What size djembe drum do I need?


Primary hands above djembe

It’s very important to get the djembe size right – if it’s too small, you or your class won’t be able to do proper two-handed drumming and produce the three basic sounds: bass, tone and slap.

On the other hand, drums that are too big will quickly eat up your budget, and they can be heavy for younger players as well as taking up more storage space.

So how do you decide what size of djembe drum to buy for yourself or your class?

There are two dimensions that specify a djembe’s size: the diameter (usually quoted in inches) and the height (usually quoted in centimetres). The diameter is the most important measurement as, if this is too small, it will be very difficult to play the three different djembe tones.

Make sure the djembe diameter is right for the players’ hand sizes

Depending on the age group of your class, we’d recommend buying drums which have at least the minimum diameters in the table below. Ideally (budget permitting) go for drums that are one or two centimetres bigger than these recommended minima.

Please note, there are two types of diameter: the “playing head diameter” (which is the diameter of the area inside the metal rings and stringing), and the “overall diameter”, which is the easiest to measure, and is the maximum diameter from one side of the head to the other. On most djembes the playing head diameter is generally about an inch less than the overall diameter. The diameters of the djembes on our website are all quoted in terms of overall diameter.

Click on the table to see a bigger version.

The measurements in the table are for guidance and are taken from readily available online research. You may find that your class has bigger or smaller hands – and on average girls will tend to have slightly shorter hands than boys.

Click here to download a printable version of the table with QR codes

Can I mix different sizes of djembe in the same group or class?

It’s fine to have all drums the same size, but it also works well to have a mix of drum sizes in a class. If you go for a mix of sizes, don’t overdo the bigger ones – a good rule of thumb is that half the drums should be around the minimum size for the age group, a third should be a couple of centimetres bigger, and the rest four or five centimetres bigger than the minimum. This will give a nice, full sound and allow you to differentiate the different parts in most djembe drumming pieces. Having a few bigger drums will also allow you to cater for pupils who are much bigger than average.

What about djembe height?

As for djembe height, that tends to be less important than the diameter, unless you intend to play with the drum resting on the floor (and tilted slightly to let the sound out). We’d recommend holding the djembe between the legs and off the floor – this makes the djembe height much less important and also makes for more comfortable playing and produces a better sound.

Djembe stands

There are specially made djembe stands available for players who are unable to grip the djembe between their legs. These stands are also very useful for class teachers, as they allow the teacher’s drum to be played, whether or not the teacher is seated.

Andy Gwatkin, Director, Drums for Schools

After a classical start at school with violin and piano, Andy fell into the world of jazz in the 1980s, and in the 1990s the "anyone can do it" ethos of punk, playing violin in several punk bands. In the early 2000s he was wowed by the accessibility of world music and "easy to play" instruments, and recognised the potential of world musical styles as a fast track to real music-making for anyone. Andy founded Drums for Schools in 2006 and since then the company's single focus has been on bringing inclusive world musical styles into the classroom.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *