How to Play Djembe – Lesson 6 – All The Djembe Notes

Djembe lesson - bass, tone and slap

This is the last lesson in the Basic Skills section.  You will soon have everything in place to take your djembe game up a notch.

If you've been following the lessons so far, you should have a good understanding of the 3 basic notes on the djembe - the bass, the tone and the slap. If not, go back and revisit the earlier stuff.

You should give yourself a pat on the back. What we've done so far comprises the core skills of a djembe player.

Today we're going to apply all these techniques together.  As usual, we'll take it slow. In fact we're going to break it down to the bone.

We're going to play a few simple exercises ​that combine all the notes. The goal is to improve your transitions between different notes.

It might sound easy, but this is where people develop bad habits. By trying to play too fast, too early, they take shortcuts that end up sacrificing good technique.

If unchecked, those habits may take a long time to fix. Trust me, take a bit of time on this and it will pay you back tenfold.

​Look past th​e rhythm​

When you first play these rhythms, concentrate on your body. Pay close attention to your hands, your arms and torso to make sure your physical technique is ​correct.

Your only goal here should be to establish proper hand, wrist and arm movement while ​cycling between different notes. Look past th​e rhythm and ​concentrate on the notes.

Work through the exercises a good few times over the next few days in this way. Once you feel confident and aware of your body, slowly try shifting your focus to include playing the correct notes in the pattern and in the correct timing.

Mastery of this concept is a core skill in djembe and you should revisit these lessons often.

This is the route to better playing.

​Bass and tone only

Let's start with the two easiest djembe notes - the bass and tone.

Play these exercises at your own pace, but start slowly. Don't forget to count.

Exercise 1

Bass and tone exercise 1


Exercise 2

Now with the other hand.

Bass and tone exercise 2


Exercise 3

Now use alternating hands.

Bass and tone exercise 3


Exercise 4

This is a steady rhythm of 4 bass notes followed by four tones. Play them evenly and make the change to tones and back smoothly.

Bass and tone exercise 4


Exercise 5

Bass and tone exercise 5


Exercise 6

Bass and tone exercise 6


Exercise 7

This one's tricky! Note the same notes, but change of hands. Make sure to count properly.

Bass and tone exercise 7


Exercise 8

A very common sequence in djembe playing. Get used to this pattern.

Bass and tone exercise 8


Exercise 9

This is a cute little pattern once you get the speed up. Start slow and remember to count!

Bass and tone exercise 9


All Djembe Notes

Now we're putting all 3 djembe notes together bass, tone and slap.

Exercise 1

Bass, tone and slap exercise 1


Exercise 2

Now with the other hand.

Bass, tone and slap exercise 2


Exercise 3

Now use alternating hands.

Bass, tone and slap exercise 3


Exercise 4

Bass, tone and slap exercise 4


Exercise 5

Another common sequence in traditional djembe rhythms

Bass, tone and slap exercise 5


Exercise 6

Bass, tone and slap exercise 6


Exercise 7

Bass, tone and slap exercise 7


Exercise 8

Another very common sequence. Get used to this pattern.

Bass, tone and slap exercise 8


Exercise 9

Bass, tone and slap exercise 9


Exercise 10

Now you're getting with it! This one's tricky, spend a bit of time getting used to it.

Bass, tone and slap exercise 10


Great stuff! You have the basic foundation of all three notes now. You're ready to tackle some techniques now.

On to Lesson 7 - Djembe techniques

 

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