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Skin Heading Ethnic Drums, Etc.

Skin Heading Ethnic Drums, Etc.

by Topher Gayle

Originally published in American Lutherie #2, 1985

Derbeckis (A.K.A. dumbegs or Arabic tabla) are medium-sized (10" to 18") hand drums used most frequently in Middle-Eastern folk and Belly-Dance music, and also heard in jazz idioms. Two main types of the drum exist: metal bodied drums, usually Turkish, utilizing a mechanical drumhead tensioner much like that on bongos or conga (which drummers frequently want to have replaced by banjo tensioners); and the clay-bodied drums which come in a large variety of sizes and shapes. Wood-bodied drums also exist and may usually be treated as clay (for the most part).

Tim Olsen asked if various skin-headed stringed instruments might be treated by this device. I have not done so myself, but I don’t see any serious complications. A radiator hose clamp chain can be used to fix the skin to the side of the body if the body side joins the top at a right angle. I used this technique on a small wooden drum with good results. Blocks were required to raise the body up to the top frame hex, since the drum was so short. The skin was brought up to tension as described below, and then the radiator clamps attached. The assembly was let dry just as is usually done.

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