28th Oct 2014

Playing the Doumbek

The Doumbek is a beautiful goblet shaped drum with a sound that differs from any other hand drum. When you hear a Doumbek being played, you can feel its Middle Eastern culture and charm surrounding you. This uplifting experience makes it almost impossible to resist joining in the fun.

As with many hand drums, to master the Doumbek you need a basic knowledge of basic hand-drumming techniques. Equally important is a sense of rhythm and timing. The ideal first step for a new Doumbek drummer is to find a Doumbek specific timing chart and proceed to master the sounds that accompany each note on the chart. Timing is crucial when it comes to playing hand drums as well as playing the correct beat with the correct note. To create energetic music, try varying high notes with low notes.

On the Doumbek, you can create three basic sounds through different techniques. The three sounds are the Doum, Tek, and Ka. The first sound, the ‘Doum’ sound, is created using the four fingers of your primary drumming hand to strike the center of the drumhead. When you hit the drumhead, try for a resonating tone by pulling your fingers away quickly after striking, much like you would pull away from a hot stove.

The second sound, the ‘Tek’ sound, is created using the tips of your fingers on your primary drumming hand. To make the ‘Tek’ sound on the Doumbek, focus on the space where the head of the drum leaves the rim of the drum. Only one or two fingers can be used when striking the drum, but again you want to try for a resonating tone. Pulling your fingers away quickly after striking the drum will help the sound resonate across the drumhead, creating a tone that is should be tinny or slightly ringing in nature.

The third sound, the ‘Ka’ sound, is created using the opposite hand, or your non-primary drumming hand. Like the ‘Tek’ sound, the ‘Ka’ sound is created by focusing on the space where the head of the drum leaves the rim of the drum. The sound can also be created by hitting the shell of the drum. In order to fully create this sound, you are required to either angle your arm across the drum or grab at the drum to make the sound. The ‘Ka’ sound is often said to be the most difficult of the three sounds to master, especially for beginners.

In addition to the three basic sounds, Doum, Tek, and Ka, there are many other sounds you can create on the Doumbek. Advanced techniques such as open slaps, snaps, and rolls can be used together in order to create captivating music. While this techniques can be more difficult to master, as you continue in your drumming career you will develop an ear for alternating beats on the different areas of the drum head.

Doumbeks have a mystical, Middle Eastern quality that affects both the player as well as the audience dancing and listening to the beats. Master the simple techniques first, then feel free to work your way up to more advanced drumming techniques.