DrumDrTom - Hand drum repair, restoration and sales

Doumbek (Darbuka) Repair

Copper darbuka.

Doumbeks, also known as darbukas, come in a variety of styles - clay, wooden, metallic, goat skinned, fish skinned, synthetically skinned, mechanically tuned, rope tuned or pretuned to name just a few. Whichever type of doumbek you may have, our doumbek repair specialists will restore your Middle Eastern hand drum back to radiant health.

When a doumbek head splits, it seems like the end of the world, and you may be tempted to rush out and buy a new drum.

Do not throw your money away!

Repair your doumbek!

We specialize in doumbek drum head replacement, tuning and restoration. We can pretune and attach the drum head with glue using a press or a rope system. We can even make your darbuka a tunable drum by using a ring system (djembek) or other methods.

So you see, there's no need to buy a new drum. Contact DrumDrTom Now! . . . and save your money.

Maybe you're a master percussionist and want only the best materials for your hand drum.

No problem! Tell us your needs, and we'll satisfy them.

We recommend fish skin because it's strong and durable and for the clear, crisp, warm sound it produces.

We routinely rebuild doumbeks from scratch. We'll recondition the drum shell, repairing any cracks and flaws and replace any materials with only the highest quality available.

Doumbek repair is what we do!

In a matter of days and at minimal cost, you can again enjoy the emotional and creative self-expression that only doumbek drumming provides, not to mention the fellowship. (Look below for examples of what you can expect from our doumbek repair experts.)

So why buy a new darbuka, when our loving care will make your beloved old friend better than new? For a no obligation, free consultation call or text us at +1 (831) 428-6626, send us an email or fill out a contact form.

We're located in Santa Cruz, CA, easiliy accesible to anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose/Silicon Valley, the Salinas Valley and the Monterey Bay, but don't worry if you're not in our neck of the woods; we have years of shipping experience. Many of our clients ship their ailing Middle Eastern drums to us, and we return their restored doumbeks by whatever means they choose.

And remember, doumbek repair is not all we do. We're fully qualified to treat other hand drums and ethnic instruments such as koras and balafons--just ask!

Con mucho gusto hablamos Español!
On Duty: Dr. Tom (The Drum Doctor)

Ceramic Doumbek Repair

Whitehawk Sessions is group of serious musicians from New Mexico that need their doumbek repaired.

They sent DrumDrTom this doumbek, as well as an ashiko, trusting that we'd restore them to health and vitality.

This became our mission. We set out to not merely replace the drum head but to mount it so that the drum would be pretuned to a caliber worthy of a public performance.

We decided to forego any rope system of mounting, since with a rope system there comes a point where the skin begins to tear at the point where the rope pulls on the skin. Because of this, we can often pull the skin tighter and truer with our alternate, no-rope system.

Whitehawk Sessions once again has their full arsenal at their disposal, including their doumbek.

Dr. Tom,

We received the doumbek yesterday.

Yes, mind blowing...

Haven't played this in years and it sounds great!

Whitehawk Sessions (New Mexico)

Clay Doumbek Repaired

Rick is a professional musician and picked up this doumbek as a loaner from a friend - years ago.

The friend recently decided she wants her drum back. As you can see, this is probably not what Rick's friend has in mind. So Rick brought the ceramic drum to The Drum Doctor to have it restored.

We mounted a goat skin thicker than the previous skin but pulled it very tightly.

Rick couldn't believe his ears. His eyes were pretty happy too.

Vintage Syrian Darbuka Restoration

Leslie has a vintage Syrian darbuka that is showing its age. The drum head is in tatters, and the finish of the metal shell has becomy dingy. Corrosion has begun to set it.

The first thing we do is disassemble the drum and give the shell a good cleaning. Once that is done we set about gently polishing the surface so as to restore its luster without damaging the plating. Now we can go about replacing the drum head.

We reheaded this darbuka with an African goat skin, thicker than is typical for this type of drum. To compensate for the extra thickness, we pulled it just a little bit tighter to raise the pitch.

Leslie's vintage darbuka has been completely restored, and she couldn't be happier.

I was unable to find anyone in my area in NJ to repair my drum and then I found Dr. Tom! Even though he was across the country, I knew he was the right guy for the job... and I was right! I shipped my drum to Dr. Tom, we discussed the details on the phone and a few weeks later I got the drum back! It looks absolutely beautiful and sounds great! So happy!! Thanks Dr. Tom :-)

Leslie Garabedian (Haledon, NJ)

Ceramic Doumbek Is Repaired & Made Tunable

Sheila's Full Circle ceramic drum needs to have the skin replaced.

The goat skin on this doumbek is glued in place. The rope you see is used to stretch the skin into place and hold it taut as the glue dries. We are going to take a different approach to mounting the fresh goat skin drum head. We are going to do something very special.

We started with a thick goat skin - considerably thicker than the original skin. The added thickness translates to greater strength.

