What is a Dumbek or Doumbek

[ Brass Dumbek ]The dumbek or doumbek is an instrument that you will typically find in North Africa, Balkan states, or Turkey. It is a goblet shaped drum that is usually used in music from the middle east, usually as the main percussion instrument.

The name comes from combining the 2 sounds that can be made from with the Dumbek: “Dum” (the lower tone) and “Bek” (the higher tone made from striking the drums edge). Don’t let that fool you though, you can get a large number of sounds from a Doumbek.

Doumbek body’s are typically made from ceramic, compressed aluminum, of nickel. The top can be made from goat or fish leather, or plastic. Many modern professional dubmek players use tunable versions made of aluminum and plastic heads. They can easily be tuned and most commonly have a 10″ diameter and are 18″ tall.

[ Silver Dumbek ]The  dumbek to the right is made of aluminum and has a clear plastic top. You simply use an allen wrench to tune the head.
[ Clay Dumbek ]This brass dumbek has detailed engraving around the bottom. It has a synthetic fiber top and is tunable in the same was as the aluminum one.


The third doumbek is clay with a blue glaze applied. The head is made of natural skin glued on and has rope laced into it to make sure it stays tight. In my opinion, it gives the most pleasing tone but it is much more difficult to tone.

The opera Les Troyes is the first Western classical composition that is known about that used a dumbek. It was composed by Hector Berlioz in 1856. The doumbek was used in the 4th act in the song “Dance of the Nubian Slaves”

Halim El-Dabh composed the first goblet drum and orchestra songs in 1950 for the song Fantasia-Tahmeel. It was performed in NYC accompanied by Leopold Stokowski’s string orchestra in 1958. (Source)