How to play djembe – Lesson 7 – The drum roll

The Drum Roll

The drum roll is a great exercise for players at all levels. The idea is simple: Play a stream of notes of equal length, creating a roll, or rumble sound.

Tones are easiest to start with, but you can play a roll on any note. Play one note after the other and see how long you can keep it up.

Try speeding up, slowing down, playing harder, softer and any variation you can think of. It builds stamina and strength quickly as it’s quite tiring to do for any length of time.

Here’s what it looks like on a chart using tones. Notice how the count has been subdivided using ‘+’. Say this as ‘and’.

Drum roll 1


There are a couple of variations on the standard left-right-left-right roll, shown here.

The first variation is to play two notes with the same hand before playing two notes with the other hand. This is a technique popular with conga players and can be incredibly difficult to do quickly while still sounding smooth.

Drum roll 2


Next try this killer exercise that incorporates a bass note with alternating hands. Note that the timing in this exercise is 3/4, or 3 quarter notes per bar (Only count in cycles of 3).


Drum roll 3



10 points! Now move on to Lesson 8 – The Flam


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