Here are the basics of what you'll want to know:
What to Bring to Class
There are a few things that you should bring with you to classes:
- A drum: While I do have a few loaner doumbeks available for use by the Intro to Doumbek Drumming class, you should bring your own, especially for those who have progressed beyond the Intro class. See the Where to Buy Drums section below for details on drum shopping.
- Notebook & pencil: While I do often provide some handouts, I tend to cover material outside the handouts during class. Taking your own notes will help you keep track of all the material, and are a great reference for your own practice.
- A foot rest: While this is not a requirement, I find having something to put one foot on very helpful in establishing a comfortable playing position. I use a guitar foot rest, something like this.
- A recording device: Sometimes notes just aren't enough to remember how a rhythm sounds. If you want to bring a recording device to capture what we work on in class, please do so. Please make sure everyone in class is comfortable with being recorded before you begin.
What to Have at Home
Outside of the items above, there are a few other things to keep handy at home during your practice:
- A chair: A good chair or stool can make a big difference during practice. Generally speaking you want a chair with no arms, and low enough that your thighs are reasonably parallel with the ground. The foot rest I mentioned above can help adjust for a chair that's a little too high. I generally use a drum stool like this.
- A metronome: Practicing to a metronome helps keep you on beat. Keeping time is hard. Using a metronome helps ensure that you are playing at a consistent tempo. It's also a great tool when you want to push yourself to play faster. Metronomes don't lie. There are some online metronomes you can use (see the Online Resources section below), or you can use something like this. You can even find metronome apps for your smart phone.
- A towel: A doumbek can be loud. It's not nearly as bad as a djembe or a taiko drum, but it can definitely be disturbing to others in your house, or people in neighboring apartments. Stuffing a towel or a shirt in your drum can go a long way to quieting down your drum. It's not nearly as fun to play that way, but it's better than not playing at all.
What's in a Name?
The drum commonly referred to as "doumbek" goes by many names. Some of the variability comes from specific characteristics of the drum, while others are culturally-derived. If you are interested in learning more about on this topic, I highly recommend Rhythm Web's The many names of Doumbek page.
Buying drums online can often be hit or miss on quality, especially your first time out. I highly recommend going to a store in person so you can handle the drums, play them, and see what you like. I also recommend taking someone who's been through the process before, as their advice can be very helpful.
I categorize doumbeks into two major groups, Alexandria/Egyptian-style, and Turkish-style. The difference between the two is basically the curvature of where the head meets the body of the drum, and the tuning mechanism.
A Turkish-style doumbek requires more precise control of your hands to avoid hitting the tuning bolts. Also, the sharper angle where the head of a Turkish-style doumbek meets the body can be less forgiving on your hands. For these reasons I recommend an Egyptian-style doumbek for a first purchase.
You'll sometimes see doumbeks listed as Turkish that have what I consider an Egyptian/Alexandria style head and tuning. In this case, the difference is usually size: the Turkish classification will have a larger head, and will sometimes be taller. This distinction has become more prevalent over the past decade.
Also, I recommend that your first drum be cast aluminum. Pay attention to the weight. If it's too light, or too heavy, you'll spend a lot of time trying to control the drum position. Also, I recommend a plastic (generally mylar) head for your first drum. Natural-skin heads are generally harder to keep in tune.
Arlington has two places to buy doumbeks. DrumConnection, run by Alan Tauber, has a growing collection of doumbeks. He also has frequent sales, especially around the holidays. If he doesn't have what you want, he has some catalogs and can help get you what you want.
Wood and Strings in Arlington Center also has some doumbeks available, and some decent drum cases.
The Greater Boston Area also has other options. For example, Jack's Drum Shop, and the Guitar Center near Boston University campus carry doumbeks.
If you prefer shopping online, there are lots of options, some better than others.
- Mid-East Manufacturing has a large selection.
- Lark in the Morning also has a large selection, but they tend to be a little more hit or miss on quality.
- Musician's Friend has small selection
- Guitar Center's online store has a small selection
- Active Musician's site has a large selection
- a search for doumbek on Amazon yields more than 600 results
Most doumbek purchases come with a case (generally cheap but functional), a spare drum head, and a tuning wrench. If you find something you like and it doesn't come with those items, ask them to include those items as part of the deal. Some may try to charge extra for that. If the case is really good (well padded, with pockets and shoulder straps), it might be worth the extra cost.
There are a lot of online resources for learning about the doumbek. Just to name a few:
- You can find an online metronome here. This is by no means the only one. You can also find metronome apps for your smart phone.
- Rhythm Web's doumbek page has a lot of material
- Kamuranís Guide for Doumbek Players documents a lot of different rhythms
- Jas's Middle Eastern Rhythms FAQ also provides a lot of annotated rhythms.
- Youtube has a lot of good video material you can learn from
- Panta Rei's Drumming Page provides a list of online reference material
Mailing Lists and Online Communities
There are also a number of online communities and mailing lists that you can use.
- The Goblet Drumming Group was a good resource. Unfortunately, not much has been posted for a long while. Perusing the archives can prove beneficial.
- The Metrowest Drum Circles group announces a lot of drum circles and classes and the like.
- The Southern NH Drum Council group provides a lot of the same material as The Metrowest Drum Circles group
- The Fingers of Fury site contains a lot of really good material. This site requires an annual subscription for most of the material, though.