Category Archives: Blog

Bongo Drums And Latin Culture

Bongo drums, usually just called bongos, are one of the most recognizable of percussion instruments. Due to the pervasive popularity of Latin music (thank you, “Dancing With the Stars”), the sounds of these little drums are familiar to people around the world. Bongos, as the name implies, always come in attached sets of two. One drum is slightly bigger than the other; the larger is the “hembra” (the Spanish word for “female), while the smaller is the “macho” (the Spanish word for “male”). Bongo drums are capable of a great deal of versatility and their music is usually upbeat and rapid.

Like some other drums of the Americas, such as the steel drum, bongo drums were originally brought to South America from Africa via the Atlantic slave trade. The African nations of Nigeria and Cameroon had fraternal organizations that utilized a trio of drums called “bonko.” When the Africans were brought to the Americas, vestiges of these organizations and their traditions came with them. The Abakua is a society of Afro-Cuban men that evolved from those fraternal organizations. It continued to use the bonko drums, but the instruments eventually spread beyond the fraternity. It is believed that this was the origin of the bongo in South America. The Abakua still exists in modern Cuba and it still uses bonkos that, if joined together in pairs, very closely resemble bongo drums.

The bodies of bongo drums are usually made of wood, metal or composite materials attached by a thick piece of wood. The head is traditionally of animal skin, but as with other modern drums, synthetic materials are commonly used in modern times. Originally, in the late 19th century, the heads of bongo drums were tacked on and tuned with a heat source. But since the 1940s, metal tuning lugs have been used to allow for easier tuning.

The sound of the bongo drums is high-pitched and as mentioned, the tempo is generally fast. When played, the drums should be held between the player’s knees; the larger drum should be on the side of the player’s dominant hand, which is usually the right one. The drum heads are struck with both the fingers, palms, and sometimes sticks and brushes, although these last are contemporary innovations. The sound of the bongo drum can be muted by placing part of one hand on the drum head while striking with the other hand.

Some of the most famous dance styles of Latin America, including the mambo, salsa and conga, utilize the music of the bongo drum. The instrument’s capacity for distinct percussion is essential to these styles, which showcase distinct and often rapid rhythms. In fact, the music of the bongos is often used as a solo instrument in such music, a tactic that highlights the importance of a song’s rhythm.

On a side note, although bongo drums are generally considered instruments of Latin America, drums resembling bongos can be found in Morocco, Egypt and some Middle Eastern countries. These drums have rawhide heads like their American counterparts, but the bodies are of a ceramic nature. Such drums can also be heard in some traditional Spanish music, such as flamenco, probably due to the Moorish influence in that country.

Source by Victor Epand

Piano Beginners – Learn The Basic Chords On The Piano To Brown Eyed Girl By Van Morrison

A very simple piano song for beginners to learn to play is Brown Eyed Girl by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. The song was written and recorded in 1967 by Van Morrison and was his first solo release. Previously he was in a band the Belfast R&B band.

It was first released in May 1967 on the album Blowing Your Mind! When it was released as a single, it rose to number eight on the Cash box charts, and reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100. This song is widely considered to be Van Morrison’s signature song.

Brown Eyed Girl is one of those songs that most people will know, and is still played regularly on radio stations. It was listed as the 4th most played song by DJ’s in both 2006 and 2007. Van Morrison was awarded a certificate by BMI records as a top European Writer, for reaching out to American Audience’s and the only song by a European writer with more air plays is Every Breath you take by the police. So therefore it is one of the top-selling songs of the 20th Century, and it certainly deserves its place as it is a great song.

It was originally called “Brown Skinned Girl,” but Morrison changed it to “Brown Eyed Girl” to make it more palatable for radio stations. Some stations banned it anyway for the line, “Making love in the green grass.”

It was written about an interracial relationship, sex youth and growing up, but most importantly it’s a song about singing.

It has been covered by many recording artists such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and the Van Morrison version has featured in many popular films as a soundtrack record including, The Big Chill and Sleeping with the Enemy.

