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Middle-Eastern Rhythm Sounds and How to Play Them
Think about it:
The need to be able to write and print rhythmic notation for American dancers and musicians was perceived early on. Ozel's famous book, The Belly Dancer In You, published in 1976, starts beginners out with BOOM (right hand) and PAM (left hand), with DOM being the striking of the cymbals of both hands at once. Serena's famous Serena Technique of Belly Dancing (1972) uses BOOM and pa for the drum rhythms, PING, RING and ta for the zill sounds. Mishkin and Schill, in The Compleat Belly Dancer (1973), used the Arabic components for their Beladi and Tsiftetelli charts, using Dum and Tek for sound notation and One-and Two-and for rhythm notation. Readers were admonished to listen carefully, parse the rhythms when possible, and go on autopilot when they got confused.
From Dave Goodman: "The two basic notes on a doumbek are dum and tek, from which the drum is named. Dum is a low bass note played by briefly hitting the drum head with the flat of the hand and the fingers together. Tek is a sharp, high note played by striking the head at or near the rim with the fingertip of the middle finger. There's a third note called ka which is like tek but played with the ring finger of the other hand. It should sound as close to the tek as possible. In other parts of the world this note is called tek, but American drummers call it ka to distinguish it from the dominant hand."
From Scott Marcus: "Arab rhythms are based on a grammar that recognizes two contrasting sounds available on all drums. The first, called dumm (pl. dumum; from the Turkish dum), is the lowest sound pssible on a drum, created when the drum is struck towards the center of the drumhead... The second, called takk (pl. tukuk; from the Turkish tek), is a contrasting high-pitched sound that is often played at the rim of the drum... Two takks in quick succession are spoken as tak ka."
|Dominant hand||Non-dominant hand||Center of drum||Rim of drum|
Sak (K. Nagi)
Dum, Tek and Ka (D, T, K) are used to represent the basic structure of each rhythmic mode, the ones that make the mode distinctive. Iss (-)( . ) is a syllable that is sometimes used to denote a rest, although many people do not articulate rests when chanting the rhythms.
Percussion instruments do more than keep the basic beat, especially in monophonic music, which eschews harmony lines. The rhythms become a harmony, one might say, with eloquent and appropriate sub-beats, ornaments and florishes.
Therefore, you will see rhythm charts that include t and k, the non-emphasised versions of T and K; the replacement of rests or single notes with a fast Tek-Ka combination that adds energy (TK and tk and Tk and tK); slaps (S), pops (P), snaps (F) and rolls (~, r or rk). M is the syllable Ma, used after Dum to designate a subsequent Tek; Dum-mah comes more trippingly off the tongue than Dum-Tek.
|D||Dum (or Doum)||Liron Peled: Emphatic deep, round base note with the dominant hand.Hand flat and relaxed with fingers together; strike and release quickly with the middle finger tip at the drum center. Demonstation.
Goodman: Dum is a low bass note played by briefly hitting the drum head with the flat of the hand and the fingers together. The heel of the hand is on or near the rim. It should be struck flat, and the hand should not linger. Play as if the head is hot and you don't want to burn yourself.
Marcus: the lowest sound possible on a drum, created when the drum is struck toward the center of the drumhead.
Mas'ud al-Sha'ir: [P]layed by striking the center of the drum head with the four fingers on your primary hand. One way the strike has been described by several of my past instructors is to imagine striking the bottom of a very hot iron... In the end, the sound quality of the Doum will vary depending on the type of doumbek you are using and what type of head you have (i.e. Goat Skin vs Mylar). You should strive for a deep and resonating tone.
|Dominant hand. Karim Nagi: Open ring.|
|T||Tek||Liron Peled: Dominant hand with open fingers hitting the rim; make it sound bright and ringing. High crisp ringing sound played with the middle finger(s) of the dominant hand. Demonstration.
Goodman: A sharp, high note played by striking the head at or near the rim with the fingertip of the middle finger (it's okay if the adjacent fingers hit too). Hit with the palm side of the fingertip, beyond the joint. The force should come from the wrist and arm, not the finger muscles.
Scott Marcus: High-pitched sound often played at the rim of the drum. Must be devoid of the low vibrations characteristic of the Dum sound.
Mary Donald: Right hand: small, ring and middle fingers strike rim.
