SPECIAL NOTE: If the formatting seems off (the rhythms don't seem to line up with the counter line ("1-+-2..."), then change the following setting on your browser: From the command line, select "VIEW->ENCODING->WESTERN EUROPEAN (WINDOWS) and that should line everything up correctly. Sorry I don't know enough to make it so that you don't have to do anything!
This is a labor of love by an amateur. It is a list of the various drum rhythms I have found in books, on the Web, and from instructors. Almost none of this is due to me being some drum guru. If there are mistakes on this page, assume they are mine, and point them out to me. I will make every effort to present accurate info here. To the best of my knowledge, nothing I have here is copyrighted material, so you are free to print it for your own use.

- Nataraj Hauser, 2002 (Return to my HOMEPAGE.

Some basic music theory...

Music is not a random thing. Rhythm, by definition, means a set pattern. When you listen to a good drummer, playing quickly, there seems to be no "rules", yet what she is playing sounds good. Almost as if by magic. I hear time and again, "I could never play like that." Wrong. It just takes a decent grasp of the basics, and practice, practice, practice.

You will hear drummers say cryptic phrases like "Let's do that six that Joe-Bob taught us", or "If all you play are fours, it'll call rain". What the heck are they talking about, you wonder? Music, even percussion, is broken down into measures of equal time. Each measure takes the same amount of time as the measure before it and the measure following it. Each note played in music has a duration, not in terms of seconds, but in terms of the other notes around it. On most instruments, you can vary the duration of the note and play either a long note or a short note. With drums the concept is slightly elusive, because the drum hits all have the same length. You can't sustain a drum note on most drums. Thus there are a couple of ways you can think about drum notes and arrive at the right rhythm. Let's take a look at an example.

For this example I'll use a rhythm that is a "four", more accurately referred to as a four-four, or 4/4. As I said before, each note has a duration associated with it, in relation to the measure in which it is played. Everything I say in this example refers to a single measure in 4/4 time. The details will vary with other time signatures, but the rules stay the same. The longest note is called a whole note, so termed because if fills one whole measure. The next shorter duration is called a half-note, predictably because it fills half a measure. Following that idea, you see that two half-notes equal one whole note. Next in line is a quarter-note. It takes four quarter-notes to fill one measure. Four quarter-notes equal one whole note. Still with me? The term 4/4 tells the musician that the measure she is about to play has the value (duration) of four (the top or first number) quarter-notes (the bottom or second number). In a single measure of music in 4/4 time, four quarter-notes would all have the same duration, and would be counted as (simply enough) "One, Two, Three, Four". Imagine each count as a beat of the drum. If the same 4/4 measure was written with two half notes (which equals four quarter-notes in duration), then each half-note would take up the duration of two quarter-notes. Counting that 4/4 measure is the same. It's always counted the same. "One, Two, Three, Four", that's the rule. It's a 4/4 measure; four quarter-notes. However, you would only beat the drum on counts One and Three. If the same measure were written with only one whole note, then you would only beat the drum on One. The key here is that all the variations I describe here ALL HAVE THE SAME DURATION. If it helps, use a clock with a second hand, and count each second as a quarter note. Each four-second interval is a single measure. If you count out loud each four-second interval as "One, Two, Three, Four" you are counting quarter notes. If you count the four-second interval by only speaking the first and third second out loud, then you are speaking half-notes.

OK. It gets a little harder here. Each quarter note can be further broken down. Two eighth notes have the same duration as a single quarter note. In one measure of 4/4 time, you could have 1 whole note, 2 half notes, 4 quarter notes, or 8 eighth-notes. Combinations of those notes make more complicated rhythms. One 4/4 measure could be written as quarter-note, quarter-note, half-note. On the drum you would hit on count One, Two, and Three. You would do nothing (rest) on count Four. It would sound exactly the same if you played three quarter notes and did nothing on count four. Remember I said you could look at things a couple of ways? Either is OK, as long as you remember that the measure still has all four counts in it, whether you play a beat on them all or not. If you're still with me, you are probably a little confused about counting eighth notes. I told you one 4/4 measure is counted "One, Two, Three, Four". So how do you count eight eighth notes in that measure? You still only number the four main beats, and the every- other-one beats are counted as "and". One measure of 4/4 time with eight eighth notes would be counted as "One, and, Two, and, Three, and, Four, and".

Let's go now to an example of the music as it's written in this booklet. Refer to the rhythm titled "BELEDI". Notice that it is labeled as a 4/4 rhythm. That means that this rhythm has a duration of four quarter notes per measure. There are two measures written, so the count line indicates 1-4 twice. The colon (:) at the end indicates the drummer should repeat.

