Two Conga or "Mambo" Technique

The "mambo" technique of playing has a cultural evolution tied to a certain problem with playing double congas from a seated position. Because of their width, only one conga can be held directly in front of the player and be accessed by both hands. The other drum, usually on the right side and lower pitched, can only be easily reached by the right hand. The left hand would have to reach across the player's body and the left drum.


What signifies a "mambo" is the combination of:


1. The doubled (occasionally a single) open tones on the "4 &" of the measure.

2. That there are no true rests.

3. The use of doubled hand strokes (heel-toe).


It is primarily the lack of rests that give it its characteristic sound along with the sound of the heel-toe stroke. This lack of rests is also the identifying sound of rhythms called "latin american style" or "puerto rican style" (tumbao). However, by all means; not all l.a. or p.r. rhythms are withing this style.


Since it has no true rests, it is not very energy efficient and does not lend itself to flexibility in timing. For these reasons, it is normally used with melodic instruments and takes an accompanying role. So, it is not found in rhythm ensembles which require a cleaner sound (more rests) and greater playing flexibility.


The following are examples of single measure foundation "mambos" (tumbaos) using double congas. Remember to start on the last "4":


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|h-t S t t t    |  conga

|            O O|  tumba

 l   r l r l r r


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|h-t S t t t   O|  conga

|            O  |  tumba

 l   r l r l r r


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|h-t S   h-t   O|  conga

|      O     O  |  tumba

 l   r r l   r r


|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|

|h-t S     t   O|  conga

|      O O   O  |  tumba

 l   r r r l r r


Double measure foundations:


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

|h-t S     t   O|h-t S   h-t   O|  conga

|      O O   O  |      O     O  |  tumba

 l   r r r l r r l   r r l   r r


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

|h-t S t t t   O|O t O   h-t   O|  conga

|            O  |      O     O  |  tumba

 l   r l r l r r r l r r l   r r


There are many variations possible, just remember that there should be an open tone on the 4 (either high or low drum) at least 75% of the time (and it doesn't have to be doubled). In playing with a band, the drums should be tuned to the bass c-d or c-g at least a whole step apart.


Jim's Notes: A Course in Drumming