Thanks so much for coming out to the Djembe Technique Workshop on Friday night. I hope you had a good time and learned a lot! We certainly covered much material. I really enjoyed working with all of you and appreciated such positive energy from everyone. Nice to see.
How to Play the Djembe.
The basic sounds of the djembe explained.
There is always context. Every workshop I do is different. The stories are there to illustrate the importance and give history to what we are learning. It is obvious to me that one cannot learn that much that will be done by our hands in a two hour class so we give the information and give you a life of time to start working on it. That was the tact I took that night. It was what it was. All the sounds were played by all of us for long periods of time. One way to hold a technique workshop for djembe.
Technique workshop should be a 10 week or 52 week series. It can't be all done in one seating. Remember "it takes 2 lifetimes to be able to be great at this djembe playing." Famoudou Konaté say a lifetime, Mamady Keita says a lifetime, I joke and say two lifetimes.
"You must play your drum without me around, on your own, for 5 minutes a week." That used to be a Mamady Keita quote that went from "10 minutes a day" and I think at one time was 30 minutes a day in his early years of teaching for us.
Bass is not that important a tone though it should be played correctly. If people don't realize that (take that to heart) they waste a lot of time not playing the differences between good tones and good slaps. Bass is usually not a part of a rhythm on djembe as it is played in West Africa.
In drum circles where a lot of people don't have good distinction between tone and slap, they use bass as a third sound. In Guinea, Mali, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, the bass is a tiny part of the rhythm and not so much a speaking sound.
Bass can function in a few different ways. 1. It can be a place to go 'home' and rest. Mamady calls this home. I call it home or 'your friend' or place to rest and gain needed energy. So (stay with me) it's the sounds you play between basses that are what you want to hear and be clear.
Fanga (a drum circle rhythm)
In America we have a popular drum circle rhythm called Fanga and it was devised as a rhythm to be played by newbie drummers with bass as a main sound. There is nothing wrong with Fanga and a lot good about it but I feel it does not put you on the long road to being a decent djembe player. You will have to leave Fanga and its comforts to learn the tone and the slap well.
How To Practice
A good practice routine is something you play while alone or with a friend in a comfortable, upright position, when you feel good, while breathing in and out - that contains tones, slaps and bass and some space between some sounds too. In other words, play some sounds quickly together and play some sounds farther apart in time. Maybe stay with groups of 4s and 8s or add some 3s and 6s and make up any rhythm you like. Focus on Right-Left movement, no doubling of a hand unless there is a space or tap on the opposite hand.
To get feedback on what you are actually doing with your hands, use a full length mirror and place at a 45˚ angle to you. When you see yourself play, you can and will make instant changes. It is very powerful 'medicine'. You can also use a camera or smartphone and take a video but not as effective. Please keep your shoulders back and your head high and your back straight. Sit at the very edge of your chair and you should hear the djembe sounds change instantly.
Attending classes or drumcircles. Nothing like the weekly dose of instruction. Nothing. And we'd love to have you in our classes. Nice people, good times and your drumming with soar! Here are a few courses coming up soon that I would highly recommend to you:
- Tuesday Class 7:30 - 9pm
- Wednesday Class 7:30 - 9pm
- Thursday Class 7:15 - 8:45pm
- Sunday Class 5:00 - 7pm
These are fun events where you get to play a lot and dance a lot. The only downside is many people aren't playing correctly and you can develop bad habits. But... whats so bad about a few bad habits:) We hold ours at DrumConnection every other Friday night 7pm - 9pm; $10.-DrumCircles can be loud, wear earplugs if you still have your hearing left. More >
Attending drumming workshops whether they be for one day, a weekend or a week or even a 10 day Drum and Dance camp, is a lot of fun! But it usually needs to be supported by after workshop weekly classes, if you can find the time and money for that. You meet a lot of great teachers and drummers who have a slightly different way of helping you get to a new level of play. And you get to share your personal drumming with a large group and learn from that. I highly encourage attending a weekend workshop with a true master teacher and drummer.
I highly recommend a dedicated recorder to record your classes or private lessons. The iPhone and other smartphones have excellent audio recording capability. It is a very good system IF you will listen to the recording 1x after the lesson or class. That's all I ask. It's like you take the drum class twice! It really is. One of the really sweet recorders out there is the model: Tascam DR-05. We sell them at the shop! Or you can get one online. And, as I said, some smartphones make very nice recordings.
