How to Build a Djembe Drum

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Have you ever secretly wished you could stay home from work and just bang on the drum all day? Now you can, by building your own djembe drum. A djembe drum is easy to play and a common sight at the drum circles popping up around the country. Here are several ways to build one for yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Rawhide
  • Drum Shell
  • Flat Container
  • Water
  • White Glue
  • Masking Tape
  • Brads (small nails)
  • Trim
  • Metal Ring
  • Rawhide Strips, Rope or Cord
  • Wood or Ceramic Shell
  • Wet Rawhide

Prepare to Make Your Djembe

  • Order rawhide for your drum head (preferably goatskin) and a shell for the body of the drum from a local music store or an online retailer such as African Rhythm Traders.

  • Fill a flat container or bathroom tub with slightly warm water.

  • Place the rawhide in the container so that it lays flat.

  • Soak for 1 hour.

Gluing Method for Ceramic Shells

  • Glue around the drum's top edge and down the sides of the drum as far as the rawhide reaches.

  • Place the wet rawhide on top of the shell.

  • Apply 1 long strip of masking tape across the rawhide and down the shell of the drum. The tape should be holding the rawhide in place on both sides.

  • Place another long strip of masking tape at a 90-degree angle to the first one, repeating twice.

  • Hold down all loose edges with smaller pieces of masking tape. Mold the skin flat to the shell, checking for loose edges.

  • Leave the tape in place for 18 to 24 hours, and then gently remove. Don't play the drum yet.

  • After 72 hours, check the sound of the drum. If it doesn't sound right, the drum head may be too tight or too loose. Start over again by soaking the glue off the rawhide.

Tacking Method for Wood Shells

  • Purchase small brad nails to secure the rawhide to the shell.

  • Apply a light coating of glue around the shell and continue downward, as far down as the skin will extend.

  • Position the wet rawhide on the drum.

  • Nail as many brads as you want around the drum, and leave the brads in place after the rawhide dries out.

  • Cover the edge with trim, using glue or more brads.

Tying Method for All Shells

  • Make wet rawhide strips of 1/4- to 1/2-inch wide, or choose rope, cord or string.

  • Punch holes in the wet rawhide about one inch from the edge. For larger drums (more than 12" in diameter), you can punch the holes two inches apart.

  • Tape a metal ring to the bottom of the drum for lacing. The ring should be slightly smaller than the inside bottom diameter.

  • Pull several inches of your cord through the first hole of the skin, and make a knot.

  • Lace down and around the ring, creating a "V" pattern, until you return to your starting place.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can add cloth, rope or leather trim to the drum once it sounds the way you want. Trim will make your drum more beautiful and will help protect the glued edges.
  • Cut the rawhide strips to a point to make threading easier.
  • Wet rawhide strips do not have to be as tight as other lacing materials, to account for shrinkage as they dry.

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