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Tuning the Remo Djembe

Paulo Mattioli offers the following directions to help you tune the Remo Djembe to eliminate any ping or after ring, while still producing a full rich sound.

Here is the trick to making your Remo Djembe sound great:

Replacement of the head will not take away the ping, I have already tried that, the solution is in the tuning of the head. Just like any drum set you buy you must dampen and tune the heads properly.

The technique is simple and will not endanger your drum. Just work through the steps below:

1. Remove the head with the wrench supplied with your drum.

2. Place a strip of 1/4 " adhesive backed weatherstriping around the inside circumferance of the bowl section, about half way down.(Weatherstripping cost about $3 per roll at your local hardware store.)

3. Place a one inch long piece on the bottom surface of the head, about four inches from the edge. This wil still allow the head to resonate, but not for too long, giving a good sound but cutting the extraneous ring. Experiment with how much weatherstripping to use. I have found one inch is good on a 14" drum; try a little more for larger head diameters. The foam material slightly dampens the reverberance of the actuating membrane ( the head ) but only enough to dampen the after ring without taking away from the fullness of the harmonics in the tone and slap. This technique will affect the bass tone somewhat, but the effect will be more pronounced on the high tones.Experiment until you get it right for your taste.

4. Put the head back on and tighten it down slowly and evenly till you get a nice crisp slap.(Make sure you tighten it evenly, little by little , working your way around, and test for even tension by listening to the pitch above each tuning lug, by tapping with one finger and your tuning wrench.)

5.Viola! Your drum will now have a rich full bodied tone, a bright, crisp slap, and no unwanted reverberance. The head was not the problem, the drum is just a little too resonant until you dampened it a little with the foam tape and tuned it up nice and tight.

6. Once you tune your Remo Djembe it will sound great and stay in tune in many weather conditions. You will rarely have to tune it again, except to compensate after you break it in a little.

7. You can adjust the sound to your own taste by adding or subtracting muffling and/or tension. Mine is really hard to distinguish from a perfectly tuned traditional drum in a blindfold test; this really works! Do not be afraid to take your drum and experiment with the tuning, with reasonable care there is no way to hurt the drum.

In addition to the above technique, I would add that the tuning techniques I have posted are just the beginning, as each individual has his or her own desired sound quality , playing style and technique, therefore I would urge yourself and anyone else who is interested to experiment with using less of the weatherstripping (Muffling) material inside the bowl of the djembe for a more "dynamic" sound (I.E. Richer overtone structure at lower volumes and more resonance).

For example if I am tuning for more delicate studio work I omit the muffling from the inside of the bowl entirely, and only put a small 1" piece about two inches from the rim of the drum on the underside of the head, and then crank the head down untill I get a nice clean slap tone. No need to remove the head in this case, just reach inside and stick the weatherstripping on.

Just about everyone is looking for a certain drum sound and tonal quality from their drum which resonates for them. The good thing is that their is an abundance of of resonance and a rich harmonic spectrum coming from the Remo Djembe drum, and the tuning techniques I have described will allow you to taper those overtones down to suit your personal tastes. You can always subtract resonance and harmonics from a drum but you can not add them if they are not there to begin with.

Veteran Drum set players (like myself) know from experience that drums need to be carefully tuned in a manner not unlike that which I have described when purchased new out of the box, however many hand drummers are new to drumming and were simply not aware of these techniques and that is why I wanted to share my tuning tips.

I hope this helps even further to get the sound you are looking for, do not be afraid to experiment!

Pass the word around to your drumming friends about this tuning technique, most drum set players are familiar with the need to tune drums from the start in this way, but many hand drummers do not have this experience, share the knowledge!

Note: The Remo Djembe body is made from Acousticon II, which is made from hardwood. Hardwood fiber is soaked and reoriented, it is then made into sheets which are plyed into tubular shape with alternating layers of resins. There is plenty of research showing the superior strength and resonance of acousticon, and it is made from a high percentage of recycled hardwood. This research info is available in detail from REMO at 818-983-2600 or

If you desire to reduce the overtone content of the Remo Mondo head, you do not need to remove the head at all. A good tensioning will do the job for most applications, in the studio you may desire to place a one inch by 1/4" piece of self-adhesive weatherstripping to the bottom side of the head by reaching inside the drum.