The song was originally written on Guitar, but has a nice strong melody that is transferable to most instruments, and therefore suits piano very well. It’s written in the key of G and is quite a simple song, which is covered by lots of musicians and artists.

The Intro has a nice melody which features the notes G A B A G C D E D C G A B A G A in your right hand, and has nice chords of G C D E Minor and D7. It’s written in quite an easy key, so is ideal for beginners to pick up and start learning. As it is such a well known song this is a great one to have in your repertoire.

Source by Samantha Griffiths

Are You Making The Most Common Beginner Practice Mistake on the Guitar?

If you’re just getting started learning the guitar, there’s a good chance you’re making the most common beginner guitar practice mistake. And if you don’t catch yourself early on, it could lead to incredible frustration with your lack of progress later on.

You see, the problem with self-taught guitarists today is that they have too many options. There is more information today on how to learn the guitar than there ever was before in history. It’s overwhelming. And what ends up happening is people look at all that information and do one of two things:

1. Get paralyzed with indecision and do nothing.

2. Get overwhelmed with information and try to do everything.

In both cases, the end result is failure. Except that the second case usually leads to not only failure, but lots of wasted time spent practicing ineffectively before finally giving up in frustration. Neither is what we’re looking for, and both can be avoided.

It’s simply a matter of knowing what you want to do on the guitar, and then ignoring the 99% of the information that doesn’t fit into your goals. You need to get clarity on what it is you hope to achieve. Even if your goal is to eventually learn every style of guitar known to man — blues, rock, country, jazz, classical, you name it — you still need to pick one initially, and stick with it for a significant amount of time.

The biggest mistake made by beginners today is losing focus. Trying to learn one thing on guitar, then getting distracted by something new they see. And abandoning the initial thing they were trying to learn, before they have even gotten to the point where they can easily play it. This is what stops guitarists from growing. Because it’s the ongoing mastery of individual skills before moving on that leads to the accumulation of lots of techniques, licks, riffs, and songs. Without that constantly growing “bag of tricks” under your belt, you’ll always remain a mediocre guitar player. You’ll never know the freedom and joy of being able to create music, to express exactly what’s inside of you at any moment through the guitar.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t become another one of those guys who claims to play the guitar but only knows a bunch of song intros and can’t play a single song all the way through. The first step in getting there is to figure out what you want, then limit yourself to learning one song at a time related to that goal. If you focus on mastering that one song before moving on, you’ll learn 100 times faster than the guy who browses the tab sites, trying to play a new song every week. The results will blow you away.

Source by Johnny L

How to Jam on Guitar – Jamming For Beginners

Guitar jam sessions are a great way to improve your playing skills and your confidence as a guitarist. They can also be very daunting for guitarists who are new to jamming, especially beginners. But jamming is supposed to be fun, and will be if you know what to expect, and go prepared. This article takes a look at what’s involved, starting with the techniques needed when jamming, followed by the different situations in which you can use them.

Part 1: Jamming On Guitar – How To Do It

Basically, jamming is improvising with other musicians – usually one or more people play rhythm parts, to get a beat going, and others improvise solos over the top. A jam may be entirely free-form, or may be based on a particular song or chord sequence. However, although you may not always be preparing to play any specific song or piece, you can (and should) prepare yourself by making sure you have a solid grasp of your instrument. This means practicing chords and scales in various keys, so you’ll be able to play both rhythm and solo parts while jamming. You don’t have to be an expert guitarist to jam, but you do need to at least grasp the basics.

