Free Arabic Drumming Apps

I recently decided to see what belly dance related apps I could find. When you are stuck waiting for an appointment or on public transport, etc. – having a dance related app to entertain and educate can be a great use of your time.  In terms of actual dance apps, the pickings are pretty slim. Belly dancer drummingThere are several paid apps that will apparently teach you the basics of belly dance but are expensive and have bad reviews. I will do a future post on the best of those. Things fared a little better though when I looked at Arabic drumming rhythms. Knowing your rhythms is important for all serious dancers as well as drummers (I am also a drummer). In order of usefulness:-


I found a free and very simple app called DumTek for iphone /ipod touch/ ipad. The interface is very basic, just a list of rhythms but the basic rhythm and then fuller versions of it are included. When you click on the rhythm you see the rhythm written out with the timing. You then have the option of speeding it up or slowing it down to beat per minute (speed) you want to listen to it at. It is a small app that takes up very little space, does not rely on internet connections and is very useful. It has enough rhythms (30) that all but advanced drummers should find something to learn on it. For dancers, it is important to be familiar with all the basic rhythms, this is an easy way to hear each rhythm in isolation so it is easier to recognise in your dance music – and it costs nothing. Worth downloading although it looks to be available on apple only and not android.

Tabla – free (by fredo)

Basically an Egyptian tabla for your pocket. You can’t poc or do anything too fancy on the free version for apple but you can tap out basic rhythms with a Dum and 2 kinds of Tek. A little dancer with big hip movements accompanies some of it and prompts you every so often to buy the full version that includes finger cymbals and roll sounds and slaps. The android version is free for the full program but you get ads and can’t change around where the sounds are on the drum (at least I couldn’t find a way to do it like you can on the apple version). It also seems to lag more than the apple one meaning you can only play very slow rhythms, the apple version was faster. Not really of use for a dancer as the dancer is very small and does basic moves but can be a bit of a novelty for a drummer, better on apple.

Rhythm Trek Lite

This is the free version of Australian Drummer Matt Stonehouse’s drumming app – I didn’t realise this when I downloaded it.  I want to say something good about it as I have actually had a lesson from Matt before and he seems like a great guy and is a fantastic drummer but… despite reading the instructions several times over – I found it difficult to get the app to do what I wanted. I am not sure how Matt riding a camel fits in with it all. I managed to get a base rhythm to play and to introduce a riq sound. You have the option to muck around with 4 bars of music which could be good to make up your own sounds but without already knowing the full rhythms it could be pretty boring and limited. I guess if you are good at making stuff up it will sound alright. The pirate ship kept sailed off to difficult places to find and the screen was slow to respond when you tried to scroll to another part of the map to find it. When I have another 10mins spare, I will try again, it is probably good when you work it out……

I tried it with my ipad and while it would play, its screen size is suitable for an iphone or ipod touch, perhaps the android version works better? Still it’s free so if you want to put together a short piece of basic Middle Eastern music then give it a go. The full version has more options but its ease of use that I find a bit of a worry. It is definitely the most original approach to Arabic rhythm lessons.

Riqq (Lite)

On android it is just Riqq and the full app is free, on the apple platform it is Riqq Lite for the free version. Same as “Tabla” above only it’s an Egyptian Tambourine instead of hand drum. Same issues with lag and options with the android version. Is it just me or have they got the rim and middle sounds mixed up? The dom is on the edge on a riqq I thought???

DumTek Darbuka

Android only, not on apple that I could find. Same concept but it’s the Turkish looking instrument. Found it was also not fast to respond on my Samsung galaxy phone. There is another page that makes it better to use – you have to click the option page then ‘other page’. This will bring up a page of little drum heads each with a different sound- 24 in all. Too slow to really jam with but a good variety of sounds to play with.

Percussion Drums

Choice of Maracas, tambourine or doumbek with other instruments apparently soon to come. Also free and on android not apple. A waste of time though. I could only get it to make sounds on coloured squares with a variety of percussion noises. You didn’t know which was which though and it failed to make a single sound on any of the instruments when selected individually – so who cares if more are to come. Big Raspberry. Update – after 4 attempts and much waiting I got a sound for the doumbek – just a dum and a tek both tinny. Lucky it’s free.

Tom Tom Darbuka

Glitchy, android app. Choice of 10 sounds you play on generic looking tambourines – not Arabic looking at all. Sounds are clipped and poorly recorded. “Tabla” is way better.

 I would probably only bother with the first 3 apps. One of the apps I downloaded seemed to allow a whole heap of unwanted stuff to download onto my phone. I suspect it was tom tom darbuka.

Do you have any apps you would recommend dancers or drummers?

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