BELEDI (4/4)  Tempo as per dancer's request!

(Primary)	D   D   t k t   D   t k t   t k	

Notice after the word "Beledi" there is a notation that looks like this...4/4. That designates 4/4 time, just what we have been using for our example. Look at the first measure. You can see that the first measure of the Beledi would be played and counted out loud as "One, Two, Three-and, Four", remembering that the words "Three-and" are only allowed as much time as the word "Two". To go back to the clock example for a moment, beats One, Two, and Four of the Beledi rhythm would each be one full second in duration. The two eighth-notes, the counts "three-and", have to get stuffed into the same one-second duration (in other words, still using the clock example, "Three", and "and" are each one-half second while One, Two, and Four are each one full second). Using the drum key found on the first page, the actual drum hits are Doum, Doum, tek-ka-tek which tells the drummer which hand is hitting the drum, and where to hit it.

Having said all that, I hope you haven't got it in your head that a quarter-note always equals one second. It doesn't, and I only use the clock as a convenient example. The speed at which a 4/4 measure is played is either specified in the music notation (as a number representing beats-per-minute), or chosen by the performer. The speed is referred to as "tempo". The 4/4 time signature simply tells the musician that the measure is defined in duration as four quarter-notes. The Beledi rhythm can be played slowly or quickly, but it is always a 4/4 rhythm.

A rest, or "moment of silence", is also specified with a specific length. A rest can be of any length. So a quarter-rest means you do nothing for the same amount of time it takes for a played quarter-note to elapse. In the notation presented here, I simply indicate rests as an absence of a note. Real sheet music would use notes and rests to accurately indicate the duration of the music in each measure.

Now look at the Karsilama rhythms and observe that they are noted as 9/8 time. That means that one measure of a Karsilama has the duration of nine eighth-notes. Remember that just because the time signature is 9/8 rather than 4/4 doesn't mean that the 9/8 is faster. It could be slower. The time signature specifies duration, not tempo.

Looking at the Primary Karsilama you see that it is written with notes on counts One, Three, Five, Seven, Eight, Nine. The duration is nine eighth-notes, meaning that there are nine counts in the measure, but you will only hit the drum on counts One, Three, Five, Seven, Eight, Nine. A "rest" is implied on Two, Four, and Six.

When you play, you would never play simply one measure. When playing from this guide, at the end of the measure, jump back to the beginning and repeat. Quit when you are tired, or your audience is tired (the same rhythm for 45 minutes may trance you out, but it is likely boring the audience to tears! Watch themů), or when it feels right. But always quit at the end of the measure. It is especially important if you are playing in a group, so that everyone can end at the same time. NOTHING sounds worse to an audience than a group of drummers who all sort of drop out at random times, and one lone (oblivious) drummer who keeps thumping along.

Note that when repeating, again using the Karsilama as the example, count One of the second measure (the first repeat) would follow immediately after count Nine. There is no rest, either written or implied. Count Nine is still only an eighth-note in duration, so Seven, Eight, Nine, One would be four equally spaced notes. Following is an example of a three-measure repetition of Karsilama (Primary). The numbers in parenthesis (2) indicate a count that is not played, a rest. Three measures of Karsilama would count as:

One, (2), Three, (4), Five, (6), Seven, Eight, Nine, One, (2), Three, (4), Five, (6), Seven, Eight, Nine, One, (2), Three, (4), Five, (6), Seven, Eight, Nine

Each "One" indicates the start of a new measure.

The Last Word
There are three ways to become a proficient drummer: Practice, Practice, and PRACTICE!

"Fun With the Doumbek" by Steve Kundrat ($6.00 from Mid-East Mfg (407) 952-1080)

NEW! (03/2002)Kamuran's Doumbek Playing Guide
Truly an AWESOME resource! Highly Recommended. The author says: This page is now a portal to the rest of the guide. The 300+ rhythm notations are now on separate pages sorted by count length.

JAS Middle Eastern Dance / Doumbek Rhythms
Awesome site containing many doumbek rhythms. Includes .WAV samples of many rhythms. Linked from Nataraj's Stage.

Hands-On Drumming Newsletter-format web page. Very nice. Includes drumming related news, gatherings (midWest area), and editorial. Each "issue" contains at least one rhythm, though most are African or Latin. (This site can also be reached via Nataraj's Stage, but in an indirect way via links from some of the fiction on the Stage.)


The following list organizes the rhythms in this packet by time signature. This could be helpful if an experienced dancer indicates that she "wants to dance to a nine". The drummer could use this table to find the available 9/8 rhythms. In a drum circle, you could be confused about what others are playing. Upon asking a more experienced drummer, you might be told this is a 'six' or a 6/8. Referencing this list could give you a list of familiar rhythms that 'might' work along with what the others are playing.

