Best Beginner Djembe

Finishing off our list of the best hand drums for beginners is the Djembe. We have seen the Bongos, Congas, Cajon in all their glory, now it is the turn of the loudest. In fact, if the skin is tuned tightly enough to solo pitch, a professional player could reach the sound pressure of around 100db, which is around the same volume as a jackhammer! Like with all the other hand drums, when you see a player playing, they are usually fully immersed and playing with a big smile on their face. These instruments were made to jam and have festival fun.

What is the Djembe?

Originating in West Africa this is the drum you envision when you think of Africa – the raw power and life and soul that moves you to the core. This traditional African goblet-shaped drum is carved of hardwood and has historically had a rope-tuned skin-covered head. The shape has changed with modern interpretations, some of which allow for easier transportation whilst retaining that deep rich sound. As well as this, the rope-tuned skin made tuning it an art in itself and all in all a bit of a headache, so you now see the more modern djembes made of a synthetic material and the ropes have been replaced with lugs so that you can tune them with a wrench like the Congas and Bongos. Djembe purists will still insist on the rope-tuning method but as a beginner we would advise against it.

The volume of sound it produces means it is used outside for festivals and ceremonies. In fact, it is so loud it can be heard clearly over a procession of instruments which means it can act as a solo instrument. Unlike the congas which must stand on the floor or on a stand due to their weight, the djembe is surprisingly light enough that you can harness it to your body with a special mounting strap. This is especially useful if you are planning to get involved with a street festival any time soon. The traditional way is to place is on the floor, at an angle or on its side – whatever gives you the sound you are looking for.

The djembe has bass, tone and slap sounds which create low, mid and high pitches. A skilled player can produce as many as 20-25 distinctive sounds which is quite remarkable given its size. As well as this they will be using advanced rhythmic techniques which to the untrained ear can even make it sound like more than one drum is playing. Whilst known for its extremely raw animalistic tribal sound, they are proving that they can be used for a host of styles and there is more than ever a place for them in contemporary music as a unique percussion instrument. You may have seen its smaller counterparts which are the Doumbek or the Darbuka which we have looked at more detail in a separate article.

Top 5 Best Djembe for Beginners:

ModelName/ RatingSummaryCheck Price

Meinl Percussion HDJ3-S, 8-Inch

Score:    (4.75 / 5)

Fantastically crafted and incredibly affordable. Perfect small entry-level drum. Premium product at budget price
AMAZON
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

Remo DJ-0010-05 Mondo, 12-Inch

     Score:    (4.60 / 5)

Higher-end and can be used up to with professional level. Immaculately crafted with natural, raw finish
AMAZON
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
   Meinl Percussion ADJ3-M, 10-Inch 

Score:    (4.65 / 5)

The same series as the HDJ3, but larger. Great value for a wonderful drum
AMAZON
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

Toca Street Series, 10-Inch

     Score:    (4.85 / 5)

Full-sized authentic rope tuned djembe at a good price. Powerful bass
AMAZON
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

Deco 79 89847 Home Décor Product

 Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Home decoration with limited musical functionality
AMAZON

 

Meinl Percussion HDJ3-S, 8-Inch

pdi-fj
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In at our top spot and under $50 is this magnificently crafted djembe by Meinl. If you have read our articles on Cajones or Doumbeks it will probably seem by now that we are endorsed by Meinl. We can assure you that we are not, they are just the top dogs when it comes to affordable hand percussion. They manage to cut costs but retain quality and topping off our list, this little djembe is no different. 

What you will notice about this drum when you take it out of the box is that it truly is handmade and fantastically crafted. The design and production are top notch. It is only a mini version of the full-size djembe but that just means it is lightweight and good for smaller hands! If you have big hands then you may struggle to get both on so complex rhythms will be tough. The sound, despite its size, is rich and the resonance is perfect – it will of course not have the same booming, deep qualities of a 12 or 14 inch but nonetheless it sounds great, with decent projection. With a little tuning it will sound incredible. This drum is perfect for those beginners who want something affordable to ease them in and don’t mind something with a smaller sound. 