Remember the overtones are what gives a drum its power, a rich overtone content will give alot of body, presence and projection to your drum sound. Just be sure you tension the drum well and evenly. Most drum set players understand the importance of tuning and muffling to get just the sound you want, whereas many of those new to drumming , stating out on hand drums are not as familiar with the process. You may want a wetter, fuller more powerful sound for circles or playing outdoors without a mike (less muffling), in the studio or indoors go for a dryer sound, add muffling to taste.

Note that the Mondo head is thicker, wetter with more harmonic content. My new Signature Series formula is thinner and dryer and requires no muffling at all. This is more of a solo drum sound. The thicker Mondo
head requires more tension to achieve a good crisp slap. The new formula requires much less tension and the slap is very sharp and the head much more sensitive requiring less effort to achieve a good crisp slap.

Both heads have their own unique sound.

Happy Drumming,

Paulo Mattioli (02-21-01)


Tuning and/or replacing the head on the lug tuned Djembe is actually a reletively easy operation.
1. replace the head by sliding it onto the top of the drum.
2. Place the hoop over the head, it should rest on the the lip of the head evenly all the way around the drum.
3. Thread the lug bolts into the lug nuts just enough to be threaded on.
4. make sure the ring is centered and slowly tighten each lug, little by little (1/2-1 turn) first on one side then the other of the head, (EG: 12 o'clock then six o'clock, 3 o'clock then 9 o'clock, etc. around the head)
this will bring the head tight with an even tension.
5. Continue tightening until you get a good, crisp, slap tone.
6. You bring the head into perfect tune with itself by tapping the drum with the tuning wrench supplied over each lug while pressing the other finger in the middle of the drum. Match the pitch by tensioning or loosening directly above each lug.
7. Play and enjoy! It should take less than 10 Minutes to remove and replace the head once you understand how to do it. take your time at first and listen to your drum, it will tell you what it needs to sing!

It sounds as if perhaps your top ring was not centered on the lip of the head and you overtightened the drum. If your lugs mounts are a little tweaked it will not effect the tuning process. I suggest you loosen the head all the way up, check to make sure your hoop is still in round, if not bend it back into round by removing it and applying hand pressure. It should sit evenly on the lip of the head. Remember to tension the head slowly and equally to avoid pulling it down to far on one side.

Tuning Remo Heads: by David Vergin © 7-1-99

I have gotten very good results using strips of Post-it tape. It's like
Post-it notes but comes as a roll in a dispenser like a cellophane tape
dispensor. I buy the 1 inch wide variety. Available from your nearest office supply outlet.

The idea came when I read a post a while back theorizing that the ping in Remo heads might result because they were two perfect in thickness across the head. So I have tried various patterns of tape to "unbalance" the head just a bit (usually leaving a clear path down the center where the thinner spine of the goat hide would be). Post-it tape is lighter than duct tape so the adjustments are slight but effective.
Right now I have four 5-inch tape strips like this
(TTTT = tape):
          /            \
         /   T    T     \
        | T  T    T  T  |
        | T  T    T  T  |
        | T  T    T  T  |
         \   T    T     /

The great thing about this tape is that it is designed to be easily
removable. So I can experiment. I've been putting it on the outside of the head and playing right on the tape. When I get a pattern I'm really happy with,I'll put the tape on the inside.

© 7-1-99 David Vergin

Adding a strap to your Remo Djembe

Submitted by "Dale Wambaugh" <>

I use the shiny rings and you really don't notice them. I drill the holes with a normal twist drill bit. The screw you use should be a snug fit in the hole and I would use fender washers on the inside. Fender washers have a large outside diameter in relation to the size of the hole-- like drilling a small hole in a quarter. This will help spread the stress out. I've use regular washers with no problems. Remo just drills a hole a pop-rivets the swivel on. The do that on the Timbas and Paulo Mattioli cable tuned djembes too-- a LOT more stress than your festival djembés would put on it. I've drilled and added straps to several Remo doumbeks, which are really just smaller festival djembes with a different head material. I would recommend
"backing" the shell with a piece of wood while drilling so the shell material doesn't chip as the drill bit exits the inside wall. This is standard handyman stuff. I would consider adding a dab of glue or silicone sealant so there is no chance of moisture entering the wall of the drum
shell. Mounting a strap swivel on the horn of the drum is not a problem. I would stay an inch or more from the edge is all.