Playing both Djembe and Conga - Does it help or hurt technique?

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Postby Mano Teo » Sat Apr 07, 2007 8:12 pm

Hi everyone,

Lately I've been getting into the djembe, and have been taking private lessons. My teacher at one point said to me something along the lines of "you've got potential, but you should quit the conga if you want to sound like an African." He feels that conga technique interferes with basic djembe technique.

To some extent I agree -- especially with the slaps. On the other hand, the heel-toe "vaqueteo" has been great for keeping time quietly when it's called for while playing djembe, and I've really found the djembe improving my conga technique. I've been playing more relaxed (I think I started out "muscling" that thick conga skin, and the bad habit stuck with me to some extent). Also, I've realized I was lazy on my conga tones because now they've become deeper, with less overtones, since I've started making more of an effort to stiffen my fingers like you have to on a djembe.

What do you think?
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Postby zwar » Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:58 pm


quitting congas to then play djembe is nonsens.
its a bit different technic, the skin feels different, the sound is not as clearly defined, and after all you normally play on only one drum. but of course no reason to quit congas. just train yourself both playing djembe and conga, if you like learn to play darbouka, framedrums, cajons, play on buckets, tables, cooking pots, tin cans, wastepaperbaskets. all that will give you more and more experience, making the different possibilities of the instruments clear to you, a profit for your developement as musician.
choosing between conga and djembe is like between rice and potatoes.
there are few people who seriously consider any exclusive choice like that.

greetings and encouragement

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Postby akdom » Sat Apr 07, 2007 10:22 pm


I played the djembe long before I started to play the congas...

It was kinnda hard to change my habits, but those many years playing the djembe really helped me with the congas.

I love these two drums and I also think that you do not want to stop the congas for the djembe.....

Congas have their roots in Africa.....

One thing .. The previous post said that the sounds are less defined???? Well sounds on the djembe are much more define and the spectrum of sound is much wider on the djembe.

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Postby zwar » Sun Apr 08, 2007 8:08 am

ho akdom

what i meant to say is:
the open tone (provided correct handtechnic) of the conga is offering one main frequency. easy to sing the same tone. the slap on the conga is about a third to the open tone. you easily hear this on the conga, on djembe the sound is occupied by more frequencys with not one dominating that much. thats what i called definition.
one can not imitate conga by djembe or vice versa. never heard a tumba giving a base like a good djembe.
like you i started drumming on the traditional african drums, apinti, oprente, later djembe. i wont miss it, same with congas.



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Postby GuruPimpi » Sun Apr 08, 2007 11:01 am

I also played Djembe before congas, and many times I used Djembe as my quinto or Conga (together with tumba), cause didn't had a conga and I put some thicker skin on Djembe.
I do agree with Akdom, that djembe gives you more different sounds and wider asortiman, but that's the character of djembe as a very bright and loud drum. I got a lot of technique discipline on congas though; A lot of dynamic knowledge on djembe...

It is different, but to me it worked with a different approach; to DJembe djembe, to conga conga... It can be frustrating for some time, but, worth a while, just to make that flip in tha head! :D
Seeing Pete Lockett being a mean machine on tablas, congas, bongos, drum set... makes a wish to play as many as possible instruments...

Mano Teo, just play and build up that muscle memory to djembe, conga, strange toys... ;)

my two cents,

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Postby Mano Teo » Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:04 pm

Thanks guys. I intend to keep playing both, and will just give it time to develop the muscle memory.

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Postby JohnnyConga » Mon Apr 16, 2007 12:45 am

As my djimbe teacher Yomi Yomi Awoldwo taught me was that u "play off"(up) on the djimbe and "play on"(down),on the conga...2 different approaches and technique., hence 2 different "styles"......."JC" Johnny Conga.... :D
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Postby Quinto Governor II » Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:05 pm

In the beginning I played djembe and congas (drum circles) The first workshop in djembe I took, I believe the instructor said something like " you don't put your off hand on the drum when playing" as in a rumba slap"; however since then I' see it on occasion by even Africans. I think in a video posted by Steadyfreddy, from one of his trips to Africa , I believe the drummer used the rumba slap. I have even seen an entire troupe 'Tam Tam Mandinke' sp perform with 2 djembes each, and they used the rumba slap often during that performance. That was easily the most memorable djembe truope performance I've seen. I had never see that before. Have not seen a djembe performance since. ( about 3 years ago ) Is this a new trend, maybe influenced by congas?
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