While we use a rope system to mount the skin as in the original version, our rope system is different and allows the stress on the skin to be more evenly distributed over a greater area of the skin. This, along with the stronger skin, means we can omit the the glue and allow the skin to float freely on the bearing edge, as on djembes and other tunable drums.

We have not only repaired Sheila's doumbek - we have greatly improved it. Sheila now has a tunable doumbek!

Broken Moroccan Doumbek Made Whole

Dawn sent her doumbek to have its head replaced.

A ripped drum head on a clay moroccan doumbek.
Cracks on the shell of a ceramic doumbek. A ceramic doumbek with cracks on the shell.

We couldn't help but notice that, beside the blown out drum head, the drum shell had some very significant cracks.

Once we had disassembled the drum, we could see just how significant the cracks were.

Extensive damage on the shell of a clay doumbek.
A look at the broken shell of a doumbek from inside. An inside view of the broken shell of a ceramic doumbek.

In fact, it would be much more accurate to say the shell was broken. Some of these pieces were actually loose.

If you look closely, you'll see the light shining through.

It wouldn't make much sense to mount a fresh fish skin drum head on a shell that's falling apart, would it? No, the shell would first be made whole again. Carefully, lovinglyl and piece by piece.

This may have seemed like a hopeless cause to some, but to The Drum Doctor, there is no hopeless cause. Every drum deserves our care.

The shell is completely intact and stronger than ever, and the fishskin drumhead sings with joy.

Thank you, Dr. Tom, for your amazing, detailed repair of my decade-old Moroccan doumbek. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out! It was damaged for so many years that I had forgotten how beautiful it was then and is, again, now.

I appreciate your top-notch customer service and won't hesitate to contact you again in the future should I need additional repairs.

Take care,

Dawn Hume (Surprise, AZ)

Fish Skin Mounted On Egyptian Tabla

In Egypt and the Middle East in general, the doumbek is called a tabla. Josh bought this beautiful clay tabla with a goat skin drum head and a beautiful inlay finish.

An egyptian tabla with flabby drum head. A clay doumbek with a goat skin drum head that's too loose.

At first sight, the drum seems fine, but as soon as a note is played it becomes obvious that the skin is flabby and unplayable.

Since this is a pre-tuned drum, the only hope of getting the skin tight enough to play is to apply some heat so as to dissipate whatever moisture is in the skin. But the skin is loose even on hot, arid days.

The only fix is to replace the skin.

Since we're going through the trouble and expense of replacing the skin, why not replace it with the best skin possible? From our experience, the finest skin to use on doumbeks is Nile River sturgeon.

This type of fish skin is not particularly thick yet is very strong. It has a lot of stretch and has the quality of wanting to pull back with great force to its original state. The result is an extremely lively and robust drum head.

Because the skin is not particularly thick, we use rope to pull the skin into place where it is glued. This is not a tunable drum.

The good news is that because we can mount the skin with so much tension, the drum is likely to stay in tune even under less than ideal conditions

Ceramic Doumbek Reheaded & Made Tunable

Fred, of Fred Taylor Music, is a drummer that has expanded his toolbox to include hand drums. This lovely doumbek has had a hole punched in the drum head which renders the drum toneless.

We were going to stretch the fresh skin and glue it in place without any sort of rope system, but the finish on the shell made us wonder if the skin would bond well to it. We tested with a small piece of skin and found that it did not bond well to the shell at all. It peeled off with very little effort.

So a rope sytem it was then. This was probably for the best anyway, since Fred specifically requested that the drum be skinned so as to give its voice the widest range possible. With a rope system, we could make the drum tunable.

We replaced the rawhide lacing with low stretch, strong and durable rope. The skin we chose is thick, though not quite as thick as the one we replaced. Thick skin tends to be stronger and more durable than thinner skin. This is a particularly important point when the skin is going to subjected to pulling, pulling and more pulling.

Fred was grateful to have his doumbek returned better than ever.

I got the drum back today -it sounds better than ever! Thanks so much for your help.

Fred Taylor (Mukilteo, WA)

Clay Doumbek Head Replacement

This beautiful and unusual doumbek needs a new drum head.

The repair is really pretty straight forward. The important thing is to find the right skin and then mount it with enough tension.

The doumbek is happy, the client is happy, DrumDrTom is happy.

Syrian Darbuka Restoration

Lou is an American of Syrian descent. He has in his possesion a Syrian darbuka that has been in his family many years. A lot of sentimental value is attached to this family drum. The problem is that the drum has fallen into utter disrepair.

The Drum Doctor has been assigned the task of restoring this Syrian darbuka to its former glory.

The first thing we did was give the shell a good polish.

A shiny, freshly polished Syrian darbuka shell.

The next thing to do was to make a flesh ring on which to mount the skin. Lou had not thought to keep the old one.

We were now ready to mount a fresh goat skin. Like Tukish darbukas, Syrian darbukas tend to have very tight fitting rings, so that only thin skins can be mounted. Lou's darbuka was no excetption. Even so, we try to mount as thick a skin as possible, since thicker skins tend to be more durable.