Skills needed for jamming:

  • Strumming chords in a variety of keys, with the ability to change chords cleanly. If you’re new to the guitar, start off with the primary chords in the more common keys (such as C, G, D, A, E, F etc), and progress from there.
  • The ability to play in time. You don’t have to play complex rhythms if you’re not comfortable with that, but you must be able to keep to the beat. If you’re playing a solo, the rhythm must take priority – in other words, if you come unglued, it’s OK to miss out a few notes of the melody, but you must keep up with the beat. Learn to listen closely to the bass and/or drums – this will help you to stay in the right place, and to avoid being distracted by nerves or other things going on around you.
  • The ability to hear chord progressions and follow along. Ear skills are vital for jamming – you can practice by recognising when chord changes happen in the music you listen to, and later by learning to identify the specific chords that are being used. You’ll find that the same patterns tend to recur a lot (especially in popular music), and will eventually be able to recognise them instantly. For more advanced ear training, specialised courses are available.
  • Being able to improvise lead melodies. You might not want to do this straight away, which is fine – you can just strum along with the rhythm if you like. But being able to improvise melodies is a key part of more advanced jamming, and requires some lead guitar skills. Scale practice is essential here, as is some basic theory, so you know which notes can be effectively played over which chords.

Jamming step by step

Jamming is by its nature a relatively unstructured process, but if you’re new to it, you don’t have to jump in at the deep end. Instead, you can develop your jamming skills gradually. First of all, you need to know which key the music is in – for simple pieces, this will determine the chords and notes that you will need to be able to play (more complex jams may involve lots of key changes and the use of more obscure chords – try to get experience of jamming with easier songs and sequences first!). Having determined the key, you can decide how you want to participate in the jam, depending on your skill and confidence level. For example:

  • Step one – assuming that you’re basing the jam around a song you know or a predetermined chord sequence, just strum along with one strum to each beat using simple downstrokes (or if the pace is too fast – try strumming every other beat, or on the first beat of each bar).
  • Step two – strum along, but rather than just using downstrokes, use upstrokes too to play more complex rhythms that blend with what the others are doing.
  • Step three – create some simple riffs. These can be repeated with the chord changes, or varied a bit to make things more interesting.
  • Step four – try improvising some solo melodies. You can keep them very simple at first, sticking with the notes of each chord, then get more adventurous as your skills and confidence progress.

If you’re playing an electric guitar, you can also experiment with adding effects at any stage in the process, if appropriate.

Part II: Putting It Into Practice – 3 Jamming Scenarios

So, now you have an idea of how to jam on guitar, lets take a look at the main situations in which you can practice your new skills, and how to make the most of them.

1. Jamming With Other People

Jamming in a live environment with other musicians can’t be beat. After practising alone at home every day, it is great to get out and connect with some like-minded others. It also provides invaluable experience if you want to play in a band or other live situation – playing with others requires listening, improvisation and rhythm skills beyond those you’ll normally use when playing alone.

So, what exactly happens at a jam session? This varies, depending on the situation. For example, sometimes people get together to jam over existing songs (or song structures), or they may follow a chord sequence suggested by one member, and tabs or chord charts may or may not be used. Sometimes, as with many free-form jams, there’s no predetermined structure at all, and everyone just improvises based on what they’re hearing. The music may cover various styles (such as jazz, rock, blues etc). If you’re new to jamming, you’ll probably find it easier at sessions that follow a familiar song or chord progression, with simple structures such as three chord songs or a 12 bar blues.

In a group situation, you may be expected to play a specific role during each piece – such as playing rhythm, or soloing. Make sure you stick to your task, but also stay aware of what the other people in your session are doing. Eye contact can be especially vital if you’re all improvising freely (as opposed to following a predetermined structure), as people will use it to signal when they’re about to change chords or rhythms, or finish a solo etc.

You might feel nervous when jamming with others for the first time – this is normal, and you shouldn’t worry too much about making mistakes – they’re inevitable. It will help if you’re playing with other people who aren’t too advanced, or are willing to include some simpler songs in the session for the benefit of the less experienced. Most musicians will be welcoming to newcomers and will hopefully remember how it felt to be new to jamming – if they’re not, find somewhere else to play! If you don’t have musician friends to jam with already, you can often find local jam sessions organised by music stores, pubs and the like – these will sometimes be geared towards players of different standards, so look out for beginner jam sessions to start with.

