide this rope down. See how I slid it all the way down until it hit this piece of rope here. And now you come to an extremely important step: put on the rope to pop it over the rope you just hit to secure it in place.
Watch closely to see and you can sometimes hear it too when you successfully get the rope over the other rope. The reason you do it is to keep the horizontal line of knots you are creating tight and even around the bowl.
Now, you can guide the rest of the rope through and tie your first knot or what some call "diamond" as you can see that the shape formed when tuning your djembe looks a little like diamonds.
To pull the "diamond" grab the rope really low and then pull it toward you and hard as you can until you see the rope slip on top of the other one. The diamond is complete and you'll want to give one more tug to secure it.
That's it! From here, we just repeat the process around the djembe, testing the sound after every 2 or 3 diamonds until the desired tone is reached.
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