Anyone can play the bongo with a little practice and rhythm. The bongo adds a lot of rhythm to salsa and Latin American or Caribbean music. Although it is rarely the center of attention, except for bongo solos, this instrument can be the life of the party and is always the foundation of any rhythm.
Part 1 of 4: Choosing the Right Bongo
Step 1. Choose the right size bongo
Smaller bongos emit higher tones. The largest bongos have deep, melodious tones. In general, the larger bongos have a wider range of notes that overlap with the notes of the smaller bongos.
As attractive as you may find using a larger bongo, it is best for beginners to start with a small one. For example, remember your first driving experience. Would you rather drive a bike or a truck first? This way you will perform the basic techniques before worrying about all the notes you want to play
Step 2. Consider bongos made of different types of materials
Bongo material can completely change the sound, note length, and timbre from one bongo to the next. As these instruments come from various parts of the world, there are many materials that are used to make them. Try several before buying one.
Most bongo drums are made of wood, but there are also some made of fiberglass or metal. The upper patches are usually made of raw leather, but there are also synthetic materials. It all depends on the preference and need of each person
Step 3. Experiment with different quality bongos
A pair of bongos can cost anywhere from $ 50 to $ 450. They all have different characteristics and sounds. Make sure to try several bongos before deciding on one. You might be surprised.
If you plan to play often and not just annoy your friends during the holidays it would be a good idea to invest in a decent bongo, since you will get quality according to the amount you pay
Part 2 of 4: Mastering Proper Posture
Step 1. Sit in a comfortable chair that does not obstruct your ability to play
Use a chair without arms, a chair in your dining room is a good option. Do not use a chair where you can get too comfortable and lie down because it can affect your posture; the arms would get in the middle and hinder when you play the bongo.
Also, the chair must be of an appropriate height. You should be able to put your legs comfortably and thus step on the ground. Many bongo players raise and lower their knees to the beat of the music, advanced musicians even play the crescent percussion tambourine that require the floor
Step 2. Get into a comfortable position
Stand on the edge of the chair and make sure your legs are at a 90 degree angle. It will be much easier to hold the bongo if the seat is out of the way and your legs are in a good position to support it.
Step 3. Bend the small (male) drum on your left knee if you are right-handed
If you are left-handed, change it to the right knee. Place the large (female) drum on the right knee. Hold the drum firmly with both legs and make sure you feel comfortable because you may need to reposition yourself.
If for some reason you can't sit down, or don't feel comfortable, there are benches specially designed for placing bongo drums or arrangements that bundle them together into a larger set of drums
Part 3 of 4: Learning to Play
Step 1. Discover the pulse
This is different from rhythm, it is what you instinctively feel when you listen to music. It is that pulse or beat that dominates you while you dance, it is the way to move your head when the music starts. Put on music with which you can play the bongo and feel this pulse; This will help you figure out what rhythms you want to add when playing the bongo.
You will probably find that your legs move up and down to the beat of this pulse while sitting on the bongo drum. Keep doing it, it will help you respect the times
Step 2. Start with the left high drum and use your left hand
This should be the small drum, that is, the male drum. Keep your pulse and do a basic 1, 2, 3, 4 or whatever beat fits the music.
This is called "tone." It should be a light shade and is at the end of the drum closest to it. This is in the first beat and is the basis of the rhythm that you will create
Step 3. Tap with your fingertips
As you hit the rhythm of the basic pulse make sure to hit with the tips, that is, with the part that forms the upper ⅔ of the fingers. Hit lightly and don't use a lot of force. The fingers should move away from the drum and rise after hitting it to avoid ruining the note.
For now, avoid using the edge of the bongo and hit the top head of the drum. Your fingers should be resting on the end of the top patch closest to you
Step 4. Play a tone on the right drum with your right hand
This will be in strong time or natural accentuation. While playing 1, 2, 3, 4 with your left hand, play the largest drum (female) between measure 2 and 3 & 4 and 1. In other words, with both hands you will be playing 1, 2 "and" 3, 4, "and".
Play the end of the right drum in the same way you played the end of the other drum. Use the upper ⅔ of your fingers and hold a light stroke. For now avoid the edge
Step 5. Experiment with other basic strokes
You have already tried the basic stroke, now you are going to learn more. It should be noted that the open tone bump is what has just been explained.
