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Tuning Your Djembe & Dununs:
Doing the Mali Weave

By Janet Planet

Tuning your drum can seem challenging and confusing to first-timers. If you're not sure whether or not your drum needs to be tuned ask yourself...

  • Did you just purchase a brand new djembe? It might need to be tuned before playing.
  • Was your drum head just replaced? Then your drum probably needs to be tuned before playing.
  • Does your drum sound pingy or flat? Then it needs to be tuned.
  • Are you having a hard time getting your slaps? Then your drum needs to be tuned.

The first thing you can do is to try to heat your drum head. You can do this by

  • Using a hair dryer. Blow heat directly on the drum head. Be careful not to get too close or to heat the head up too much. Test the head for sound as you go.
  • Gently place your drum near, but not too close to, a heat source (such as a fireplace). Heat will contrict the skin so it will fit tighter to the wooden shell of the drum.
  • Place your drum in the sun. keep checking it! Don't leave it in the sun too long.

If heating doesn't work then you most likely need to tune your drum. Also called a "Mali Weave," tuning your drum will tighten the natural goat skin of the drum head and will raise the pitch of the drum.

Doing the Mali Weave

Just follow along with these simple steps:

Prepare your drum by loosening the knots.

Loop the loose end of the rope and pull it under the next two lengths of rope. Slide the rope up to the top where you will more easily be able to slide it under the tightened horizontal ropes.

Now the rope is under the next two lengths.

Then weave the rope back over the next one length. Each time you pull a diamond you are going over two lengths and under one length.

Before and after pulling be sure to angle the rope down towards the bottom of the drum. This will help keep each row of diamonds in a straight line.

Wrap the rope around a thick drumstick (a single clave is a perfect size to use for this).

Wrap the rope around and then over and around the other side so the rope is securely held in place.

Once the rope is secure pull towards you while at the same time angling the rope down towards the bottom of the drum (this will help to keep your diamonds in a straight line.

Pulling diamonds is a little easier if you put your feet on the drum while pulling.

Remember to slightly angle the rope towards the bottom of the drum so as you pull the rope the diamond pattern stays straight.

After pulling the first diamond wrap the rope around the 'neck' of the drum to keep pressure on the rope so the diamond you just pulled doesn't slip open.

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