How to Play a Bass Sound
Robert shows you how to play a really solid bass sound on a djembe. He shows you all the main points you will need, to play a strong low bass, without extra effort or slowing your speed.
Main Points ::
To make a good bass sound, you need the right position of your hand, the right shape of your hand, the right kind of strike, and the right angle or approach.
Position of Hand :
Lay your hand on the drum. You are probably putting your palm in the middle of the drum, like everyone does. That's not the right place. Slide the butt of your hand toward you, toward the edge of the drum, but not over the edge. When your hand is fully on the drum, with the butt at the edge, and the fingers around the middle of the drum, you are in the right place.
Shape of Hand :
Now make sure your hand is flat, with fingers together, and the entire hand is touching evenly, all around. The flatter your hand on the drum, the better. Keep it flat as you lift your hand and return to hit the drum. Your wrist should be straight, not bent. That way, you will have the most sound and the most power.
Strike of the Hand :
Raise your hand and strike with a solid blow, and immediate bounce. Do not rest your hand on the drum for even for a millisecond. Push the sound through the bottom of the drum, but pound it and bounce. This is not a soft stroke. Nothing is soft on a djembe. You want clarity and sound. You don't do any favors by being nice to the drum. She wants to have a voice. Let her speak. She will tell you a lot when you give her a strong voice. The sound of the bass especially comes out the bottom of the drum, so pound it through there. Of course, be careful, and start lightly, and build power AFTER you get the technique, so you never hurt yourself.
Listen and Verify :
When you have a nice low sound, without a lot of high clacking from your fingers hitting separately, you have learned how to make a nice bass sound. If you don't, keep trying until you get it. Or take a private lesson from a great drummer to help you.
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