How to Play a Tone Sound
Robert shows how to play a tone, as shown to him by many teachers, each with their own style.
Pick the techniques that appeal to you most, or work best for you, and practice practice practice, until you sound as good as Robert.
Main Points :
Position of Hand :
For the Tone, position your hands the same way you do for a slap. You will use the full length of your fingers, mainly the fleshy parts before and after the middle joints. So your hand will be at the edge of the drum, with your fingers on the skin, and your palms are not. See the video, and the Tones lesson, to learn more.
Be sure, for the Tone and Slap, that you ALWAYS keep your thumbs straight out. Otherwise you are going to hurt yourself on the Pain Pain Bad Bad area, around the edge. Don't start with bad thumb position, or you will lose interest in djembe drumming, and I do NOT want that for you!
Shape of Hand :
For the Tone, the shape of your hand is a little unusual, and takes practice. I like to hold my fingers tight and straight. And that feels like a bit of an effort at first, but you will get used to it. My fingers are straight out, and they hit the drum first, not my palm, ever.
And my wrist is totally straight for the Tone, not bent like a Slap. Very important. My arm is straight, all the way from my elbow to my fingers, like a rod.
Strike of Hand :
For the Tone, the best idea is to focus on your fingers hitting the soft skin, next to but not ON the edge. Avoid the edge. Your fingers should be hitting the skin full length. The fleshy part of your fingers, the little muscles between the knuckle and first joint, is actually a big part of the sound. It kind of muffles the contact of the joint that makes the sound, resulting in that "mumph" sound that is so cool on a good Tone.
The main place I contact the drum is the fleshy part of my fingers, just inside the middle joint, meaning the one between the big knuckles and the last little joint of the finger. That fleshy part, right by the knuckle, is where I get my small callouses from drumming. See the video to see what I mean.
Listen and Verify and Refine :
So play the Tone, play the Slap, keep comparing and keep refining to get the biggest differentiation that you can. The more difference between the Tone and Slap, the more you can inspire dancers with the prime principal and secret of playing Melody as you drum.
Yeehah! Go play some djembe!
Screaming with Joy
I am a musician myself but wanted to learn drumming. When I watch Robert drum for dancers at Dance Church, Sufi, and parties, and see how everyone starts moving, shouting and screaming with joy, it's amazing. I realized I wanted to do that! I have been taking group lessons from Robert once a week for about 2 months now, and for someone that never touched a drum before, I am getting better fast. His knowledge goes way beyond the rhythms and sounds - he really understands the art and spirit of it, the psychology and physiology of dancers. I get a lot out of every lesson, and I intend to join his performance group.
~~ Kevin Dalfonso, Musician, Systems Tech, Encinitas, CA
Get the Room Rocking
I met Robert some years ago. When I learned about his prowess as a drummer and rocking the djembe, I invited him to join my rock band, Clarke After Darke. He was amazing. It didn't matter what the song was, he was always able to get the room rocking with his strong percussive beats. And he dueled with the kit-drummer, like a swashbuckling pirate and they laid down some fabulous solos. Besides, he is a really kind and gentle person. We were sad when he left for California. We love him to bits.
~~ Clarke Stevens, Entertainer, CPA, Phoenix, AZ
I've been casually drumming for many years but never formally, and never with african drumming. Then I saw Robert drumming at our local dance church. I was amazed how he could change rhythms effortlessly and "communicate" with the other drummers. Not only is he a great drummer, he is an extraordinary teacher. He is kind, patient and shows a true love for drumming and teaching. When he asked us at our first lesson what were our goals, he didn't snicker or laugh when I said "I just want to be as good as you" - now my goal is to have fun and be as good as I can be, and if that even approximates a quarter of Robert's talent I will be grateful.
~~ Paul Paez, Chiropractor, Encinitas, CA