Buy a doumbek, learn to play & listen to some expert drummers
The doumbek (also sometimes spelled dumbek, dumbec or doumbec) is a goblet shaped drum used
extensively in middle eastern music; if you've heard bellydance music, you've
heard a doumbek.
For this reason it's generally assumed that the doumbek originated in the middle east,
there are no pictures of goblet drums on the Pharonic walls of ancient Egypt
(and they pictured everything!) this probably isn't true.
The first doumbek shell artifacts were carbon dated back to 4,000 BC and were found in
Bohemia. There was a Celtic tribe called the Boiis that didn't move west (to what
is now France, Ireland and Scotland) but instead moved south. The origin of the doumbek probably
The combination of deep bass tones ("doum") and
high, crisp tones ("tek") give the doumbek its name.
It's generally played by holding the drum in your lap under your left
arm and striking it with the fingers of both hands.
The heavy down beats in Middle Eastern rhythms are usually
played on the right (dominant) hand and the other hand is used for
fill beats and other accents.
All doumbeks produce a low bass sound in the middle and high treble sound around the rim but
the sound that comes out of your doumbek will depend on the shape, size
and type of head on your drum.
All other things being equal, larger drums produce lower tones,
especially noticible on the doum stroke.
A wide neck doumbek has shorter resonance than a narrow neck drum of the same size
giving the doum stroke a higher tone;
the flare on a
narrow neck drum adds to the resonance resulting in a deeper "doum".
Doumbeks are usually made of ceramic or metal, and occasionally wood, with drumheads
made of acrylic, cow hide,
goat, sheep or fish skin.
Some have built in tambourine-like jangles.
Ceramic doumbeks usually produce a warm and earthy sound.
Heads made of natural materials can sound better in the hands of an experienced drummer but they're
usually more difficult to play for a beginner and are higher-maintenance; they go out of tune more easily,
changes in temperature and humidity alter their tone and they're more fragile
than synthetic heads.
Egyptian cast-aluminum doumbeks have a loud, crisp tek sound with
a ringing, metallic tone that is easily heard over
amplified instruments or the larger drums played in many drum circles.
Turkish doumbeks, my current favorites, are made of cast aluminum and spun copper
and produce a tone somewhere in between:
aluminum Alexandria-style drums, brighter than ceramic.
Mine is also tunable, as are many metal drums, which gives more control over the tone.
(Though if you
tune it down too low in hope of making it sound more like a djembe, all you'll get is a muddy sounding doumbek.
This drum is designed for sharp, snappy tones so don't give your drum an identity crisis by playing with the tuning too much :-)
Doumbeks for Sale
This is the type of drum that I play. It has a full doum sound with great resonance.
This one measures 11" x 17 1/2" and is made of cast aluminum and spun copper with an erzincan design.
As each of these drums is hand etched the designs vary but they're all beautiful.
The drum head is made of Fiberskyn, a sturdy and responsive synthetic. I'm vegetarian so I like the idea of a synthetic head; some
people choose this type of head because it's virtually weatherproof.
It's tunable and a tuning tool and nylon case are included.
This popular drum is inexpensive and easy to play. Its bright staccato tone is loud enough
to cut through most drum circles and in experienced hands it can sound like a rhythmic machine gun :-)
It has very sharp teks and short doums and is one of the best drums for a beginner to get a good clear
ka sound. It's made of aluminum with hot paint and measures 10 3/4" x 16 3/4".
It's tunable and a tuning tool, nylon case and extra synthetic head are included.
Egyptian Mother of Pearl Doumbek
Beautiful and intricate inlay of real mother of pearl makes
this drum a work of art. You can see pinwheels, snowflakes and stars.
It's made of aluminum and measures 11" x 17". The clear synthetic head is tuned with
6 tuning bolts in the collar. Actual weight 9 pounds. Tuning tool, padded nylon case and extra synthetic head are included.
Many professional doumbek players prefer ceramic drums with heads made of natural materials like
fishskin for their all-round excellent sound and tonal range with full doums, sharp teks
and easy ka tones.
