How to Hold the Darbuka
There are two common sitting positions when playing the Darbuka. Depending on how you will sit when playing, there will be a slightly different technique to hold the Darbuka securely. You can also play while standing.
Sitting on a chair
Sit down on a chair with both of your feet flat on the floor in front of you. The Darbuka should sit on your non-dominant thigh with the open-ended side pointing behind you and the skin-covered side pointing in front of you at a 45o angle.
You should then adjust your dominant leg so that the bottom part of the Darbuka rim is supported by the inner thigh of your dominant leg to hold the drum in place. You should be able to let the Darbuka rest without needing your hands to stop it from falling over. As such, your dominant foot might be slightly raised, whereas your non-dominant foot should be flat on the ground.
You should then lightly hug the body of the Darbuka with your non-dominant arm to keep it steady while playing. Your non-dominant elbow should keep the Darbuka tight against your side, and your non-dominant palm should rest on the top of the Darbuka rim, without touching the skin.
Remember that anything that touches the skin will affect the resultant sound. If your non-dominant hand is resting on the plastic skin itself, the sound won’t resonate properly.
Note: If unsure, your dominant hand is typically the hand you write with.
Sitting on the floor
Sit down on the floor in a cross-legged position. The Darbuka should sit on your non-dominant thigh with the open-ended side pointing behind you and the skin covered side (the Darbuka’s head) pointing in front of you at a 45o angle.
You should then lightly hug the body of the Darbuka with your non-dominant elbow to keep it steady while playing. Your non-dominant palm should rest on the top of the Darbuka rim.
The Darbuka may fall inwards into the space between your crossed legs. This position is okay, as long as it doesn’t render the drum unplayable. If it is falling too far inwards, you might need to bring the Darbuka back a little, so that it resting closer to your non-dominant thigh.
Playing while standing
The only exception I’ve seen from the above methods is a performance technique of playing the Darbuka while standing. Playing while standing is common if performing in an environment which requires you to move around, or perhaps if you were accompanying a dance or march.
While it is possible to use a drum strap to secure the Darbuka to your shoulder while you play, I would not recommend doing this until you are at least an intermediate player with strong foundations. You will have to dynamically adapt your playing style with the drum’s movement, which will be tough for a beginner.
My advice would be to learn and practice while sitting on a chair or the floor. This will allow you to build your foundations in a strong position and help you progress through your Darbuka studies. Once you’re confident and secured in your basics, grab a drum strap and give playing while standing a shot!
Space allows sound to travel
When you choose where you will sit to play, practice or perform, you should consider how much space there is behind your Darbuka. You need space behind your drum to allow the sound to travel, and you need to ensure that there aren’t any thick cloths or materials absorbing your Darbuka’s sound.
Assess your surroundings:
- Are you sitting on the floor in front of a sofa?
- Are you sitting on a chair with a thick curtain behind you?
- Are you sat on your bed reading this book on your laptop?!
All of these scenarios will kill any bass coming out of the back of your Darbuka and will make your playing sound flat. This is a common problem that beginners face when practicing. The location they have chosen to practice doesn’t facilitate sound to travel, and as such, their Darbuka will sound bad even if they’re using the correct technique!
If in doubt, go to a location where you are confident there are optimal conditions for good sound to be created. A medium-sized room with wooden or tiled floors and mostly hard surfaces is ideal. Typically, in an ordinary house, most people find the best sound in their kitchen (if it’s big enough). Outside the house, a sports hall, performance hall or the like would be fantastic.
If you’re not sure how good your Darbuka is supposed to sound, find a good room and try it out! You might be surprised how different this space will sound compared to your bedroom!
The Doum is the bass stroke. This stroke creates a deep and powerful sound from the belly of the drum that is undoubtedly the core beat of any rhythm. When the Doum lands on the skin of the drum, it bounces and causes the skin to vibrate, creating sound waves that repeatedly shoot off the inner walls of the drum; getting stronger and stronger. Eventually, these sound waves fly out of the back of the drum, creating a deep and powerful sound.
The Doum is the first dominant hand stroke that we will cover. The dominant hand strokes are the strokes that are played with your main playing hand. Note: If unsure about which hand your dominant hand is, ask yourself which hand you write with. Your writing hand is the hand you will play best with. This hand should thus be the hand that is free to move around, and not in charge of holding the darbuka in place.