Lou's family heirloom has been fully restored.

Dear Dr. Tom,

The Syrian darbuka drum arrived safely at my home today, restored, looking like new!

Best regards,
Lou DeStefano (Cheshire, CT)

Ceramic Doumbek Repair

This lovely drum needs a little help.

We thought the color and pattern of the shell were somehow reminiscent of the rumor that tribes of nomadic Celts introduced the doumbek to the Middle East.

This lovely drum only knows it wants to play a jig.

Frenkenstein's Doumbek

Ali has been studying darbuka for some time. He was inspired to do so after witnessing a performance by an ensemble in Istanbul, Turkey. When Ali felt ready to upgrade to a finer instrument he took the opportunity of a trip to Istanbul, to look for such an instrument.

During this second trip, Ali had been given a lesson from one of the musician's of the ensemble that had first inspired him. As if this wasn't fortunate enough, this musician then offered HIS darbuka, since Ali had been unable to find what he was looking for.

To make a long story short, Ali's good fortune came to an abrupt end when his treasured clay doumbek was broken before leaving Istanbul. Ali couldn't bear to part with his drum and brought it home anyway.

Once home again, Ali found The Drum Doctor and shipped the drum for repair.

Many pieces of clay at the bottom of a doumbek case.

Ali shipped the drum inside it's protective case, but when the drum got to us and we opened the case, this is what we found at its botttom. The shell had been further damaged in transit.

The top of a badly broken ceramic doumbek with a damaged skin.

The clay shell had broken at the top but was held together by the skin. This is the damage Ali was aware of.

A very badly broken clay doumbek with a torn skin.

This is what we received.

Believe it or not Folks, we intend to repair this drum.

A badly broken clay doumbek shell that's been partly put back together.

We begin by removing the torn skin and carefully setting aside all those pieces from the top that were now loose. Remember all the pieces at the bottom of the drum case? Here you can se that we've put those back together agian.

Now we need to put the top back together again. Yes, it does seem like a daunting task. Just remember what the bottom of the shell looked like before we got to work on it. We'll get to work on this as well.

Putting the shell back toghether was by far the most difficult and time consuming aspect of this project. Seemingly countless pieces of a jigsaw had to be put back together, and the result had to be a solid, drum worthy shell. We intended to mount a skin on this shell, and we intended to pull it tight.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Frankenstein's Doumbek!!!

We do this type of work out of love. We understand how much this drum means to Ali. If we don't care for Ali's treasured drum, who will?

I just arrived to my wife's home to a recovered darbuka. I am incredibly grateful for your care. Please let me know if I may write a testimony for your website.

With warm regards,
Ali (New Haven, CT)

Ali later sent us the following as his testimony to our work. Thank you Ali.

The shattered darbuka shatters a heart
Hopeless, I write an RIP in her chapter
Flakes of clay rain down, all shred apart
Presuming only an imaginary resurrector could draft her

A doc online claims an impossible procedure
To revive the patient and even make her thrive
With nothing to lose, the clay dust is shipped to the West Coast
The last shot before it's cremated and truly toast

Fast forward a month – signs of life appear in my inbox
(Progress seeming tighter than a 5th Botox)
The clay meticulously gelled together
The goat head that grazed on top
Now swims deep a fish head after a swap

She lives again and the RIP mark is nigh
Dr. Frankenstein a padowan compared to this jedi
Thank you, Drum Dr. for your kind hands and heart
I am cherishing her fresh start

Ceramic Doumbek Re-headed Without Rope

Carolee's ceramic doumbek has suffered a ripped drum head.

As you can see, the skin on this doumbek is glued onto the shell without the aid of a rope system. You'll also notice the shell is fairly plain, with no protrusions of any kind. Many ceramic shells have decorative embellishments or strap loops protruding from them. For technical reasons, these can make it impossible to mount a skin without a rope system.

Their absence provides a choice.

A crack on the shell of a ceramic doumbek. A crack on the shell of a ceramic doumbek.

Before we make our choice, we must seal a hairline crack on the bearing edge that extends into the shell.

Once we know the shell is intact, we mount a thin African goat skin on the shell without the use of a rope system.

Thin is a relative term when it comes to goat skins. This skin is actually thicker than the Pakistani goat skins that are typically mounted on ceramic doumbeks. It's also worth mentioning that, for technical reason, we can often mount the skin tighter without the rope.

Carolees doumbek is kickin'!

Another Syrian Darbuka Restored

Here's a familiar story that never seems to bore us. Fred wondered if we could restore any of his vintage Syrian darbuka's former beauty and glorious vioce.

One look and Fred's doubt might spread. Lucky for Fred and his drum, we're immune to such doubts at The Drum Doctor. We've taken our shots. We could see the luster beneath the tarnish and hear the voice within the silence

There was a time when it surprised us that so many Syrian darbukas ended up at our clinic. Now we understand that people love these hand drums. They are hearty drums that, with good care, will outlive us all.

Fred's darbuka is no exception.

Dr. Tom, I just received the drum and wanted to say "very nice job". It looks and sounds like new. Thank you very much.

Fred Macron (North Royalton, OH)

Clay Doumbek Skinned With Goatskin

The goatskin drum head on Matt's clay doumbek has come loose.

It seems that the drum was exposed to moisture, and the water-based glue that adhered the drumhead to the shell liquified. Liquified glue is sticky but not an effective adhesive, so the skin came loose from the shell.

The shell is in great shape, so we should be able to completely remove the old skin and clean up the shell, then mount a fresh skin.

In case you're wondering, we won't be able to remount the old skin. Extra skin is needed to pull the skin tightly into place. Once the skin is securely in place, the extra skin is trimmed off. The old skin has already been trimmed.

Once the old skin was removed and the shell thoroughly cleaned, we mounted a fresh goatskin. Our technique results in a drumhead pulled about as tight as we could want, so the drum is very well tuned. This results in a drum that sounds as good as it looks.

Syrian Darbuka Fixed

We've repaired so many of these Syrian darbukas, we don't even worry about how bad they may look when they get to us. We're confident we can fix whatever may be wrong with them.

This looks pretty bad at first glance, and the skin is obviously wasted, but lets' take a closer look.

The shell is dull, tarnished and badly dented.

Dents on the shell of a Syrian darbuka.
A misshaped and bent bearing edge of a Syrian darbuka.

The bearing edge is not worthy of a skin.

OK, so this drum actually is as bad as it looks. We've got some work to do. We take out the dents, rework the bearing edge and give the shell a polish. Now we can mount a fresh skin.

The shell looks much better, though the luster was not fully restored. Because the bearing edge had been weakened from the damage and subsequent bending back into shape, we mounted a thin skin. We were not sure the drum could withstand the pressure from a thicker skin. Pam is just happy to have her drum playing again.

The drum sounds so fine, & it's been such fun rediscovering how to play it. Now to discover communities of other learners & players to join!

Pamela Jones (North Hills, CA)

Torn Synthetic Doumbek Head Replaced With Goat Skin

Synthetic drum heads tend to be quite resilient, but they can tear just as well as natural skin.

This is a fine drum, but it's not meant to be repaired when the drum head is damaged. The manufacturer does not offer replacement drum heads. We are going to repair this doumbek anyway with a natural skin.

The skin on most of the ceramic doumbeks we repair is mounted with a rope system used to pull the skin tightly onto the shell, where it is glued. Once the skin is mounted, the rope stays behind. This rope can be quite decorative, but it serves no purpose once the skin has dried and bonded onto the shell - except perhaps as a handle.

For this doumbek, we've used a system that allows us to pull the goat skin really tight and leave nothing but the glued skin behind. We thought blue with a black trim coordinated nicely with the brown shell. The skin is a bit thicker than normally used on doumbeks, but because we were able to pull it so tight, the teks are sharp and clear and the doums are deep and resonant. Great results!

Copper Darbuka Restored

Vivian loves her husband. She loves him and wants to make him happy. Vivian's husband loves his copper darbuka.

What better way to make Vivian's husband happy than to restore his copper darbuka?

Now, you might be thinking that Vivian's husband has a funny way of loving his darbuka, but the truth is that all drum heads eventually tear, and copper tarnishes.

We are going to give this little drum a good polish and a fresh goat skin drum head. This darbuka is well built of fine materials and is worth all the time and elbow grease we're about to devote to it.

No, we did not switch drums on you. That's the same darbuka after several applications of elbow grease and a single application of fresh skin. And it sounds even better!

Dr. Tom,

I received the drum a few days ago, fyi. Thanks very much. Jim loves it and it was restored very nicely! He says it looks like the day he bought it!

Vivian (Salado, TX)

Unusual Doumbek Repaired

A torn doumbek drumhead painted to look somewhat like a bullseye.

This is not a bullseye. This is a ceramic doumbek's drum head that's suffered a blowout.

Painted drum heads are not that unusual, but painted doumbek drum heads are. Once you see the rest of the doumbek, though, the painted skin makes perfect sense.

It isn't just the painted skin and beautiful artwork that make this clay doumbek drum unusual; the shell is large and quite heavy for a doumbek, and the shape of the shell is also rather unique. This is not your basic goblet drum.

Can't wait to hear what this beauty's going to sound like, so let's get to work. We'll mount a goat skin and pull it as tight as it'll go.

The skin worked great. The doumbek is whole again and sounds like a doumbek. We left the skin unpainted. That'll be the owner's choice.

Aren't you curious if he went with the bullseye again, or came up with something completely different? We sure are.

Hybrid Darbuka Reheaded

Egyptian style doumbeks have rounded edges surrounding the playing surface, and the tuning bolts are located inside the shell. This design lends itself to fast rolls, since the rounded edges are forgiving to the hands.

Turkish style darbukas have sharper and narrower rims surrounding the playing surface, and the tuning bolts are located outside the shell. This design lends itself to finger snaps and allows greater control.

