Djembe and Mande Music/Mande Cross Reference 
(last revision: major, 2001 Apr 24; minor, 2008 Nov 26)
Your feedback is always appreciated!

DUNUN PRACTICE PATTERNS

DUNUN PRACTICE PATTERNS IN 4/4

DUNUN PRACTICE PATTERNS IN 12/8

I share these exercises with the beginning dunun players I work with. This material is an approach to gaining familiarity with the foundational dunun bell patterns. "Woodshedding" these patterns will program speed, flexibility and "time sense" into the bell, or less dominant hand. The drum/stick hand can then easily follow, as most of the drum patterns are played "on" various strokes in the bell patterns. Djembe players will discover that working these patterns will help develop ambidexterity and strengthen your less-dominant hand.

x = bell
o = open stroke
i = closed, or press stroke

Begin by focusing on, and grooving each pattern individually, until you are comfortable at higher speeds. Then work on practicing groups of patterns as a series, playing each 8 times and then going on to the next to increase flexibility, and familiarity with moving to and from different "spots in time".

Practice at ever increasing tempos, preferably with a metronome or drum machine, to develop and internalize your time sense. Remember that in Mande drumming the tempos may continue to climb as an event unfolds, and can run 180 beats per minute or higher! When you arrive at a tempo too fast for the bell hand to hold a more complex pattern, retreat to a slightly slower tempo and hold that tempo for a few minutes. Concentrate on relaxing and you will eventually be able to play 5-10 beats per minute faster. As always, more practice will bring greater speed and stamina.

Also practice making the transition back into a double-time or even straight-time bell pattern, without losing the drum/stick hand pattern - a useful skill when you are playing and the tempo goes higher than one at which you can hold the complete bell pattern.

Remember that these are only exercises and can not replace the instruction and guidance of playing live with a qualified teacher.  I especially encourage you to seek individualized instruction for proper playing technique, in order to develop good "language" on your instrument, and to avoid injury.  These notes assume you have an basic understanding of how to produce both the "open" and "press" strokes on your drum, as well as how to play the bell with your other hand.

These exercises include examples of dunun, sangba anmd kenkeni parts from traditional rhythms.  Remember that notation is simply a reminder of how the music actually sounds, and cannot completely represent the subtleties.  Again, go study with a good teacher, and listen closely to the many recordings available by artists such as Famoudou Konate,  Mamady Keita and others.  See http://www.nauticom.net/users/tcd/djembemande/cda.html

Free drum machine software downloads are available at:  http://www.drums.org/djembefaq/section5.htm   I recommend Virtual Drummer for Mac users.

Those of you who do not have access to African dunun (or djembe!) teachers will find Mamady Keita's instructional videos to be invaluable and reliable resources:

Rhythms Traditionnels du Mandingue:
Vol 1  - Debutants - For Beginners
Vol 2  - Moyens - For intermediates

These may be ordered from Michael Moonbear moonbear_@msn.com or Scott Davidson SCODAVDRUM@aol.com

Special thanks to Paul Nas for his help in settling up the tables used on this page.
 

DUNUN PRACTICE PATTERNS IN 4/4


The pulse is represented by the numbers 1 - 4 on the top line, and indicate where a dancer would likely feel the beat.

The beginning sequence I recommend working on in the 4/4 set are:

#lA, bell on the pulse
#lA, double-time bell
#2A  bell as shown
#3A  "    "   "
#5A  "    "   "
#6A  "    "   "

Once this sequence can be played, then work on reversing the press and open notes played by the drum/stick hand, in this sequence:

#lB  bell on the pulses
#IB  double-time bell
#2B  "   "    "
#3B  "   "    "
#5B  "   "    "
#6B  "   "    "

These initial patterns should be practiced with attention to simultaneously feeling the 4-pulse on the drum hand working inside the bell patterns.  It will take a while to develop the ability to hold both patterns and feel the different groove of each. Shift your attention from one hand to the other, working with each pattern until you can hear both the bell and drum parts combining as "music".  This is also an excellent time to work on your press or closed technique.

From here you can alternate patterns, as in...

#IA, bell on the pulses
#lB  bell on the pulses
#IA, double-time bell
#IB  double-time bell
#2A  bell as shown
#2B  "   "    "     ...etc.

As you work through the patterns, make up your own alternations and combinations. One note: It may make it easier for you to practice if you print or write out the exercises so that each one has the appropriate bell pattern directly above the dunun line.  This page uses a more condensed format to save space.
 
 
Pulse 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . .
Str. Time bell  x . . . x . . . x . . . x . . .
Dbl. Time bell  x  . . x . x . x . x . x . x .
Drum #1A o . . . i . . . o . . . i . . .
Drum #1B i . . . o . . . i . . . o . . .
Drum #1C o o . . o o . . o o . . o o . .
Drum #1D . o . . . o . . . o . . . o .
Drum #1E . . o o . . o o . . o o . . o o
Bell x x . . x x . . x x . . x x . .
Drum #1F o . . . . . . . o . o . . . . .
Bell . . x x . . x x . . x x . . x x
Drum #1G o . . . . . . . o . o . . . . .

 
Pulse 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . .
Bell  x . . x . . x . x . . x . . x .
Drum #2A o . . . i . . . o . . . i . . .
Drum #2B i . . . o . . . i . . . o . . .
Bell x . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) .
Drum #2C o . . o . . o . o . . o . . x .
Drum #2D  o  . . i . . o . o . . i . . o .
Drum #2E i . . o . . i . i . . o . . i .

 
Pulse 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . .
Bell  x . x x . x x . x . x x . x x .
Drum #3A o . . . i . . . o . . . i . . .
Drum #3B i . . . o . . . i . . . o . . .
Drum #3C . . o . . . o . . o . . . o .
Bell x . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) .
Drum #3D o . o o . o o . o . o o . o o .
Drum #3E i . o o . o o . i . o o . o o .

 
Pulse 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . .
Bell  x . x x . x x . x . x x . x x .
Drum #4A i . . o . . o . i . . o . . o .
Drum #4B o . . i . . i . o . . i . . i .
Drum #4C i . o . . o . . i . o . . o . .
Drum #4D o . i . . i . . o . i . . i . .
Drum #4E i . . o o . . i . . o . o . .
Drum #4F o . . i . i . . o . . i . i . .
Drum #4G i . o . . . o . i . o . . . o .
Drum #4H o . i . . . i . o . i . . . i .

 
Pulse 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . .
Bell  x x . x . x x . x x . x . x x .
Drum #5A o . . . i . . . o . . . i . . .
Drum #5B i . . . o . . . i . . . o . . .
Bell x . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) .
Drum #5C o o . o . o o . o o . o . o o .
Drum #5D  o  o . i . o o . o o . i . o o .

 
Pulse 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . .
Bell x . x x . x . x x . x . x x . x
Drum #6A o . . . i . . . o . . . i . . .
Drum #6B i . . . o . . . i . . . o . . .
Bell  x  . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) . x . (x) .
Drum #6C o . o o .  o  . o o . o . o o . o
Drum #6D o .  o  o , i . o o . i . o o . o

 
Pulse 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . .
Bell  . x . x . x . x x . x . x . x x
Drum #7A . o . o . o . o o . o . o . o o

DUNUN PRACTICE PATTERNS IN 12/8

Special thanks to Paul Nas for his help in settling up the tables used on this page.  Here is a link to Paul's
West African Percussion Pages.
 

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