Keeping your four fingers closed, but not tight, strike the middle of the Darbuka. The top two parts of each of your fingers should land on the middle of the Darbuka skin, and the palm of your hand should land on the Darbuka’s metal rim.
As soon as your fingers have made contact, they should bounce off the drum and pull away immediately. The fingers should not linger on the drum.
A key point to mention here is that the Doum is characterised by its sustain. The sustain is the elongated sound you will hear after you play the Doum that should last at least one second. You will know that your Doum technique is getting better when you can consistently create a long sustain.
The palm’s support
The Doum strikes the skin using the fingers. However, the fingers themselves are a relatively weak part of your hand. The best way to add power and depth to your Doum is to strike the skin with the fingers while your palm lands on the metal head for support. The palm should make firm contact with the metal head to provide the most support possible. Focus on trying to get the palm and fingers to land at precisely the same time to add power to your Doum.
There is a methodology that can be followed when practicing the dominant hand strokes, and this methodology was taught to me early on in my studies. When you practice, practice by playing a Doum every two seconds. If you imagine a clock going tick-tock, you should play a Doum on every tick.
The reason for this is that you need to allow time to hear and critique your own mistakes. If you play a stroke and you play another one straight after it, you won’t have given yourself time to stop and think about the stroke you just played.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How long did the sustain last?
- Which parts of my fingers landed?
- Did my palm land?
- Did the Doum sound flat or bassy?
- Was that the best Doum I’ve played so far?
By asking yourself these questions and considering your answers, you will get a better understanding of how well you are doing.
A key point to mention here is that initially, you might not be getting your Doum to sound very good, but if you follow the technique tips mentioned, you will probably hit 10% or so of your strokes accurately (albeit by chance). The trick is to identify which Doum you accidentally played which was correct, to recognise that it was correct, to remember the technique you used for that correct Doum, and to try and recreate it.
Once you’ve heard a correct Doum enough times, you will know what it’s supposed to sound like, and you will easily be able to reproduce it. If this is the first percussion instrument you’re learning, it will take slightly longer to get this right. However, I’m 100% confident that with a few hours of practice, you will master it quickly.
Note: Self-criticism is imperative when practicing by yourself without a teacher. You need to understand when you’re doing well, and how much progress you are making. It gets easier with time. When you’re experienced, you can learn dozens of new Darbuka rhythms just by reading a book, and you will know you’re playing it correctly because you’d have had plenty of experience critiquing your own sound.
There are some common Doum mistakes you can watch out for. The result of these mistakes is almost always a Doum which is flat and without any bass. If you feel like your Doum falls into this category, be sure to read through this section carefully.
Palm not landing
Without your palm landing, the fingers have no support. Fact. You will likely cause your fingers to hurt/bleed because of the lack of support to your fingers, and you won’t be able to produce a good, strong sound from your Doum. The palm is the key to the Doum, as it allows the Doum to strike with solidity and power. Ensure that your palm lands firmly on the metal head of the Darbuka.
Playing too far in the middle
A common mistake – playing too far in the middle of the skin. If you strike the skin of the Darbuka with your whole hand, including your palm (i.e. your palm lands on the skin), you might be setting yourself up to fail. While initially, this will create a slightly better sound than what you’ve been doing before, the reality is that the effect of the palm landing on the skin is that the Doum will not boom properly because the fleshy part of your palm has killed all of the sounds.
Think about how the Doum is created; it relies on the vibration of the skin to create the sound waves that get sent through the hollow section inside the drum. If you land your palm on the skin, you will reduce how much the skin is vibrating, and therefore reduce how strong your Doum sounds. Ensure that your palm doesn’t land on the skin.
Not enough finger landing
I’ve seen this commonly with people who aren’t using the correct hand position when making contact with the Darbuka. If you are only landing the tips of your fingers and not two whole parts, you will not be able to create a powerful sound. The resultant effect will “strike” too much, creating a very hard sound that sounds like you’re smacking the skin, rather than a deep and bassy Doum. Ensure that you land the correct parts of your fingers. Review which parts of the hand should be landing on the skin to understand this issue further.
Not bouncing properly (Two Issues)
The first issue is that you don’t bounce at all, and your hand falls flat on the Darbuka skin. If your hand falls flat on the skin, you will not allow the skin to vibrate and therefore create a strong Doum. You must bounce the hand away from the skin after making contact to “push” the Doum through the body of the drum.
