Saturday, April 19, 2008

Everybody Can Play Da Riddum...

I love percussions. It's one of the only things I'm proud of about myself, and one of the only things I have to offer people really. But as much as I love percussion, most of what I know is non-traditional. Meaning, I've literally made up the rhythm structure and improvisation licks myself based on drum beats from grunge songs (David Grohl based conga drumming, LOL!). At gigs, people don't notice that I actually don't know jack-shit because I'm good at pretending that I actually know what I'm doing (LOL!).

So I looked for an instructor out here in Manila that's willing to teach me. Unfortunately, I've searched and I've searched. But none of the people I've tried to contact for conga lessons either responded to me or are interested in teaching me.

So I searched for other avenues to learn to play percussions the proper way. Books with CDs and Online Tutorials don't seem to help much because I'm largely a visual learning kind of guy. I need to see how it's done before I can learn it.

A fellow percussionist Kariv (Pinoy Stories/Cosmic Love) actually lent me some LP instructional videos that he learnt from. I had them copied and converted to DVD. The videos were called "LP: Gettings Started on Congas - Fundamento 1&2". I picked up the Tumbao rhythm rather quickly. The rhythm comes most in handy in many of my band's songs when we have gigs. And now, I feel like I'm actually becoming a proper percussionist. I had no intentions of just getting rid of my style and the rhythm structures I've created. I injected the traditional rhythms that I've learnt into my style and made it my own.

However, I came across these series of videos on YouTube by Nate Torres. Each video lays the ground work for the Tumbao rhythm, progressively increases the number of congas, and adds some improvisation licks for you to learn along the way. Here is all 8 of his tutorial videos. When I first found these videos, the level I was playing at was actually already at the 6th video. This kind of gave me some self-confidence that my prior experience wasn't all for nought. The only reason why I can't progress through the 7th and 8th videos is because it already involves 3 congas. I only have a pair of LP Aspire Congas. Perhaps some day I will purchase a 3rd conga; possibly a lower note Tumbadora drum.

Anyway, here are the videos in succession. Please note that each video is a lot to take in. So take your time learning and practicing the techniques in each video before progressing to the next. How I wish I found these tutorial videos years ago.

In this video, Nate teaches you the basic strokes involved in the Tumbao rhythm. I agree with Nate that the muffled slap is very hard to perfect. Even I don't do it consistently perfect at gigs. But generally, I get it right. So practice those slaps to death before progressing to the next video. You won't regret it.

The next video shows Nate teaching some exercises that you can do based on the strokes that you learnt in the previous video. These are pretty good exercises for a beginner actually. It gets you used to stringing the strokes together in succession.

This video sets you up to start learning the Tumbao rhythm. It shows you the other transitory strokes that glue the Tumbao rhythm together. To be honest, I kind of cheat the "hand-finger" and the non-muffled slaps that are taught (LOL!). I get the feeling not getting these techniques right will catch up to me later on as I progress farther. So don't be like me. Get these down pat before progressing.

This next video is when the real fun starts. Nate now teaches you the basic Tumbao rhythm. Once you get the basic rhythm down, you'll try to play along with songs you like for sure.

Once you get the basic Tumbao rhythm down, Nate then shows some improvisation licks that you can slip into the basic rhythm.

Nate now ports you over to the Tumbao rhythm utilizing 2 congas. This is the level I wanted to be in at the very least. I already gig with two congas in the first place. Nate even shows you how to do some additional imrpovisation licks with 2 congas at the end of the video.

These last two videos now involve 3 congas. As I don't have 3 congas, I haven't really gone far learning from these videos. But this is definitely the direction I will progress to when I buy a 3rd conga drum.

I'm wondering if the obvious progression is more congas. Or is it pretty much the same with the 3 congas set-up? I figured you can just rotate your 2nd and 3rd conga drum in the Tumbao rhythm around to the other congas. Perhaps the next step is to start learning other conga rhythms.

These videos are definitely the easiest way to pick up percussions short of getting an instructor. Those of you who reached this far down this post are probably considering taking up percussions already (LOL!). Thus ends my long-winded post.



Myls said...


"At gigs, people don't notice that I actually don't know jack-shit because I'm good at pretending that I actually know what I'm doing (LOL!)."

na-biktima ako mga friends! hahaha

sundowndos said...

well... a musician is technically a "performer"... so as long people are entertained... it's all good that I actually don't know anything... hehehehe...