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ABOUT THE NEW CONGA LAB

Most of the material dedicated to the study of conga drums available today is either built in reference to the established repertoire of the instrument (past and present), or focuses on licks, phrases, rhythmic cells and their application in existing musical contexts. In whatever case, the teachings almost invariably refer to applications on one or another specific musical genre or style; and when pure technique is dealt with, it is more often than not in a fragmentary fashion: one warm-up sequence here, a speed development exercise there.

However, the conga drum is a musical instrument, and as such it is a tool for creativity. You don’t only play rock with a drum kit, or jazz with an alto sax, and you can certainly do whatever blooms from your imagination with a piano. They are music-making tools, and whereas their history, technique and repertoire are inextricable from them, and must be incorporated into any respectable learning path, no boundaries must be set on what can be potentially done with them.

The last thirty years have seen a formidable evolution in congas technique, thanks to the seminal examples of Changuito, Giovanni Hidalgo and the legacy that followed in their steps. However, not much has been added in terms of content during the same period. It is my opinion that congas have a lot of potential still in want of being explored, both in the realm of composition and improvisation, but also in its basic lexicon and its potential applications in musical styles not usually associated with this instrument.

 

I feel that the available educational literature for conga drums is missing a body of work comparable to the Stick Control, or Joe Morello's Master Studies, both of which consist of a collection of technical studies that can be practiced in any chosen way, at any speed, and applied to any style. The same applies in my view to the snare drum's Table of Rudiments, which doesn't appear to have a comparable resource in the conga drums literature.

The material presented in this website has been created and compiled with the aim of filling this gap in congas practice, and the methods followed in developing this idea are articulated in more details in the freely downloadable Introduction

The other concern is that if we want to allow and facilitate the creation of a new repertoire for congas - one which can be embraced by the academic world and that can encourage the contribution of composers (and more generally of creators of new music) - a new system of notation needs to be established. One both leaner and more versatile than those presently available.

Most of the studies presented here can be practiced by players of any level, from intermediate to proficient, and there is not a specific way in which they should be approached, nor a particular order to follow. They can be employed as additional program material by a teacher, as a reference for basic technique’s exercises by a student, or as a companion for life for an advanced player who wants to investigate certain specific aspects of the instrument - or more simply have a collection of exercises and studies at hand to pick up at leisure during his or her daily practice routine.

A large amount of attention is given within these studies to a series of root combinations of the palm-tip movement; six to be precise, which I have called Core Motions, and a substantial percentage of the studies is based on one or another of said Core Motions. Other recurring topics are those of Symmetry and of Independence, or how I prefer to call it, Organic Playing. Last thing, the near totality of studies in this method consists of permutations; that is to say of most. or in same cases the entirety, of the possible variations of one initial idea.

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