The second issue is bouncing too much and hitting the drum overly hard when you make contact, so much so that you can start to hear a high-pitched sound coming through in the overtones of the Doum. This problem is caused by too much of a “striking” effect on the metal section of the drum, which is what causes the high-pitched overtones. When you hit the drum, you should land your fingers and palm, make contact with the drum, and then bounce the fingers away, resulting in skin vibrating properly the Doum being “pushed” through the drum. By hitting the drum with too much force and “attack”, you will reduce the effectiveness of your Doum.
I’ll be honest; I didn’t notice this as an issue until relatively late in my studies. I was with one of my very close friends, and we were about to perform at an event. It was a small event with some friends, and the room we were in was furnished with Moroccan sofas, which are sofas which sit only a few inches from the floor, so you when you sit down you end up sitting almost cross-legged on the floor. The event started, and the Doums on our Darbukas just weren’t booming, and we couldn’t work out why! My friend said it was because there were Jinn (evil spirits) in the room, and it became a running joke that every time we performed at that particular venue, our Darbukas didn’t work because of the Jinn. It was only when I gained some more experience that I realised that it was just because I was sitting on a sofa and the cushioning on the sofa was blocking the sound! It turns out the venue wasn’t haunted after all… While I only noticed this quite late on, I have seen that many of my students have encountered this issue fairly early on so I’ve mentioned this early on in this book. For a full understanding of the problem just re-read through the last section of Chapter 2, titled “Space allows sound to travel”. The long and short of it is that if you’re sitting on a bed, sofa, or in front of a heavy curtain etc. you might block the bass sound of your Darbuka.
This issue is less common on the Doum than on other strokes of the Darbuka, but if your tuning isn’t great, or your Darbuka is of very low quality, your Doum might not boom properly. Some of the first Darbukas I ever owned were from Fez, in Morocco, and the skins were so tight that they didn’t boom properly. I only realised this later on in my journey when I played one that I bought from the internet and realised the apparent difference in quality.
The Tek is a high-pitched and sharp sound that is played on the rim of the Darbuka head. The Tek is a core part of a Darbuka rhythm. The differentiation between the Doum and the Tek allows rhythm to be created. The Tek is the second stroke we are learning with the dominant hand.
To play the Tek, let two of your fingers (the two between your index and your little finger) hit the part of the Darbuka skin that is closest to the rim with your dominant hand. The top part of each finger is the only part that should land on the Darbuka. It is essential to ensure that the Tek is played on the skin, not on the metal/clay rim itself. It is equally important to ensure that the Tek is not played so far away from the rim (towards the middle of the skin) that it starts to resemble a Doum.
The differentiation between the Doum and the Tek
The gradient between the Doum and the Tek is where the real magic in the Darbuka lies. The Doum is deep and powerful, whereas the Tek is high pitched and sharp. Playing the Darbuka with a wide gradient between the Doum and the Tek will create a strong rhythm. If your Doum and Tek sound very similar, you might have some issues
The technique to use when practicing the Tek is very similar to that when practicing the Doum. Ensure to practice allowing yourself enough time to critique your Tek and give yourself constructive feedback. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- How well does the Tek ring?
- Are you hitting the same point each time on the skin?
- Is each Tek identical to the last?
- Are you engaging the correct parts of your finger? (see diagram)
- Is your wrist doing most of the work and your arm staying still? Or are you correctly using a good combination of wrist and forearm?
Another great exercise is to alternate playing Doum and Tek strokes on each second. So every time a clock goes Tick, you play a Doum, and every time the clock goes Tock, you play a Tek.
Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes that are made with the Tek. Overall the Tek is one of the easiest strokes to play on the Darbuka so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty. However, it’s worth reading through the common mistakes and issues to see if there’s anything you’re doing wrong.
The overtone is the ringing sound that is created after the Tek has been played. Listen to any Arabic Music track featuring a Darbuka, and you should instantly recognise the Tek from its bright overtones that create the signature Darbuka sound. The overtones are essential to get right and can initially be challenging to control. The trick to understanding and mastering overtones is to assess how quickly your fingers bounce away after they make contact with the drum. Typically, the faster they bounce away, the stronger the overtone that is created (the ringing sound). To see the difference, play one Tek that bounces away quickly, and then one Tek that doesn’t bounce away, instead it should remain pressed to the skin. You should find that the Tek that bounces away creates a strong and clear overtone, whereas the Tek that remains pressed to the skin doesn’t create any overtone, and instead creates more of a pressing sound. This exercise should demonstrate how overtones are created, but there is another element to consider; controlling the overtones based on the sound you are trying to create.
