Djembe Lesson for Beginners: How to play a slap sound – African Drumming Online

Djembe Lesson for Beginners: How to play a slap sound – African Drumming Online


The next bit of technique we’re going to
look at is the slap. So, the slap, a lot of people focus on the slap and a lot of people
who are new to drumming have difficulty with the slap. Personally, I think the tone is
actually more important, I’ll explain why in a minute, but I’ll show you how to get
a slap first. So, there are lots of different ways to get
slaps, here’s just one way to get you in the ballpark. So, as opposed to the tone, where I recommended
you have this bit here on the edge of the drum, for the slap, when you’re first starting,
try just moving in so this paddy bit here is on the edge of the drum. So when you’re
hitting the drum, instead of there for a tone, for a slap it’s about there. Again, when
you get really good technique, you want as little movement as possible. For now, this
is just to help you get the different sounds. So a couple of ways to think about it: up
here is the same as the tone, so you’re starting from up here, your fingers are together,
relaxed but not floppy and not stiff, so kinda together, and your wrist is back. And, what’s
happening is you’re coming down like this, hitting this bit on the edge, so this bit
of your hand’s hitting the edge, and when that hits the edge, there should be a little
bit more of an angle to your fingers so that when this hits the edge there’s space between
your fingers and the drum head. So I’ll show you a couple of exercises to help build
that up. First thing, just practise doing that – no
sound. And I know it’s hard to do no sound, you want to do sound – no sound. So no sound,
starting from up here, and making sure that when you hit the drum, when this bit your
hand makes contact with the edge of the drum, there’s space beneath your fingers. So I
don’t want your fingers curved like that, I want space under there. So what might be
different from the tone is my wrist is a little bit lower from where it was before. For a
tone, my wrist is up here. When you’re starting with the slap, try just dropping your wrist
a little bit to get that angle. And then, once you’ve got that, try doing a little
bit harder, but kind of stopping your fingers from hitting the drum, so like this… So
I’m hitting it harder, but I’m kinda holding my fingers back, and they’re stiff. So this
is just an exercise, not how you actually do it. So if you make a little sound, that’s
OK. So hands coming back here, and just, you know, a little bit of sound sometimes. And
then once you’re doing that, I want you to relax your fingers when you hit it, like
this… Not so they end up on the drum like that, I still want them to end up off the
drum here when you finish. So like that… And that’s the slap, that’s it. So pretty much, what’s happening, this bit
of your hand’s hitting the edge, and then your fingers are just bouncing on their own
– bouncing down, bouncing back – and just your fingertips are hitting the drum. But
I think a key when you’re starting is not think about the finger tips, think about this
bit hitting the edge, and let your hand bounce, like that. When you’re letting it bounce,
don’t be too lazy, don’t let it sort of stay floppy, let it come back like this…
And once you’ve got that sound happening, make sure you bring your hand back to where
you started, like this… And that’s a slap. So in singing the rhythms, remember a bass
is ‘goong’ or something like that, tone is ‘ding’ or something like that, slaps
are ‘pa’, ‘ta’ – it depends. We’ll see. Try and keep track of what I use – see
if I’m consistent. So, slaps, pa ta. So, tone, slap… You hear the difference there? So the point I wanted to make earlier about
why I think tones are, in a way, more important than slaps, is that slaps can sound a lot
of different ways – all you have to get is that high pitched ringing sound.. like
that… and you can sometimes get that, if you’re tones aren’t clean what will happen
is you’ll sometimes get a little bit of that high pitched sound creeping into your
tones. If your tones… are sort of like this, like if your fingers are a bit too apart or
floppy or something… you can get that sort of sound… Rather than this… you get this….
So if you’re finding your tones sound like that, the problem is it doesn’t leave enough
difference between your tone and your slap. So the reason the slap sounds good is because
your tone sounds really round and clean. If your tone sounds round… and your slap sounds
sharp… the difference is good. If your slap sounds sharp… and your tone kinda isn’t
clean… you don’t get anywhere near the definition. So, I would recommend, first thing,
when you’re working on slaps, don’t just hit it harder – you’ll hurt your hand.
When you’re working on slaps, start with the basic thing like I showed you, doing it
with no sound, make sure your hand’s doing the right thing without risking hurting yourself.
And then, gradually do it a little bit harder, and what will happen over time is you’ll
start to get a feel for what your hands feel like when you do a slap, and then you’ll
start, kind of, having more control over it – it’s a kinaesthetic thing, your hands
will learn it. So, once you’ve got that, then work on your
tones and make sure your tones are really clean. And careful when you’re working on
your tones, make sure you don’t end up just locking your wrist – the tendency is to
kinda get a good angle for your tones, and then you lock your wrist because you don’t
want to risk compromising that angle, but what that does, is it means you can’t play
as fast or as powerfully, because you’re not getting any of that movement of your wrist.
So, what you want to do is, you know, if you end up doing it that’s fine, but be careful
that you don’t end up playing like this… for the sake of getting clean tones. You want
to always make sure your sound’s coming back here, and you’re getting your wrist
involved. You’ll thank me for it later. So, tones… and slaps… They should all,
your hand should be back here… Another thing to be aware of when you’re
doing slaps: don’t curve your hands up here. The tendency sometimes is to get in the position
for the slap all the way back here. You want your hands to be the same back here for a
tone as for a slap. So pretty much from here, up until about here, tones and slaps should
look pretty much the same. And then it changes in this last little bit. And that will give
you more efficiency, which means you can play faster. Everyone wants to play faster. So that’s slaps. – Learn how to play djembe and other African
drumming with African Drumming Online

2 thoughts to “Djembe Lesson for Beginners: How to play a slap sound – African Drumming Online”

  1. Nonsense!…Slap and tone are played with the hand hitting the drum in the same place. No need for wrist angle change either. The difference in sound is made by different tensions in the fingers. Watch the masters and you'll see there is no difference in hand/wrist position.Also playing at speed is hampered by trying to make continuous adjustments to wrist/hand contact…

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