A Short and Dirty Guide to Doumbek (2023)

A Short and Dirty Guide to Doumbek (1)

od Mas'uda al-Sha'ira

(Auch bekannt als Maredudd ap Cynan)

(Visit Maredudd's other websites.)

Mas'ud's introduction

rhythm guide

What's new on this site?

How to read the Rhythm Guide

Links/Learning Resources

tips and advice



This guide started out as a fairly simple cheat sheet that I put together to use as material for an "Introduction to Doumbek" lecture he gave at a local Trimarian event. Since then it's grown a lot more than I originally intended, but I think it's finally doing what I wanted it to do. This guide contains a set of basic tips for beginner drummers, as well as a list of basic Middle Eastern rhythms and different variations of them. The seed that gave rise to this was an article I pulled from around the internet, specifically from a group called The Rialto, or in Usenet terminology, rec.org.sca. The original article was posted by Earl Bryce MacLaren, founder of the Meridies Guild of Middle-Eastern Drummers, who wanted to share his knowledge of different Middle Eastern rhythms. I went through his rhythms and cleaned up the notes to show them as I learned them. I also tried to improve the overall appearance of the beats. I removed a few beats that Earl Bryce put in and added a few others that he didn't put in. By far the most significant change I made was adding other variations to Syr Bryce's rhythms.

Earl Bryce also included a few suggestions for the beginning drummer, which I'll of course include in this guide. Hey, I'm not proud. I'm Welsh, uh. . . Bedouin. when will you study We take anything that isn't nailed down, and even then we wore levers. I modified Bryce's suggestions and added some insights of my own. I have also received many messages from people who have visited this site and taken some of the suggestions. I hope this guide will help you in your learning efforts and in your overall enjoyment of the art of dumbek play.

I've been playing Doumbek for several years and still have a lot to learn. I invite everyone to questions and comments. You can send questions and comments to the address at the bottom of this page. I would particularly appreciate comments from other experienced drummers on the information presented here. Questions and comments can be emailed to me at the address below on this page

to the top

Read the Rhythm Guide

Only three things are required to successfully play Doumbek;

A Doumbek knowledge of groundstrokes, flair for timing

First of all I can only tell you that there are some online retailers that sell Doumbeks at very cheap prices and I advise you to check there. If you use your favorite WebSearch utility, you can surely find these pages. For the second and third points, I've put together a cheat sheet that gives you all the knowledge and tools you need to learn and play ten different Middle Eastern rhythms.

weather forecast

Just like in traditional styles of music, the staves for doumbek rhythms use standard staves representing whole, half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes, but trying to display them in my rhythm guide was a problem. In particular, I don't have access to a simple graphical representation of the notes of interest, and if I did, they would probably take up too much space to accommodate all the rhythms I wanted to include in my cheat sheet. Fortunately, there was an easy solution to this problem.

Each rhythm in the Rhythm Guide begins with a timing chart to help you get a feel for the timing that is so critical to the development of all rhythms. The timing chart consists of a series of numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) counting each major beat, with "&" and "e" representing medium or minor beats. The correct timing can be determined by reading the time table and playing the appropriate note in the appropriate rhythm. To understand how to read a timing chart, just follow the example below and sing the phrase as shown:

 The table is: 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a You say: one ee and ah, two ee and ah, three ee and ah, four ee and ah


Following the timing chart, I noticed an "open" (or plain) version of the beat. Note that the open rhythm is the simplest version I play and may not be the easiest root for any individual rhythm. The open rhythm is followed by more and more complicated rhythms until you reach the "closed" rhythm, which is the most complex I'm willing to play. Most thermal rhythms differ from their "open" rhythm perspective only in the "fillers" included in otherwise quiet periods of the rhythm.


The letter "D" in the table below stands for "Doum," which is played by hitting the center of the drumhead with the four fingers of the main hand. One of the ways some of my previous teachers have described the shot is as imagining hitting the bottom of a very hot iron. A certain teacher told me to imagine "pulling my material away from my head" and then exaggerating the movement like I did. Finally, the sound quality of the doum will vary depending on the type of doumbek you use and the type of your fur (e.g. goatskin vs. mylar). You should aim for a deep and resonant tone.

The "T" in the table below represents the "Tek" hit of the main hand. You should hit the rim of the head with the tips of one or two fingers, right where the head leaves the ledge. (I use my middle and ring fingers.) When I hit the "tek," I imagine that I'm punching through the edge so that when my fingers hit the edge, they quickly move away from the edge and hit the "tek." -Allow sound to fully unfold when the eardrum reverberates. The sound quality you're looking for is a high-pitched, almost metallic ringtone.

The "K" in the chart represents the "Tek" hit with the secondary hand. In theory, you should hit "K" the same way you did "T". I say theoretically because the "Ka", as many people mistakenly call it (myself included, see "The Tek vs. the Ka" below), can be much more difficult for a new drummer to achieve. Being right-handed, I have to rotate my left arm over the drum. My elbow is resting on the far side of the drum so my left hand is resting over my left leg while touching my head on top of the drum. Like a "T," you should aim for the edge of the rim where the head and rim meet. The sound quality of "Ka" is similar to that of "Teka".

Accents are represented by uppercase and lowercase letters in the Rhythm Guide. "D", "T" and "K" indicate an accented note, while "d", "t" and "k" indicate an unaccented note.

