Acoustic and modal analysis of an African djembe drum” by Daniel A. Russell and Wesley S. Haveman

“Acoustic and modal analysis of an African djembe drum” by Daniel A. Russell and Wesley S. Haveman, published in 2000, provides a comprehensive investigation into the acoustic properties and modal behavior of the African djembe drum. This research is pivotal for understanding not only the musical and cultural significance of the djembe but also its scientific and educational implications.

Scientific Insights:

The study details the acoustic characteristics that give the djembe its unique sound. The djembe drum, consisting of a goat skin stretched over a hand-carved shell with a large cavity open at the bottom, acts as a Helmholtz resonator. This design is crucial for its distinctive bass sound, with the cavity’s shape contributing to a strong bass component centered around 75 Hz.

Further, Russell and Haveman’s modal analysis revealed how the shell exhibits several bell- or wineglass modes. These modes, along with the membrane modes (vibrations of the goat skin), create a complex interplay that produces the djembe’s wide range of tones. The study’s findings on mode shapes and frequency spectra are essential for understanding how different parts of the drum contribute to its overall sound.

Educational Insights:

Acoustics and Physics Education: The detailed analysis of the djembe’s acoustics provides a practical case study for educational purposes in physics and music technology courses. It illustrates principles of sound generation and resonance in a tangible and engaging way, demonstrating the application of theoretical concepts in real-world instruments.

Cultural and Music Education: Beyond its acoustical properties, the djembe serves as an educational tool in understanding the cultural contexts from which it originates. The scientific study of the djembe can be a gateway for students to explore West African music traditions, the importance of rhythm in African societies, and the role of music in communal settings.

Interdisciplinary Learning: The research by Russell and Haveman bridges the gap between science and the arts, offering an interdisciplinary approach to education. By studying the djembe, students can appreciate the intersection of physics, engineering, music, and culture, fostering a more holistic educational experience.

Innovation in Instrument Design: For those involved in musical instrument design and manufacturing, understanding the acoustic properties and modal behaviors of traditional instruments like the djembe can inspire innovations in new instruments. Knowledge of how different materials and shapes affect sound can lead to the development of instruments with unique acoustic characteristics.


The study “Acoustic and modal analysis of an African djembe drum” provides valuable scientific and educational insights. Scientifically, it enhances our understanding of the physical principles underlying the djembe’s sound production. Educationally, it serves as a multidisciplinary tool that can enrich students’ learning in acoustics, music, culture, and physics. This research underscores the significance of integrating scientific inquiry with cultural and musical education, offering a comprehensive approach to understanding and appreciating this traditional African musical instrument.