- "Open tone punch." Make a clear open tone and hit the end of the drum with your palm knuckles letting your fingers bounce off the main part of the drum, that is, on the top head. Try moving your fingers back and forth, about 4 inches (10 cm) from the center of the drum, and notice how the sound changes. You need a clear, rich sound that has a defined note. Harmonics, those sounds produced naturally by the resonance of other light tones, are not part of an open tone.
- "Blow dry or cookie." Instead of having your whole hand relaxed, curl your fingers a bit as you hit the top head of the drum to create a higher note. This will add color and style to your bongo playing. After the hand hits the drum, relax your fingers so they bounce off the top head. This produces a sound of a higher pitch than the aforementioned beat.
- "Gesticulation". Rest your hand on the top head of the drum. Swap using the bottom of your palm and fingertips in a back and forth motion. Make sure to keep your hand in contact with the top head of the drum when you are making this hit.
- "Basic tone off". This is similar to the open tone, except that after you hit you leave your fingers resting on the top head of the drum. It is important to keep your hands relaxed and almost motionless. All you should hear in this tone is a fairly light sound produced from the light touch of your fingers on the top head of the drum.
Step 6. Add more tones and fast rhythms as you progress
As you progress you will use the edge of the drums with one hand on both instruments and you will play the eighth and sixteenth notes, in other words your hands are practically going to be flying. When you get used to the basic rhythm try to make it a little more difficult by adding accented rhythms or change the type of beat you are using.
Do not try to do very difficult things that are not yet at your level because you could be demotivated. No one can run before learning to walk. It takes skill and dexterity to achieve a varied musical sound with the bongo, even if playing this instrument seems easy. Practice every day to develop your skills
Part 4 of 4: Experiment with Variations
Step 1. Try the Habanera
Good news, the rhythms described above make up the basic Habanera, you just need to add a movement to it. It is done like this:
- Keep the pulse with your left hand on the small drum. 1, 2, 3, 4.
- Then add beats after bar 2 and 4 on the large drum with your right hand. 1, 2, and 3, 4, and.
- Then add downbeats after bars 1 and 3 on the small drum with your right hand. This changes the note and gives a more musical sound. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and.
Step 2. Learn the hammer blow
Get used to the hammer, since it is a basic rhythm of salsa and of various types of music where the bongo is played. It is done like this:
- Use the index finger of your right hand to start the beat on the edge of the small drum. This is measure 1, 2, and 3.
- Use the small drum again and use the fingers of your left hand to beat "y" after 1 and 3. For the "y" after 2 and 4 use your left thumb.
- Use an open tone on the fourth bar with the fingers of the right hand on the right drum. Open with a pattern, the fastest you can go without making mistakes.
Step 3. Play the calypso rhythm
This rhythm changes between tones and touches. There are definite tones that are played at the end of the top drum head, but there are also touches. These are light taps with the fingers in the center of the drum and are done to keep time. It is quite simple:
- Start on the left drum with both hands. Make the tones with measure 1, y, 3, y. Make the touches with 2, and, 4, and. Tone, tone, touch, touch, tone, tone, touch, touch.
- Once you've mastered it, instead of "4 and" as two beats, play beat 4 (without "y") on the right drum as one tone. Pause where the "and" should go. Now you have tone, tone, tap, tap, tone, tone, (big drum) tone.
- Your hands should have a fairly rhythmic back and forth movement as you switch between tones and touches.
Step 4. Play a "funky" beat
This style is one of the most difficult rhythms but you can do it. It is also a mixture of tones and touches. More than anything they are hits to the right, left, right, left, like walking, apart from the first two rhythms. The compass is "one-and-a-two-and-one-three-and-one-four". It is done like this:
- Start with beat 1 as a low beat on the left drum, that is, hit the end of the drum that is farthest from you.
- The first "and a" is a light touch with the right hand and then with the left on the left drum. Measure 2 is a right-hand tone on the left drum. The second "and a" are light touches with the left hand and then with the right also on the left drum.
- Measure 3 is a tone on the right drum with the right hand. "Y" is a beat on the left drum with the left hand. "And four" is a light touch on the left drum followed by a tone on the left drum with the right hand.
- Warm up your fingers and thumb before playing as they will be used most of the time.
- Learn from other bongo players. Download music from artists who play bongo, such as Roena, La Rue, Jackson, and Peraza.
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