My atabaque was built with that neat feature from the start: a single piece of rope that can be easily undone to disconnect the tensioning ring and the ropework, allowing for easy skin replacement.
This re-heading method will work with a number of atabaques, depending on how the ropework was done.
Step 1: Get a skin and prepare it
I sourced mine from an African percussion group around where I live.
You will need to know the diameter at the top of the drum. Add minimum 20 cm (I recommend 30cm or more) to that size and you have the skin size you need to get.
It is important that you have enough extra on the sides (10 to 15 cm) so that you can properly loop the skin in the tensioning rings and still have enough slack to cover them neatly.
When selecting a skin,
- get the thickest one you can (for goat skin)
- avoid shaved skins (hair naturally wears off after you play for a while - it also gives a more authentic look)
- look for cut marks
- look for defects
You may draft a circle to decide on how the skin is going to be placed on the drum. In my case, I made sure the back line was going to be in the center, which is generally the way to do it.
Once you have sourced a skin, it must be soaked in water for a good 8 hours. This will make the skin much more flexible.