Learn To Play Djembe

Your Road Map To Virtuosity

Learn to play djembe

Do you want to learn to play djembe like an African? This road map shows you the way from being a complete beginner to becoming a djembefola!

Africans get born right into a drumming culture. They learn more naturally, because djembe rhythms are part of their everyday life.

But even in the West you can successfully take djembe lessons!

Of course nothing happens over night. This one is as challenging as any other musical instrument. It will take a lot of practice and a proper instruction plan to learn how to play djembe:


Learn Djembe Percussion - Is It Really For You?

A djembe workshop is a great opportunity to get a taste of djembe drumming. These one-time events are commitment-free and don't require you to have an instrument. It helps deciding if its really for you before you invest money in djembe lessons or in a drum

Can't Find A Workshop?

Don't panic. There are other ways to get a taste of African djembe drumming:

"Remembering How To Drum" (an excellent DVD by Michael Taylor) is a great introduction:

Djembe instruction DVD

Look for drum shops, music schools or African culture festivals around you. They usually offer such workshops to get people interested. Maybe they can even inform you when a real African Master Drummer comes to your area:

Never hesitate to sign up for a workshop with Mamady Keita, Famoudou Konate, Adama Drame etc. when you get a chance to! With these experienced teachers you can be sure that you learn proper African drumming.

You know your excitement will last? Then you can start to think about:


Buying A Djembe Drum

I recommend to wait with buying a djembe until you have tried out several ones in a workshop. You'll notice features that you prefer and some you don't like.

Also inform yourself well about the different types of djembe drums. Not all available on the market are suitable for African drumming.

You've found a djembe that suits you well? Now it's important to first:


Get A Good Foundation

Do you want to learn to play djembe properly? Then work on the basics! Good technique and proper strokes are the foundation that you will build your skills upon.

Unfortunately, good djembe instructors are rare. In workshops and drum circles they usually make you play rhythms as soon as possible. That's fun, but the lack of basic skills will cause you frustration later on.

If you can't take private lessons with a Master Drummer, it's a good idea to work on the foundation yourself. There are excellent instructional videos available that properly introduce your new instrument and teach you all the important skills.

A good foundation makes confident, doesn't it! You're now ready to:


Join A Drum Circle

This drum is not meant to be played home alone! It's much more fun and rewarding to learn to play djembe in a group. Look for a drum circle to play with once a week or so.

Some of them are free for anyone to just come and jam, while others offer formal djembe lessons for groups. No matter which type is available in your area:

This is where you'll learn to play djembe rhythms!

With intense and frequent playing comes the need for:


Djembe Maintenance

Your drum will need tuning and repairing from time to time. A good start would be to read the djembe repair, tuning & care guide and do it yourself. That's the opportunity to get a better feel and understanding of your drum

To learn to play djembe includes really getting to know your instrument: Study how the roping is done. Compare wood and skin to other drums. Check the interior and external shape.

Over time you will start to see the connection between features, climatic conditions and sound quality. In addition to a good playing technique, this will help you take your djembe to its full potential!

When your technique and knowledge is solid, the next step to progress is to:


Train Your Ear

African drumming is much more complex than Western. It can be hard for us to "feel" the rhythm because we are not used to the concept of polyrhythm. The only solution is to train your ear and tune it to the African style.

Even African percussionists learn by listening to the same rhythms over and over.

Find yourself a good African drumming CD. Listen to it attentively until your ear can clearly make out every fine detail. The initially unfamiliar rhythms will enter your system and playing them will become part of your nature.

With this foundation, you are ready for advanced African drumming:


Deepen Knowledge & Broaden Skills

Drum circle rhythms are not all there is to it when you want to learn to play djembe. Solo and ensemble playing are the next challenge for you.

Did you know that traditional African drumming and dance are inseparable? Learn how to accompany and musically interact with dancers.

Keep studying and dig more deeply into African culture. As a start, learn about djembe history and try to understand the cultural context of traditional drumming.

For the very latest, this is the time to consider going on a:


Study Tour To Africa

Absolutely no website, video, workshop or private lesson can replace the experience you get from a study trip to Africa, the homeland of djembe drumming!

Whenever you can find the time and the money, please, please travel to Africa!

Go with open ears, open eyes, an open mind and an open heart. You will learn much more than just moving hands to create rhythms. You'll realize why a Westerner should learn to play djembe in the first place:

To gain understanding and respect for the African people and culture.

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