The following are some great
hand combinations designed to
improve left and right hand
skills, increase dynamic
consistency and endurance on
the LP Djembe. The material
also helps develop control and
agility when playing bass
tones, open tones and open
The practices have produced
good results for students in the
University of Georgia Hand
Drum Ensemble and the
Athens Communtiy Drumming
Ensemble. The eight groupings
of left and right hand exercises
are assigned to accompany a
Lenjengo pattern which is a
West African rhythm.
(T) Finger Tap
(O) Open tone
Accent and Tap Warm-Up for a Drum Line
by James Campbell
One of the most fundamental techniques for marching
percussion involves the control of stick heights. Proper
interpretation of many modern rudimental and rhythmic
patterns require the performers to control the sticks as they
quickly change heights from the accent to tap level. This is
especially true in interpreting contemporary flam patterns such
as Flam Taps, Flam Inverts, and Pataflaflas.
Initially, use only two stick heights for this warm-up; high and
low. The accent and tap (the two primary elements of this
exercise) are the basic motions of this warm-up. Emphasize
uniform movement, matching the motion of each player.
Eventually, you will want to play this warm-up at a variety of
stick heights and dynamic levels - 12"/6" (ff/mf); 9"/3" (f/mp);
The sticking pattern isolates single-hand movement for
individual awareness of motion. In the last two bars, the snares
and tenors play double-stops. Snares and multi-toms should
compare the motion of each hand during the double-stops to
maintain uniformity. Toms should cross-stick on the
double-stops, as indicated for added dexterity, and can
eventually orchestrate their own patterns around the drums
once they have achieved the correct interpretation on a single
drum. The cymbal technique "sizzle/slide" is created when the
plates remain together after impact and slowly separate. Play
in a horizontal position for a maximum sustained sizzle sound.
Performing with a quality sound on this warm-up requires a
controlled rebound from the fingers on the tap sequences.
Some players have the tendency to be either too stiff or too
loose in playing the syncopated figures. The proper technique
involves a coordinated effort between the arm, wrist, and
The mallet, timpani, and auxiliary players from the front
ensemble perform an Afro-Cuban groove and serve as a "click
track" for the drum line. Performing these rhythms on a variety
of Latin percussion instruments will help the ensemble develop
listening skills with internalized tempo control.
Play twice through without a break (one set) so that the
snares, quads, and bass drummers will complete a cycle with
each hand as the lead. Use a holding pattern to change tempo
between the sets. The ensemble should start this exercise
slowly and gradually move the tempo faster at each repeat.
More experienced groups will stay sharp if the tempo and
dynamic changes are radical or extreme at each repeat.
James Campbell has received world-wide recognition as a
performer, teacher, arranger, adjudicator, and is a respected
figure in the development of the contemporary percussion
ensemble. Currently Professor of Music and Director of
Percussion Studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington,
he also holds the position of Principal Percussionist with the
Jim received both his B.M. in Music Education and M.M. in
Percussion Pedagogy and Performance from Northern Illinois
University where he studied with G. Allan O'Connor and
members of the famed Blackearth Percussion Group. He also
was a student of late James Lane of the Chicago Symphony
Well known for his long association with the internationally
renowned Rosemont Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, Jim has
served as their principal instructor, arranger, and Program
Coordinator. He was Percussion Director for the McDonald's
All-American High School Band and has performed at the
International Society of Music Education World Conference,
MENC National In-Service Conference, Midwest Band &
Orchestra Clinic, Texas Bandmasters Association, Bands of
America World Percussion Symposium, and at several
Percussive Arts Society International Conventions.
Beyond the Tumbao - Developing Odd Meter
Patterns for the Congas
by Ruben P. Alvarez
Traditional Afro-Cuban conga rhythms blend well with many musical styles
that are based on double or triple based meters. But what do you do when
the composition is written in odd meters like 5, 7, 9, etc.? The purpose of
this article is to introduce the contemporary percussionist to a system that
can be used as a springboard to develop odd meter conga "tumbaos" for two
congas, pitched high and low. (I personally like that combination tuned to a
fourth). The two conga set-up would include a higher pitched lead drum
directly in front and a lower pitched drum to the right, right handed players or
vice versa for left handed players.
Learning traditional Afro-Cuban techniques to produce the four basic tones on
congas (P) Palm (T) Finger Tap (O) Open tone, and (S) Slap tone, and a
basic understanding of the tumbao are prerequisite for playing this exercise.
Don't be discouraged, excellent resources are available such as Richie
Gajate-Garcia's "Adventures in Rhythm" and Bobby Sanabria's "Getting
Started on Congas" videos. (Both of these videos are available online on The
LP Store.) A well rounded contemporary percussionist definitely needs this
knowledge and the skills its produces.
Depending on the tempo and the rhythmic emphasis of the composition,
traditional Afro-Cuban tones, (P) Palm, (T) Finger Tap, (O) Open tone, and
(S) Slap tone, can be used in combination with rudiments paradiddles,
double paradiddles, triple paradiddles, and inverted paradiddles. To play 5/4
you could use the sticking pattern llrlrlrlrr using only open tones on your lead
drum, preferably the higher pitched drum.
(A). The next step in the process is to assign the different combination of
sounds to the pattern.
(B). Next, add the second conga preferably the lower pitched drum as a
(C). The final step in the process is to rest on the downbeat of beat 3.
(D). To change the "swing", and create variations, start at a different point in
(E). Try building grooves in 7, 9, 10. and Have fun, but make sure you
develop a groove and above all make it swing!
(P) Palm (T) Finger Tap (O) Open tone (S) Slap
Son Del La Loma
by Marc Jacoby
Have you been working
on marimba lately? Can
you really dance to the
Mexican Dances? Well
you can dance to this!
This accompaniment to
the introduction of Son
Del La Loma, a popular
Cuban Song by Miguel
Matamoros, is a great
way to work on four
mallet techniques and
practice the rhythmic complexities of Cuban music. Work on
developing an independent "feel" to each hand. At the same
time, check out the combination rhythms of the hands as a
trick to learning. Follow the sticking suggestion, or come up
with your own.
Although this is just an accompaniment, check out the melody
to this and many other great Latin tunes in The Latin Real
Book published by Sher Music Co. Get a lead instrument and
a percussionist and form your own Son group!