top of page


In studying congas there is a constant effort toward developing a total ambivalence of control and technical proficiency between the right and the left side of the body.


The conga setup, of any number of drums, is an instrument perennially aiming at left-right symmetry and perennially sliding back into asymmetry. That’s because most of the literature and repertoire of the instrument consists of patterns fundamentally and heavily asymmetrical. One example is the “manoteo” in an ordinary salsa groove, which is played with the weak hand while and the majority of leading accents - slaps and open tones - are given by the strong hand; another instance are all the hand-to-hand sequences, where you will unavoidably lead with the strong hand. To aggravate this situation, however successful one may be in achieving symmetry in his or her playing, all the rest of our lives is led in a heavily left-right specialised fashion, and our entire musculoskeletal system is built around the resulting patterns.


For such reason this is an issue which needs to be constantly readdressed. Studies aiming at developing symmetry are those where a given pattern is followed by its mirror image in a series, and they can be both linear and organic. I find that within this family of exercises, the organic ones for three congas, or those that make use only of the peripheral drums tend to be more effective in rebalancing the muscular system and, incidentally, your posture.


Given that symmetry in conga playing is the exception (however frequent), only the definition “symmetric” will appear on the heading of each applicable study, and all those non specified will be by default asymmetric.


In addition, because the pursue of symmetry in congas playing is a Sisyphean task, and all the symmetry studies in the world will never fully compensate the ease of your “right” hand (whichever that might be), I have prepared a series unilaterally focused on training the weak arm, putting it through varying degrees of challenge, or more simply getting it to work a little more on its own, rather than evenly with the strong one. Another way to pursue this mission of compensation is that of simply practicing any two-drum sequence the other way round, as a left-hand player would (if you are right-handed that is).

bottom of page