Tips on Buying Your First Djembe

OakenFire Rhythms carries finished djembes built by Sean.  We can also order drum shells and build a drum according to the type of skin you want, colors, and with or without wood burned artwork.  Mayra is always available to provide custom artwork on your drum at any time.  We know many of you will be new to the world of drums, so we have written this as a guide to help you with your purchase.

We would love for you to buy your first drum from us.  Sean has many years of experience with drums and drum building.  Our djembes are guaranteed to be of quality wood, materials, workmanship and infused with love.  Regardless of where you buy, there are some things you should be aware of and consider before making a purchase.

The following is a list of things to consider when buying:

  1. Small drums normally have 8” drum heads.  These drums are good for children or adults with small hands.  We recommend a drum with no less than a 10” drum head and at least 24” tall.   A larger size will provide more comfort for your body and room on the drum head for both your hands to fit comfortably.
  2. There are drums made from many different hardwoods and others made from synthetic materials.  The wood instruments have warmer tones, carvings, are usually rope-tuned, come with a goatskin and are also heavier.  Synthetic drums have brighter or tinnier louder sounds, synthetic heads, are key-tuned, and lighter.  Synthetic drums are usually chosen by players who need to sound louder when playing in a band with other instruments.  They are also very portable if you plan to travel and carry if often.
  3. Some skins that are normally used are goat, cow, and synthetic.   Synthetic drum heads are made from different man-made plastics and can vary widely in the way they sound.  If you buy a synthetic, most drummers would recommend REMO.  Goat skins have been the traditional drum head for djembes because of their wide and rich tonal quality and their great sound for slaps and lead drums.  Cow skins are traditionally used on congas and bongos and have rich mellow tonal qualities used to carry the rhythm in a drum circle.
  4. Synthetic heads are key tuned while natural heads are rope tuned.  Key tuning is easier, but rope tuned drums have better sound quality.   If you purchase a rope tuned drum we can tune or teach you to tune your own drum.  You only need to tune your drum if you like a really high and tight sound.  If you keep your drum in a controlled environment, you shouldn’t need to tune it very often.

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