Djembe Font Notation

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There are many different ways to notate djembe rhythms, and
all of them have some advantages and some disadvantages.

The notation on this site is based on the Djembe Font, which
has a graphic representation of pitch (like Western notation)
and a linear representation of time (much like box notation):



The notes represent the basic sounds of the djembe...


= bass

= tone

= slap



...and correspond to the following box notation initials:


1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
6
b
-
t
t
s
-

b

t
-
t
s
-


b = bass
t = tone
s = slap



The Djembe Font also accepts the use of many other
ASCII character notation systems for the basic notes:


Sound Imitation Notation

n = bass
o = tone
a = slap


Vowel Sounds Notation

u = bass
e = tone
a = slap


Conga Initials Notation

b = bass
o = open
s = slap


(All characters which can be used for each note are listed in
the presentation of the
Djembe Font on the Freeware page)

Bass and Bell Notation


The djembe notes can also be used for Bass Drum notation...


= Doundoun

= Sangban

= Kenkeni



...as well as Bell notation:


= Low Kengele

= High Kengele



If you play only two bass drums and one bell,
you can use any of the following character combinations:


D = Doundoun
S = Sangban
K = Kengele


D = Doundoun
K = Kenkeni
k = kengele


B = Big bass
S = Small bass
C = cow bell


(All characters which can be used for each note are listed in
the presentation of the
Djembe Font on the Freeware page)

Instrument Symbols


In order to separate the notation of djembe, bass and bell parts,
you write the corresponding instrument symbol next to each line:


= Djembe

= Bass

= Bell




The symbols that can be used for each part are all listed in
the presentation of the
Djembe Font on the Freeware page.
The Notation Line


The support bars on the note line represent an implicit common pulse, with which all parts that are played together relate.


The time between the pulse beats equals the shortest interval
between two basic strokes
when all parts are played together.


There are no time signatures in Djembe Font notation

African drum rhythms do not adhere to the Western classification
of accented and unaccented notes. All strokes are equivalent in
this respect, which makes it possible to catch several different
pulses in one single part. To specify a certain meter for a rhythm
would therefore be misleading as well as pointless.

It is rather the length of the stroke patterns that is important when
we describe the African drum rhythms. We cannot repeat a stroke
pattern - i.e. play it as a rhythm - until we have grasped its length.

The numbering of the support bars should consequently not be
seen as a time signature, but only as a means to estimate the
length of the stroke pattern.

Each support bar is numbered with a one-digit figure:

This means that notation lines with 12 support bars
are numbered as 6 x 2 (see above) and notation lines
with 16 support bars are numbered as 8 x 2 (see below).

If a stroke pattern is longer than 18 support bars it should
be divided into two (or more) notation lines of equal length
.
The continuing notation line is marked with an arrow-head
at the end of the line:

If a stroke pattern is shorter than 10 support bars
it is repeated on the same line
to make it easier
to relate it to any longer parts of the same rhythm.


There are no tempo signatures in Djembe Font notation

African drum rhythms can be played at any tempo,
depending on the context and the circumstances.

Consequently, the notation will not specify any tempo,
and the stroke pattern will look the same at any tempo!


The notation line always begins with the so-called "one"
of the stroke pattern, to make it possible to visually relate
all parts that are to be played together - as shown below.

(The "1" typically means the first note of a so-called bar.
In this context it means the first note of a stroke pattern.)

 



A rhythm that is supposed to start at a different note than
the "1" of the stroke pattern, begins with a lead-in, which
is indicated by an asterisk (*) above the starting note as
well as at the notation line(s) involved - as shown above.


The various components of the notation line are all listed in
the presentation of the
Djembe Font on the Freeware page.

 
      

 

Copyright 2000 Lennart Hallstrom, Skarpnäcks Allé 60, SE-128 33 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone +46-(0)8-612 17 82  ·  lennart.hallstrom@djembe.net  ·  Cell +46-(0)70-725 42 63


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