This drum is also lightweight and easy on the hands. Ceramic drums are more fragile than their
metal counterparts and natural heads are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, so
some extra care is required with a drum like this. But if you're looking for that "perfect" sound, this might be the
drum for you. Measurements are 8" x 14" Apollo's Axes also sells ceramic doumbeks with
for about $30 less.
World-renowned master drummer Raquy Danziger's instructional kit includes a DVD, CD and book to help you learn
traditional middle eastern techniques and rhythms to create your own dumbek solos or to accompany bellydancers.
Raquy is a brilliant musician and composer who is also an excellent teacher with an inspiring high-energy attitude.
She starts with basic dum/tek/ka strokes and works up to combinations that will inspire even advanced drummers.
Her finger roll techniques and exercises for strengthening the fingers ~ especially on the left (non-dominant) hand ~
were especially helpful to me.
If you're not lucky enough to be able to
study with her personally, these step-by-step instructions and practice drills are almost as good as sitting across from
her in class. Also recommended are the performance CDs she's made with her group, Raquy and the Cavemen:
In the rhythm workshop section, Raquy breaks apart
eight popular bellydance rhythms: baladi, saiidi, maksoum, masmoudi,
ciftetelli, malfouf, ayub, & semai, explaining how to recognize and play each rhythm. Then dancer/instructor/choreographer Jenna
demonstrates effective dance
combinations for each of the eight rhythms. Accompanied by Raquy and Carmine, Jenna then demonstrates the unique
art of drum solo improvisation with all 8 rhythms.
There's also an excellent choreography workshop section for dancers.
Belly dancers and middle eastern drummers will love this DVD and if you're a dancer AND drummer, you've gotta have it!
It's one of my favorites.
with Amir Naoum
Learn to play doumbek (dumbek, darbuka) with New York's most beloved Arabic percussionist, master instructor
Amir Naoum. If you are a beginning drummer, this DVD will serve as a very accessible, friendly and solid introduction
to the art of Middle Eastern percussion.
This program is a beginner-level doumbek instructional course with a lot of beyond-the-basics information and spectacular
demonstrations of Middle Eastern drumming and dance rhythms, so it's great for bellydancers too.
Syllabic notation is displayed onscreen, progressively changing in real time as the instructor plays the rhythms and
exercises. There are extensive chapter selection menus with individual access to each rhythm, exercise, type of sound, etc.
Rhythms covered include Malfouf, Ayoub, Maksoum, Baladi, Saiidi, Soumbati, Masmoudi and Ciftitelli including many variations
of each rhythm, some using fills, slaps and pops.
Robin starts you off with hand, body & breathing warm-up exercises,
teaches a variety of doumbeks tones from basic to advanced including
ayub, baladi and cheffte telli, then demonstrates how to combine and
vary the rhythms. The video ends with an impressive performance... something
to shoot for :-)
by Jonathan Kessler
Beginning through advanced techniques in Arabic drumming style with
opportunities to play along with an actual middle eastern band in
between lessons. Learn beledi, maqsum, chiftetelli, malfuf, khaligi,
ayyub & karsilamas plus how to switch rhythms & play for bellydancers.
Clear, accessible introduction to playing doumbek from how to hold it to how to strike it to get
the best possible Doum, Tek & Ka sounds. Todd also teaches an interesting slap technique,
gives tips on how
to gradually build up speed and ends the DVD performing with a Middle Eastern flute player.
Rhythms covered include baladi, maksoum, 6/8 and malfouf.
Listening to this 2-CD set is a lot like receiving personal doumbek lessons from one of the world's best
percussionists which makes sense because it's based on one of Hossam Ramzy's teaching workshops.
The tracks are introduced by Ramzy himself and named after some of the most important Middle
Eastern dance rhythms: Masmoudi,
Maqsoum, Saaidi, Fallahi, Zaar, Karachi, Elzaffa, Three four time, Samaai and Abu el Khamsa, an
The first CD is faster (great for bellydance practice); the second presents the rhythms a
little slower with more explanation for the drummer.
