for Congas, Bongos and Timbales
Note: There are many interpretations of the 'correct' technique in playing congas, or any percussion instrument. We recommend that you engage an experienced teacher to expand your knowledge and improve your technique.
This is an excellent Youtube video reviewing basic exercises and techniques by Paul Lopez
There are different ways of playing some of the rhythms so, on this webpage, you will sometimes see Heel Toe and sometimes Slap, Muffled or even Palm used to describe a particular stroke.
You can use the Exercises page on this site to improve the response of your weak hand. A Conga player has to be really ambidextrous.
It is important to practice with a click track or clave and you should master all patterns at a slow speed as well as being able to play them faster.
This is a basic Tumbao. It is a good starting point for Congas. The embedded video features an exercise for developing the heel toe rocking motion used in Tumbao. It fits over one bar and can be played with clave of either 3-2 or 2-3 direction.
H = Heel, T = Toe, S = Slap
This is a popular Tumbao pattern used widely in Afro-Cuban rhythms. Shown underneath is the Son Clave. Be sure to play the low open notes in the correct bar. ie in the first bar of a 3-2 clave. Playing with the clave is really important when playing Afro Cuban rhythms.
S = Slap
O = Open
P = Palm
Rumba Guaguanco (Havana)
As with many Afro Cuban rhythms, there are regional variations. This example employs a Palm stroke instead of a bass stroke. Palitos equates to a woodblock sound. Salidor is the low drum, Tres Golpes the middle drum and theQuinto hi drum, which is not shown here, improvises.
Rumba Guaguanco Two Conga Players
Hoe Blade is a bell sound. The LP site has a good instruction video on how to play Shekere.
Come back soon for more patterns, midi files and much more. If you have any comments, questions or Suggestions, please e-mail them to:-
We recommend Afro-Cuban Rhythms for Drum Set by Frank Malabe and Bob Weiner as a first class reference for Afro Cuban Rhythms. Available online from Knock On Wood
All material on this site is copyright Phil Little 2008