2/4		3/4		4/4 (or 8/4)	5/8		
Ayoub		Quddaam		Beledi	Fanga*	Shoush
Saudi		Zar		Bolero dJolli* 
				Cocek  NotTwo*
				Falahi Conga*
				Guwazi Saiidi

6/4 or 6/8	7/8		8/4 (or 4/4)	9/8 (or 9/4)	
Basiit		Dawr Hindi	Chiftitelli	Karsilama
Soufi		Kalamantiano	Maqsum		Zabec
		Laz		Masmoudi	Zeibekiko
		Shoubia		RhythmQuest 8*

10/8		11/8		13/8		14/8		
Aqsaq Samai	Al'Awis		Muraba		Muhajjar
Curcuna		Kopanitsa

15/8		21/8		36/8		
Daveed's 15*	Zenkov		Samah

*Not a Middle-Eastern/Baltic rhythm

Middle Eastern and Baltic Drum Rhythms

KEY D = Doum, Base Note, Primary Hand t = Tek, Tone Note, Primary Hand T = Accented Tek, Tone Note, Primary Hand k = Ka, Tone Note, Secondary Hand fr= Finger Roll, Tone Note, Primary Hand fl= Finger Roll, Tone Note, Secondary Hand Al'AWIS (11/8) 1 1 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-0-+-1-+-: (Primary) T D T D T T D D AQSAQ SAMAI (10/8) 1 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-0-+-: (Primary) D T k D T T AYOUB (2/4) Trance Beat 1-+-2-+-: (Primary) D kD T BASIIT (6/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-: (Primary) D k D tkT k t k D k t k BELEDI (4/4) Tempo as per dancer's request! 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D D t k t D t k t t k 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Variant) D D frk k D tktkt k t k (This version called "Sword Dance") BOLERO (4/4) 1-+- 2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D tkkT k T k T k (tkk is a triplet) CHAKA (6/4) From SCA sources 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-: (Primary) D tktkT tktkD tkT tkD t CHIFTITELLI (8/4) Slow 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-: (Primary) D k T D D T (Variant) D tkt T tkt T tkD tkD tkT (Variant) D tkt tkD T tkD tkD D T (Variant) D t T d T D D T (Variant) D tkt T tkdkT tkD tkDktkT tktktk: COCEK (4/4) "Cho-Chek" - Romany/Macedonian Gypsy 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D t T t T k CURCUNA (10/8) "Jur-Juna" - Armenian 1 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-0-+-: (Primary) D k T k D T k DAWR HINDI (7/8) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-: D T k T D t k T t k : DAVEED's 15 (15/4) - SCA? 1 1 1 1 1 1 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+0+1+2+3+4+5-: (Primary) D k k T k k T k k T k T k T k : FALAHI (4/4) Fast! (240 bpm) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D T T D tkt GUWAZI (4/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D tkD D tkt T 1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + - : (Variant) D tktkD tkD t k t tkT t k KALAMANTIANO (7/8) - Greek 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-: (Primary) D k t k D k D k KARSILAMA (9/8) - Turkish - Quick 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-: (Primary) D T D T T T (Variant) D t k T t k D t k T T T (Variant) D t k D t k T t k t k T T (Variant) D t k T t k D T T T (Variant) D T t k D T T T (Variant) D t k D t k D t k D T T (Variant) D t D D k k (Variant) D t D D S S 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-: KOPANITSA (11/8) - Bulgarian 1 1 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-0-+-1-+-: (Primary) D k D k T k D k T LAZ (7/8) Fast 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-: (Primary) D k D k T k LAAZ (7/8) Different than Laz? 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-: D t k k D t k t t D t k t D t k t t k D frk k S frk t frk MAQSUM (4/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D T kkt D kkt kk: (Primary) D D kkS D kkS : MASMOUDI (8/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-: (Primary) D D T D T T : (Variant) D tkD tkT tkT tkD tktkT tktkT tk: (Variant) D tkD tkD tktktkD tk kT tk kT T : MUHAJJAR (14/4) - Turkish? 1 1 1 1 1 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-0-+-1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+- (Primary) D D D T D T T T T (Variant) D D D t k T t k D t k T t k T T k T k Muraba (13/4) 1 1 1 1 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-0-+-1-+-2-+-3-+-: (Primary) D T tkt k D tkt k t k t k T tkt k T tkt k D tkt k : QUDDAAM (3/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-: Can work well with Afro- (Primary) D tkt t D t Cuban 6/8 rhythms. D tktkt D tk: RHYTHM QUEST EIGHT (8/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-: (Primary) T D D T D D T D SAIIDI (4/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D T D D T : (Primary) D T tkD D tkT tk: SAMAH (36/8) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+0+1+2+3+4+5+6 D T T D D D T T D T T D D T T D T T D SAUDI (2/4) Egyptian 1-+-2-+-: (Primary) DkkDkkSk: SHEELTO (7/8) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-: (Primary) D t k t k D t k t t k SHOUBIA (7/8) Iraq 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-: D D D T D tk tk : D D D T k D tk tk : D tkD tkD T D tk tk : D D D fr P tk tk : SIRTO (4/4) Swingy 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D k D k t k D k T k t k SOUFI (6/8) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-: (Primary) D T T D T D T T D T T SUFI (4/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-: (Primary) D D D D T : (Variant) DkkDkkDkDktkTktk: SHOUSH (5/8) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-: (Primary) D t k t D T SULTAL (5/8) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-: (Primary) D D T D TkD kTkdktkk ZABEC (9/8) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-: D t k D t D t k D t t : D t k D t k D t D t k t k : ZAR - (3/4) - One of many 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3-: D tktkD tktkD tktkD D T : ZEIBEKIKO (9/4) 1-+-2-+-3-+-4-+-5-+-6-+-7-+-8-+-9-+-: (Primary) D t tktkD tkt tkD t tktkD tkt t tk ZENKOV (21/8) - Russian Wild! 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+0+1 (Primary) D T D T k D k D k T k D T k