Each style has its advantages and tends to promote particular playing techniques. Windy has a darbuka that's a blend of the two styles.

A badly torn drum skin on a darbuka. A ripped skin on a copper darbuka.

The rim on this drum is flat like Turkish dabukas but not as narrow, which allows the bolts to be positioned inside the shell, as in the Egyptian style. As you can see, the hybrid darbuka needs a new skin.

We're going to mount a fresh goat skin of medium thickness on this innovative drum.

The skin fit the drum like a glove, giving the voice great clarity, volume and range. Windy certainly thought so.

IT’S PERFECT !! Thanks so much Tom =^)

Windy Dankoff (Santa Fe, NM)

Broken Doumbek Repaired

Mike has a doumbek with a fishskin drumhead that's torn. Fish skin doumbeks are not that common in the US, because the fish skin used comes from Nile River Sturgeon. The Nile is one of the world's major rivers, but it doesn't quite reach the US.

A couple of things make this drum stand out other than the fish skin. First, the skin is sewn onto a fabric skirt to enable stretching the skin onto the shell with significant force without tearing the skin. Second, the clay shell is covered with a decorative lining of faux wood.

A broken clay doumbek shell with its pieces a laying around its base.

Then we removed the damaged skin and discovered one more detail that distinguished this doumbek. The shell was severely broken. The top of the shell had been shattered to pieces. The last piece was hanging on only by the faux wood lining.

The badly broken shell of a clay doumbek.

The bearing edge of the drum had been completely severed from the shell. The broken skin had been holding the broken shell together.

That's it then. This poor drum has had it. Nothing to do but toss it and buy another.


We can repair this drum.

The shell will be meticulously put back together so that the bearing edge retains its strong yet forgiving surface. The fresh skin can then be mounted with confidence.

Mike's doumbek is whole again.

Elk Skin Doumbek

Mike has a nice clay doumbek. The problem is that the skin was not well mounted. The drum is not tuned, because the skin is loose.

Consequently, Mike is for ever trying to get the drum tuned by drying the skin with heat. Heat can drive out the moisture from the skin and make it shrink. As the skin shrinks it tightens on the drum. The tighter skin improves the drum's tone.

The loose skin problem and Mike's efforts to correct the problem led to an even bigger problem.

The only thing worse than a doumbek with a flabby skin is a doumbek with a flabby skin that's had a large hole burned through it.

The good thing about this bigger problem (yes, there is a silver lining) is that it's not irreparable. The skin can be replaced. AND while we're at it, why don't we go ahead and mount the new skin right and get Mike's doumbek tuned once and for all.

Mike liked our plan and agreed to it straight away. But there was one more detail to be decided - the type of skin. Goat skin is an obvious choice and by far the most common. We love fish skin on doumbeks and discussed the option with Mike as well as others. In the end, Mike decided to leave the choice of skin up to us. He trusted our judgment.

The drum is beautiful, isn't it? But what kind of skin is that?

It's not fish.

It's also not goat. So what kind of skin is that?

It's a type of skin rarely used on doumbeks - elk skin.

Thanks again for my new drum head! This doumbek has become my favorite now. The bongos sound fantastic too!

Michael Hollier (Morro Bay, CA)

Did we mention we skinned some bongos for Mike as well? No, not with elk skin.

Clay Doumbek Repaired

Terri sent us her clay doumbek for a head replacement. The skin had a small tear and needed to be replaced.

This is a fairly routine repair for us. We replace skins on ceramic doumbeks on a regular basis. Ocassionally, we receive a clay doumbek that's been further damaged during it's journey to us.

Once we remove the damaged skin, we find it was only the skin that was holding the broken shell together.

Broken clay doumbek shell without the skin holding it together.

A ceramic doumbek drum shell broken to pieces.

Lucky for Terri and her drum, we've learned to repair broken ceramic drum shells.

Terri's doumbek is whole again.

Laced Doumbek Skin Replaced

The drumhead on Jack's doumbek is punctured and needs to be replaced.

The original skin was mounted with a lacing system. A lacing system is very common on ceramic doumbeks and can work well, but many times the skin will begin to tear before the desired tension can be achieved.

With this in mind, we forgo the lacing and use an alternate method to mount the fresh skin - a thick african goat skin.

Because the new skin is thick, it had to be pulled extra tight in order to get the clarity and range these drums are capable of. Jack's doumbek is better than ever.

The Doumbek is doing fine, sounding fine!

Thank you so much!

Jack Morris (San Francisco, CA)

Ceramic Darbuka Repaired

The skin on this darbuka is disintegrating. The shell is made of clay, but we could not tell you what the skin is made of. What we can tell you is the skin needs to be replaced.

Whatever that skin was made of, the hardest part of repairing this doumbek was getting that old skin off the shell. Whatever adhesive was used to attach that old skin, it did not want to let go.

We struggled and scraped and finally did manage to remove the old skin and all the residue of the adhesive off the shell. We needed a clean surface on which to adhere the new skin.

