Congrats, you've decided to buy a drum. Double congrats, you've found a crash course on how to buy the best djembe.
What To Look For In A Djembe
Width is the most common measurement for a djembe.
It indicates the diameter across the top of the drum.
When you see someone selling a 12" djembe, they're usually talking about the width.
The most popular djembe sizes are from 10" - 14"
How big should my drum be?
Your drum should suit your physical size. If your drum is too big for you it will be difficult to maneuver. Too small and it will be difficult to play.
This chart shows what size should suit you based on your height or age:
Recommended Djembe Width
8" & 9"
Kids aged 4-7, height under 4',
Kids aged 7-10, Height 5'0" - 5'5",
Small Adult 5'4" - 5'8", kids aged 10-16
Medium Adult 5'8" - 6'
Large Adult 6' - 6'2"
XL Adult over 6'2"
55-65cm (22-25 inches)
Weight - Full size wood djembe
20-26 lbs (9-12 kgs)
Weight - Fiberglass djembes
9-18 lbs (4-8kg)
As a guideline, you should be able to place one hand comfortably inside the face of the drum.
Your hand should fit without enough room so that it is not touching the edges of the drum.
Types of Djembe
There are 2 main types:
1. Wood Djembes
These are the most common - the classic djembe look.
As the name suggests, the shell is hand-made from one piece of solid wood. The drum skin is either synthetic or goat skin and the tuning is done with rope.
They are usually a natural wood color and sometimes have carvings around the foot of the shell.
- Quality wood provides good resonance
- Tuning and changing skins is difficult
- Quality can vary widely
2. Modern Djembes
These are usually machine-made by brand name drum companies such as Pearl or Remo.
The shell is made using composite materials and is molded to particular sizes and shapes.
The drum is tightened mechanically using a key and the skin is usually synthetic.
- Quality is standardized across a range of shells and skins
- Light, durable
- Easier to play
- Easier to tune
- Environmentally friendly
- More expensive
What Type Should I Get?
Consider what you want to use the drum for.
- If you want to play the drum in a traditional African drum circle setting, you might want to get a wood djembe. The look, feel and sound of the drum would suit the setting.
- Or, for less traditional settings, such as playing in a band or informal drum circles, get a fiberglass djembe. They're contemporary, light and easy to tune.
Some drums may be a combination of the two. They may have fiberglass shells and rope tuning.
Buying A Djembe Online
We recommend you buy your djembe online, and from a reputable dealer. Here's why:
- Better choice and value for money than your local music store
- More reliable than Craiglist or EBay.
- Several trustworthy manufacturers and brands online.
All the sellers we recommend have good track records and quality products in their price range.
Make sure the seller has good communication, good reviews and a returns policy. Expect to pay shipping for returns.
Remember, you get what you pay for.
Double-check the drum's specifications before you buy.
What Not To Buy
Avoid curio shop djembes. These are the very small djembes that you could easily fit in a backpack. Anything under 7" across the face is not really an instrument, it's more of an ornament.
They are cute but are just too small to be realistically playable. They will end up in the back of your cupboard.
When buying online, don't mistake a curio drum for a full size drum. It can be difficult to judge the drums size from a photo.
Sneaky Trick Alert
Some naughty sellers will advertise these curio drums as a 12" djembe by quoting the height, not the width. The width would be much less, around 6".
Don't worry, none of the drums we review is a curio drum.
Which Is The Best Brand of Djembe?
African made djembes don't usually have a brand name. They have been imported from Africa and come from many small manufacturers.
The key to finding a good one is a trustworthy supplier who has vetted and priced the drums accordingly. A few sellers to look out for are Drumskull and Djembe Direct.
Several brand name manufacturers also make wood djembes. These are usually machine carved with a lathe and then hand-finished. Names to look out for are Meinl and Toca.
There are several well-known producers of high quality fiberglass djembes.
Drum companies such as Remo have been producing them for decades. A few other names to look out for are LP, Meinl and X8.
Each brand has different features, pros and cons and prices. Finding the best djembe brand is therefore a matter of preference.
Here are our top picks - our favorite wood and fiberglass models for every type of player, followed by the best djembe under $50, $100 and $250.
1. Remo Mondo Earth Series
Winner - Overall Best Djembe!
10" - women
12" - men
14" - XL men
This is a stunning modern drum. It is the only djembe that gets 5 stars from us. It has great sound, a classy, understated look and is incredibly versatile.
It is available in sizes 10", 12" and 14".
Here's a demo of the different sizes:
Remo have a long history of producing professional drums and drum skins.
This drum would be a good choice for intermediate players and up - although beginners who can afford it will love it too!
It's simple and comes tuned out of the box.
The drum head is Remo's signature Skyndeep Fiberskyn and the shell is made of their Acousticon composite material. All you need to know is that the basses are deep and the highs are crisp and clear. It could be used as a soloist drum.
It has a protective rubber foot and is finished in a natural brown. It has 8 tuning lugs. Tuning this drum is MUCH easier than a wood drum.
My only criticism would be that it does not come with a strap. I suppose that gives me a chance to find a nice one.
2. Meinl Nile Series Headliner 8", 10", 12"
Best Wood Djembe
Rope Tuned/ Goat Skin
This is a fantastic work horse of a drum. It is available in sizes 8", 10" and 12".
It's simple and comes tuned out of the box. It would probably not suit an advanced or solo player.
