With so many beautiful drums to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. In this guide we get you past the first hurdle of djembe buying, which is deciding whether to go with a traditional rope tuned djembe or a mechanically tuned version.
“Traditional” Djembe (JEM-bay)
The “traditional” djembe has a roped tuning system and a leather head and a wooden body. The head (the membrane that’s played) is made of goat skin as it has been for hundreds of years. A system of roped twists and tucks is involved in keeping the drumhead sounding crisp. These drums are absolutely lovely, both sonically and aesthetically and often economical. When using traditional djembes with children in classroom our family programs, keep the following in mind.
First, the goat-leather head is a thin-skinned; a whack with a stick or shaker or hard toy, or a bump into the corner of a table, can tear the skin and the drum can easily be out of use until the head is replaced. Replacing a goatskin head is a fun adventure, though it can take 2-3 hours on the first few tries. It's best to find someone to re-head the drum (sometimes that may cost more than the drum’s purchase price).
“Mechanically-tuned, synthetic head” Djembe
This djembe (also called, “key-tuned”) is made with a synthetic head and a PVC or fiberglass body and is a wonderful choice for children in classroom our a family program setting.
The head can withstand years of wear; hard whacks with just about anything) are no problem. It takes a lot of focused effort to break a synthetic head, and if it does break, the head comes off and goes back on in just minutes with a wrench that usually comes with the drum. Tuning is quick, simple, and in many cases, lasts the life of the drum. And – they have a sonically satisfying and rich sound.
X8 Drums Djembe Buying Guide
2. Djembe Wood Source & Lathing [Video]
3. Djembe Shell Carving & Painting [Video]
5. Which Size Djembe is Right for Me? [Video]
8. How to Tune a Djembe [Video]
11. Djembe Rhythms and Exercises [Video]
15. How to Play the Djembe [Video]