With a clean shell to work with, we were able to mount a beautiful new goat skin and pull it as tight as we needed without fear of it coming loose. This enabled us to bring out this drum's finest voice.

As good as this doumbek looks, it sounds even better.

Fishskin Sombati Reskinned

Malcolm sent us his beautiful mother of pearl sombati to have the fish skin drumhead replaced.

Closeup of fish skin tearing on sombaty drum.

The skin has come loose from the shell and torn away from the skirt. Perhaps the drumhead was carelessly glued to the shell and tightened enough to break away.

Whatever the cause of the failure, the fix begins with removing the old skin and what remains of the old adhesive.

A crack on the bearing edge of the shell of a clay sombati.

Once the old skin is removed we see that there's a bit of shell work to be done. No big deal. Unless we ignore it. So we don't ignore it and seal the crack.

Now that we've got a solid shell and clean surface to work with we can mount the new fish skin, making sure to apply a generous portion of adhesive over every bit of surface the skin will contact. We don't want what happened to the old skin to happen to this one.

Malcolm is serious about his drumming and now has a serious fish skin sombati with which to pursue his passion.

It sounds amazing. Any hack would sound great on it. Great work!

Malcolm Miranda (Dallas, TX)

Doumbek Repair Puzzle

Guess what this is.

Many pieces of clay on a table that were once a doumbek.

You give up?

It's a clay darbuka sent to us to have the damaged skin replaced. You see the skin there in the middle?

Please, please, please, please, please pack your drums carefully when you ship them to us for repair, or you might end up with a bigger repair bill than you bargained for. This is especially true if your drum is ceramic.

Fortunately, in this particular case the owner had the foresight to purchase insurance for his drum and didn't hesitate to give the green light on the additional repairs needed.

Given the green light, we got to it. After putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, we mounted a beautiful skin and tuned it to perfection. Pretuned it, that is.

Yes, this is that shattered drum you see in the earlier picture. We can fix just about any drum you put in our hands.

Pakistani Darbuka Repair

Close up look at a badly bent and damaged darbuka shell.

Believe it or not, Robert bought this darbuka exactly as you see it with the idea that he'd just have it fixed and end up with a perfectly fine drum. Can you imagine? Who could possibly take this severely damaged drum shell and make it drum worthy again?

Well, Robert figured Dr. Tom was just the miracle worker for the job and sent us the drum for repair.

The drum head is torn, by the way, and must be replaced, but that's the least of our worries. The entirety of the bearing edge on this shell is warped, bent and crushed to at least some degree.

A bit of warping is easy engough to hammer back into shape, but the section with the most serious damage is worrisome. The shell must be put back into shape with the minimum amount of bending and pounding possible so as to avoid metal fatigue.

Metal weakens when it's bent. We must find the way to correct the mutilation with the least amount of further damage. The bearing edge will bear the brunt of the force exerted by the tightly pulled new drum head, so it's imperative the we not compromise its integrity.

Robert was right! Dr. Tom was the mircacle worker for the job. Of course, even miracles can be achieved with a rational approach.

We made it a point to use a thin skin so as to minimize the stress on the shell. :)

Hi Tom,

My darbuka was delivered today. You would never know that it was in as bad a shape as it was before your repair. It looks and sounds great! Thank you so much for your great work. Now on to learning to play it!

Robert Yee (Huntington, NY)

Egyptian Tabla Head Replacement

"Tabla" is an Arabic word meaning drum that is often used to name the goblet shaped drum we've been calling doumbek, or darbuka. Below is an egyptian tabla made of clay with inlaid mother of pearl and a fishskin drum head. As you can see, it's time to replace the drum head.

This is not a restoration project. We are not going to replace the drumhead with a skirted fishskin.

We're going to use a rope system to glue a nice goat skin on this drum. And we think the elegant black and white pattern on the shell calls for black rope to go with the whitish goatskin we have in mind.

We think it worked out just fine.

What do you think?

Tie Dyed Darbuka

Andrea sent a lovely ceramic doumbek to be reskinned for her husband. As it happens the torn skin was tie dyed, and she was hoping to reproduce the same effect with the new skin.

Tie dyeing drum heads is not something we've done before, but we're always eager to try something new. We couldn't promise Andrea that we'd be able to reproduce the color exactly and definitely not the pattern. But we were certainly going to do our best to make Andrea and her husband happy.

Not a perfect match, by any means, but not at all bad for a first attempt, and Andrea agreed.

The drum arrived today as promised and it looks great. He's going to love it!

Thanks for your help with this project.

Andrea Adkins (Sacramento, CA)

Mini Darbuka Drum Head Replacement

Here's a mini darbuka that originally sported a mylar drum head. Mini because it's got a 6" drum head.

We're going to replace the missing mylar drum head with goat skin. In order to do so, we have a flesh ring made.

Now THAT'S looking a lot better.

And it sounds WAY better. This little guy may look like a toy, but it's percussive and responsive. Not a toy at all - this is a drum.

Custom Darbuka Heads

The outer tuning mechanism of a Turkish style darbuka.

