Transferred from an older blog: Original post date by Alpha (Administrator) on 08/07/15
Nowadays, it seems that almost every Djembe player wants to have a Djembe tuned with the highest pitch possible. A low pitched Djembe is considered by some to be of a lower quality. Is this right?
Novice players watch videos of extremely skilled drummers, playing very high pitched Djembes as soloist in West African ensembles / orchestras, and seek a Djembe that has the same sound.
They don’t realize that the sound of a Djembe is mainly the result of the player’s skills, not just dependent on the pitch at which the Djembe is tuned. You can make a Djembe sound really high by tuning it up, just like you can make it sound low by tuning it down. Years of practice is the one thing that makes a Djembe sound great, regardless of the pitch it is tuned at.
Unfortunately, many beginners often underestimate the amount of practice required to get the perfect note while playing the Djembe. As a result, they over-pull their Djembes in an effort to compensate for the lack of technique, resulting in the skin not lasting as long as i is supposed to..
From a West African ensemble / orchestra perspective, different Djembe pitches are required for each rhythm (piece of music). Accompaniment Djembes are usually tuned differently than the Djembe played by the soloist. Often, the rhythm to be played is the one factor in choosing the pitch of each Djembe. Some rhythms are traditionally played with low pitch Djembes, including the soloist Djembe (Ex: Doundoumba type of rhythms).
In general, the perfect Djembe tuning is directly related to both the rhythm being played, and the tuning of the other instruments of the ensemble / orchestra. This is why the pitch of a single Djembe is really meaningless by itself, and it could be anything you want it to be.
Furthermore, sound quality and pitch level are totally unrelated. Some very low pitched tuned Djembes have better sound quality than high pitched tuned Djembes .
Look-alike Djembes usually have an average to poor quality sound in either high or low pitch tuning, while unable to provide any playable sound on the opposite side of the sound spectrum.
Advice for novice: Purchase an authentic Djembe, which can produce high quality sound on both low and high pitch tuning. Learn how to quickly tune it up and down.
You will then have a Djembe that can be played in any situation. All you will need at this point will be lots of practice and patience.