Later on in this book, we will look at strong Teks that are part of the core rhythm (Iqa’), and weak Teks, which we use to make the rhythm sound better. Core Teks should have strong and clear overtones, and weak Teks should have weaker overtones. For this chapter, you should focus on getting the ring as strong and clear possible, and create powerful overtones.
Playing too far in the middle
A widespread issue with the Tek is using too much of your finger and as such, playing too far in the middle of the skin. An example of this might be using two parts of your finger rather than just one part. This creates a deeper and more bass-heavy sound, as your closer to the middle of the skin where the Doum is typically played. If you create this deeper and more bass-heavy sound, you will not be able to produce the correct overtones of the Tek. It is crucial to ensure that the right parts of your fingers are hitting the skin. See the above diagram for a reminder on the correct parts of the finger to use.
Bad tuning can manifest itself clearly with the Tek, and it can get ugly. A poorly tuned Darbuka might be able to produce a decent Doum, but the Tek can sound awful if the Darbuka isn’t tuned well. For example, when the tuning is too tight, the Tek will sound choked. When the tuning is too loose, the Tek will sound like a church bell, rather than a Tek. The trick is to get a balance between the two.
Chapter 7 The Ka Introduction The Ka is the first stroke we will learn with the non-dominant hand, and this stroke is used primarily for ornamentation. The Ka stroke is very similar to the Tek. Even though it is played with the left hand, there shouldn’t be any significant differences in the sound produced by the Ka and the Tek. The Ka can be played much faster and more regularly than the Tek, as the Ka is played with the non-dominant hand, which plays relatively fewer strokes than the dominant hand. Technique When setting up for the Ka, you should ensure that your non-dominant elbow is holding the Darbuka in place appropriately so that your non-dominant arm is free to move. Figure 23 – The Ka’s holding position The palm of the left hand should sit on the top of the Darbuka rim. The Ka is played with your ring finger. To play the Ka, you should raise your wrist and swing it down, onto the part of the skin that is closest to the Darbuka rim, hitting the skin at roughly a 45o angle. This produces a sharp and high-pitched sound. Figure 24 – The Ka’s starting position Figure 25 – The Ka’s striking position Figure 26 – Parts of hand engaged in the Ka Note: When the Ka is not being played, the fingers should rest on the Darbuka’s metal/clay rim, not on the plastic/leather skin. Also, make sure that the Ka isn’t played too far into the middle of the skin, or it will create a deeper sound than it should. Ornamentation The Ka is primarily used to add ornamentation to a rhythm. Ornamentation can transform a basic rhythm into a complex and unique rhythm that brings out the individual character of the drummer. Ornamentation is like a sweetener, through which a drummer can create a musical flavour that is unique to their playing style. Practice Tips The Ka can mostly be practiced through applying it to a rhythm, just as we will do in the next chapter. As such, you don’t have to practice the Ka as extensively as you needed to practice the Doum and Tek, however, you should still get in a little practice moving around the drum and including the Ka. An excellent exercise to do is to sit in front of a clock and play a stroke on every second, in the following order: Second Stroke One Doum Two Ka Three Tek Four Ka Five Doum Six Ka Seven Tek Eight Ka Repeat Start again from the top of the table. Common Mistakes The Ka is a difficult stroke to play. Full stop. Beginners do tend to struggle for a while with playing the Ka correctly, but with proper practice, it will come. At this stage in your learning, I’d recommend trying to get a strong as sound as you can from Ka as possible, through whatever means. You can use more fingers if need be and even raise your hand a little more to create a stronger sound. However, you should always remember that the Ka is meant to be played with just the ring (fourth) finger, by itself. If you get used to playing the Ka with more than one finger, you will have to train yourself out of this habit later on in your learning, because more advanced techniques rely on the Ka being played with one finger only. Nevertheless, there are some issues you can watch out for: Not playing at the top of the drum Playing at the top of the drum is essential to perform the Ka correctly. Your hand must land at the top of the drum, not on the sides of the drum. See the below picture for a demonstration of the common beginner mistake of not playing at the top of the drum. Figure 27 – Not playing at the top of the Darbuka in the Ka Pointing the fingers straight down While the stroke is played right at the top of the drum, the fingers do not land in a position where they point straight down to the floor—instead, the fingers land pointing at an angle. I like to say that they are pointing towards to the Tek when they land, which usually helps students visualise where the Ka should point when it lands. See below picture for a demonstration. Figure 28 – Pointing the fingers straight down in the Ka Lack of wrist engagement Without engaging the wrist, the Ka becomes a challenging stroke to play. The Ka needs to use the power and “flick” generated by the wrist to make a powerful sound. Without this power, the Ka will tire your hands very quickly, and you’ll struggle to play at any speed. Ensure that the power of your Ka comes from the wrist, and not just the fingers. Look at the below picture and how large the gap is between my wrist and the drum. My wrist should be touching the drum, not 10cm away from it. Figure 29 – Lack of wrist engagement in the Ka
