Can I play like Giovanni? Can anyone?

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Can I play like Giovanni? Can anyone?

Postby DanRichman » Sat Apr 21, 2018 11:56 pm

Here's my dilemma:

I want to solo and improvise like Giovanni Hidalgo. But I can't figure out whether (1) he is one of a kind, so that there's no point in trying to emulate him, (2) he is not unique but is so exceptional that again there is no point in trying to emulate him, or (3) his techniques are learnable and practiceable so that, over time, a normal human being like me can master them.

If this topic has been discussed here, please forgive me and point me to the relevant threads. (I did do a search before posting.) If not, I hope it may be illuminating.

The techniques I'm referring to are mainly two in number: (1) the rapid heel-fingertip rocking movement, alternating right and left hands, and (2) the double-stroke hit (whether tone or open slap).

As to (1), I can accept that doing this extremely quickly and proficiently is possible to master. That's not true as to (2). Here's why.

When doing a double-stroke hit on a drum head using a stick (and assembling such hits into 5-, 7- and 11-stroke rolls, etc.), one uses the energy of the stick bouncing off the head, redirecting it back to the head. Such energy reuse makes double-stroke hits far faster and more efficient than single-stroke hits. Anyone who's ever tried it will attest to this. You can do things with double-stroke rolls that are simply impossible with single-stroke rolls.

So far as I can see, the same is not true of double-stroke hand motions on the conga. There is no way to harness to energy of the hand bouncing off the head and to redirect it into the next downward stroke. Rather, the motion is simply a doubled single stroke, no faster or easier than alternate left-right single strokes and in fact considerably slower.

But again -- is this just a matter of building up coordination and "muscle memory," or is it a matter of physics, against which struggle is useless?

Thank you for your thoughtful input.
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Re: Can I play like Giovanni? Can anyone?

Postby burke » Tue May 01, 2018 1:10 pm

I think [as you mentioned] what you are alluding to is various sticking techniques that have been lifted from trap drumming by conga players. I don't think Giovanni is the first to do it by any means. If you search this forum for La Mano Secreta you'll get a lot of hits. Tomas Cruz also has a boatload of these exercises in his instruction book and DVD [first or second one ... can't recall which exactly].

Michael de Miranda brings in Martin Gort in the video below who gives a pretty good explanation and shows some exercises on the double strokes.

2 cents ended


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Re: Can I play like Giovanni? Can anyone?

Postby Derbeno » Tue May 22, 2018 7:50 am

With hard work you can get as far as you are able and may even get close. Ultimately the greats in any field combine god given talent with extreme hard work starting from a very young age. this applies to any form of art, sports, academia etc not just congas. At least they give the motivation with something to expire to.
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Re: Can I play like Giovanni? Can anyone?

Postby Chtimulato » Tue May 22, 2018 8:30 pm


I agree with Derbeno : practice. Even 10 minutes a day, if you can't more. But practice. On your drums, on the table, on the steering wheel when the traffic light is red, on your laps when you wait for the bus, on the work surface in the kitchen when you're cooking and waiting for the water to boil, practice everywhere and everytime. I'm not the first one to say that, and I won't be the last one either.

This being said : be aware you won't replace Giovanni - and neither shall I - unless you're very young, (which is not my case...) and practice hard and steadily.
But once you've learned some Giovanni's links (or Angá's, or Tata Güiness', Changuito's, etc.), be yourself, and play... like yourself. I know I shall never play like these masters, but I'd like to reach the point where listeners could recognize my playing without seeing me. This would be a real progress to me (assuming my playing is good, of course... :) )

Don't give up and keep practicing. And check out the links burke gave you.

Just my 2 cents.
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Re: Can I play like Giovanni? Can anyone?

Postby jorge » Tue May 22, 2018 10:23 pm

Giovanni's grandfather was a musician, his father Jose Mañengue Hidalgo was a great percussionist, he learned from his father since he was a baby and was around lots of excellent musicians his whole life. You will never have the same experiences and opportunities he had, but I am sure you have had other experiences and opportunities Giovanni never had. You probably don't have the time or the inclination to practice more than 8, 10, 12 hours a day every day for many years like most of the masters, who then are able to do much of their practicing playing paid gigs (but still practice at home regardless of whether they admit it or not). You may not want to sacrifice your hands for the drum like Mongo did. It is not about playing like Giovanni, Tata, or anyone else. You have to play what you like, listen to and watch the masters, have great teachers but develop your own style, do your best, work super hard, be self-critical and listen carefully, and try to be the best that you can be.
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