How To Play Djembe – Lesson 3 – The bass note

​Sitting with the drum as described in Lesson 1: holding the drum, you're ready to start.

The djembe bass note is played in the centre of the drum with the entire face of the hand. Keep your hand flat and fingers closed with the thumb slightly outstretched to form a V shape.

Striking the Drum

Start with the hand only and inch or two above the face of the drum. Raise your arm another 4-6 inches and strike the centre of the drum, allowing your hand to bounce off and return to the starting position.

Repeat with the other hand, making sure your arms are relaxed and flexible enough to allow plenty of movement. Aim for relaxed yet firm wrists and good control of hand position. The power for a good bass note comes from the shoulder.

The Notation

​On the charts, a bass note is represented by a black circle, like this:

Bass note

​The words

Each note we learn will have two names: One when it is played with one hand, and one when it is played with the other. These words are 'GU' and 'DU'.

Table of bass notes, hands and sounds

Bass Note Exercises

Exercise 1

Count slowly and evenly from 1 to 4 and play a bass note with the 1st hand on count 1 only. Rest for counts 2, 3 and 4 (don't play anything) and then go back to the beginning, making sure to keep even time between counts 4 and 1 (It's as if you're going on to 5).

Bass note exercies 1

Exercise 2

Play a bass note with the 1st hand on count 1, rest on count 2, the bass note with the 2nd hand on count 3 and then rest on count 4.

Bass note exercise 2

Exercise 3

Now alternate between 1st and 2nd hand on each count. Same thing, just quicker!

Bass note exercise 3

Exercise 4

Play 2 bass notes with one hand and 2 with the other.

Bass note exercise 4

Exercise 5

Play 3 with the 1st hand and 1 with the 2nd hand.

Bass note exercise 5

Exercise 6

Same as above, but with opposite hands.

Bass note exercise 6

Exercise 7

Play one bass with the 1st hand, rest for one, then three basses on successive beats with alternating hands, starting with the 1st hand.

Bass note exercise 7

Exercise 8

Bass note exercise 8

That should give you a good understanding of the djembe bass note and a few simple rhythms to get you started.

Now move on to Djembe Lesson 4 - The Tone

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