Chapter 3 The Slap Introduction If some of you are looking at this and thinking, “It’s a little late to be talking about the Slap, that’s one of the basics!”, then you’d be absolutely correct. The Slap is one of the most basic techniques we have available on the Darbuka, and many people teach the slap right from the start as a basic stroke like the Tek. I was deliberating a lot as to whether to introduce the Slap in the first book or in this book, and eventually chose the latter. The reason is that traditionally the Slap replaces a Tek stroke in a rhythm. For example: In this Maqsum rhythm, we play the Slap (denoted with an “S”), on every beat where we would usually play the Tek. This is a perfectly acceptable and very common usage of this stroke. The reason I chose not to introduce the Slap sooner is that I felt that the Tek is simply more important, and more fundamental to a rhythm than the Slap is. Since it is a choice of either playing a Slap or a Tek, I’ve found that beginners usually progress faster if they play a Tek to start off with rather than a slap. Nevertheless, let’s look now at the Slap and see how to play it, and how it can enhance our playing. Technique In order to play the Slap, we follow the technique of the Doum very closely. We set up the same way, and our hand approaches the drum in exactly the same way. The stroke remains the same as the Doum up to the point of contact with the skin. Usually when we play the Doum, we bounce our hand away from the skin after we make contact and allow the skin to vibrate, creating a deep and powerful bass sound. However, when we play the Slap, we are going to kill all the vibrations on the skin, cutting any bass sound and instead creating a powerful “stopping” sound. The way we do this is by leaving our hands on the skin (rather than bouncing away) and following through by clenching our fingers slightly to almost grip the Darbuka. The clench This clench is notoriously difficult for students to get right, as performed incorrectly it can result in a flat sound which sound more like a “thud’ than a slap and can potentially hurt your hands. When I first learnt the Slap, I practiced hard for many days and I had numerous cuts all over my hands from where I had hit the drum too hard and pulled my skin (however I was using a really low-quality drum at the time, big mistake!). Fortunately, there is an easy way for you to get an idea of what the Slap should feel like: Firstly, put the drum down on the floor and sit on a chair. Then place your dominant hand flat on your dominant thigh and try to grip your thigh. Keep your fingers close together. It should be quite difficult to grip your thigh with your hands in that position, and you should notice that your fingers just contract slightly as you try to clench. See the picture below: This is the exact same clenching motion we will perform on the Darbuka in order to create the ideal “Slap” sound. Give it a shot. It may not come straight away but with time you’ll get it. Practice tips Practicing the Slap is easy. Choose a rhythm that you are comfortable with, say Maqsum for example, and just play Maqsum using Slap strokes instead of Tek strokes. Practice moving between Maqsum family rhythms with the Slap stroke and focus on making sure that absolutely no bass is being created during the Slap. Maqsum and Baladi might a little difficult, because both rhythms use a Slap-Doum, which is notoriously difficult to do for beginners. Common mistakes There are a few common mistakes with the Slap. Firstly, as mentioned, not applying good clench technique. The Slap has a sharp and aggressive sound which can easily be lost if the fingers don’t clench upon impact with the skin. It’s really crucial to get this right. You’ll know that the technique is wrong if you are creating bass in your Slap, as it means the hand is just bouncing away from the skin. Another common mistake is keeping the hand too flat on the skin. There is a slight space in between the middle of your hand (under your knuckles), where there is no contact with the skin. Try and ensure that this space remains empty in order for the best Slap sound to be created. Similar to the Doum, we also need a lot of support from our palms in order to generate a strong Slap note. Think about how weak your fingers are compared to your palm, do you really want your fingers to take all of