Djembe Care & Maintenance
- Play your Djembe with your hands, no sticks or mallets. This will ensure optimal head life. However, the object of percussion is to make music and different sounds. So you can use whatever you like, e.g. violin bows, timpani mallets, etc. just beware you may damage the head in the process. There is a secondary benefit to using your hands, the oils from your hands replenish the oils in the head. So, play often! It's a good idea to use Shea Butter on your hands before playing. This protects your hand and the drum head from drying out. An alternate to Shea Butter is a drop or two of massage or olive oil. Remember, very little is needed. Don't use hand creams before playing your drum.
- Use a Djembe drum bag. Well crafted bags can be purchased for as little as $20.00 (for a small drum). This is a small investment when you consider the cost to replace a head. Having a head replaced usually costs around $60.00.
- Don't expose your Djembe drum to rapid changing temperatures. This is where a good drum bag comes in. Buy a bag with an ample amount of padding. The padding acts as insulation. When moving the drum between extreme temperatures, unzip the drum bag and leave the drum in the bag until the drum comes to room temperature. You want to slow down the rate at which your drum acclimates to the new temperature.
- Don't use cleaners to clean your goat skin drum head; just play it.
- Be mindful not to bang your Djembe drum head on a door frame, table and counter top edges. They seem to jump out and cut the drum head. I have repaired many drums that had compression damage to the bearing edge. The bearing edge is where the drum head stretches over the edge of the drum. A smooth, even bearing edge is important to obtain an open tone. If this edge is damaged, a new edge must be put on the drum, usually along with a new head.
- Don't expose a goat skin drum head to the rain. The head will turn to a soft rag like condition and the drum will lose all its tension. If this happens, don't play the drum in this condition. You may unseat the head from the rings. Let the drum head dry naturally. Don't use hair dryers, heat guns or fans. You want the goat skin to dry evenly.
- Depending on the finish of your drum, there are two methods of cleaning the exterior wood shell. If your drum has a varnish or lacquer finish, there is little care required. In this case you can simply use a spray furniture wax and a soft cloth. Avoid getting wax on the lacing and drum head. For unfinished or natural wood drums, a light coat of teak oil every few months will help prevent cracking. Remember, wood moves, and sometimes cracking is unavoidable.
- For all solid wood drums, you want to replenish the oils in the wood to help prevent the drum from splitting. Teak oil works well but you can also use linseed oil. Apply to the interior of the drum by placing a few tablespoons of oil on a fist sized ball of cloth. Rub the cloth on the interior of the drum being careful not to get oil on the drum head. A light rub down every 4-6 months is sufficient.
- Play often and play from the heart!