Stepan has a one of a kind 12" darbuka that he cannot find replacement heads for. The drum was made by a lone craftsman in the Turkish style (tuning bolts on the outside and a sharp edge).

The collar of a darbuka protruding above the playing surface of the drum.

The 12" heads he's been able to find are too shallow. This results in the top collar settling well above the playing surface so that his hands strike it when he plays the drum. OUCH!

Stepan asked us to customize some heads for his drum. He was hoping for synthetic skins because he feared that his vigorous playing would be too much for natural skins.

We would have been happy to oblige, but we have not yet figured out how to make synthetic darbuka skins. Stepan would have to settle for natural skins.

We had three flesh rings custom made to fit this drum. Stepan also has a 12" Syrian darbuka on which he hopes to mount one of the spare skins.

With these custom made drum heads, the collar sits well below the playing surface. Stepan can play away and not worry about hurting himself. Because this drum is quite large for a darbuka, it actually made sense to use thicker than usual skins. So Stepan can play away with all the vigor he wishes and not worry about breaking the skin.

Thanks for getting those heads made. Sounds great!

Stepan Altounian (Whittier, CA)

Syrian Doumbek Rehead

Syrian doumbeks are more commonly called darbukas at The Drum Doctor, because we think of darbukas as Turkish-style doumbeks. That is to say, doumbeks with the hard edge as opposed to the rounded edge more common to the Egyptian-style doumbeks.

These drums tend to use natural skin heads - usually goat skin. Once the darbuka head splits, there's nothing to do but replace it.

Sorry folks, tape isn't going to make everything all better. No, not even duct tape. You're going to need a fresh skin.

The good news is that replacing the skin is a fairly quick and straight-forward process. It just takes a little know how. The main thing to keep in mind is that you need enough skin that the head doesn't tighten before the hardware is below the playing surface, yet not so much skin that the hardware bottoms out before the drum head is in tune.

Something like this.

Ceramic Doumbek Restoration

This lovely ceramic doumbek obviously needed a head replacement.

These hand drums can have really great voices. All they need is a good skin pulled just so.

The previous skin had been tuned by pulling with rope directly on the skin. We attach a rope to the drumhead and then pull on that rope to tighten the skin. This way the pressure is distributed rather than focused on certain stress points. The result is that the skin can be pulled much tighter, giving the doumbek a much finer voice.

When done correctly, the result is a truly beautiful drum, in every sense of the word.

A ceramic doumbek with fresh drum head.

Another Ceramic Doumbek Head Replacement

Ceramic doumbek drum with a torn head.

Our patient is a beautiful ceramic drum that is one of kind.

Click on the thumbnail and you'll see the head has been punctured on the playing surface and has a tear along the bearing edge. There's nothing to do but replace the skin.

The drum has been assembled with leather straps that really suit the style and color of this doumbek, so we're going try and reuse as much of this strap as much as possible - not only because it looks great, but because we'd like to retain the character of this drum as much as possible and not be wasteful as well. Why discard perfectly usable skin?

After stripping off the old skin, all remaining glue residue must also be removed. In the process, we noticed three hairline cracks running down the bowl from the bearing edge. One of these cracks (the middle one) was severe enough that the sides could be heard grinding if pressure was applied to either side of it.

OH OH! These cracks are a serious threat to the structural integrity of the shell as well as to the integrity of the drum's voice and must be addressed.

The trick is to use a glue with a high enough viscosity that will allow it to seep into such fine cracks. Most glues are so thick they'd just bead up on the surface and be of little use.

After getting the cracks sealed and stabilized, We were able to mount a nice thick skin on this baby and pull it REALLY tight. Normally, doumbeks take fairly thin skins because of the relatively small size of their playing surfaces and because the playing techniques require them to be extremely responsive.

Ceramic doumbek with a fresh skin. Ceramic doumbek with a fresh skin. Ceramic doumbek with a fresh skin.

But The there was something about this skin and this drum. They belonged together.

We were not able to reuse all of the leather strap, but we did have some nice, thick rope that matched the drum quite well and enabled us to work quickly and pull the skin tighter than usual.

This doumbek has the clearest, sharpest teks and the most profound doumbs we've ever heard from a ceramic drum. Our client was pleased.

Another Egyptian Tabla Repair

Here is another Egyptian tabla that seems to be just fine. The shell is intact as is the drum head.

The problem is that the goat skin drum head is much too loose and won't produce a good tone. Andy has asked DrumDrTom to replace the skin with another and make sure the drum is tuned.

We chose a skin thicker than most drums of this type would normally use, but we pulled it extra tight. The drum has a great range. The bass is deep and resonant and teks are well defined. The result made Andy very happy.

Ceramic Semi-Doumbek Repair

Here's an interesting project for a couple of reasons. The most obvious being the proportions of the drum shell. This drum is obviously modeled after the doumbek, but a close inspection reveals that both the bowl and trumpet of the shell are under-developed.

