Drums are among the few instruments that have the distinction of having a long history. They are played long before civilizations even started. Currently, selected indigenous tribes use drums to sing their songs, relay messages, and even declare war. Drums are also used for religious and spiritual purposes. These simple percussions were usually made from animal skin stretched tightly over a hollow base. Sound is produced by striking the animal skin at different intervals, angles, and cadences. More experienced drum beaters can tell which part of the drum is hit simply by hearing the sound.

Doumbek vs Darbuka Guide & Comparison

Because of their usefulness and simplicity, drums have withstood the test of time. Perhaps the most impressive among these are the goblet drums found along the Fertile Crescent of ancient civilizations. They are tied tightly together with the tradition of the land with a little revamp using modern technology. For this review, we are looking at two types of goblet drums from two different states. This is not to prove the better civilization but to celebrate each variation of the drum’s advantages and disadvantages.

The Meinl Percussion Doumbek is made entirely out of aluminum. The body is made out of a hand-engraved cast with a tunable synthetic head. Each purchase comes with a tuning key for the head. The edges have eight lugs for tuning. It is 17.125 inches tall and 8.5 inches across the head. Every purchase comes with a two-year warranty.

Asksound’ Pick
Meinl Percussion Doumbek with Hand Engraved Cast Aluminum Shell
Perfect for all settings: both professional and casual percussionists

Tunable synthetic head and flush rim: a tunable and replaceable synthetic head provides powerful and rich sound. Crafted with a cast aluminum shell, The drum supplies deep low notes as well as ringing highs.

The Malik Instruments Darbuka is handmade in Egypt with an aluminum body adorned with precious stones and Mother of Pearl gemstones. It comes in five colors: Citrine Orchid, Emerald Orchid, Fuchsia, Ruby Orchid, and Sapphire.

It stands 45 cm tall with 28 cm in width and weighs 4.7 kilograms. The inner shell is made of aluminum with a black coating underneath the colored gloss finish. The head is made of plastic with metal crimps. The Darbuka has six lugs that are used to tune the instrument. 

According to the website, a Darbuka needs tuning every six months for darbukas played at a professional level, which is more than one hour a day. For casual players, tuning can be done every 12 to 15 months.

Asksound’ Pick
The Sapphire Orchid Darbuka by Gawharet El Fan
Professional Gawharet El Fan doumbek Handmade in Egypt.

Beautiful and powerful sound, making it perfect for accompanying your gathering anywhere you go. The body is made out of cast Aluminum with a beautiful inlay.

How to Play

A goblet drum is placed under one’s non-dominant arm or sideways upon the lap and is struck at different places to produce different sounds. There are three main sounds, namely “doum,” “tek,” and “pa.” Doum is a deep bass sound achieved by striking the head near the center. Tek is a higher-pitched sound produced by hitting near the edge of the head with the fingertips. Finally, pa is a closed sound created by resting the hand on the head.

The sounds are not exclusive to these three. There are additional sounds that can be produced with a little tweaking of the goblet drum. In connection with this, there is a difference between the Doumbek and the darbuka that lies in their construction. The Turkish Doumbek has an exposed edge, while the Egyptian darbukas have rounded edges. The Turkish design is excellent for finger-snapping techniques, but because of the hard edge, rapid rolls that could be done with darbukas are challenging to execute with Doumbek.

How to Change Skins

Goblet drums sometimes get into accidents where the skin is stretched too tightly or struck a little too hard than usual, or even just an old skin tearing after a long time. There is no guarantee as to the time when to replace your drum skin. However, if the time does come, don’t worry. The internet is a minefield of resources in both materials and tutorials. Below is a condensed version of these tutorials.

First, open the head using the lug screw and remove the plate. This circular edge covers the head of the goblet drum and holds the skin in place. Replace the skin with the new one. Put the plate back by aligning the symbol on the plate and the head of the drum. Put the screws back, but do not tighten them one by one. Instead, turn the screws a little bit at a time so that it is an equal distance throughout the process. 

Before fully tightening the screws, it is recommended that the skin be heated first. A few tutorials do away with this, and their goblet drums sound okay, but a lot of tutorials use a blow dryer or electric iron but advise those attempting to use the latter to proceed with caution. This part of the process should be done increments and not done all at once, just until the skin is level with the plate edge. Patience is a must when it comes to changing the skin. It is also recommended to leave your newly replaced goblet drum in a corner for 24 to 48 hours just so the skin can stretch nicely. After the recommended period, the screws should be loosened a bit to give the skin some time to breathe.


I’d have to give this review to the Doumbek for the slight advantage of a bag for the shipping process. We all know that shipping can get messy. Besides, with the tips around the internet on how to care for goblet drums, I think it’s safe to say that the Doumbek is a better investment.

FAQ: Frequent questions

🏆 Which is the best?

Meinl Percussion Doumbek

🔍 How did we test them?

We tested 14 products, researched 12 sources, evaluated 39 reviews and spent 13+ hours on our guide.

🤔 What should you look at before buying?

When choosing it's best to make a decision based on the price/quality, functionality and compatibility with other devices/technologies.