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Conga Notation


We will be using what has become more or less a standard "tablature" notation for hand-drums. A measure or two of the rhythmic pattern is divided into boxes where each box represents an eighth note. (Where a single "measure" is counted "one and two and three and four and"...)

Conga Rudiments
Hand-drum players who also play drumset or marching snare will be familiar with a set of drum strokes known as rudiments (rude-uh-ments). These are the basic strokes for the snare drum of which there are 13 basic patterns and 13 standard extended patterns. There is an American standard naming and numbering system for these 26 rudiments. While hand-drum playing is somewhat different from the bouncy action of sticks upon a tight snare drum head, nevertheless many top conga players such as Giovanni Hidalgo practice rudiments regularly to gain speed and control. Certain of the rudiments clearly apply directly to developing conga technique.

Conga Tones

The expressiveness of hand-drums comes from the ability to get a wide variety of sounds according to the manner in which the hands strike the head. The following is no substitute for being shown how to get the various sounds from someone who knows how, but may give the beginner a hint on to how to proceed.

Every person is different and the true test of any drum "note" is the sound you get out of the drum. If the note sounds great, you are doing it "right" no matter what anyone says. If you hear some other player getting a great tone that you don't, perhaps you'd better ask how he/she is doing it! The ability to call up the various drum sounds (notes) at will in a pattern is called "tone separation".

Conga Book Intro

Introduction to Ben Jacoby's Conga Book

The following is a collection of information and miscellaneous lore that the author has collected from a variety of teachers and sources including "being shown a thing or two" by a couple of authentic Cuban players. However, not being Latino nor raised in the traditions, no claim is made for the authenticity of the information. This is especially true for folkloric traditions since the author's interests tend toward modern Latin dance music.

Congueros Hand

Lastly, never forget that as a hand-drummer your hands are part of your instrument. They determine your sound and you must protect and preserve them the same as your drums. The drumheads pull oil from your hands which must be replaced. Each player seems to have a favorite hand oil.

African shea butter, cocoa butter, lanolin, castor oil, olive oil and peanut oil are all commonly used. My personal preference is a mixture of equal parts of shea butter, castor oil, and lanolin.

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