Djembes are an easy instrument to learn, and they’re incredibly fun to play. Depending on where you live, you may find dozens of options to choose from, and picking the best one may be a confusing task.
This guide will act as an aid in buying your first djembe. As a beginner, you’re not going to need all the bells and whistles that top-quality djembes have, but you are going to need a solid instrument that will last.
What to Look for When Buying a Djembe
Djembe drums come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re measured by the diameter of their surface combined with their depth. The diameter of a djembe is the easiest way to measure how it will sound since the depth will naturally be related to that.
Smaller djembes have higher-pitched sounds, while larger ones have deeper and more resonant ones. Smaller djembes also have tighter surfaces to play on.
As a beginner, you should aim for a standard djembe size, which is between 12” and 15”. Those sizes fall under the larger category, while smaller djembes are used for children or traveling purposes.
Pricing is the other factor to consider when checking out djembes. There’s no need to buy the most expensive drum when you’re just starting out, but the cheapest one available won’t sound great.
Reputable percussion brands make djembes that fall under the entry-level category, and those are the ones you should be checking out. Take note that rope-tuned drums are typically more affordable than mechanically tuned ones.
Overall, you can expect to pay between $50 and $250 for a good djembe.
Best Djembes for Beginners
(Best Overall Large Djembe)
Meinl Percussion has a few top-quality options in their Headliner Series. If you want one of the top large djembes, which is relatively affordable, the 12” Headliner is a good option to consider. While 12” djembes aren’t the largest you can get, anything bigger might be a bit too expensive.
This djembe has an excellent bass tone, yet you still get a fantastic crack when you hit the edge with your fingers. It’s also responsive enough to play delicate notes and have everything heard. The size and tonal range make it great for beginners as you can work on developing techniques to play both high and low tones.
With a 24” depth, it’s comfortable enough to fit between your legs while sitting, and you can play for extended periods.
The only downside is that this is the most expensive option on this list.
- Large djembe with an affordable price tag
- Fantastic deep bass tones
- Highly responsive to touch
- Costs more than the other options on this list
(Best Small and Affordable Djembe)
The LP World Collection Circle djembe has a much smaller diameter size of 7”. The smaller size gives it a much higher tone. The skin is also very tight, allowing you to play mostly with your fingers. It’s a fantastic djembe for several reasons.
Firstly, it will help you develop great technique with your fingers. The slightest touch of a finger will bring out a full tone, giving you a platform to strengthen your fingers while playing the djembe. Even though the diameter is quite small, the depth is 16”, which makes the djembe comfortably fit between your legs when playing.
The smaller size also makes this djembe a great option for smaller children to learn. Full-sized djembes may be a bit big and intimidating.
- Tight surface is great for developing finger technique
- Most affordable option
- Ideal djembe for children to learn on
- The surface head isn’t as durable as ones from higher-priced djembes
(Best Mechanically Tuned Djembe)
Mechanically tuned djembes are often seen as less intimidating options for beginners, considering that they’re easier to tune. The Meinl Alpine Series djembe is an excellent option in this category. It’s one of the most affordable mechanically tuned drums, making it a good choice to consider.
This djembe has a large 20” depth, giving it a strong bass sound that sharply fades away after the head is struck. The edge sound is quite similar to the sound that comes from a cajon, giving you a wide contrast between the center and edge tones.
There are a few eye-catching finishes available, giving you a unique sense of personality with the one you choose. Overall, it’s a great option if you’re not too keen on learning how to tune djembes with ropes.
- Easier to tune than djembes with ropes
- Vibrant finish options
- Deep bass tone with impactful edge sound
- One of the most affordable mechanically tuned djembes
- 20” depth will potentially make the djembe feel uncomfortable for small children to hold
(Best Djembe for Travel)
The Meinl Travel Series djembe is an amazing option if you plan on taking your djembe out on the road. It’s made of a synthetic material that decreases its weight compared to similar djembes. This makes it a lot easier to carry around. The diameter is 12”, and the depth is 24”, making it even more surprising that this drum is so light.
The drumhead is also made from synthetic material as opposed to animal skin. You get a fairly deep bass tone with slightly less resonance than the previous djembes. The edge sound is cutting, giving you very crispy slapping tones.
- Very lightweight
- Great bass and slapping tones
- Ideal for traveling
- Some people may not like the synthetic shell compared to traditional wood
If you choose to get one of the djembes above, you’ll undoubtedly be very happy with your purchase. They’re all fantastic options for beginner players as they lend quite well to learning new skills.
Your main deciding factors will be the size you’re looking for and whether the djembe has ropes or a mechanical tuning system. Once you’ve made your decision, picking an option above should be relatively simple.
Make sure to check out some of our other articles such as the Best Drum Mics for Live Sound for more tips on how to get the best sound from your new Djembe. Happy playing!