Djembe Hand Positions and Sounds

See also: Djembe hand positions

Connect the Syllables to Drum Strokes
Practice each drum stroke separately and speak the syllable as you hit the drum.

 

Drum Sounds
Vocal sounds
Favored hand
Other hand
Listen
Details
bass
gnn
dmm
tone
go
doh
open slap
pa
ta
closed slap
pa
ta
muted slap
pa
ta
finger tone
go
doh
finger slap
pa
ta


Bass
“gnn” “dmm”
 
To make the bass sound drop the palm, with fingers up, near the center of the drum and bounce off, giving a deep resonant bass tone. Make sure the bottom of the drum is open to get a resonant bass tone. You can use a stand to lift the drum, or tilt it slightly away from you.Cracks in the drum shell, no matter how small, may diminish the bass sound.A helpful image is that the drum head is a trampoline pushing your hand up.


Tone
“go” “doh”
 
The tone (doh/goh) is made with the full length of the fingers held together. Strike about one third of the way to the center and bounce off, giving a full, warm, medium-pitched sound. This is the most important sound of the drum! It’s important to keep your fingers together so one finger doesn’t strike first. You are trying to create the effect of a padded mallet.



Open Slap
“pah” “tah”
 
The open slap (ta/pa) is one of the easiest sounds to get from your drum and is the dominant sound of the djembe. With your hand relaxed in its natural, slightly cupped shape, strike the drum skin, contacting the rim with the muscle between the base of your little finger and your palm, towards the outside edge of your hand. The finger tips snap over toward center and bounce off, giving a high-pitched ringing sound.


Closed Slap
“pah” “tah”
 
The closed slap (ta/pa) is rarely used in traditional Djembe drumming.
 
The stroke is made in a similar manner to the open slap (above) but the fingers remain on the drum.


Muted Slap
“pah” “tah”
 
To make the muted slap (ta/pa), one hand lays flat on the skin and mutes the sound while the other hand strikes an open slap as described above. It is very important that the full palm of the resting hand be in contact with the skin to produce the correct tone. The sound is very short and high, similar to a wood block.


Finger Tone
“go”“doh”
 
The “finger tone” (doh/go) is made with the full length of the fore finger. Strike about one third of the way to the center and bounce off, giving a full, warm, medium-pitched sound. This is a soft version of the regular tone. This is useful for practicing quietly and playing bongos.


Finger Slap
“pa”“ta”
 
The “finger slap” (ta/pa) is a complimentary note to the “finger tone”. Strike the drum head with one finger with one knuckle over or just inside the rim giving a high-pitched ringing sound.