There are others and they are okay too. I love the Tascams. They are usually a little bit cheaper so you might want to wait a week or two and see if they come back under $100.- Paul in our class likes the Sony IC Recorder. I made my last CD in Africa with 3 Tascams.
The Sounds of the Djembe
Make practice fun and something you don't skip so much. Invite a friend you may meet to join you someplace and play together. You'll figure out stuff and learn from each other no mater what level you are at, I promise. AND you all have things to share even at this point, I'm sure. Most importantly Just sharing your spirit and energy is huge gift. Take someone out and buy them a dinner and then go play together!
We need each other in these times!
Tone (formerly known as the open tone)
Remember the TONE is a heavy, round sound; it's meaty even iif you don't have a lot of meat on those bones. Keep the tips just off the skin. The TONE is a thuddy sound that should have a little bounce off the drum or land with tips slightly raised to allow the head to vibrate after the hit. You CAN let your hand stay on the drum when you really learn to play a good tone. But for now, practice coming off the drum skin a small bit.
Tones & Slaps
That's when you start becoming happy with your drumming and you want to drum even more! So, I gave context to explain how pro djembe players use bass. As a resting place and as a left hand introduction to a series of tones or slaps (or even 1 tome or slap) starting on the RH.
While bass may not be important in traditional djembe technique it is important to have it available to you when you need it and to feel comfortable playing it. So it is included in the All Tones Exercise. Please play that exercise at lest 5 minutes a week. You may need a password. If so, just email me if you are in our classes.
Remember the SLAP is a light 'tickle'. Let's get rid of the word 'slap' for a while and sub 'tickle'. If you listen to a 'bell-like' sound that is as bright as possible, as high pitched as possible, you will start to feel it as slap. If you can get a slap at a tiny volume, great! When you want to get a loud slap it will be there. If you can only play a slap at a loud volume, you really don't have a very good slap. In music and in drumming you need some control over your sounds and volume to make it musical. My master Famoudou Konaté once said that he only had 12 slaps, which was the first time I had hear someone make that much of a distinction between types of slaps.
Slap TIP: Feel the air under your fingers in the slap. Feel the air. And the finger tips should be pretty straight and up in the air before releasing down to the drum skin. We have a saying that is very old now, 'If you can see my palm when I am playing, that is going to be a slap' and if you can't, that would be a tone. At least for practice sake to find your slap, play it at lightly as possible, even lighter that you think you can and you'll develop a great slap. There is not just one slap! You may develop 3 - 15 distinct slaps on the djembe. All in due time.
Drumming is certainly NOT a full volume or even one volume practice. It has to include various levels and tones of sound to make music you, and others, want to listen to. Not easy to show a family member of friend what you are learning when you have just begun to play. Buy try to play with gentle feeling and commitment to your sounds.
Remember the djembe is a musical instrument and time and love will give you back in sound what you put in with care. The djembe doesn't know color. It doesn't know gender. It is an open vessel derived from a woman's kitchen implement. It is receptive and the sounds already exist maybe just a second before you play it. It's magic; keep it magic. Be scientific be specific, if you need to for now, and dissect a bit and watch closely but then let go and make sure RELAX is your mantra. It's all about relaxation from your neck down thru your feet. That's what it's not a great idea to hold your djembe with your legs. A waist strap can help until you get so used to your djembe, you don't need it anymore.
Read about the history of the djembe that I've spent years writing. It places it in historic perspective a bit so you can begin to understand that the way it sounds today, is far from the way it sounded even 60 years ago. And 100 years ago... very, very different sound. It is still evolving today; becoming tighter and using thicker skins.
And finally, I just want to leave you with the words and thoughts of Evelyn Glennie: How to truly listen on A TED talk. I think you'll enjoy it! She is deaf and a remarkable percussionist. Enjoy. LINK.
If you will go to YouTube, some names to search for are: Mamady Keita, Famoudou Konaté, Sega Cisse, Bolokada Conde, Ibrahima "Boka" Camara, Nansady Keita, etc. And I've studied many hours and years with these guys, so I know how incredible they are.
Also, since I mentioned my good friend and the master of djembe, Famoudou Konaté, here is one of my favorite things to inspire me, Famoudou Teaching.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next workshop on Djembe Technique, a follow-up to the work we did tonight! YES!
