Which djembe should I buy?

Buying your first djembe can be a daunting task for someone just starting out with hand drumming. We want to help you figure out which djembe will best serve your desired needs and goals. Below are a number of resources to help you make an educated buying decision...

This video from Howcast walks you through some of the primary considerations…



Video Summary:

  1. Quality
    1. Preferably from one piece of wood or synthetic material
    2. Quality nylon or polyester rope for tuning
  2. Weight
    1. Sitting – a heavier djembe is OK
    2. Standing or carrying – a lighter djembe is better
  3. Design
    1. Pick a design that you like or that meets the environment you will performing in

That is all great advice! Let's dig deeper...

Which size djembe should I buy?

Answering the following questions should help you determine what size djembe to purchase:

  • Is the djembe for an adult or child?

If the djembe is for an adult then the larger 12" and 14" djembes are your best bet. If the djembe is for a child then the smaller djembe sizes, 8" and 10", will be easier for kids to start out on.

  • Where will you be playing the djembe?

If you will be traveling heavily with your djembe then a smaller, more portable 10" djembe may be better than a larger 14" djembe.

  • What will you be doing while you play the djembe?

If most of your playing will be done while sitting then the 12" and 14" djembes should work well for you. If you are working with a dance troupe and you will be moving around during performances then a 10" might be the smarter choice.

Should I buy a rope-tuned, key-tuned or pre-tuned djembe?

Believe it or not, drums have to be tuned. Djembes are typically have one of three tuning methods; key-tuned, rope-tuned, and pre-tuned.

Key-tuned - Key-tuned djembes usually come with a tuning wrench and are easier for beginners. Simply adjusting (tightening or loosening) the lugs changes the tension of the drum head, and thus changes the tones the drum produces when played.

Rope-tuned - Rope-tuned djembes are a little more difficult to tune but can sometimes produce better tones than key-tuned djembes. To adjust the drum head tension you have to adjust the weave of the tuning rope around the drum. Again, head tension determines the tones produced by the djembe. An extra consideration when buying a rope-tuned djembe is the quality of the rope. Make sure you find a djembe where the rope is braided instead of stretched. This will help make sure the rope is able to handle the rigors of tuning.

Pre-tuned - A pre-tuned djembe is exactly what its name implies, pre-tuned. The short-term advantage to this is that the djembe is professionally tuned right from the start. The disadvantages are that you are stuck with the tones the djembe produces and those tones will change over time. So, if you like the tones at first you may find that over time you are increasingly displeased with the tones. On the flip side, you may not love the tones at first but as the drum head loosens you may grow to love the tones. If you are looking for a low-maintenance djembe a pre-tuned djembe may be the right choice for you.

Which djembe is better, wood or synthetic?

This is really a trick question. The answer is...the djembe that best serves your needs is the better one.

Wood - A traditional djembe is typically made from a single piece of wood. Wood djembes will usually produce richer and warmer tones than synthetic djembes.

Synthetic - Synthetic djembes are usually made of fiberglass. These djembes will usually have deeper bass tones and produce a more amplified sound. Synthetic djembes are also typically lighter than wood djembes.


Hopefully the above information gives you a good foundation for the different types of djembes and their advantages and disadvantages. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us and we will help you with your djembe buying questions.