How to Master a Tone Sound

How to Master the Tone Sound

The three main sounds are:

  • Bass
  • Tone
  • Slap

Learn in minutes what it took me years to learn

Some people find the tone is the hardest to master. It was for me, but might not be for you. Here are the tips I have collected from years of discovery, trial and error, and lessons from many master drummers from West Africa.

The tone is the sound in the middle frequency, between the low bass and the high slap. The tone is more resonant than the slap, and stronger than the bass, but all three are hit with the same force, all equally.

Start the Safety Zone

Create the Safety Triangle shown in the video. You need to watch the video, so, like, go do that. Hit in the safety zone, or you will hurt yourself, and make lousy sounds. Remember that lesson in Module 1? Yup. That Safety Zone.

For bass, use the whole hand. For tone, use the whole fingers.

Tips for Tones:

  • Safety Zone
  • Flat full fingers
  • Fingers firmly together
  • From the elbow
  • Drop with gravity
  • Let it bounce your hand off
  • Straight line from elbow to far side of drum
  • Drum is leaning away from you
  • Right height for you and your drum
  • Safety first!

Bass sounds like dooon, so I will call it a Dun in a rhythm. Tone sounds like a Doh, so I will Do when I talk about a rhythm. Just to make it possible to speak the sounds quickly. Every teacher seems to have their own ways of speaking the sounds, so that will be what I use.

Let's play! Go watch the video, and I will show you how to play a basic bass and tone drill that happens to be a real rhythm in West African music. Shhhh I wasn't supposed to say that yet.

Bass Tone Drill

The drill I want you to play and practice goes like this. When you say the following the phrase, you will probably say it in just the right cadence and rhythm, with certain syllables held longer or shorter than others, so it matches what we will be playing. Here is the phrase that matches the rhythm:

"You will so love drumming"

Go watch and play. You will see what I mean.

If you want to use notation, which I usually don't push at all, because learning by sound is best, here it is:

B . b . T t Tt .

(notice there are 8 spaces in that, counting the periods for spaces. The last Tt is hit closely together, in a single space, so they count as one space.)

OK guess what? You just played a real djembe part from a rhythm called Kuku. Yup. You are playing djembe.


Now go play this along with me in the next video.