And I am here for you with any thoughts or questions you may have about anything do to with drumming, drums, music, relationships to music, etc.
Thanks for the chance to reach you in music.
Alan Tauber (1990 - 2017)
Listen to this Master's tones and slaps speak in many ways. Nansady Keita, teacher in The Gambia for DrumConnection.
DrumConnection 177 Massachusetts Ave. Arlington, MA 02474 ph: (001) 781-316-8068
I will update this soon.
5.0 star rating
5.0 star rating 2/9/2017
I was thrilled to find that this store doesn't just have hand drums, but is also well-stocked with hardware and parts for rock drum kits. And if they don't stock something you need, they'll order it for you or point you in the right direction.
Alan, the owner, is extremely knowledgeable and helpful if I have questions or need advice. When I came in last year wanting to restore my vintage kit, I had no idea where to start, and Alan helped me through the entire process, from cleaning, de-rusting, to finding missing parts. Whenever I have a problem with my kit or something breaks, I always go to Alan first (it's a good idea to call the store to see when he's working!) Often he'll find a way to fix it without having to purchase new parts.
Definitely recommend this gem over bigger places like Guitar Center.
5.0 star rating
Jan 22, 2017
"Hi Alan, Eddie & I LOVED Nancy's classes. We stopped going because it was dark & cold & late & it was the only time we could both make it ( I work nites ) but we plan to resume classes probably in the spring. I miss it. Rochelle"
5.0 star rating
Purchased beautiful instruments...
I recommend the workshops to all my college student studying world music in the classroom. We've also purchased beautiful instruments I use in my teaching. People marvel at their sound and touch.
5.0 star rating
So much fun...
Participating in a beginners drumming series was so much fun, and I was surprised at what they were able to teach us! We plan to go back as soon as our schedule allow a steady attendance.
5.0 star rating
Just bought my 3rd instrument from this store. Always a pleasure to do business with DrumConnection, and home to a great community of drummers.
5.0 star rating
Honest, original voice...
Way back in 2011, I wrote and published a feature story about Alan Tauber and DrumConnection. Read it at YourArlington
Nothing that has occurred since would cause me to change my mind about Alan and his business: He's an honest, original voice in a fast-changing town, offering a rhythm that is hard to beat.
5.0 star rating
Always a great experience...
Alan is always a pleasure to do business with. He is knowledgeable and very kind. The classes they have are fun and very informative. Always a great experience.
Redington Beach, FL
Alan's knowledge is vast...
I needed to replace the head on a djembe. I live on the south shore of MA, and was having a hard time finding a place to do the job. I discovered the DrumConnection through a list serve and found the best resource I could hope for. Alan's knowledge is vast, and the service was done professionally, on time, and at a reasonable price. I do not need to look any further for my hand drumming needs.
It is a privilege to know you...
You play such an important part in drumming education in this country. It is a privilege to know you...
Name withheld upon request.
(but a famous dude in percussion).
Great Local Place, Great Stuff, Nice People
Bought a present for a friend and they had just what I wanted. They helped me pick the right one. Weren't pushy. Really nice vibe. Will definitely go back when I need a drum or a present for someone.
5/16/2016 5.0 stars! Yelp!
DrumConnection is great! Excellent teachers, extremely high quality guest drummers from Africa, and female teachers and leaders.
5/15/2016 5.0 stars!
Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa!
At DrumConnection, I began my beginners' class feeling lost and insecure. However, while the drum is quite challenging, I have felt more and more connected to the group thanks to the wonderful teachers, and the kindness and acceptance of other drummers.
In other words I am deeply indebted and grateful for the opportunity to expand my skills, horizons, and sense of belonging thanks to the drum. The ongoing learning experience is challenging, exhilarating and humbling. Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa, and thank you to all my fellow students!
5/13/2016 5.0 stars!
Thanks so much. Tuned up my kids drum, very knowledgeable and friendly!
4/28/2016 5.0 stars!
Love DrumConnection in Arlington!
Great teachers including the Masters from West Africa; great drums (all kinds) and accessories. Director and owner, Alan, is an excellent drummer himself, friends to all and always willing to share his knowledge. Classes & Workshops at all levels challenging and tons of fun. Serious drumming going on here!
4/27/2016 5.0 stars!
