How to Care for a Djembe: Do's and Don't's
Follow these simple guidelines to prolong the life of your djembe drum:
- Do use a drum bag. Bags can prolong the life of your djembe by protecting it from the elements, as well as serving as a cushion by taking impact that could otherwise damage your drum. Keeping your drum in a bag when it’s not in use will also help to maintain its tune, helping you perform the Mali Weave process less often. When considering a bag for your djembe, make sure you find one of the proper fit. If the bag is too loose, it will move around unnecessarily, which could lead to damage. If you can’t find a bag to your exact specifications, you can always place some circular foam padding on top of your drum while it’s in the bag for added protection and to take up some of the empty space.
- Do play your djembe often. Some players find that a drum that hasn’t been played for a prolonged period can sound dull and flat. Frequent playing also ensures that the drum skin stays conditioned with the natural oils of your hands.
- Do use shea butter, olive oil, or any other type of natural moisturizer on your hands intermittently before you play your drum. This will ensure that the proper amount of moisture is transferred to your drum head, conditioning the skin properly.
- Do clean the exterior wood shell. If your drum is varnished, you can simply used a damp soft cloth to remove any debris. Some people will opt for furniture polish on their varnished drums. If you choose this option, its best to use it sparingly. If you have an unvarnished drum, you may need to apply a thin coat of teak or linseed oil every so often to help prevent cracking. Applying a thin coat of oil to the interior can also be helpful for both varnished and unvarnished drums. The oil will ideally be applied more often in dry climates and less often in humid climates.
- Do detune your djembe if you know you won’t be playing it for a prolonged period of time, or if it will go through a shipment process. This will help prevent the skin splitting. Usually backing out a few knots of the Mali Weave is enough to loosen it.
- Don’t play your djembe with anything other than your hands. Playing it with sticks or mallets will almost certainly wear out your skin and cause it to split prematurely. After all, the djembe is called a “hand drum” for a reason!
- Don’t put moisturizer directly on the skin. This will weaken it over time. As mentioned above, it is best to put shea butter or olive oil on your hands before you play. This will help transfer the conditioner to your drum skin, ensuring that the proper amount is used.
- Don’t overtune your drum. You can still achieve that nice, crisp sound without tightening it to the point of breaking the skin.
- Don’t store your drum in extreme temperatures such as a hot car. You’ll find this is terrible for keeping the tune, and it may even lead to cracking. Moving the drum rapidly between extreme temperatures can also cause cracking. It’s best to keep your drum indoors and in a bag when you’re not playing it.
- Don’t wear rings or any other type of jewelry that could come into contact with the drum skin while you’re playing it. It can be difficult to remember, but this will easily cause nicks in the skin, so try to always make a habit of removing all jewelry before playing.