Djembe Construction & Types of Djembes

Djembes drums can be made of many different materials. All the materials have different sound characteristic. We think the craftsmanship of the drum has more to do with the sound quality than the type of wood. At World Wide Drums, we currently feature Djembes made of wood. Our drums are made of either Mahogany or Masonia. Soon we will carry Djembe drums made of Oak, Maple, Cherry and PCV plastic.

We hope our articles serve as your guide to buying a djembe.World Wide Drum's easy return policy is your guarantee to a stress free purchase.


The Standard Djembe Drum

The Djembe drum originated in West Africa and all Djembes are constructed using the same basic goblet shape.The goblet shape is great for producing thunderous bass tones as well as crisp high pitches.

The most common Djembe size is about 24 inches tall with a head diameter of 11- 14 inches across.  The drumhead is traditionally fastened with ropes and steel rings.  Ropes are tightened to raise the pitch of the drum.  The ropes used to tune a Djembe are usually stretch resistant braided nylon.  An alternative method to tuning is to use metal rings with metal lugs or bolts.  This type of drum head tensioning system is tuned using a wrench.

Generally speaking, the larger the drum head, the lower the drum tone.  The tuning also determines what pitches your drum will produce.  The height of the drum generally has a lesser impact on the sound.  However, to maintain proper proportions, larger head sizes require taller drums.  You won't find a 20" tall drum with a 14" head size.


Materials Used to Build a Djembe Drum

Djembe drums from Africa are traditionally carved from a single piece of wood. Types of common wood are African Mahogany, Iroko, Masona and Lenge. Drums from Indonesia are usually carved from Mahogany.

Some manufacturers are now constructing from plastics such as PCV and carbon fibers.  These Djembes can sound OK and tend to be very light weight.  Plastic or composite drums tend to be brighter in sound but also lack the tonal warmth of wood.

Some drums are completely hand carved and others are turned on a lathe.  Both practices are acceptable in our opinion.  We believe you are more likely to produce an acceptable sounding drum with a lathe.  We say this because a hand carved drum produced by someone who does not know what they are doing will produce nothing more than a log with a goat skin on one end.  These are sometimes referred to as tourist drums.  They make nice decoration or end tables.

The drum head of a Djembe is usually made of shaved goat skin. See our article on How To Buy A Goat Skin for more information on the characteristics of different types of goat skins.

There are synthetic or plastic heads available.  These heads are much more stable or unaffected by changes in humidity.  These heads also tend to be sharper or brighter sounding.  They also tend to lack to the warmth of a natural goat skin.  Plastic heads are also harder on your hands.