Knowledgeable, and very helpful.
I watched Alan help a gentleman trying to rent an accordion. Yes, this sounds like a Seinfeld script, but it was touching seeing Alan help someone out. Additionally, the store is well supplied, and the prices are quote reasonable for being able to get your hands on what you need right now. Truly, an asset to the community!
Brian C. J.
April 9, 2016, 1:47 p.m.
Friends cannot believe how light it is and how good it sounds. Easy for me to carry. It is also very nice looking, not ornate, just beautiful wooden swirls. Thanks for all your help on this..... kdl
4/10/16 ; 5 Stars
I have spent several wonderful weekends at DrumConnection studying drumming rhythms with various master drummers (djembefolas) and I just want to thank Alan and the wonderful community of people I met at there for a wonderful, fun, inspiring and informative time. If I didn't live on Long Island, NY I would be there every week. 5 star rating from me!
Long Island, NY
2/24/2016 : 5 Stars!
DrumConnection is a wonderful place. Alan is so helpful, thoughtful and kind. The store has a great selection of drums that will help you connect to music from all over the world. Highly recommended!
Jan. 16, 2016 : 5 Stars!
Great experience, no pressure to buy or spend more than I wanted to, just the perfect assistance to help me find the right drum for me - a clear joy for drumming and very welcoming - made me feel right at home.
12/22/2015 : 5 Stars!
A great little store
I was looking for some nifty percussion accessories for my son-in-law and I really didn't want to go the the Guitar Center. What a great place! I got great advice & was able to find exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for! A perfect shopping trip & well worth the weekly trip down from Cape Ann!
Cape Ann, MA
5.0 star rating 12/6/2015 Yelp!
I took a beginner drum class here this fall. I was impressed by the business's connection to West African drumming. Thierno, a drummer from Guinea, was our teacher. If you want to learn drumming, have a weekly class with lots of laughing and meet people from around the world this place is for you.
5.0 Star Rating 12/4/15 Google+
Alan the owner is always friendly and helpful. When I was looking for a drum, he chose 4 drums he thought I might like, each unique. He helped me sort out the differences to find the combination of pluses that added up to the perfect drum for me.
Alan the teacher is a non-judgmental, supportive, and clear instructor whose decades of experience and amazing skill as a drummer combine to provide a safe and inspiring learning environment. I've studied with four other DrumConnection instructors and each is excellent in his or her own ways, and all certified by examination.
A great store and a wonderful school. I recommend it without reservations.
11/15/2015 5.0 Yelp!
The beginner drum class was extra special. Taught by Thierno Keita-what a wonderful escape each week from the work-a-day world into a world of rhythm and movement. Great for the brain and the soul. Alan Tauber, who runs the Drum Connection could not be kinder or more devoted to his art. This has been a postive turn for me and I will continue on this road with pleasure.
5.0 star rating 11/11/2015
DrumConnection is an nook of musical magic on Mass Ave in Arlington. The drumming teachers are from Africa, they sponsor workshops and trips to Africa to learn drumming. Alan the owner is very flexible and understanding with scheduling lessons. The drum selection is fantastic!! I recommend it to everyone I know. What a gem!
5.0 star rating 11/9/2015 Yelp!
Broad selection of percussion instruments from all over the world. Alan, the owner, really knows a lot about the instruments and the music they make.
5.0 star rating 11/7/2015 Yelp!
We have purchased many instruments from Alan. He knows so much about percussion instruments that we trust him with ordering sight unseen and have been pleased with our purchases. Prices are very reasonable. We drive 2 hours each way to shop at the Drum Connection and it is worth it.
5.0 star rating 11/6/2015 Yelp!
You will not find a more beautiful person than Alan to assit you with your journey of learning the drums. I have traveled with Alan to Guinea, purchased various drums, and attended numerous classes. Have not been able to find the joy I felt when I was involved with the Drum Connection. Please open a southern location!
5.0 star rating 10/5/2015 Yelp!
The drum I purchased from Alan several years ago is both beautiful and is a joy to use. The classes are fantastic -- designed for all skills levels and taught by master teachers that are knowledgeable and exciting.
They are patient and know how to break rhythms down to bite size. I have enrolled my 4 year old in the children's drum class and it is dynamic -- teaching movement and African songs. She loves it and loves her teachers."
5.0 star rating 10/19/2015 Yelp!
