Re(1): Djembe - New Head - No Bass !!?? IP: 22.214.171.124 Posted on February 8, 2006 at 12:21:21 PM by brad
Interesting discussion. I think if you hadn't mentioned that the drum sounded good before it was (over)-tightend then I might have concentrated on the shell.. but this does sound like a skin and tuning issue.
But it's all worth talking about. Shell wise, the bass can get choked-off if the hole in the stem is not wide enough (i.e. you can't get a fist in it) or if the whole in the stem is too wide which gives an unfocused sound.
And even though you would intuitively say that a bigger or rounder bowl gives more bass, there are other factors, too. Wood Density is number one. Ive noticed with congas and drumsets as well as djembes that the softer woods carry the low frequencies better, wheras the denser woods have less bass response. Dense woods (Hare for djembes / Ash for Conga/ and Maple for drumsets)have more high frequencies and volume because the sound ricochet's (sp?) off the inside of the bowl instead of being absorbed by it. That's why we always say Iroko has good bass response and all around range... because it's in the middle of the density spectrum (softer than Demba, and harder than Tweneboa for example.) Yeah, they tend to have straighter sides than a Mali drum, but I think the drum your working is certainly capable of having a full range.
Another thing that saps the bass away are any unfilled cracks that allow airflow. If you've ever heard a djembe that has a hole in the bowl you know there is no bass, but even if you cover it with your hand to stop the airflow, then the bass comes back. So I'd check and fill all the cracks while your at it.
But back to skins and tuning...
It's true that an overtighted skin loses bass. This is simply because the tighter the skin is, the shorter the sustain. So for lead drumming it's not a big deal because the bass is covered up by the dunun section anyway. But for smaller groups or playing accompaniment, you want the skin lose enough that it resonates for a long time to produce a "boom" that can fill a room. I mean that's what draws most people to the djembe initially.
So part of the discussion with tuning here depends on the role of the drummer and whether they are lead or accompaniment players...
Another concern here, just from tuning drums everyday...if you overtighten so you lose the bass, then you are one step away from the skin popping. I always tell people to tune it up to where you start losing the bass, and then back it off 1 knott. What do you guys think?
Another thing could be skin thickness. Medium to thick skins seem to bring out the medium to low frequencies better (that means tones and bass. And so a thin skin won't be able to carry the low frequencies when it's tight, and worse, will ring with the high frequency overtones when the head is loose.
But yeah, with even tuning and a nice med-thick guinea or Ivory Coast goat skin the drum should sound awesome. - brad
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