the impact of the Slap? It’s much easier to ensure your palm is landing properly and your fingers following through rather than just landing the fingers alone. This can cause friction burns to your fingers as well, which may bleed if this is maintained. The Mute The Mute is a stroke that resembles many features of the Slap, but really has a different purpose. The Mute a calmer and less aggressive stroke that can replace the Tek. It still cuts all of the vibrations from the skin, ensuring that no bass is produced, however the palm lands on the skin rather than the metal head. The effect of the palm landing on the skin is that it cuts all vibrations and bass without requiring the clench motion that gives the Slap such a sharp sound. Without this clench, the sound created is more muted and reserved, and the Mute is born. In practice, the Mute can be used fairly regularly depending on the mood that the drummer is trying to create. A Mute stroke helps highlight the ornaments in a rhythm, by allowing the basic rhythm (Iqa’) to be maintained with the Doum and Mute (like we would with a Slap). The difference between the Mute and the Slap here is that the Slap is very powerful and will cut through all of the other musicians, whereas the Mute is more subtle and will blend in. Deciding whether to play the Slap or Mute is circumstantial, and you’ll have to read the room in order to decide which to play. Usage in practice As previously mentioned, the Slap is commonly used to replace the Tek stroke. When playing the Slap instead of a Tek, a more powerful sound is created that emphasises the core rhythm (Iqa’) and allows this core rhythm to be heard clearly and distinctly. Take a look at this ornamented Maqsum rhythm for example: Notice how we have replaced the Tek notes with Slap notes, and there are numerous Teks skill in the rhythm. The Tek notes that appear in the rhythm are all supportive, and not primary notes. The core notes are just the Doum and Slap notes. As such, when you play this rhythm the D-S—D-D—S— that the Maqsum is famous for will be heard very clearly by everyone. Not only that, the Slap stroke cuts through a mix of musicians very easily, much more easily than a Tek. For this reason, if you are trying to make the Darbuka sound heard by all despite there being many other musicians, the Slap is usually the way to go rather than the Tek. Alternatively, if you’re trying to tone down your rhythm and blend in a little more, it might be worth using less Slap notes and replacing them with Tek notes instead. If you’re looking to tone down even further than this, you might decide to play the Mute instead! It would be well worth your time practicing some popular rhythms using Slap strokes to replace any Tek strokes. Have a go at these:
Chapter 4 The Pac Introduction The Pac stroke is one of two ornaments that involve “Mahbous”. Mahbous is a technique involving two hands that creates a slightly choked sound on the Darbuka by way of manipulation of the Darbuka skin. The technique is used to generate a Pac note, or can be used to create Glissando, as we will discuss in the next section. This technique is very popular, and is a common stroke used across the Darbuka world, especially in Turkish Split-Hand style. Arab style players do use this technique, but from my experience it appears somewhat less common, especially when you listen to recordings from the Golden Age of Arabic Music. In Turkish Split-Hand style, on the other hand, it is used regularly as almost a basic technique. Technique In order to use the Mahbous technique to create a Pac, all we have to do is use our dominant hand to press against the Darbuka skin while we play a strong Ka note with our non-dominant hand. The idea behind it is that we use our dominant hand to manipulate the tension of the drum skin, enabling a choked sound to be created from the Ka, instead of a normal Ka sound. This technique uses both hands, so it usually replaces a Doum or Tek stroke in the basic rhythm (Iqa’). The dominant hand can press the skin down in a number of ways. We can either land the side of our hand where the little finger is, or we can land the bottom third of our index finger, or we can, at an advanced level, just press the skin down with our index finger. All three methods are displayed below: Practice tips A great way to practice the Pac is to replace primary Tek notes in a basic rhythm (Iqa’) with the Pac. For example, just play Maqsum using a Pac instead of a Tek, creating the Maqsum technique as follows: Doum Pac (space) Pac Doum (space) Pac (space) If you try this within numerous rhythms, you’ll eventual build up a great Pac sound. Remember to ensure that the sound is consistent every time, you may need to hit a little harder with your non-dominant hand to ensure this. Common mistakes While it isn’t really a mistake, most beginners tend to have a problem with timing when playing this stroke. Timing is crucial to ensuring the stroke comes off properly, and this is one of few strokes where you have to time it so that both of your hands hit the drum at exactly the same time. Your dominant hand needs to apply pressure to the skin at the exact moment that your non-dominant hand strikes the top of the Darbuka. While this is relatively easy in a slow rhythm where you have time to set up your dominant hand properly, it is much harder if playing quickly and you have to land both hands at the right moment, and then move them away to continue with the rhythm. Usage in practice The Pac note has a number of different usages. It can replace a Tek or Doum in a rhythm as an interesting variation on the basic rhythm (Iqa’), or it can be used purely ornamentative as an additional stroke in a gap in the rhythm. Some popular uses are below: Maqsum using Pa for first Tek. Maqsum Pa for last Tek. Wahda using Pa Sama’i Thaqeel using Pa
