The best way to increase speed, fluency and timing playing the congas is to practice using a metronome.
If you’re not familiar with the metronome, it’s an instrument that generates regular beats to a predefined speed.
Traditionally mechanic, like the one in the picture here on the right, nowadays they can be replaced with digital metronome available as PC programs or directly online, that allows to set a volume appropriate for practicing on congas.
You can start practicing your percussion Conga skills right now, using this nice online metronome from Games68.com:
This application allows to set easily, from top to bottom:
- the number of beats
- the Beat Per Minute (BPM), the speed of the rhythm generated
- the Primary tick generated (the actual sound used to keep the time – I like the click as it’s simple and effective)
- the Accent sound, played on the 2nd beat of the sequence (don’t ask why!)
Here are few tips to practice on the conga drums at the best using a metronome:
Start slowly and then increase little by little
Start with a pace you’re comfortable with. Keep it for few minutes.
Then increase the speed gradually, just 5 BPM each time.
At the moment you’ll barely feel the difference, but in the long run you’ll increase dramatically the speed of your hands movements!
The body has memory and this is what we base our practice on.
Concentrate on the technique
When increasing the speed, it’s important not to loose focus on the technique.
Stay focused on the movements, make sure you lift the hand from the wrist, if you can’t keep it clear and sharp slow down and don’t worry – you’ll get there soon anyway
Start and stop
We tend to adapt quickly to a repetitive movement.
So, once comfortable with a speed try to stop and start again. You may miss some beats at first…
A day will arrive in which you’ll hit your limit and could not increase the speed anymore.
That day is the perfect time to start wave loading.
Wave loading is technique that consist in back off the metronome speed to a comfortable level, then increase it again gradually till the speed is not sustainable and repeat the process again and again.
Each wave will give you a little more speed!
This is the king of the practice tips… exercise for little time, but exercise regularly.
5 minutes everyday have a much bigger improvement than 2 hours one day and nothing for weeks.
Do you use a metronome for your conga practice?
Do you feel the improvements?