The result of this unusual construction is what might best be described as a semi-doumbek.

Regardless of what we call this drum, it needs to be re-headed.

Most ceramic doumbeks are pretuned with a skin that's glued onto the shell, which brings up the other reason this is an interesting project - we intend to make this a tunable drum.

Often, pretuned ceramic doumbeks have their skin stretched into place with some sort of rope system, which is then glued onto the shell. In this case we're going to alter the original rope system slightly and use no glue.

The result is a beautiful semi-doumbek that can be tuned in a manner similar to djembe!

Doumbek Restoration

Doumbek drum with a torn head.

Our patient is a Toca doumbek with a synthetic head that I would venture is made of mylar. As you can see, the drum head has seen better days.

It seems that Toca would like their customers to buy a new doumbek every time the head on one of these drums is damaged; because the way these drums are constructed, the head cannot be replaced.

Obviously, Toca had not counted on DrumDrTom. We think that at their going price (well over $200) these drums should last a life-time.

Closeup of a doumbek with a wet skin stretched across the head. Doumbek drum with a wet goat skin stretched across the head.

We take a nice goat skin and stretch it onto the doumbek shell with a system of strong, durable, no-stretch rope and glue it onto the drum.

If you look closely, you'll see that the rope that stretches the skin does not attach directly onto the skin. Instead, it attaches onto a loop of rope folded under the perimeter of the skin. When we pull on the verticals attached to the loop, the pressure on the skin is distributed, allowing us to pull the drum head quite tight without damaging it.

Now all we have to do is cut off the excess rope and give the skin time to dry before we can return it to it's anxious owner. Yes, we do wait for the skin to thoroughly dry before we consider the job complete. There's always the possibility that the skin will split as it stretches tight during the drying process, either because we misjudged the amount of tension to apply or the skin had some flaw we failed to discern.

In this case, the skin dried as well as we could have hoped. The doumbek produced sharp, clear "teks" and deep, powerful "doums." Our client was more than pleased, commenting that the drum sounded better than ever!

Doumbek Re-head

We have another doumbek with a head that needs to be replaced. Unlike the previous doumbek, this drum is more traditional. The body is made of wooden staves, covered with an intricate pattern of decorative mother of pearl. The head is goatskin.

Doumbek drum with a torn head. Doumbek drum with a torn head.

As you can see, the nice lady that belongs to this beautiful antique tried to patch it up with tape. Can't blame her for trying; but, once the skin is gone, the only thing to do is mount a fresh skin - otherwise you'll get better sound playing your belly.

Take a close look at this drum by clicking on the thumbnails. Notice how the bowl flares outward from the playing surface then suddenly inward. This sudden decrease in diameter means the skin has to be cut exactly the right size. We want to stretch the skin to just below the widest part of the drum.

If we mount too large of a skin, the outer diameter of the skin may not shrink enough to hug the drum tightly when it dries. Too small, and it won't reach below the widest point of the drum. Just right and the skin will hug the drum snuggly when it dries and shrinks.

The holes through which the tuning rope will run must also me placed at precisely the right spot. It's also critical that the loop of cord that goes under the skin and that the tuning rope will attach to be exactly the right diameter.

All this may not be rocket science Folks, but it ain't trivial either. One mistake and we're back to square one.

Closeup of a doumbek with fresh goat skin head. Doumbek drum with a fresh goat skin stretched across the head.

We take a nice goat skin and cut it to just the right size, punch the holes and mount it onto the shell with a rope system and glue - just as we did with the previous doumbek.

As you can see, the skin fits on this drum like a glove; and, thanks to the fact that we've sealed all the splits the shell had , this drums sounds as good as it looks!

Ceramic Doumbek Crack Repair

Doumbek with hairline cracks on its ceramic shell. Close up of hairline cracks on ceramic shell.

Troy brought this beautiful Remo doumbek to The Drum Doctor with some hairline cracks on its ceramic shell. He was afraid to handle it, let alone play it lest it come apart.

Close up of cracks on ceramic doumbek as seen from inside the shell. Cracks on ceramic doumbek as seen from inside the shell.

Indeed, Troy was right to worry. These cracks, while very thin, run through the shell and greatly weaken the integrity of the shell.

We used two types of glue to seal and fortify the compromised shell. Both of them strong, durable and with a short curing time. One of them with a low viscosity and the other with a high viscosity.

Close up of sealed cracks on ceramic doumbek as seen from inside the shell. Sealed cracks on ceramic doumbek shell.

The cracks are barely visible, and the shell is as strong and probably stronger than ever.

Clay Doumbek Reheaded

Kate's ceramic doumbek is ready for a new drumhead.

The old skin had a tenuous grip on the shell. Can you see how little of the shell the skin is adhered to? Can't imagine the skin was pulled very tightly for it to not have beem pulled of by the tension.

We'll make sure the new skin is stretched well onto the shell with a large area of contact. Then we can pull it with confidence as tightly as needed.

The fresh skin is beautiful and tuned to produce crisp, clear teks and booming doums. Nice.