Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

A place where discuss about secrets, tips and suggestions for practicing on congas and to improve your skill and technique ...

Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby Ragabhava » Wed Nov 09, 2016 7:18 pm

Hi there,

thank you all for providing such an amazing forum to all things conga related!

I've been learning conga playing since a while now, drawing from all sorts of sources (books, DVDs, youtube and a teacher...) yet I've still not found an answer to this almost paradoxial question:

Is there a clear distincion between a heel and a bass tone ?

By this I mean that if you lightly tap the skin with the heel it is clearly different from letting the full hand fall down heavily in the middle of the skin for a bass tone.

Changuitos 'Mano secreta' videos/books clearly teach a heel toe movement where the full weight of the hand seems to come down for the heel. Other books teach the same idea. It sounds like a bass when I do it. So instead of heel/toe I hear Bass/toe.

Should I just be more light in my touch on 'Changuitos Heel' to take some bass sound out of it ? Are these exercises just some technical preparations for the famous 'mano secreta' movements ? Or is there no distinction between a heel and a bass sound ?

Probably it is a continuum (between a light heel tone and a full bass), but thats just my interpretation so far. I'd love get some input from this knowledgeable community on this and I hope that this somehow makes sense as I'm a bit lost here.

Cheers!
Ragabhava
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby jorge » Thu Nov 10, 2016 2:49 am

No they are not the same, as you seem to understand very well in your post.
If you want to hear a bass, play a bass note. If you don't want to hear anything, play a heel lightly close to the edge of the drum. Practice each one so it makes the sound you want it to make.
Play for the sound, every note is intentional.
jorge
 
Posts: 1003
Joined: Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:47 am
Location: Teaneck, NJ

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby burke » Thu Nov 10, 2016 3:25 pm

My 2 cents is that I've always thought of the term heel/toe very misleading.

I think Bass/tip or palm/tip more accurately describes what is often otherwise called heel/toe.

If you check out Thomas Cruz's books there nary a H T anywhere to be found ... its always B T.

There may be an actual stroke that involves the heel of the hand [ie hitting the drum with most of the hand raised off the drum and contacting with 'heel' only] ... but I don't use it and the use of the term heel when I think most actually mean palm or bass might actually encourage bad technique.

Cheers

ps - nice to see actual technique being discussed again after a long drought
pps - I also rarely play with my feet ... so more accurate that way too :lol:
Burke
burke
 
Posts: 743
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Nova Scotia

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby jorge » Thu Nov 10, 2016 4:58 pm

Good point on terminology, Burke, I agree. I have been warned by several master rumba drummers to never hit the drum with the heel of my hand, always use the palm. This is wisdom of the elders and I believe it. Medically speaking, hitting with the heel of your hand can damage the median nerve and cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a serious nerve compression disorder that can require surgery in some cases, and can cause career-ending permanent weakeness, numbness, tingling or pain in your hand. You can hit in different locations on the drumhead, with different degrees of force, to make a strong bass tone or a very soft, essentially inaudible ghost note. Play for the sound, while also paying attention to your technique to avoid injury.
jorge
 
Posts: 1003
Joined: Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:47 am
Location: Teaneck, NJ

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby burke » Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:56 am

I've always thought it is great to have both an informed player and a real Dr. on this forum - Thanks Jorge for all your contributions

PS. RIP Leonard Cohen ... not remotely related to the post or the forum, but as a Canadian ... just wanted to say it somewhere ... please delete Mods if inappropriate
Burke
burke
 
Posts: 743
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 2:50 pm
Location: Nova Scotia

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby jorge » Sun Nov 13, 2016 12:29 pm

Thanks. It is interesting how the wisdom of the elders, based on personal and collective experience, sometimes is in agreement with the wisdom of science and medicine. In this case the late Regalao (ibae), quinto player from Afrocuba de Matanzas and George (Sabu) Caldwell, my first teacher, both told me the same thing, and it is in complete agreement with the scientific and medical evidence that repetitive trauma to the heel of the hand, including the carpal tunnel, is a major risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome. When I asked him why not, Regalao didn't give me a reason other than that you just don't hit a drum like that, so it was definitely experience not book knowlege that he was passing on to me.
jorge
 
Posts: 1003
Joined: Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:47 am
Location: Teaneck, NJ

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby Ragabhava » Wed Nov 16, 2016 10:47 am

burke wrote:My 2 cents is that I've always thought of the term heel/toe very misleading.

I think Bass/tip or palm/tip more accurately describes what is often otherwise called heel/toe.

If you check out Thomas Cruz's books there nary a H T anywhere to be found ... its always B T.



It were exactly the Thomas Cruz books which I had in mind whilst starting this thread! It is very obviously a bass movement - which makes sense ergonomically to me (not even for medical reasons, but there is less movement involved vs striking the skin with the 'heel'). Now, what makes sense ergonomically doesn't always make sense musically. Even as a beginner all these bass sounds throw off the groove for me - unless we're going for som death metal double bass conga playing (now thats an idea). Hence my suspicion that the level off bass sound in this movements should be controlled, which is perfectly doable from none to a fat bass tone. Thanks to Jorge for confirming this !
Ragabhava
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby Ragabhava » Wed Nov 16, 2016 11:48 pm

they just should have mentionned such an important point in the books though ... come on, letting us newbies almost playin bass rolls wheras it is much more subtle ... it does seem to be the quintessential preparation for the typical hand movement though: then why not just spelling it out ? Like a little text note or sumthing, just an idea.... Aaah, so much Conga mystique :=)
Ragabhava
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:20 pm

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby jorge » Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:02 pm

Watch Adonis (quinto) play and see how sparingly and effectively he uses bass tones, especially in his solo. Listen with headphones or good monitor system so you can hear the bass melodies they are playing clearly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWyCGU6UoBE

All three of the drummers are very sparing in their use of bass tones, hit the bass intentionally and not unintentionally, and virtually never play on top of each other. The congas, Iya and cajon all have different bass tones. Also note that they all hit bass notes with the heel of their hand. They are still young, hopefully they will change that before they get seriously injured. They also hit the drums a lot without producing bass tones, in other words they completely control when they hit a bass tone. Great example of modern Cuban rumba.
jorge
 
Posts: 1003
Joined: Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:47 am
Location: Teaneck, NJ

Re: Heel vs. Bass - are they the same ?

Postby Ragabhava » Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:14 am

aah, yes, I've watched that video many times! Excellent production and one of the few things out there where one can get a good view of all musicians at once.

In regards of playing the bass with the heel it makes me wonder: when I try both techniques they do sound different. The heel bass is cleaner but has less oomph to it (obviously, the weight of the hand isn't behind it). I also start to discover that there might be several bass sounds and that producing a crisp and heavy bass consistently on the conga isn't easy at all (vs Djembe or Darbouka, for example). A question which I still can't figure out: often I see congueros hitting the bass with the fist. Just a gimmick ? When I do that it doesn't produce a satisfying bass at all (even when I lift the conga), it sounds like ... a bit of an open sound with some bass mixed in and a tiny pinch of slap. Definitely not a bass sound. When Giovanni does it though, it is certainly a bass. Any thought on that ?
Ragabhava
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:20 pm


Return to Congas Technique, Rhythms and Exercises

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


cron