How to play djembe – Lesson 7 – The drum roll

Djembe lesson - the drum roll

​Drum Rolls

One of the hardest skills to master in drumming is also one of the simplest. 

The drum roll is a great exercise for players of all levels. It is just as important in djembe drumming as in any other kind of percussion.

The tone​ ​is the easiest note to start with, but you can play a roll ​using any note.

​As well as being a​ great exercise, you can incorporate drum rolls into your regular playing to create embellishment, accents and solos.

The idea is simple:

Play a ​series of notes of equal length, creating a roll or rumble​.

  • ​Start ​slow and steady. Make sure you play each note properly. Make sure the spaces between the notes are even.
  • ​​Work up to a comfortable pace. ​
  • ​Slowly start to push your limits. If you lose your rhythm, don't stop, just slow down​. The goal is ​play a flurry of notes.

​Here are 3 simple exercises you need to do regularly.

Exercise 1

Play ​a series of notes using alternate hands 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

​Exercise 2

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

​​Exercise 3

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 three four

​Revisit these 3 exercises often and you will notice an improvement in your overall skill level. Keep it simple.

100 points to you! ​Move on to​...

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