Djembes and Bass Drums

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There are many different ways of producing drums, resulting in various quality and pricing.

On this page you will get
some advice on what to
consider when acquiring
a djembe or a bass drum.

(If you are in Sweden, you
can try & buy djembes from
Lennart Hallstrom at his own
Djembe Center
in Stockholm.)

Drum Category - There are several drum categories to consider
for anyone intending to acquire a drum. If you´re not sure whether or
not you will continue drumming, or if your budget is llimited, you may
be looking for the cheapest possible drum. If you have a more cultural
interest you may prefer a drum made in west Africa, and for those
who can tell the difference, or simply want nothing but the best, there
are drums of high quality. If you want your drum to be more personal,
you can have it custom made for you, or you can make your own
drum
on a weekend course.

Origin - Good and bad djembes are made everywhere in the world
today. The country of origin does not tell you the quality of the drum.

Method of Production - To shape a drum you can either use a
chisel, a chain-saw, a turning-lathe, a mold or a saw and some glue.

Carved drums are thicker and have a rougher inside than others,
which is usually beneficial to the sound. Decorations on the outside
are not signs of quality, but add value to the drum. Carving is very
time consuming and is generally utilised only in third world countries.

Chain-sawed drums are roughly shaped with a chain saw and then
chiseled to their final shape. This method is much faster than carving
and is therefore used in the Western world as well.

Turned drums, made with a turning lathe, can be made thinner and smoother, which makes them lighter and more circular. Their utterly smooth surface is usually a decoration in itself, but not necessarily a sign of sound quality.

Staved drums are made from sticks of wood that are sawed into
prescribed shapes and glued together in a circular standard form.
This method is suited for industrial production of drums to keep
prices down to a minimum. The joints can be weak spots on these drums - mechanically as well as acoustically.

Molded drums are made of a wooden fiber mix which is put into a
drum shaped mold at high pressure. This method is typically used
by the percussion industry to make sure their drums are exactly the
same shape and sound the same. The drumhead is prefabricated
and screw mounted like a conga, leaving very few similarities with a
traditional drum.

Pricing - The price of a drum depends on how and where it is made.
A drum made in a third world country where wages are very low is
generally much less expensive than one made in a Western country.
Industrial mass production will also make the drum less expensive
than the artwork of individually made drums.

Transportation costs and import taxes are always added to the price,
so the price of the very same drum may vary around the world.

The price may also be an indicator of the overall quality of the drum.

Sound - The most important quality to look for in a drum is sound.
You should make sure you like the sound of the drum you acquire,
otherwise you will probably never want to play it.

What sounds good to one person may sound bad to another, so you
do not need any advice in this matter. It´s a matter of personal taste.

Flaws - You should watch out for any kind of flaws in the drum you
aim to acquire. There should be no cracks, rips or bruises which
may affect the sound or the lifespan of the drum. This goes for the rope as well as for the trunk and the skin.

If you detect maggots in the skin folds you should alarm the vendor!
Apart from feeding off the skin of that drum, skin eating maggots
may also spread to nearby drums and ruin them as well.

Make sure you receive a warranty and that your vendor can offer you
the service you need in case you have any problems with your drum.


(In the textbook African Drum Rhythms there is a more extensive check list for
anyone who is about to acquire a djembe.)


 
      

 

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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