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The Conga Rhythm

I first learned to play the Conga rhythm as a conguero in a Cuban comparsa. Comparsa is a Spanish term that refered to the group of extras in a play. In time, it also came to mean the dancers that accompany musicians and, finally, the dancers and musici ans as a troupe.

 

In Cuba, the conga drums became an important part of comparsa music.

 

The Conga is what is known as a dance "step" rhythm. The step is on the & after 2 in the 2nd measure.

 

Here is a typical example of a Conga:

 

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|x   x   X     x|  x     X   X  | bell (x=closed X=open)

|    S S     O O|    S S     O O| high

     r l     r l     r l     r l

|B   t   B   t  |B   t O     t  | conga

 r   l   r   l   r   l r     l

 

The bass tones set up the usual pattern of regular beats. The open tone forces the next beat to occur earlier. It is triple accented, dynamic (louder), tonic (higher pitched) and agogic (in rhythms this means it sounds louder because it has a lot of spa ce around it) This accent also causes the dance step.

 

Here are some common variations of the basic Conga pattern:

 

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|B   B   B   B  |B     O        |

 

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|B   B       B  |B   B O        |

 

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|O O O O O O O O|O O O B        |

 

In modern salsa and in some comparsas, a rhythm called a Mozambique is sometimes added to give the Conga more melodic content. A Mozambique is a "melody dominant" rhythm. It's melody consists of 3 quarter notes in a row in a 16/8. In the example shown below, the three notes are low, high, low; starting on the 3 in the second measure and ending on the one in the first measure. To further balance this melody, I've added double accented open tones starting at the 4 of the first measure. Flam these occas ionaly, this will increase its agogic.

 

Note that this is my own variation. There are other variations, but this is the one I enjoy the most.

 

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|x   x   X     x|  x     X   X  | bell

|B   S S     O O|    S S B   O  | high

 r   r l     r l     r l r   r

|B   t   B   t  |B   t O     t  | conga

 r   l   r   l   r   l r     l

 

 

Jim's Notes: A Course in Drumming

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