The shell is a solid piece of mahogany and has a pleasing rich brown color and hand carved grooves.
It is a strong, solid drum and weighs in at 16 lbs - not too heavy for a full sized drum. It comes with a rope handle and instructions for tuning, if needed.
Make sure you choose the right size and style options on the product page.
3. Meinl Earth Rhythm Series 10"
Best Djembe for Beginners
Beginners might want to look at getting a djembe in the mid-cheap price range in your particular size. It will still be of a reasonable quality and won't break the bank while you're still learning. That's why we recommend the Meinl Earth Rhythm Series.
This is a beautiful wood drum. We like that it is hand carved, has clean understated decorations and comes with a bag.
The shell is plantation grown Mahogany, hand carved, with decorations meant to represent 'ploughed fields and stalks of grain'. This is where the 'Earth Rhythm' name comes from. Ooh.
It is topped with hand chosen goatskin and 4mm pre-stretched nylon.
We like that it comes with a heavy duty nylon djembe bag with a side pocket and super-sturdy zippers.
It is slightly more expensive, although it is a fantastic choice of drum. The bag is worth $60 alone.
4. Heartwood Project Series 10", 11", 13"
Best African Djembe
10", 11", 13"
Rope Tuned/ Goat Skin
This handcarved drum from Africa would also make a great gift.
It is available in sizes 10", 11" and 13".
The drum has been imported into the US and is then inspected and fine-tuned. This extra layer of quality control means you can be sure of getting a decent drum from Africa.
We also like that buying this drum supports the village artisans in Africa who make them.
This is a fantastic drum for beginners and intermediate players and comes tuned and ready to go out of the box. The shell is solid hardwood and the skin is West African goat. The sound is surprisingly good.
It would probably not suit an advanced or solo player.
It is a light drum and weighs in at under 10 lbs.
5. Meinl Black River Series 8"
Best Djembe Under $50
Rope Tuned/ Goat Skin
This also doubles as our Best Travelling Djembe, because it is very small. We would not recommend this as your main drum.
The Meinl Black River Series is a great choice for kids under 8 or as a quick and easy drum to go anywhere with.
It is made of one piece mahogany. The black finish and hand carved ridges make it unique. We're told this represents ripples in the river.
It features goat skin head and pre-stretched rope.
At only 4lbs it is extremely light and easy to carry. It has a handle included, which doubles as additional rope for tuning.
6. Deep Carved Djembe Elephant 10"-11"
Best Djembe Under $100
Rope Tuned/ Goat Skin
This smoky-looking drum is a fantastic choice if you like a djembe with personality.
It is made of one piece mahogany, which is dried and oiled up to 20 times.
We love the elephant design too. The deep carving usually means the shell is nice and thick - a good thing.
It features goat skin head and 5mm non stretch rope.
At 8 lbs it is light and easy to carry. It has a handle included, which doubles as additional rope for tuning.
7. Hand Carved Ivory Coast Djembe 13"
Best Djembe Under $400
Rope Tuned/ Goat Skin
This is a professional grade djembe we believe will exceed your expectations. It would suit adults around 6'.
It is a simple, neat design, typical of drums from Ivory Coast. The construction is solid and symmetrical, and it sounds like a dream.
It weighs in at 15.7 lbs which is about average for drums of its size.
Listen to two of these drums in action:
- Tonally a very clear drum, crisp highs
- Deep bass resonance that only large wood drums can give
- Excellent professional level drum
What we don't like:
- Personal choice, but they could have added rubber protection to the foot
8. Remo Mondo Infinity Series 14"
Best Large Modern Djembe
Key Tuned/ Synthetic Skin
- The deep bass on this drum would make it a fantastic accompaniment to a solo djembe
- The red wood grain finish makes this a great looking drum
- Tuning lugs have contour covers - comfortable to hold
- Remo skins are not animal but have a life-like animal look.
It is in the higher price range, but is well worth it.
9. Remo Festival Series 10"
Best Djembe for Kids
The Remo Festival 10" is very portable and a good low maintenance choice for a small modern djembe. Perfect for kids aged 10-16.
As the name suggests, it is a great travelling drum. It is very light and easy to move around with and a strap is included. The sides of the drum are smooth and there is no rope or tuning pegs.
The drum is not tunable, meaning there is no way to tighten it. That said, it features Remo's signature Skyndeep drum skin, which shouldn't need tuning and will last for many years if well cared for.
10. Toca Origins Series 10"
Best Wood Djembe For Kids
Rope Tuned, Goat Skin
This is our best choice for a small wood djembe. It would suit a child from 10-14 or an adult under 5'.
Toca are a well known producer of affordable percussion instruments.
This drum weighs in at 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) and is 16" tall. Carved from a single piece of mahogany, it has grooves inside which eliminate overtones, giving this drum a well rounded sound.
It has a Celtic knot carving, which is clean and neat. It's also light, with a shipping weight of under 7 lbs (3.1 kg).
It is good for traveling - probably also good as a second drum or muckabout djembe.
Toca are also environmentally friendly. They use only plantation grown wood that's treated and dried in buildings using solar technology.
Finding the right instrument is about knowing the features and options available and then matching them to your preferences. Buy from the right shop and check the product description carefully.
Do it the right way and you'll have a drum for life.
We hope this has helped you to find the best djembe possible. We hope it arrives soon and you love it forever.