How To Play Djembe – Lesson 5 – The Slap

​Would you like a good slap?

Djembe lesson - slap

​I'm not going to lie, this is going to ​hurt.

The slap is the hardest note to play on djembe. It takes time to produce a c​lear and consistent high-pitched note. Learning it can be frustrating, but this is one place where persistence will pay off.

​This is because a good slap opens up a world of possibilities. Rhythms come alive, solos stand out, your drum can truly sing.

The hand position is very similar to the tone note, with one crucial change.

Hand Position

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 may take a lot of practic​e

Don't be discouraged if it doesn't sound any different at first. Keep going and try not to play too hard.

The video below show Mamady Keita, one of the world's great djembe players, giving a tip on how to play the slap.

The Notes

​On the charts, a slap is represented by a star, like this:

Slap note

​The Words

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.

Slap - symbol, hand, word

Slap Exercises

Exercise 1

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).

Djembe slap exercise 1

Exercise 2

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.

Djembe slap exercise 2

Exercise 3

Now alternate between each hand on each count.

Djembe slap exercise 3

Exercise 4

Play 2 slaps with one hand and 2 with the other.

Djembe slap exercise 4

Exercise 5

Play 3 slaps with one hand and 1 with the other.

Djembe slap exercise 5

Exercise 6

Same as above, but with opposite hands.

Djembe slap exercise 6

Exercise 7

Play one slaps with one hand, rest for one, then three slaps on successive beats with alternating hands, starting with the black hand.

Djembe slap exercise 7

Exercise 8

Djembe slap exercise 8

Great stuff! ​Move on to​...

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