In this lesson, students will learn basic hand placement techniques for playing the djembe and drum maintenance with master percussionist and expert on African drumming, Weedie Braimah.

Djembe Techniques

GRADE: 3-5, 6-8
SUBJECT: History, Culture
GENRE: African Drumming
TOPIC: Djembe
DISCIPLINE: Music General


In this lesson students will learn basic hand placement, the three djembe sounds, and drum maintenance with Weedie Braimah.



  • Demonstrate hand positions for the three djembe sounds.
  • Describe and contrast the three djembe sounds.
  • Describe ways to properly handle and maintain the djembe.



National Core Arts Standards

Music Anchor Standard 7 Perceive and analyze artistic work Enduring Understanding: Individuals’ selection of music.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.



Djembe Traditions is the first lesson in the African Drumming collection. Teachers should use the lesson to build background knowledge prior to introducing drumming techniques. Teachers should also familiarize themselves with all resources and techniques prior to instruction.





  1. Have students recall oral traditions from the lesson Djembe Traditions. Tell students they’re going to learn the three djembe sounds and how to handle and maintain the drum. 


  1. Tell students they are going to watch a Djembe Drum Demonstration by Weedie Braimah. In the video, Mr. Braimah is shown demonstrating a rhythm on the djembe drum inside of Preservation Hall in New Orleans. 


  1. Engage students in a discussion about the video. Ask: What do you notice about the way Mr. Braimah was physically playing the drums?


  1. Tell students Mr. Braimah uses only his hands when playing the drums, both for tone production and for the safety of the drums. He uses different hand positions and hits differently to create different tones and dynamics.



  1. Tell students they are going to watch The 3 Sounds of Djembe. In the video, Mr. Braimah is shown demonstrating the three sounds of the djembe drum (bass, tone, and slap), as well as techniques to achieve these sounds.


  1. Ask students to turn and talk with their peers to discuss the ways the drum is played for the three djembe sounds (or demonstrate on their desks).


  1. Place students into groups of two students and distribute the Printable Djembe Drum Head. Have students review the video The 3 Sounds of Djembe as needed and trace each other’s hands to draw the hand positions for the three sounds (bass, tone, and slap), using a different color tracing for each sound. The three drawings should be the “diamond” shape (bass position), knuckles to fingertips on the drum edge (tone position), and fingers slightly opened at the edge of the drum (slap position).


  1. Have students jot down key words in or around the diagrams (e.g., diamond, edge of drum, inside drum) as reminders of what distinguishes each hand position.


  1. Have students practice using the bass, tone, and slap positions on a drum (if available). Have students practice on different surfaces (drum, tabletop, desk, large book, binder, bucket, etc.). Ask students to note which surfaces provide their favorite representations of the drum sounds.


  1. Play the video Drum Maintenance. Tell students they are going to watch Mr. Braimah demonstrate how to properly care for and store an African drum. Review proper hand hygiene and drum maintenance practices: play with dry hands; nothing but hands on the drum; no rings/jewelry while playing the drum; always cover the drum with a drum cover or cap between uses; and avoid rainy/humid storage conditions.



  1. Have students collaborate in groups of three to create a newscast. Students in each group will work together to write a short news segment highlighting what they learned. Students will need to explain hand positions, the three sounds of djembe, and how to properly handle and maintain the drum.


  1. Review the following roles with students: 
    • News Anchor: Introduces the segment (“We’re here live at Preservation Hall School where we’ve just learned that students are practicing djembe techniques …”)
    • Director/Videographer: Coaches the actors and records the video
    • Student/Musician: Student explains what they learned from Weedie (hand positions, maintenance, and a short demonstration using a drum)


  1. Allow time for students to write, rehearse, and record their news segments. Have students share their videos with the class. 


  1. Evaluate each group’s video. Students should be able to explain hand positions, the three sounds of djembe, and how to properly handle and maintain the drum.



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Weedie Braimah, African Drumming Teaching Artist
Produced by Preservation Hall Foundation



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