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The COMPLETE DÜMBEK

A Comprehensive Resource on
Origins, Acoustics, and Playing Techniques

By Richard Adrian Steiger, B.A., M.A.

In the Beginning

Where did the dümbek (doom-beck) come from originally? Who invented it, and what was it used for? A definitive answer to these questions will probably never be found. Not only are there few records (and those that exist are mainly in the form of object artifacts and iconography), but what little data are available is scattered over a wide span of time and region. The diffusion of these data points makes extrapolating lines of provenance difficult.

The current common belief is that the dümbek was probably invented serendipitously by the clay-makers of Egypt. There are surprising archeological clues that suggest instead, that its deepest origin—a proto form—may have been in the northern plains of Europe among Neolithic cereal-cultivating agrarian societies, between 4000 to 2000 BCE. At clusters of sites distributed along the central German region between the Elbe and Wesser rivers, archeologists have uncovered decorated ceramic artifacts that closely resemble the modern dümbek. These artifacts are herein referred to as “proto-dümbeks.”

PART I—ORIGINS: Chapter 1: “The Ancient Dümbek” traces the origins of the dümbek. Includes analysis and conclusions. Chapter 2: “The Dümbek in the Current Era” traces the dümbek from the earliest notations of Western explorers to the present. A summary, analysis, and conclusions complete the chapter.

1   The Ancient Dümbek


2   The Dümbek in the Current Era


PART II—CONTEXTS: A general overview of the cultural context of the dümbek from ancient to modern times. Includes a brief analysis of the development of the dümbek’s presence and use in musical ensembles.

1   Traditional Contexts: A Review

2   The Takht—Old and New


3   Modern Contexts


4   The Future

5   Summary and Conclusion

PART III—THE DRUM: A resonance-tuned musical instrument, the physical components of the dümbek influence its sound. Knowledge of these attributes allows dümbek players and drummers alike to control their instruments. In Chapter 1, the theory and mechanism of vibration, including pitch and tone-color of the dümbek, will be introduced. Chapter 2 surveys drumheads—their materials (organic and synthetic), their varieties and tones, affixation methods, tuning, maintenance, and modifications. Chapter 3 examines the material aspects of the parts of the body of the drum—materials and methods of construction. Finally, in Chapter 4, the instrument’s overall acoustical interaction—performance space acoustics, drumhead, bearing edge, and resonator and draft-tube generative shapes—is analyzed.

1   Vibrations


2   Drumheads


3   The Body


4   Acoustical Holism


PART IV—DRUMNOTES: In Chapter 1, the term drumnote is explained in depth. The essential techniques of holding the drum, the relevant parts of the hand, and playing positions are discussed. Safety, dynamic ergonomic playing, and basic learning strategies are covered. Finally, the “Zones of Modes” are defined. In Chapter 2, dümbek drumnotes and methods of producing each kind (including standard, special, and varieties) is elaborated in relationship to the Zones of Modes. A relative-pitch drumnote scale is given at the end.

Table of Contents, continued…