Specs

  • Carved from one solid piece of plantation grown Mahogany Wood
  • Hand selected heads and hand-carved shells
  • Pre-stretched nylon tuning ropes
  • 15 3/4″ tall and an 8” head diameter

Remo DJ-0010-05 Mondo, 12-Inch

Remo Earth
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Next up is what can be described as craftsmanship as its best. Remo’s entire Mondo series are things of beauty and their Earth drum has a raw, natural design and power. This drum is perfect for beginners who are willing to spend a bit more and it can easily be used all the way up to a professional level, including gigs and recording. It comes in a range of sizes and it could be tempting to get the 14” head but trust us when we say that the 12” is more than enough drum for a beginner and even for more advanced players.

Whilst traditional Djembes have ropes for tuning, these are a nightmare, a real nightmare. With Remo’s lug system this drum becomes a dream to tune and it does not harm the aesthetics as it still looks like an earthy natural djembe. The earthy finish actually gives the drum some texture so it makes it easier when holding between your legs. One tuned to your liking it will not slip out of tune easily, even with a change in humidity and temperature. Whilst it could be easy to think that the sound will suffer as it is synthetic, this is not the case as its sound is as warm and pleasant as wood. This drum really holds it own with a wonderfully rich sound. With a crisp pop and a deep punchy bass, this drum deals with the bass, tone and slap with aplomb. This is the perfect beginner djembe for a serious player who doesn’t want to upgrade in 6 months.

Specs

  • Remo Djembes are from the Skyndeep Fiberskyn drumhead and Acousticon shell
  • Features 8 lugs and an Earth-pattern Fabfurnish covering
  • 24″ tall and a 12” head

Meinl Percussion ADJ3-M, 10-Inch 

Meinl adj3
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Next up is another budget djembe by Meinl. Very much of the same quality as all their series, this is a little larger than the first measuring up as 9.75 diameter x 20″ height. It is a genuine skin and roped djembe with a good carrying bad and all under $150. Despite the non-premium price, it is a premium product with solid wood and well crafted. Once tuned the drum will sing.

Toca Street Series, 10-Inch

Toca Street
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At this price, the Toca Street Series represents the best value for money for what is considered a full-size djembe with rope tuning and authentic head for under $150. All in all, you are getting a lot of drum for a very affordable price. This drum sounds good. It is full-bodied, with a deep powerful bass and incredible reverb as you move across the head. It has great distinction in tone, whether a slap, tone or bass. Well made and durable this djembe is a real winner.

Specs

  • Hand carved from one piece of environmentally friendly plantation grown Mahogany wood
  • Kiln dried shell with 20 coats of teak oil to protect and preserve the wood
  • Hand selected skin heads
  • Large: 12″ Head, 24″ Tall
  • Brown & black stain

You can get the smaller model (10 x 20)  for under $75, however you won’t get the same power and versatility, but it will still sound good.

Deco 79 89847 Home Décor Product

Toca Street
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At $30 this little drum is somewhere between a playable drum and a decoration. It is fairly basic as is the sound, but anyone looking for a really cheap djembe, most likely as a gift, this is it. This is not for a serious player, whether beginner or otherwise, but it is still good fun to play and you will be able to get a beat going.

One of the biggest and certainly the loudest goblet drums, the djembe is a powerhouse, stopping people in their tracks and shattering the occasional eardrum. Like all of the other hand drums, they are incredibly fun to play and fantastically hard to master.

Depending on the size and stretch, the sound can be altered and they can be used for a host of rhythms and music. Take this cover of Shape of you by Ed Sheeran:

 

Or even a hip-hop beat as this tutorial demonstrates.

If none of these 4 are for you but you want still believe in the beauty of the hand drum then check out our page that looks at some other Afro-Cuban drums such as the timbales, the bata, as well as some global percussion shakers.