Home The Dojo - Learning How Many Conga Rhythms?
How Many Conga Rhythms?

This is a sort of fun question. Consider playing a snare drum in a drumset. If we divide a measure of 4/4 music into 1/8th notes, in our box notation we will have 8 boxes to fill. Since generally a snare drum has a single sound (we will ignore rim shots) the first box can either be a note or a silence which is two choices. The next box has the same two choices which multiplies the first two choices by two. The next box multiplies by two again and eventually we find that the total number of possible single measure snare drum rhythms that exist are 2 8 = 256. In other words if you learned all 256 possible rhythms there would be no 4/4 pattern (that used nothing faster than eighth notes) you couldn't play on that drum since you learned all possible patterns. But a hand-drum such as a conga has more than one sound and furthermore hand-drum patterns tend to be two measures long. Therefore if we take the conga to produce three different notes (bass, open slap) plus not playing the note at all, we have 4 choices for each of 16 boxes.  In this case we have 4 to the power 16 or 416 = 4,294,967,305. In other words, there are over 4 billion two-measure 4/4 rhythms possible on the conga drum!  Obviously this allows plenty of room for artistic expression and demonstrates the creative potential inherent in hand-drums. 

We are not saying that a drumset doesn't also have this same potential, but it is clear that the drumset player must play multiple drums or cymbals to achieve the same level of artistic possibilities. The hand-drummer achieves it with a single drum! Playing multiple hand-drums provides even greater rhythmic diversity.

In the next section we will explore a few of those hand-drum possibilities

Next - More Conga Rhythms - Calypso - Reggae - Funk - Samba

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