African and Other Drum Rhythms

In most contemporary drum circles, the doumbek player will find herself playing with drums other than doumbeks. The most common drums around in this (wonderful) renaissance of hand drumming are the African djembe and ashiko, followed closely by the Latin conga family of drums. Most of the players of these drums have little or no experience with Near- and Middle-Eastern rhythms. It is well then, that the doumbek player have a few good rhythms under her belt so she can play along when the 'big drums' get rocking on an African or Latin rhythm. To that end, I have included a small sample of rhythms that can be played on a doumbek in such a setting. If you feel comfortable doing so, and the setting is appropriate, maybe you, the doumbek drummer, can teach the others one of your favorite Arabic rhythms!

A note on holding the drum for these rhythms: While I advocate holding the drum appropriately for playing Near- and Middle Eastern music (e.g. the doumbek across the lap, tucked under the off hand arm), that position may not be effective for these rhythms. African and Latin rhythms are constructed in such a way that either hand can be used for any drum strike, whereas the doumbek player only plays bass notes with the primary hand, and the drum is held in front of the body for this. You should experiment to find what works best for you when playing these rhythms. But switch back to proper technique for the Near- and Middle-Eastern rhythms, because you'll learn the proper habits that will help you become a better drummer.

Gn = Bass note, primary hand (pronounced "goun")
Dn = Bass note, secondary hand (pronounced "doun")
Go = Tone (mid) note, primary hand
Do = Tone (mid) note, secondary hand (pronounced "doe")
Pa = High note, primary hand (pronounced "pah")
Ta = High note, secondary hand (pronounced "tah")

Nigerian Conga 4/4 (in four parts)

		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + -:
(Part I)	Go  Do  Gn  Dn  Go  Do  GnDn

		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + -:
(Part II)	Gn      Gn  Do  Gn      Go  Do

		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + -:
(Part III)	Gn  PaTaGn  PaTaGn  PaTaGoDo

		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + -:
(Part IV)	Go  DoGo  DoGo  Pa  TaPa  TaPa

Fanga (4/4) (in two parts)

		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + - 1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + -:
(Part I)	Gn      Dn  Gn      Dn  Go  Do  Gn      Dn      Gn      Go  Do

		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + - 1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + -:
(Part II)	Gn          Go      Go  Do      Gn      Gn      Go  Do

		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + - 1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + -:
(Part III)	Gn      Do  Go      Do  Go  Do  Gn      Dn      Go  Do  Go  Do

dJolli  (4/4)

 		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + - :   
(Part I)	pa  tapa  GnDn  paDn  pata      :
(Part II)	pa  tapa  tapatapa  ta  patapata:

NotTwo (4/4) (by Nataraj)
 		1 - + - 2 - + - 3 - + - 4 - + - :
(Part I)	GN  pata    GO  pata    PA  ta  :
(Part II)	GN  do      DO  Gn      Go  do  :
(Part III)	    pata    pata    pata    pata:
(Part IV)	Patapa      PAtapa      Patapa  :