Chapter 5 The Glissando Introduction The Glissando, an Italianised term from the French word Glisser, which means “To Glide”. The Glissando is another utilisation of the Mahbous technique, and it involves manipulating the skin’s tension in an upwards or downwards movement to go from either a lower pitch up to a higher pitch, or a higher pitch down to a lower pitch. The resultant effect is a Glissando – a glide from one pitch to another. Technique In order to perform a Glissando, you will follow almost the exact same technique as the Pa stroke, however we will play numerous Pa strokes one after the other, while sliding our dominant hand in an upwards (or downwards) directly. For this reason, our dominant hand will either start pressing the skin at the bottom of the drum or right at the top of the drum. See the below illustration for a better understanding. Practice tips The Glissando can be practiced in upward and downwards motion, and I would recommend practicing going up and down the drum in sets of 8. In other words, play 8 going up in pitch and 8 going down in pitch. In reality, we wouldn’t really use sets of 8 that often in an actual rhythm but it’s good for practice. Common mistakes This technique is quite open-ended, and there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do this. As such, I’d just recommend ensuring you use the full height of the skin; you can start the technique at the lowest part of the skin, and you can slide all the way up to very close to your non-dominant hand’s stroke. Usage in practice We can add a Glissando as an ornament, or we can use it to signal. Malfuf with Glissando Maqsum with Glissando Wahdi with Glissando Masmoudi Kabir with Glissando Sama’i Thaqeel with Glissando
Chapter 6 The Rizz Introduction The Rizz, a technique that can be given many names. Some people refer to it as the Ra, some people call it a fan, I call it a Rizz. Typically, with Darbuka ornamentation, the Rizz is a technique that can be used in place of a Ka stroke in order to enhance the stroke following the Rizz. I mention this because in other percussive disciplines, the Tombak for example, the Rizz is used conjunctively with many Rizz notes in order to create a long roll. We do not typically do this with the Darbuka. Technique The Rizz technique looks like somewhat of a fan. Take your non-dominant hand, the hand you usually play your Ka note with, and fan your four fingers, starting with your little finger, across the top of the Darbuka until your index finger has landed. The movement of the fingers when fanning should be swift and smooth. Typically, the Rizz is usually followed directly by a dominant hand stroke, usually a Doum, Tek or Slap. When following the Rizz with a dominant hand stroke, remember to lead the Rizz directly into the stroke. For example, the Rizz-Doum should be so fast that it makes a RaDoum sound, whereby the Rizz appears to be ornamenting the Doum itself, and not a stroke in its own right. Practice tips To practice the Rizz, play a rhythm you are comfortable with, and just practice ornamenting the Doum notes in the rhythm by adding a Rizz before them. For example, Maqsum would become: RaDoum Tek (space) Tek RaDoum (space) Tek (space). Practice not only with the Doum, but also with the Tek and the Slap. A RaDoum, RaTek and RaSlap are all common, easy and straightforward notes to play with the Rizz. Technique. Common mistakes The most common issue with the Rizz is usually when the player does not use enough force in the stroke, rendering the Rizz very weak. The Rizz, once you’ve developed and practiced it, should sound like an incredible, strong fan sound across the drum which is clearly audible. It should almost sound as if each finger is landing separately and creating its own sound. Another common mistake with the Rizz is a tendency to keep the fingers too high up the drum, very close to the head (the metal section). In reality, the fingers should be on the plastic section, and usually almost 2/3 of your finger lands on the plastic skin (this obviously varies with the size of your fingers). Usage in practice While the Rizz is a fantastic technique, it’s essential not to overuse it. It has a tendency to over-clutter the rhythm. Instead, use your Rizz to ornament particular strokes, and keep the rhythm interesting and exciting. Here are some examples: Maqsum with Rizz Malfuf with Rizz Iraqi with Rizz Ayub with Rizz Karachi with Rizz