The accompanying booklet lists the transcript of Hossam's vocal introductions and provides a glossary of terms.
Nouran is a dancer and presents the CD, the players are Arabic drummers.
Each of 8 rhythms is introduced with name
and time signature and a brief doumbek demonstration. Then the rhythm is played 3/4
times on Def, Doholla, Tabla and Zills at increasing tempo with regular fills and
doumbek solo phrases are introduced and repeated without too much variation;
excellent practice for the intermediate to advanced player.
Rhythms include Malfouf, Maksoum, Ayoub, Saidi, Fallahi, Masmoudi, Khaleggi and
Sleeve notes give information on each rhythm.
Not exactly an instructional CD, but an excellent Middle Eastern rhythm identifier and practice tool
for both drummers and bellydancers.
First each of 23 rhythms is played for about 30 seconds
then a snippet of a song using the rhythm is played for about 45
seconds allowing you to hear it in context in an authentic musical arrangement.
Then each rhythm returns for about one and a half minutes with fills.
The accompanying booklet gives some information about each rhythm and cross-references the
songs on Jalilah's other CDs that use it.
Masters of the Doumbek on CD
Hossam Ramzy has created some of my favorite instrumental
albums and has
contributed to many more.
Sabla Tolo is a classic fountain of inspiration with many rhythm and tempo changes and
Sabla Tolo is not a play-along CD for the beginner... these rhythms are dizzyingly FAST!... but
it's pure pleasure for listening no matter what
your skill level. The steadier, more consistent rhythms of
are easier to keep up with; this CD was put together as a follow-up to the teaching set,
Rhythms of the Nile and it
expands beautifully on many of the rhythms introduced on that CD set.
Hossom has also played brilliantly on
Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for
The Last Temptation of Christ,
Loreena McKennitt's Celtic/Middle Eastern fusion album,
The Book of Secrets
and the worldbeat classic
Further in Time by the Afro Celt Sound System.
Other extraordinary drummers include Suhail Kaspar who can be heard on Ali Jihad Racy's
Arto Tuncboyaciyan who plays on Richard A. Hagopian & Omar Faruk Tekbilek's
Gypsy Fire, and the
percussionists that make up the fusion band Harem. Some of their best work can be found on
Rhythm Color and
Time of Rhythm.
Robin Adnan Anders's heartfelt Blue Buddha is a unique and
inspiring blend of Sufi, Middle East and Asian music.
Greg Ellis's work with singer extraordinaire Azam Ali on their VAS collaborations
In the Garden of Souls and
Feast of Silence is a heady brew of middle eastern, Indian and North African
Also recommended are the middle eastern compilation albums
Drum Circle and
Magical Fingers: Middle Eastern Tabla.
Details about these recordings and more recommendations coming soon.
Maqam Music specializes in
Middle Eastern music, especially hard-to-get CDs.
Their catalog includes musicians from all over the world; one of my favorite "Middle Eastern bands" is
from California! Founded by Jeremiah M. Soto, Solace has been known to fans of tribal bellydance and drumming
. Rhythm of the Dance is
great for doumbek drummers to play along to; the tracks are even named after classic Middle Eastern rhythms
(Beledi, ChifteTelli, Masmoudi, Saidi, etc). Sha'waza, The Gathering Season and Ahsas
add inspiring oud, saz and other
melodic instruments to the mix.
Maqam also carries
doumbek teacher Mary Ellen Donald's "Gems of the Middle East" series and
CDs by Hossam Ramzy, George Abdo, and bellydancers Jalilah & Nourhan Sharif.
(Yes, this music is also perfect for inspiring aspiring bellydancers :-) And most of the album pages
include streaming audio so you can hear samples before you buy.
My own collection of handcrafted earrings & necklaces
inspired by the natural healing properties of the stones and the magic
of dance, music & rhythm... they're made to move with you :-)