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Buying a Doumbek

by Carmine T. Guida

This being my first article for OrientalDancer.net I figured the best place to start would be to write about purchasing a doumbek. This article is geared towards someone who is buying their first drum... something to learn and explore on. There are many different styles of doumbeks. I'm going to explain the pros and cons of each.

What's In a Name?
The word "doumbek" is actually an American name. The Turkish call it "darbuka" or "dumbelek". The Egyptians call it "Tabla". When searching online for this kind of drum, or even for CDs/DVDs, etc., try the following words: doumbek, dumbek, darbuka, darbouka, and tabla.

Turkish Style
These drums can be characterized by their metal bolts on the outside rim of the drum.

1. A lot of bass for your buck! These tiny drums have a very warm bass "doum" sound. They are also on the less expensive side.
2. Lightweight - I have found these drums to weigh much less than my Egyptian style drums. Their metal is much thinner, and the outside bolts are easy to attach a shoestring or rope to for wearing over your shoulder.

1. Ouch! - The metal bolts on the outside are terrible for beginners! If you do not know how to hit the drum properly, you will definitely hurt your hands, and probably develop bad technique.
2. Too lightweight: The normal sized version of these drums is hard to sit with. When you hit your doum sound, the drum actually turns away from you and you have to spend a lot of energy with your left hand to hold it in place.

I recommend these drums as a second drum. They are great for holding down rhythms while an Egyptian doumbek solos. I especially love the LARGE (12"x18") version of these drums with the tambourine inside!

Egyptian Style
These drums can be characterized by their rounded off heads with 6 bolts inside of them. They are made of aluminum and have a plastic head. The most popular is the "Alexandria" with the blue colored head, though I've seen these with clear heads now.

1. Indestructible! I kid you not, I have had this drum get knocked over, bounce 3 or 4 times and then roll. Picked it up, and it sounded exactly the same! These things are tanks!
2. Good All Around Sound - The Turkish drums are a bit on the bassy side, the Egyptian sound is a bit more even.

1. Heavy Metal - The heavier the better with this style doumbek. Great for drum circles, lousy for walking with.

I highly recommend the Egyptian style "Alexandria" doumbek as your first drum. For beginners, they are easy to learn on. For more intermediate/advanced players, these drums are great for soloing!

What about Ceramic drums?
Ceramic drums have a beautiful tone to them. I've seen these with synthetic heads as well as fishskin heads.

1. Beautiful sound - The metal doumbeks can be sort of clankey sounding. Ceramic doumbeks with fishskin heads have a warm "doum" bass sound with less aggressive sounding "teks".
2. Easy on the hands - These drums are easier to learn on. Usually the skin wraps around the entire head of the drum, making it easier to get the left-hand "ka" sound to happen.

1. Oops! - I swear these drums have a 3 to 4 year lifespan. Anyone I know who has owned one of these for more than 3 years has had these get knocked over or dropped and then had to glue them back together. These are very breakable.
2. Affected by weather - Hot and cold will affect animal skin drums in general. If it's too hot or cold out, these drums can be useless.

I have a ceramic drum that I love the sound of. I'm just afraid to take it out of my house and gig with it where people are drinking lots of wine and dancing. If you?re a careful person, you'll enjoy the warm sound these drums make.

The Egyptian style doumbek is my pick for your first drum. They are inexpensive and durable. You pretty much can't go wrong with the classic "Alexandria" doumbek. There are several places to buy doumbeks online. I would be weary of anything below $75. And if you're paying more than $125, you're paying too much.

If you're into AMAZON:

Many sellers have their items listed on Amazon. I buy from Amazon all the time, so all of my billing/shipping info is saved. If you want to purchase an Egyptian style drum., search for "alexandria doumbek". If you want to find Turkish style drums, search for "darbuka". If it's less than $50, DO NOT GET IT, it will be too small and weird to play.


These guys have EVERYTHING, strings, wind, percussion, etc. You can buy directly from their website. They carry my favorite large Turkish doumbek with the jingles inside.

Touch the Earth
Touch the Earth are great people selling great drums. Their Turkish style doumbeks sound better than anyone elses. Also, they make a lighter style Egyptian doumbek that comes with a strap. These are great for walking around with or standing up with while playing. Definitely check our their website "hand drums" section.