Music, Arts & Entertainment

Playing the Congas

Sheila E.

Lesson time 17:35 min

Sheila’s musical journey started with the congas. Learn the fundamentals of playing this Latin percussion instrument, from basic setup and sounds to soloing and playing with a band.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Getting Started: Basic Conga Setup and Sounds • Body Positioning • Soloing While Keeping Time • Practice Pattern: Cha-Cha • Escovedo Family Freestyle • Freestyle Breakdown • Grab Your Congas and Play Along • Congas in Action


[00:00:01.98] - Ah! Whoo. Ah! Ah! Whoo! [00:00:15.38] That hurts, by the way. But while I'm yelling and screaming, I'm in. I'm, like, deep, and every single piece of me is-- every single piece of me is in these drums. This is the foundation of who I am, Sheila Escovedo, Sheila E. This is me right here. [00:00:35.21] [00:00:45.55] I learned how to play congas by watching my dad. He had a band called Pete Escovedo and the Escobedo Brothers. The first time I played congas, I was five years old. It was a show in Oakland, California with my dad. [00:01:00.95] And he had just finished his songs. We went on the microphone. And he spoke and said, ladies and gentlemen, I want to bring my daughter, Sheila Escovedo, up. She's going to perform with us today. She's five years young. So ladies and gentlemen, Sheila Escovedo. [00:01:15.88] And my mom walked me. And it was just like, everyone parted like the Red Sea. It was so awesome, everyone clapping, and yelling, and screaming. [00:01:27.28] It's funny because I was so small that I thought they gave me a standing ovation, but they didn't. They were already standing. Oh my god. That was so funny. I was like, oh, I got a standing ovation. My dad says, no, they were already standing. [00:01:40.90] But I remember the roar and the cheers of the people. And that was something that, you know, you just don't let go very easily. It's something that you kind of want again and again, to hear the applause of people. So I think being around the music, hearing the music-- I don't know. I don't think I had a choice other than to be a percussion player. [00:02:05.26] [00:02:11.02] I have three conga drums. These two congas are called congas. This one is a tumba, which is a lower drum. So in practicing, this is called like-- everyone has different names for it. For right now it's called an open hand. [00:02:26.66] And basically you're hitting your entire hand on the drum just like this-- very relaxed. Don't force, just very relaxed. Do the same thing with your left hand, right hand, left hand. You want to make sure that both hands sound the same. [00:02:49.95] The second, I should say, sound for congas is a slap, which you actually cup your hand like this. See? And you hit the tips of your fingers the edge of the drum right here. Same thing with your right hand. You want them to sound the same, flat like this, open, and then slap-- flat, open like this, slap. Those are the basic two tones of playing congas. [00:03:30.91] There's one other one when you're muffling the sound. Muffled means like you're trying to suppress the sound like this, right? For you that are just learning how to play congas, really basically is just take your time, practice on the sounds, because you really do want to make sure that it sounds like that and like that. [00:04:04.65] [00:04:10.67] Most people in first playing drums, sometimes they have the drum flat like this, which your wrists are up ...

About the Instructor

Raised in a family of musicians, Sheila E. has collaborated with icons like Marvin Gaye and Ringo Starr and was named one of the all-time greatest drummers by Rolling Stone. Now she teaches you how to find your rhythm. Learn the principles of percussion—with or without a drum set—and discover techniques for dynamic solos and fills. Jam with the Escovedo family and find your own groove, as a beginner or as a bandleader.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Sheila E.

Legendary drummer Sheila E. welcomes you to the world of percussion and teaches you how to express yourself through rhythm.

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