If you’re unable to jam with other musicians in person, or you just want to improve your jamming skills in between session, you can also jam along with recorded tracks, as well as with tools like a drum machine.

2. Jamming With Recorded Tracks

Jamming along with recordings is the next best thing to playing live. While this doesn’t have the same element of unpredictability, it gives you the chance to practice focusing on developing your own improvisational skills against a constant musical backdrop. You can of course play along with recordings of songs by artists you like – this is a good way to get to know the songs that are likely to be played at your live sessions too.

You can also use tracks that have been recorded specifically with jamming in mind – there are lots of free guitar jam tracks in many styles available online (although the quality does vary a lot), and there are also professionally recorded tracks available for sale at low prices. These often come in two versions – one with a guitar solo included, and ‘minus one’ versions where the lead track is absent, so you can fill it in yourself.

3. Jamming With Software and Other Learning Aids

Another option is to practice jamming with a virtual drummer or bassist in the form of a drum machine or software equivalent. This is an excellent way to develop your rhythm skills, which are vital to effective jamming. Software that allows you to program your own drum or basslines, and/or which is pre-programmed with a variety of presets is widely available online. Some software also offers full backing tracks in various keys.

Source by Sam Marks

My Review of the Unique Cocktail Drum Kit by Trixon

My Trixon Cocktail Drum kit is here and I love it!! I love trying new and unique products while enhancing what I do… Play drums

The basic cocktail drum set consists of a 14 -16″ (diameter) floor tom which is usually 16 – 25 inches tall with mounted legs. The floor time has 2 heads that are independently used. One on the tom and one at the bottom The bass drum is utilized at the bottom of the drum and a reverse foot pedal is attached. There are different and many variations of cocktail drums, but most typically have a mount for a “popcorn” snare and is usually 8″ in diameter. This eliminates the need for a snare stand. Another bracket is utilized for the small tom which is usually about 10″. An additional holder is used for hi-hats, cymbals, cowbells, etc and can be easily customized to suit the drummer.

The Trixon Cocktail kit was easy to set and came out of the box with instructions and details about this unique set. It came with a cow bell, reverse foot pedal with bracket (used to hold foot pedal in place), a holder for hi-hat and cymbals, an 8″ popcorn snare, a 10″ tom, a 15″ floor tom/bass drum, and they also included a pair of drum sticks!

The most challenging part was tuning the drum heads to my taste. I loved the sound of the 8″ popcorn snare, but it rang as the other drums. The combined bass drum/floor tom was the hardest to tune. I will replace the Trixon clear drum heads, which actually aren’t bad. I plan to try 4 PLY heads by Remo or Evans

A well known tour producer advised that I use “egg foam” in each drum. He suggested that I use about 60% in each drum, but I tested and played with each drum using less. I later found that using the 60% did indeed prove to have a better tone and made it easier to tune the drums. The floor tom/bass drum was still hard to tune because they sounded the same. It was hard to differentiate the sound due to the sharing of the same drum I am still testing different options but generally like how they are tuned according to my specific taste.

I did find that I was quite exhausted after playing for 1/2 hour while standing. I typically can play drums for 1 1/2 – 2 hours without stopping, but because of the standing and balancing on one leg while playing the foot pedal, I was surprised in how much energy it took to play comfortably. I played with heels in my video below, but next time I will try flat shoes/sneakers and see if that makes a difference. We will see if it makes a difference, but the cocktail drum kit is indeed fun to play.

How Much Do These Drum Kits Coasts??

Depending on a few factors, these kits can range from $250.00 – $1,300. They are sometimes sold as collector items and the value can depend on the model, age, accessories and the condition of the drums. Some of the newer sets offer extra toms, or added cymbal stand attachments, snares and other items. The price can also depend on the wood type as well. Variations like 9 9 PLY wood shells or some are made with Birch shells. Some kits offer beautiful lacquer finishes.

Source by Denise C Johnson