Come together in peace. That’s a rough translation of what Djembe drums mean. Of course, coming together or bare hands tribal jamming will sound better if you’re using some of the best djembe drums available.
These may not be pretentious instruments for pretentious percussionists. However, since they’re not the most expensive instruments of their kind, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spring for some quality too if you fancy the idea of playing a djembe.
Best Djembe Drums for Newbies and Pros
Table of Contents
- Best Djembe Drums for Newbies and Pros
- Djembe Drums vs Other Commonly Used Membranophone Instruments
- How to Choose the Right Size
- Should You Pay Extra for Authentic Designs?
The Remo DJ-0014-05 Mondo Djembe Drum comes in four sizes: 10”, 12”, 14”, and 16”. It also comes in both Earth and Adinkra styles. Of course, the style doesn’t affect how the drums sound, but the looks might be just as important if you’re trying to keep things authentic or professional.
I would recommend the 14” Remo Mondo drum as I find it to be the most versatile. It’s not too big nor too heavy. It is very portable and is capable of lending itself to multiple genres and slapping styles.
The drum consists of an acousticon shell and a classic Mondo Skyndeep drumhead. That means that it has full-range tuning capabilities as well as a rich and warm tone. The Mondo Djembe Drum has excellent low-end definition and can accentuate powerful, quick slaps without sounding too bright and punchy.
Whether you’re looking to practice, entertain, record, or accompany a band with a unique percussion instrument, the Remo Mondo Djembe Drum will not disappoint.
The Meinl Mahogany Wood Djembe drum is a beginner-friendly option. It’s very durable as it has a mahogany shell, which lets it take plenty of abuse and mishandling. With a 10” radius, this drum is well-suited to travel with and practice anywhere, anytime.
I like the authenticity of the real leather drum head. This one is made of goatskin and is also secured and tuned traditionally, through a Mali-Weave system made of nylon rope.
The tone is warm but can also cut through a mix when using the right techniques. It can deliver a powerful and loud sound. The warmth and power make it great for live performances, which is something that you may want to reach eventually.
I should also point out that there’s no need to mess with the tuning out of the box. The standard tuning will last for a long time and should give you a good introduction to the instrument. That is if you haven’t played one before.
This Remo Apex Djembe Drum can be considered a new generation of djembe drums. It shies away from the tradition in favor of a sleek, modern look. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you consider the impressive sound and extra playing comfort.
It’s lighter than most 12” drums, which makes it more portable. The steel counter hoop helps bring some brightness to the tone and helps maintain the tuning and intonation for longer.
The tuning brackets have an inverted design with recessed tuning hooks that make tuning a lot easier for both beginners and experienced djembe players. I also like the Remo Apex Djembe for its resilience and the excellent acoustic properties of the Goat Stripe drumhead.
What do you get when you put together an 8” djembe and a colorful rain forest motif? In Remo’s case, a kids’ version of a Djembe drum. This 8” djembe is just 14” tall, which makes it much more kid-friendly than standard 8” models.
The acousticon shell provides some resonance and volume, but nothing too extreme or something you could take with you on stage. The clarity is still there as the tuning is spot on, and the drumhead tension is reliable.
But this model was not designed for adults, recording sessions, or anything other than jamming and practicing. That said, the non-African motif that looks more cheerful should be more appealing to kids.
The Remo Kids Djembe Drum can be an excellent gift for a kid interested in trying out exotic instruments, or one that’s passionate about tribal rhythms and music.
Djembes rarely get more authentic than this, at least the ones offered on the US or international markets. This hand-carved djembe drum is made in Ghana. It’s 8” x 16,” and although a bit small, it packs quite a punch.
It comes already tuned, but it also features an adjustable tuning system, as all djembe drums should. The wood shell is solid and durable. The West African goatskin drum head produces a pretty loud sound and has a slightly brighter tone than you may expect.
I like how it can stand on its own but also cut through the mix and stand out in an instrumental ensemble. Although perhaps not the best choice for live performances, with a quality mic and quality amplification, you may not need a larger model to showcase your skills.
This Deco djembe is very close to the authentic djembe judging by its construction. It’s made of real wood, it has a roughly authentic feel about it, and it features a leather drum head. I should also point out that it’s got all this at a very bargain price.
While some may view it as a décor piece, I find it completely capable of serving as a playable djembe during jamming sessions, for practicing, and even for some soft recording sessions.
It packs a lot of power for such a small instrument. Although the sound is not 100% authentic, it can be a good starter djembe drum for kids.
It’s an accessible instrument with 12” drum head and the height of only 9”. This configuration also helps give it a more dynamic range as the drum is capable of putting out vibrant and highly bright tones with extra cutting power.
Djembe Drums vs Other Commonly Used Membranophone Instruments
A significant difference between bongos and djembes is that the djembe drum is always used as a single drum, whereas bongos combine one small and one large drum.
And, unlike Cajon, djembe drums are rounded, much like bongos, being goblet-shaped if you will. They are often made of solid wood to create a more vibrant and deeper tone.
How to Choose the Right Size
Not all djembe drums are alike. And, there is no rule that all drumhead sizes must be attached to djembes of the same height. You’ll notice quite a bit of variety in height when it comes to djembes.
There are models with 12” drumheads installed on 9” tall bodies, as well as 8” or 10” drumheads on 14” tall or taller djembes. A lot of it has to do with playing style and comfort. Perhaps more so than the actual sound.
While there are some tonal differences to account for between djembes of different heights, often the tuning tension, wood quality, and the drumhead material itself will have a more significant impact on the sound than the actual shape of the resonator box.
Should You Pay Extra for Authentic Designs?
As with any other traditional instrument, authentic looks don’t guarantee that the djembe drum will have superior tonal qualities. Some people are purists and want only African-made or at least African-looking djembe drums. However, I must stress that that’s not something that should have the final say in whether you buy the product or not.
If you’re looking to get the best of both worlds - sound quality and aesthetics - you will have to pay considerably more. That’s because the craftsmanship is not cheap, and it shouldn’t be. There are significant differences in quality between the mass-produced and hand-carved djembe shells.
But will an authentic design make you sound better? No. Because anyone can copy some cool graphics and textures, but that doesn’t mean that the overall measurements and construction will help produce a more authentic and resonating tone.
Beat Your Worries Away with Djembe Drums
There’s no denying that playing djembes can bring some peace of mind while also letting you express yourself artistically.
As you’ve noticed, these drums come in various shapes, sizes, and price ranges. I suggest picking one that looks good to you, and that’s easy enough to store or carry.