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Thread: Hand drumming the blues?

  1. #1

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    Question Hand drumming the blues?

    Hey all,

    I'm new here, as you can tell by my post count, and I'm still relatively new to drumming. I made my own djembe, but, I'm having a tough time learning. The local drum circle that meets are all beginners, so, I can't learn much from them...besides...I want to be a percussionist.

    Back to the topic. I know a couple musicians, who do blues jams and even play publicly, from time to time. One plays: guitar, banjo, and madolin; the other plays: guitar, bass, harmonica and knows a few others. They've invited me to jam with them, and I've accepted.

    What I wanted to know is...does anyone here hand-drum the blues? If so, can you offer any advice/tips/suggestions on how to do this proficiently?

    Thanks,
    Ben

  2. #2

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    This is the best advice I could possibly give you for playing the blues with hand drums:

    FEEL the music!!!

    Just close your eyes and relax and let go! You can get a djembe to make so many sounds at so many different volumes that it is easy to overpower the song. For hand drumming, you usually hear conga's and bongo's in the background, but a djembe is really going to boost the bass line and accent the "open" areas. I used to play along with B.B. King and John Coltrain cd's to work on my chops. It helped a lot. Just start slow with the bass line and work in little accent fills here and there that match the vocal line of the song. Learning low volume techniques is a must, such as finger rolling and note bending. Honestly though, when I play the blues, it is about 80% feel and 20% technique.

    Have fun with it and best of luck!
    Da' Bum
    Rockin' the beat for fadedblue
    Slappin' the skins for Willow Tree
    Kickin' the bass for Olde Youth
    http://www.facebook.com/fadedbluemusic
    http://www.facebook.com/willowtreebandpdx
    DW Performance 5 pc. in White Marine Pearl
    Pearl ELX 7 pc. in Black Burst
    1972 Pearl Deluxe Custom 5 pc. in blue sparkle
    KAT KT-3

  3. #3

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    Talking

    Thanks for the advice DB.

    I did catch on to the playing softly. I'm just starting to learn finger rolling, but, note bending...I know nothing about. I'll give the rest of it a try though.

  4. #4

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    Hey Bear, note bending is where you lightly press your left middle finger on the edge of the drumhead while hitting the rim with your right hand. As they note carries, apply some pressure with your finger and you will notice that the tone will rise a little bit. Try it on different areas of the rim as all djembes have a sweet spot for doing this. Also, you can do the opposite by applying a lot of pressure with your finger, then after you hit the drum, softly let that pressure off and the tone will drop. Over time, you will be able to develop this skill as second nature and it really makes a difference in adding dynamcs to low volume playing.

    One of my favorite techniques is where you start with your finger slightly pressed into the drumhead about 1/2" from the rim, then, right when you hit the drum, you slide your finger in a semi-circle across the drumhead while changing the amount of pressure you are applying. This is true "note bending" as you can change from the tone you started with to a higher or lower tone, and bring it back to where the note started, all within 1 strike of the drum. Doing this quickly with a hard slap on the rim can sound like a waterdrop. Slowly is the best way to learn the pressure control that will make it so your drum can sing. Yes, you can play melodies with this technique. It's like the blues guitarist playing the small fills during the song, just without the sustain of a guitar. I can get my djembe to bend up to 5 notes with just this technique. Drum circles are the best place to learn this kind of stuff as you get a chance to see someone doing it rather than just hearing it. Work on it, you will get it over time and it will become one of your best friends on a single drum!

    Oh yeah, Congrats on building your own drum! It's nice to see there are other people out there that are willing to put out the physical effort it takes to really "bear" your soul! (i know, i know, bad pun) Take a lot of pride in that!
    Last edited by 1DrumBum; 11-03-2006 at 12:53 PM.
    Da' Bum
    Rockin' the beat for fadedblue
    Slappin' the skins for Willow Tree
    Kickin' the bass for Olde Youth
    http://www.facebook.com/fadedbluemusic
    http://www.facebook.com/willowtreebandpdx
    DW Performance 5 pc. in White Marine Pearl
    Pearl ELX 7 pc. in Black Burst
    1972 Pearl Deluxe Custom 5 pc. in blue sparkle
    KAT KT-3

  5. #5

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    Cool Hand drumming the blues?

    1DrumBum--thanks for the tips on note bending! That's another thing I can add to my own bag of tricks...

    As one of the many other hand drummers in the forum, bear, I've played with all styles of music. As you no doubt already know, most blues music is in 6/8 time, so if you can lock onto that groove, the rest comes easier. On faster blues pieces, a "walking" beat or a rhumba beat works well. But more than anything else, as 1DB says, it is 80% feel and 20% technique, especially on the slower stuff. And whatever beat you use, don't overplay. Most blues music is stripped-down to the raw essentials anyway, and whether it's hand or set, the simpler the better.

    BTW, I once sat in on djembe with a folk duo (guitar/mandolin and violin) and it was some of the best hand drumming I'd done up to that point...keep on jammin', bear and
    keep the beat goin' ... Don't keep it to yourself!

    Charlie

    "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." --Henry David Thoreau, "Walden," 1854

    "There's a lot to be said for Time Honored tradition and value." --In memory of Frank "fiacovaz" Iacovazzi

    "Maybe your drums can be beat, but you can't."--Jack Keck

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