Like a tone, the djembe slap is played on the edge of the drum. Use about an inch more of your hand than with the tone (closer towards the center), with the hand cupped slightly and the fingers open only slightly.
Bring your forearm down and let the heel of your hand strike the edge of the drum first and allow your fingers to ‘slap’ the face of the drum.
The note produced should sound higher than the tone (A fifth or an octave higher for you fanatics).
It takes a lot of practice to produce a good slap.
Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t sound any different at first. Keep going and try not to play too hard.
It will come.
The video below show Mamady Keita, one of the world’s great djembe players, giving a tip on how to play the slap.
On the charts, a slap is represented by a star, like this:
The slap is called either ‘pa’ or ‘ta’ depending on which hand it is played with. ‘pa’ is played with the black hand, ‘ta’ is played with the red hand.
Count slowly and evenly from 1 to 4 and play a slap with one hand on count 1 only. Rest for counts 2, 3 and 4 (don’t play anything) and then play a slap with the other hand on count 1. Keep going in a loop, making sure to keep even time between counts 4 and 1 (It’s as if you’re going on to 5).
Play a slap with one hand on count 1, rest on count 2, a slap with the other hand on count 3 and then rest on count 4.
Now alternate between each hand on each count.
Play 2 slaps with one hand and 2 with the other.
Play 3 slaps with one hand and 1 with the other.
Same as above, but with opposite hands.
Play one slaps with one hand, rest for one, then three slaps on successive beats with alternating hands, starting with the black hand.
Great stuff! Now move on to Lesson 6 – Bass, tone and slap together