The djembe

Djembe Tuning - Tighten your drum with the Mali weave

The Mali weave is made using the same piece of rope that is used to make the verticals.

Step 1: Find the loose end of the long piece of rope. Don't untie it, but thread it through the loop directly below the knot as shown.

Step 2: Thread the rope as shown.


Step 4: Push/flatten the rope down towards the bottom loops and pull on the loose end.


The knot should slip into place like this.

Now repeat the process from step 2 on the next verticals, slowly working the weave around the drum.


Important!

How far do I go?

This depends on how much the drum needed to be tightened in the first place. For minor tuning, only do between 1 and about 10 knots. If your drum is quite flat, you may need to thread the weave around the entire drum 3 or 4 times. Each time you get back to the beginning you're going to have to use a little common sense to navigate around the vertical with the knot in it.

If the drum's still not tight after 3 rows of the Mali weave, there isn't much room for more and you may have to undo the weave and start again.

Don't tighten too much the first time, especially if it's the first time the drum has been tuned. Then every couple of weeks work in a few more knots, until after about two months when the skin should be quite hard.

For the authentic Guinean lead sound the skin has to be tightened past the point where it rings and the tension chokes the harmonics to give a loud but dry timbre.

If you tighten too much, you'll break the skin and you'll have to reskin it, so go carefully.

The moment you start thinking, 'I'll just do one more knot', it's time to stop.

What if I break the skin?

If, despite all your gallant efforts, it's gone belly up and the skin has torn, then you're in for a big job I'm afraid.

Go to reskinning a djembe.

What if I run out of rope?

You'll need to tie another piece on and continue. This can get tricky doing the Mali weave with a knot in the rope , but it can be done.

What if I break the rope?

If you break the horizontal (weave) part of the rope...

You may be able to unweave a little bit and tie another piece on. It can be tricky working with a knot, but it's better than the alternative...

If you break a vertical or a loop (the rope on the metal rings)

You're unfortunately going to have to restring the drum.

If you've been careful, and it's nice and tight, you're done!

Congratulations!

You're hopefully the proud owner of a new-sounding drum.

You're so clever, now I have a little job for you...



Why not learn more about playing the drum?