Alexandria Doumbek or Darbuka – the ‘Goblet’ drum or belly dancing drum
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January 16, 2016

The doumbek has many sizes and weights. However, there is no definite size that a beginner should use. You should pick one that would fit you, and the same goes for the weight of the instrument. The different styles in which the instrument is played, however, is what separates the professionals from the beginners.

The Alexandria doumbek has such a strong and powerful sound that, if used efficiently, it can be used to make great harmonious reverberations that can complement almost any type of song or instrument. The Alexandria doumbek is known for its clear & crisp high tones as well as soothing bass tones. It has distinct high and low sounds that make it popular for belly dancing and drum circles. Its very pleasing, aesthetic shape shows how much craftsmanship goes into making the instrument; it can also be handled in different ways to help produce different sounds.

The combination of deep bass tones ("doum") and high, crisp tones ("tek") give the Alexandria doumbek its name. A wide neck doumbek has shorter resonance than a narrow neck drum of the same size giving the doum stroke a higher tone; the flare on a narrow neck drum adds to the resonance resulting in a deeper "doum". Many are also tunable, which gives more control over the tone, while some are fixed. Doumbeks are usually made of ceramic or metal, and occasionally wood, with drumheads made of acrylic, cow hide, goat, sheep or fish skin.

There are two main types of doumbeks. The Egyptian style has rounded edges around the head, whereas the Turkish style exposes the edge of the head. The exposed edge allows closer access to the head so finger-snapping techniques can be done, but the hard edge discourages the rapid rolls possible with the Egyptian style.

Alexandria doumbek also differ in the materials from which they are made.

Ceramic doumbek usually produce a warm and earthy sound and traditionally have heads made of fish or goat skin but synthetic heads also are used. Mid East ones are popularly made from various metals, including brass, copper, aluminum & nickel. Egyptian cast-aluminum Alexandria doumbek don't break easily and the mylar heads don't change tone with changes in temperature and humidity.

Most players say that aluminum body is better 'resonating' and produce a more metallic tone. African ones are commonly made from clay. The rich and varied history should get anyone excited about buying a darbuka.

They are inexpensive, and make sounds that are unique and cannot be replicated by other instruments. However, their use in popular culture has been increasing as of late. Recently the Alexandria doumbek has been incorporated into some folk dance groups. Its use in more contemporary music is helping the awareness of this drum and the rise in popularity of this great instrument.