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Rope Tuned Djembe Easiest Tuning Method

Updated on August 27, 2018
Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Music permeates Maren's soul, whether performing (voice, piano, drum, guitar, clarinet) or acting as a crazily enthusiastic audience member.

Djembe And A Vice Grip Tool

Djembe hand-made by Doug Libby in the authentic west African way and the secret tool for tuning.
Djembe hand-made by Doug Libby in the authentic west African way and the secret tool for tuning. | Source

YouTube Djembe Tuning Lesson

YouTube browsing led me to a most fantastic tutorial on tuning my djembe. It is in multiple learning modes -- aural and visual with actual demonstration.  Even better, the drum teacher REPEATS the process. Since mechanical skills are not my forte, I need all the repetition I can get. Yes, one can replay a YouTube video ad nauseum, but at least by having the method shown two times, I am saved some clicking around on the computer and frustration with waiting or dragging for the right part.

Djembe Drums Need Tuning

Djembes have pitches, but not as in A = 440.

The head naturally loosens over time as it is played - similarly to guitar strings loosening after an amount of playing. Therefore, tuning a djembe means tightening the goatskin head.

In a drum class, I was shown how to tighten the Mali Weave on a djembe. However, it looked so intimidating that the iron gates of my brain's intake section slammed closed. In addition, when I was taught, I did not have an opportunity to actually practice. Then I had helpful friends who were so proud of their ability to tighten a djembe head, that they'd grab my drum, declare it needed tuning, and perform the whole operation for me in 3 minutes.

The vice grip can be operated with one hand to preserve each part of the tightening of the djembe head.
The vice grip can be operated with one hand to preserve each part of the tightening of the djembe head. | Source

Common Vice Grip Makes Tuning Quick and Easy

The method that had me so terrified used a drumstick or a rope puller for the procedure.

The video contributor, mollyandboy, shows how EASILY it can be done using the sturdy drumstick and

a vice grip!


Summary of Video Instructions

Vice-Grip Method of Tuning a Rope-Tuned Djembe:

Put vice-grip on the last knot. Loosen up the tuning rope.

Look at the next 2 vertical rope strands.

Pull loose rope end UNDER those 2 verticals.

Then go backwards in direction, threading rope OVER the first vertical and UNDER the second.

Then pull tightly as all get out to make those the first vertical sit on top of the second vertical. Now put vice grip on this new knot.

Forward: UNDER, UNDER, Backwards: OVER UNDER. Pull first vertical on top of second one.

Repeat as needed.

When finished, tuck tuning rope back out of the way.

© 2011 Maren Elizabeth Morgan


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