The Best! Thanks!
Purchased my djembe here a few years ago, just bought new skin, Alan and staff always knowledgeable and helpful.
5.0 star rating 8/29/2015 Yelp!
I am new to drumming and am having a ball. I went to a Sunday night lecture and lesson on one type of drums and followed that with 2 Sunday night drumming circles with an excellent teacher-but not at the rank beginner level. Still, I loved it and just tried to follow and keep up.
Now I am in a beginner class and I am still enjoying every minute. Alan is a kind and welcoming person. He coordinates to bring in a variety of excellent teachers and classes take place most every day of the week. He gives great advice about what to purchase and has rentals available. Come join the fun!
5.0 star rating 8/24/2015 Yelp!
This is a great little shop. Alan was able to rent me some drums for my autism caregivers retreat and was very accommodating. The drums were gorgeous, beautiful sound. Our group had a great time thanks to Drum Connection coming through at the last minute for me. Thank you!
June 25, 2015
5.0 star rating Excellent Teaching!
This is the first time I took drum lessons. I have taken piano lessons off and on for years. I really enjoy playing the drums. I had two teachers. They both had their individual style of teaching. I found that Alan is an excellent teacher. I would recommend anyone with a desire to learn drumming to check out DrumConnection. I haven't gone to their drum circle yet, but that's the next step for me. I am finishing up my first six weeks of classes, two more classes to go.
August 4, 2015
5.0 star rating 8/4/2015 Yelp!
I'm new to the djembe and drum circles in general. The drum circle I attended last week was a blast. Very relaxed and friendly, the drumming was amazing. Alan and Fanta were both very warm and welcoming. As others have noted, great energy. I'm definitely going back.
July 6, 2015
5.0 star rating Incredible Drums!
I returned to the store today to purchase my first djembe. Alan was more than helpful. He gave a mini-lesson on the spot so I would know how to evaluate the variety of drums, their tonal differences, etc. He also played several of them for me to have a better impression of what it sounds like once technique is mastered. The drum I finally settled on is incredible, love it. My wife was looking for a bodhran, and he gave demonstrations of those as well!
July 8, 2015
Way better than 5 stars!
Alan clearly loves what he is doing and it shows in the friendly, professional and deeply knowledgeable service. Way better than 5 stars.
June 10, 2015
Alan was so helpful. He came highly recommended, and lived up to it. I got a wonderful drum for my nephew - have not yet given it to him, but he is going to love it.
April 8, 2015
Five stars all the way!
Honestly, I can't say enough good things about DrumConnection. Alan and John helped me pick out the perfect drum, and when I came in tonight, Alan talked with me for at least an hour about technique, the history of the djembe coming to America, and more. The place is warm and inviting, and the people who work there are the same. I am confident I chose the best place to start my drumming journey, and I will be back for their classes! Five stars all the way!
March 7, 2015
My son is now starting drum lessons. We stopped in to purchase a drum pad and drum sticks. This is an amazing store. There is much to learn about choosing an instrument that suits you...and we were encouraged not to rush in and spend a lot of money at this stage. The store is packed with drums (mostly hand drums) and each visitor is encouraged to try out items that spark their interest. While visiting, my son tried several thumb pianos as well.
March 6, 2015
Fanta lead our group of 21 drummers thru two hours of song, dance, and drumming. Everybody was smiling at the end of the evening. What a deal for 10 bucks!
February 24, 2015
Drum Connection is a fantastic place to take African drumming lessons, meet some wonderful people and really expand your horizons by attending workshops with master drummers from West Africa. It's been a life changing experience for me. I am so blessed to part of Alan and Fanta's community.
February 13, 20115
As always Alan was right there to make sure I got exactly what I was looking for. He even sent me a photo/text to confirm that he had the correct size, shape and sound of rattle I needed. This was that perfect combination of personal service and immediate results.
February 5, 2015
Hey just wanted to write you a note to tell you how much I absolutely love the drum! It was the perfect choice for me. The slaps are just incredible and yet it gives good bass response. I brought it to work to play with the children and it was just such the perfect instrument. It’s just the right one for me and I'm really thrilled with it. Thanks so much.
January 24, 2015
Thanks Alan for your undivided attention today as I purchased the replacement head for the djembe I had previously bought at DrumConnection. Could not be more satisfied!