Djembe, Samba, Congas

The following are some great hand combinations designed to improve left and right hand skills, increase dynamic consistency and endurance on the LP Djembe. The material also helps develop control and agility when playing bass tones, open tones and open slaps.

The practices have produced good results for students in the University of Georgia Hand Drum Ensemble and the Athens Communtiy Drumming Ensemble. The eight groupings of left and right hand exercises are assigned to accompany a Lenjengo pattern which is a West African rhythm.

(P) Palm (T) Finger Tap (O) Open tone (B) Bass (S) Slap

Accent and Tap Warm-Up for a Drum Line
by James Campbell

One of the most fundamental techniques for marching percussion involves the control of stick heights. Proper interpretation of many modern rudimental and rhythmic patterns require the performers to control the sticks as they quickly change heights from the accent to tap level. This is especially true in interpreting contemporary flam patterns such as Flam Taps, Flam Inverts, and Pataflaflas.

Initially, use only two stick heights for this warm-up; high and low. The accent and tap (the two primary elements of this exercise) are the basic motions of this warm-up. Emphasize uniform movement, matching the motion of each player. Eventually, you will want to play this warm-up at a variety of stick heights and dynamic levels - 12"/6" (ff/mf); 9"/3" (f/mp); 6"/l" (mf/p).

The sticking pattern isolates single-hand movement for individual awareness of motion. In the last two bars, the snares and tenors play double-stops. Snares and multi-toms should compare the motion of each hand during the double-stops to maintain uniformity. Toms should cross-stick on the double-stops, as indicated for added dexterity, and can eventually orchestrate their own patterns around the drums once they have achieved the correct interpretation on a single drum. The cymbal technique "sizzle/slide" is created when the plates remain together after impact and slowly separate. Play in a horizontal position for a maximum sustained sizzle sound. Performing with a quality sound on this warm-up requires a controlled rebound from the fingers on the tap sequences. Some players have the tendency to be either too stiff or too loose in playing the syncopated figures. The proper technique involves a coordinated effort between the arm, wrist, and fingers.

The mallet, timpani, and auxiliary players from the front ensemble perform an Afro-Cuban groove and serve as a "click track" for the drum line. Performing these rhythms on a variety of Latin percussion instruments will help the ensemble develop listening skills with internalized tempo control.

Play twice through without a break (one set) so that the snares, quads, and bass drummers will complete a cycle with each hand as the lead. Use a holding pattern to change tempo between the sets. The ensemble should start this exercise slowly and gradually move the tempo faster at each repeat. More experienced groups will stay sharp if the tempo and dynamic changes are radical or extreme at each repeat.

James Campbell has received world-wide recognition as a performer, teacher, arranger, adjudicator, and is a respected figure in the development of the contemporary percussion ensemble. Currently Professor of Music and Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, he also holds the position of Principal Percussionist with the Lexington Philharmonic.

Jim received both his B.M. in Music Education and M.M. in Percussion Pedagogy and Performance from Northern Illinois University where he studied with G. Allan O'Connor and members of the famed Blackearth Percussion Group. He also was a student of late James Lane of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Well known for his long association with the internationally renowned Rosemont Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, Jim has served as their principal instructor, arranger, and Program Coordinator. He was Percussion Director for the McDonald's All-American High School Band and has performed at the International Society of Music Education World Conference, MENC National In-Service Conference, Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic, Texas Bandmasters Association, Bands of America World Percussion Symposium, and at several Percussive Arts Society International Conventions.

Beyond the Tumbao - Developing Odd Meter Patterns for the Congas
by Ruben P. Alvarez

Traditional Afro-Cuban conga rhythms blend well with many musical styles that are based on double or triple based meters. But what do you do when the composition is written in odd meters like 5, 7, 9, etc.? The purpose of this article is to introduce the contemporary percussionist to a system that can be used as a springboard to develop odd meter conga "tumbaos" for two congas, pitched high and low. (I personally like that combination tuned to a fourth). The two conga set-up would include a higher pitched lead drum directly in front and a lower pitched drum to the right, right handed players or vice versa for left handed players.

Learning traditional Afro-Cuban techniques to produce the four basic tones on congas (P) Palm (T) Finger Tap (O) Open tone, and (S) Slap tone, and a basic understanding of the tumbao are prerequisite for playing this exercise. Don't be discouraged, excellent resources are available such as Richie Gajate-Garcia's "Adventures in Rhythm" and Bobby Sanabria's "Getting Started on Congas" videos. (Both of these videos are available online on The LP Store.) A well rounded contemporary percussionist definitely needs this knowledge and the skills its produces.

Depending on the tempo and the rhythmic emphasis of the composition, traditional Afro-Cuban tones, (P) Palm, (T) Finger Tap, (O) Open tone, and (S) Slap tone, can be used in combination with rudiments paradiddles, double paradiddles, triple paradiddles, and inverted paradiddles. To play 5/4 you could use the sticking pattern llrlrlrlrr using only open tones on your lead drum, preferably the higher pitched drum.

(A). The next step in the process is to assign the different combination of sounds to the pattern. (B). Next, add the second conga preferably the lower pitched drum as a sound source. (C). The final step in the process is to rest on the downbeat of beat 3. (D). To change the "swing", and create variations, start at a different point in the pattern. (E). Try building grooves in 7, 9, 10. and Have fun, but make sure you develop a groove and above all make it swing! (P) Palm (T) Finger Tap (O) Open tone (S) Slap

Son Del La Loma by Marc Jacoby

Have you been working on marimba lately? Can you really dance to the Mexican Dances? Well you can dance to this!

This accompaniment to the introduction of Son Del La Loma, a popular Cuban Song by Miguel Matamoros, is a great way to work on four mallet techniques and practice the rhythmic complexities of Cuban music. Work on developing an independent "feel" to each hand. At the same time, check out the combination rhythms of the hands as a trick to learning. Follow the sticking suggestion, or come up with your own.

Although this is just an accompaniment, check out the melody to this and many other great Latin tunes in The Latin Real Book published by Sher Music Co. Get a lead instrument and a percussionist and form your own Son group!


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