Playing Tips Archives - African Drumming

Tribalism Is Back In St Kilda! Friday September 19

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Tribalism! Friday September 19! Really excited to be bringing the music to back to St Kilda, this cycle’s event happening at Metrapol Bar! We’ll be kicking things off at 8:00pm sharp so bring your dancing shoes, and djembe of course.

Don’t forget the big end to the night… ALL IN JAM too!
It’s going to be HUGE!

Continuing our 12/8 theme with a Short Bell Pattern

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Rhythmic Challenge for the morning is another 12/8 bell pattern ( to continue the theme for this month.)

Get familiar with the “short bell” pattern on one hand (or wok or any other kitchenware you have handy!) 

1 2 3 4 1
x . x . x x . x . x . x x

Now play away from the beat on your other hand.

1 2 3 4 1
x x . x x . x x . x x

You can see a diagram of the different bell patterns on last week’s blog entry, here!

It is tricky, but when you land it, it is so satisfying! Really does something to the pathways in your mind and body.
Something is growing internally and something is discovered, quite an exciting experience!

Hope to see you on Thursday 6:00pm – 8:00pm (and Saturday 10:00am-12:00pm) this week for four hours of rhythmic insight at Simon’s Dexterity Workshop. Dan will be supporting us all on dun as we go on a polyrhythmic journey into our bodies and minds to massage out the rhythmic gristle!


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12-8 Bell Pattern Exer


We have been working hard on our 12/8 bell patterns in the St Kilda Advanced class recently and it’s really coming together!

Using our feet to feel the 6 pulse and playing 5 different bell patterns over the top, then combining them all musically; there is something different about a polyrhythmic Agogo Bell orchestra!

One of the key foundation points is being able to feel the offbeat in our body whilst we walk the downbeat (pulse.) Harder than it sounds but over time our bodies relax into it, and two distinct pulses can be felt internally. Counting 1+2+3+4+5+6+ will help, and going SLOW to start is paramount. If we can feel these contrasting rhythms internally then we are much closer to being able to use them in our drumming. One can explore and execute more sophisticated timing structures and solos, wonderful huh?

Next challenge is to add some vocalisation (chant and song) to the mix; polyrhythmic fun and games with a musical twist!

Getting dexterous and ironing out the rhythmic gristle that binds up our bodies = more freedom for the body and mind.

If you want more, come and study dexterity with me next week!

– Simon.

For more information on Simon’s Dexterity classes, head here!


2014 Rhythm Bible & Instructional Pack!

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Have you read your Bible lately? Where is your faith?
Firmly in the doctrine of the djembe I hope!
Check out our latest edition of our Rhythm Bible ( and CDs) with 25 awesome arrangements, exercises for dexterity and rhythm power; years of material to grow your playing!

Get the Bible here: https://www.africandrumming.com.au/cart/rhythm-bible/
And the Full Pack here: https://www.africandrumming.com.au/cart/african-drumming-instructional-pack/

Time To Strap On

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Shifting from sitting to standing can be a little daunting, but once you get comfortable with playing standing up you’ll discover a huge range of benefits.

Firstly, standing gives you the opportunity to rove and dance whilst you drum – steeping up your performance groove and interaction with the audience and your ensemble too. You can swing to the music and get out into the action with the crowd.

Secondly, it fast tracks your playing. Standing requires activation of more muscle groups through the back, arms, shoulders and legs – it’s basically a full body workout! Using all these muscle groups tones and focuses the body for playing and develops a precision in your technique faster than when sitting.

At the start it can feel a little awkward and a bit like like hard work, but with each experience it becomes easier and eventually second nature. I actually prefer the feeling and freedom of standing to play now and always enjoy the benefits from it. So, get strapping on every week and you’ll find a new strength and precision in your playing.

– Simon


Dexterity and Freedom

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Having just finished another round of dexterity classes, it feels like a good time to summarise. Learning to play from both sides of the body is liberation to the hands of a djembe player. Our hands and our technique allow us to express what we hear in our mind. But the clear conduit for our creativity is only possible when we have loads of independence in our hands and no “rhythmic gristle.”

Practising smart is the way forward and the path to freedom in our playing. Learn to flam consistently from both sides, focus on your weaknesses and break down your playing into the rudiments you find most challenging, then work on them. Massage out the gristle slowly and incrementally. There is no easy road, but smart practice is the fastest way to great technique and dexterity. Once it comes you’ll find that you can translate what you hear in your head to what you play; far fewer break down’s half way through a solo and a relaxed, uninhibited approach to your playing… Rhythmic nirvana!


Djembe Solo Tip No 1.

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For many budding djembefola, soloing in public can be the most confronting part of the musical journey… but when we tap into our creativity, learn a few helpful tips and feel relaxed, it can also be the most rewarding & exhilarating

Here’s a quick tip to help you on your way. SPACE. Think of your djembe phrasing as a language. When we talk we need to breathe and let our sentences resonate with our audience. Let your solo breathe – less is more. One of the easiest options is to say too much, too fast and too soon with your drum language… build your story from a humble but interesting place and layer your phrases gradually. Let the rest of the rhythm rumble underneath your phrasing and listen to the cycle of the dunun as it repeats itself over and over

As an exercise try playing just a few notes in a cycle and then wait for the cycle to repeat itself before playing again. This will allow the music to breath and will help you listen to & feel the cycle of the rhythm. From here you can add more and more and gradually build up the energy…. Repeating your ideas is a great way to reinforce your musical message too, but that is another whole topic (See Djembe Siolo Tip No 2)

Hope this helps Djembefola

raffle djembe Hands


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Welcome to the tone, or tonic as they say in Francophone Afrique. Quite often the first sound we all try to make and perhaps ironically the last sound we still try to perfect. The tone is warm and round and whilst it has a different frequency to the slap it should be no less prominent. Here are some tips on how to get it…

Get your thumb away from your fingers (by 45″ or more) so that you don’t hit it on the rim. Straighten your fingers and keep your wrist straight – relaxed but firm. The primary motion comes from the elbow as well as the shoulder (especially when playing slowly). When you play slowly your forearm and wrist almost move as one. As you speed up, your wrists do more work and your forearm and upper arm action become more efficient. When you lift your forearm, lift it vertically so that you make a clean connection with your hand flat (as opposed to a chopping action)… then your sounds will be phat!

The connection point is similar to the slap (top of the hand under the fingers) but the angle of the wrist is different. The forearm, wrist and fingers are relatively flat (straight) when we play a tone ( compared to a dipped wrist for slaps). Getting definition in your tones is the key, and looking for contrast between your tones and slaps is the goal.  Take it slow, don’t rush and build up your drumming muscles as you practice. Base tone slap, base tone slap



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Ever wondered why it is so hard to get? Here’s a couple of quick tips for you aspiring Djembefolas. Drop the wrist lower than the edge of the drum surface – you need that extra angle to get the whipping action which is key to a singing slap. Loosen the tips of the fingers and splay them slightly, but don’t curl them up (keep them straight but relaxed). Move your arms from the shoulders and elbows. The action starts up the body, not just at the wrists. With practice, you’ll find your “best” connection point where your hand meets the drum. For most it is just below the fingers at the top of the hand. Take your time, practice slowly, work on your non dominant side extra hard and you’ll be slapping in no time!


African Drumming Calendar 2018