There are several other types of punches that are used such as: B. Snap, Roll and Slap, but I won't mention them on this page as I consider them to be advanced techniques and only have a rudimentary understanding of their use myself. However, I would like to describe a particular accent that I use on Chiftatelli. I'm not sure what it's called, although I always thought of it as "Slide". If you look at the fourth Chiftatelli beat below, you'll see a series of teks in square brackets like [T T T TT]. This series of notes is played with the primary hand while the edge of the secondary hand is drawn across the eardrum. The secondary hand begins at the base of the head, with the "knife edge" of the hand pressing on the head. As each additional Tek hits the head, pull the secondary arm up over the head toward the primary arm, causing the Tek's wood to rise. It sets a really nice accent to the basic chiftatelli.

Tek vs Ka

The real difference between the tek and the ka, which can be played with both hands according to traditional doumbek playing, is the emphasis on the note. A tek is basically an accented ka, the two notes are usually played the same way. Still, I find it easier to teach proper rhythms with inappropriate references. It has always seemed easier to distinguish between the two teks, primary and secondary, with two entirely separate verbal designations, "tek" and "ka", especially since I've been teaching rhythms using the "sing" method. (see below) Trying to explain to someone that a particular style must be played with the secondary hand instead of the primary hand becomes really confusing, and the problem becomes even more difficult when written media, for example the Internet and the WWW , to be used for teaching. One day I might find a way to teach the beats using proper references. Until then, please forgive me for this oversight.


A bridge is simply an attachment designed to connect one measure to another. I've included the timing for each bridge sequence to make it easier to place the bridge correctly in the rhythm pattern. In all cases, the jumper is used in place of the grand totals (major or minor) of the previous action.


When I teach doumbek, I encourage my students to sing the rhythms associated with it. In the beginning, when they are first learning the rhythm, it seems helpful if they recite the poem out loud. Once they master this rhythm, they can stop singing out loud, but still encourage them to consider singing themselves. Unfortunately, many people feel silly when performing the chant, so they hold back from the start. In my opinion, they probably look even more stupid if they keep tripping over the beat simply because they refuse to use all the tools available. As an example of how a song can be used, the song for a standard ballad is as follows:

Vrijeme - 1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a|1e&a2e&a3e&a4e&a Notacija ritma - D D tkT D tkT |D D tkT D tkT Pjev - doum doum tekatek doum tekatek |doum doum tekatek doum tekatek

to the top

tips and advice

1. If you want to play for dancers, and be honest: we play for dancers. Learn the basic rhythms outlined in the included rhythm guide. Baladi is the most widely known rhythm, at least in Trimaris, but it's getting very old, very fast. Once you know the basic rhythms listed below, your dancers will appreciate your drumming more and eventually seek you out to play for them.

2. Observe the dancers and try to learn their cues. Dancers tell you when to speed up or slow down, when to change rhythm, and when to take a break. For me, one of the most difficult parts of drumming can be watching the dancers, as I've notoriously lost concentration because I'm distracted by the atmospheric movements of the dancers.

3. When you start a beat, stay with it for at least 16 bars. This allows dancers to fully develop their routine before having to switch to a new one. For the same reason, it's also a good idea to limit all variations to multiples of four bars.

4. Don't forget "Do the Chant". For me, singing the rhythm helps me learn new rhythms and remember the old ones.

5. When playing within a group of drummers, at least two-thirds of the drummers, preferably more, should play the basic rhythm while the other drummers give accents to the dancers. If less than two thirds are playing the basic beat then the basic beat is lost and the end result is that the dancers are unable to follow the beat and therefore dance to it and as mentioned we are still here, to drum for the beat dancers.

6. The traditional position of holding the doumbek when playing is to hold it over your left leg if you're right-handed, or over your right leg if you're left-handed. However, that doesn't mean it's the only way to hold the drum. There are many successful drummers who play the drum between their knees. If you play the doumbek in this position, you can create a different sound quality. Ultimately it comes down to what suits you and what sound you want to get out of the Doumbek.

to the top


Syr Brendan MacAngus trying to teach me my first beat even though I didn't hear it.

Mistress Genevieve LaRousse who suffered my first six months of Doumbek mutilation.

Sir Daveed and Master Silvanus who don't know me but have taught me a lot through their tape recordings.

Mid-East Manufacturing for the new existing.

Earl Bryce MacLaren of Meridies, once the King of Meridies, who was very kind when he found out that I had copied most of his Rialto contributions to use as the home page for this site and agreed to keep me up to date to keep alive now:-).( Boy, when I take on things, at least from good people :-)

Zena and Elizabeth and all the other dancers who encouraged me to drum for them.

Apple Computer for providing (for the usual fee, of course :-) the machine on which this website was designed and built.

to the top

This page was written and is currently maintained by:
Last update: 10.1.99

All graphics contained on this page, except for the background and the falcon above, are provided by Blackroot Enterprises and may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means without the written permission of the copyright owner, agent or representative.

- © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Eric C. Smith (maredudd@blackroot.org)

For more websites created and maintained by Blackroot Ent, visit.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jeremiah Abshire

Last Updated: 06/16/2023

Views: 6247

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jeremiah Abshire

Birthday: 1993-09-14

Address: Apt. 425 92748 Jannie Centers, Port Nikitaville, VT 82110

Phone: +8096210939894

Job: Lead Healthcare Manager

Hobby: Watching movies, Watching movies, Knapping, LARPing, Coffee roasting, Lacemaking, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Jeremiah Abshire, I am a outstanding, kind, clever, hilarious, curious, hilarious, outstanding person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.