Mas'ud al-Sha'ir: [S]truck with the primary hand. You should strike the rim of the head, just where the head leaves the rim, using the tips of either one or two fingers. (I use the middle and the ring fingers.) When I strike a Tek, I imagine striking through the rim so that as I strike the rim, my fingers pull off from the edge quickly, allowing the sound to fully develop as the drums head resonates. The sound quality you are looking for is a high pitched, almost metallic sounding, ringing note... A Tek is essentially an accented Ka.
|High accent note, often with dominant hand.|
|t||tek||A higher pitched sound. Unaccented version of Tek.
Carmine: a quieter Tek.
|K||Ka||Liron Peled: The Ka is the equivalent of the Tek but in the non-dominant hand. Place non-dominent hand at 12 o'clock and use the ring finger with a twist of the wrist to hit the rim at the top of the drum. Make it sound bright and ringy. Try to make your Tek and Ka sound similar. Demonstration.
Goodman: Ka is like tek but played with the ring finger of the other hand. It should sound as close to the tek as possible. In other parts of the world this note is called tek, but American drummers call it ka to distinguish it from the dominant hand. Tek and ka are hit with the palm side of the fingertip, beyond the joint. The force should come from the wrist and arm, not the finger muscles.
Mary Donald: Left hand, ring finger strikes rim.
Mas'ud al-Sha'ir: 'Tek' struck with the secondary hand. Theoretically, you should strike the Ka the same way as you strike the Tek. I say theoretically because the Ka... can be much more difficult to achieve for the new drummer. I find that I must angle my left arm, as I am right handed, across the drum, my elbow lying upon the side of the drum away from my body, so that my left hand strikes the head at the top of the drum as it lies across my left leg. As in the Tek, you should aim for the edge of the rim where the head and the rim meet. The sound quality of the Ka is similar to that of the Tek..
|Accent note with non-dominant hand.|
|k||ka||Higher-pitched fill note. Unaccented version of Ka.
Carmine: a quieter Ka.
|TK||tekka||A tek coupled with a ka. Intensity of one or both notes is designated by using upper case letters for strong beats and lower case for un-accented beats (Tk, tK, tk).||Usually played with alternating hands.|
|Finger nails strike head|
|M||Tek||M is the syllable Ma, used to designate a Tek that occurs immediately after a Dum; Dum-mah comes more speedily off the tongue than Dum-Tek.|
|Pop or Tuq.||Pop is a Ka that is tempered a bit by deadening head with the side edge of the dominant hand..
An emphatic sound: non-dominant hand on Tabla, riq and frame drum. Guy Schalom demonstrates at minute 2:50.
|~||Takks (fast)||Ornamental drumroll of rapidly alternating right- and left-hand strokes.|
|Reka||Short ornamental roll leading up to a strong beat: kktk|
|S||Slap||A Dum with slightly cupped fingers making a pocket in the palm of your hand.
Guy Schalom demonstrates a Slap at minute 1:20 in his in the middle of an Ayob demo.
Alex Spurkel demonstrates a Slap on Youtube.
Alex Spurkel demonstrates how to substitute a Slap for a Dum.
Carmine, performer and teacher based in NYC. He specializes in teaching groups of drummers and musicians to perform together.
Mary Ellen Donald, acclaimed author, instructor, and performer in Middle Eastern Percussion. She has been active in the field for generations. Her musicial partnership with Mimi Spencer produced the earliest comprehensive teaching materials available to American drummers and musicians, and these books and CDs are still The Standard.
Maura Enright, Oriental Dance Rhythm Diagrams and Descriptions
Maura Enright, Zills and Sagat, Use and Maintenance, Web.
Dave Goodman at HighDesertBellyDance.org.
Jas,the lead drummer for Khafif, maintains what is probably the most famous rhythm web site on the Internet. No pretense at making it pretty; it pre-dates fancy Word press templates and concentrates on being informative.
Scott L. Marcus, Professor of Music at UC Santa Barbara.
Mas'ud al-Sha'ir (Eric C. Smith), A Quick and Dirty Guide to Doumbek Rhythms, Blackroot.org, Web. A classic Internet resource.
Liron Peled, formerly of Raquy and the Cavemen.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
Author: Maura Enright
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