Conga Drumming ? A Beginner?s Guide to Playing with Time by Betsy Sansby and Alan Dworsky can only be classified as yet another fantastic book put out by this talented couple. These two authors have been creating music and teaching rhythms for twelve years. Alan and Betsy have co-authored nine books and recorded several instructional CD?s. Drumming icon Arthur Hull and trusted publications like Rhythm Magazine have rated Conga Drumming as the best in its genre. Awarded as Best Percussion Method Book by the 2000 readers poll of Drum Magazine.
Conga Drumming is a larger book at 160 pages and 28x21.6x1.1cm, yet it folds open easily. Created with the environment in mind, the authors chose to use soy ink and acid-free recycled-content paper for their book. We were pleased to discover that 5% of the profits of this book go to the Rainforest Action Network.
Simplified music notations employ large charts with easily recognizable symbols that represent the type of stroke used. This design creates a more pleasant reading experience and does away with any prerequisites like prior theory knowledge.
The methods and text are phrased very well. The book feels like having your own private instructor with its friendly, personable style. The authors state the book was designed as weekly lessons, yet for many, the lessons might take longer than that to really master.
Conga Drumming ? A Beginner?s Guide to Playing with Time will teach Calypso, Bomba, Conga, Rumba, Abakwa and Bembe rhythms the way they are played traditionally. No prior experience is necessary, but it would certainly help. Only one conga drum is needed, although drummers may eventually want to increase to two or more. At first appearance, the book may seem complicated, however readers should keep in mind that each rhythm is designed for several drummers ? each playing a simple part. The authors constructed the book so that it starts with the easiest rhythms for beginners and advances on to parts that are more difficult.
Amazingly, there are 175 individual drum parts on the 49 drum tracks of the instructional CD that accompanies this book. Each track covers a rhythm with each if it?s 3-7 parts, each lasting for a few seconds. Following each lesson is an ensemble of rhythms to demonstrate what you have learned so far. The ensemble contains either the parts in that lesson or in combination with parts from previous lessons. By doing this, the authors show us that an endless array of musical songs can be created with this knowledge. Readers will enjoy samples from Alan and Betsy?s music CD, Jaguar at Half Moon Lake, on tracks 44-49.
Readers should note that the rhythms are recorded slower than normal so that people can pick out the parts. When two rhythms are demonstrated it is easy to separate them by panning your stereo to the left or right channel.
It was interesting to read the authors discussion on how rhythms vary from one location to another or from one person to another. Alan and Betsy delved into the various types of Conga drums based on material, weight, height, diameter, metal rings and methods of tuning. We enjoyed the section on how to prevent damaged skin and easy maintenance of the drums, as very few instructors get into this aspect of drums.
The book briefly touches on the art of improvising musically, however there are several exercises that act like rudiments for hand drummers, which should prove to be very beneficial. There is also a short section that shows how to make the transition between certain parts and briefly goes on to show how to play on two drums.
The Index of Rhythms on Page 157 is definitely an asset. Another aspect that stood out in this book was the addition of exceptional insider?s tips (called principles) for practicing, playing and group playing techniques.
We found the acknowledgement to Mickey Hart, on page 3, interesting as we?ve also been influenced by his work. Half way through the book our heads were spinning. Dave has been playing congas for over 10 years and he was finding things to learn on nearly every page. Conga Drumming ? A Beginner?s Guide to Playing with Time is currently selling well in the UK, USA and Canadian online bookstores. The book is just outstanding and deserves to be in every drummer?s resource shelf.
~ Book Reviewers: Dave and Lillian Brummet - authors of Trash Talk, a guide for anyone concerned about his or her impact on the environment ? and - Towards Understanding, a collection of poetry. ([...])