Once your skin is completely dry you are ready to crank up your drum and start playing it. Remove the tape or rubber tie and find your anchor knot. If you finished the skin with a wrapover then your anchor knot may be up under the wrapover. This is fine, leave it there and begin on the next vertical, pulling your tension against the knot which should not be able to fit through the top loop.
The idea with the initial is to gradually dial up the tension with each pass, always being sure to keep even tension as you go around, and watching to be sure that one side isn’t pulling down more than the other. Start by getting it hand tight, then switch to a tool such as a stick, Clamcleat Puller
, or Djembe Pulling Bar
. Take your time, and go around 3 or 4 times. Keep your anchor knot snug against the top loop that keeps it from pulling through until the last pass.
All new skins go through an initial stretch period. After the first initial tuning, let it sit for a couple days and then tighten the verticals again. This gives the skin time to acclimate and gradually stretch before reaching cruising altitude. Rushing this part of the process is where you often see split skins during the final tune.
We use specialized tools for tuning, available on this page
. Each tool has its own method, but the idea is always to keep raising the tension on the main vertical rope. In most cases you will raise the tension on the main vertical as high as you can with the tools that you have and then start putting in diamonds if you want the drum to be even tighter.
The tools allow you to have more leverage than you can get by just pulling at the rope, but if you don't have any tools available you can still tune your drum up effectively by hand. Just follow our Djembe Tuning Guide
to learn how to put in rows of diamonds, which take minimal physical effort and can still get your drum up to a very high tuning. Diamonds are also the method that you'll want to use on a drum that already has a skin on it and just needs to be tuned higher.
We recommend that you take your skin up to tension gradually, so that the skin has time to stretch and level out as it gets tighter. You'll notice that when you tune it for the first time the top rings will lower relative to the bearing edge of the drum, and that when you come back to the drum after first tuning it the drum will be at a lower pitch than when you left it. This is all part of the process of the skin settling into place. We tune our drums 2 to 4 times before they stabilize completely, but once the drum stabilizes it shouldn't take more than a couple of diamonds every couple of weeks to keep it sounding like a master drum.
With your drum freshly skinned and tuned you are ready for action. See our Djembe Care & Maintenance
page for more information and our selection of Drum Building Supplies
and African Drum Accessories
for all of your Djembe and African drum needs.