"A Rhythmic Vocabulary" (download package deal)Regular price $19.95
by Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby
This 208-page book won the DRUM Magazine Readers' Poll as Best Percussion Instruction Book. It's now out of print as a physical book but it's available here in PDF format. It's the first systematic, comprehensive approach to learning about rhythm.
It's for any drummer or other musician playing any style of music. It organizes and analyzes hundreds of African and Afro-Cuban patterns to give you a deeper understanding of rhythmic structure. It also teaches rhythmic concepts and variation techniques you can use to create patterns of your own. Learn to groove and solo with greater rhythmic freedom and express yourself with a richer rhythmic vocabulary.
The book comes with the following as downloadable mp3 files: 2 Patterns CDs containing recordings of every pattern in the book and a Timelines CD for you to play along with while you practice. The Timelines CD contains recordings of the son clave and 6/8 cowbell patterns at multiple tempos.
Conga Drumming (download of book, CD, DVD, and Practice Partner CD)Regular price $14.95
by Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby
This book and the accompanying CDs and DVD are a complete, step-by-step course on conga drumming. This is the download version, so you'll get the book as a PDF, the CDs as mp3 audio files, and the DVD as a video download.
This is the book we looked for but couldn't find when we were first learning to drum. We did everything we could to make it user-friendly, so even non-musicians could understand it. The book teaches families of drum parts for several authentic Afro-Caribbean rhythms, including rumba, bomba, calypso, conga, and bembe.
The instruction is clear and step-by-step, and the writing creates the intimate feel of private lessons. The charts are big and easy to read. Life-like illustrations clearly demonstrate proper technique for each stroke. And the CD that's included contains a sample recording of each of the 175 drum parts taught in the book as well examples of how the parts sound together.
The video uses the same step-by-step approach as the book, covering the same rhythms and many of the same parts from the first half of the book. The video format is especially good for visual learners. Nothing can beat it for demonstrating proper technique and conveying the excitement of actual ensemble playing.
The video features Jorge Bermudez, a talented, and warm-spirited Bay Area drummer and drum teacher. He demonstrates "mano secreta", the technique used by Cuban drummers to protect the hands and play with grace and fluidity. Each stroke is demonstrated with the aid of slow-motion photography. After three conga parts are taught for each rhythm, they're put together in sizzling ensemble performances you can play along with.
In those performances, special guest Raul Rekow of Santana solos on congas and bongos, while electrifying Cuban dancer Rosie Lopez Mores from the legendary Tropicana nightclub in Havana dances rumba in our Minnesota living room.
Finally, if you don't have a drum machine, the Practice Partner CD that comes with this package is the next best thing. It contains extended recordings of the son clave, rumba clave, and 6/8 cowbell (played slow, medium, and fast) to play along with while you practice.
Reviews of the book:
"There is no other source for this kind of information that is as simply and sensibly explained, and contains such a wealth of rhythms. Conga Drumming welcomes rather than intimidates beginners. Dig into this book and in a very short time you will be playing well. Bravo and muchas gracias Alan and Betsy!" DRUM Magazine
"Best Percussion Method Book" 2000 DRUM Magazine Readers' Poll
"Fantastic!" Rhythm Magazine
"The best book of its kind." Arthur HullReviews of the video:
"A must-see for all beginners" Mickey Hart
"The perfect addition to the book" Latin Beat Magazine
"Slammin! The best video for learning to play congas." Chalo Eduardo, percussionist with Sergio Mendes
"Few videos capture the spirit of fun as well as Conga Drumming. All the basics are covered and the educational information is interspersed with burning performances by the ensemble. When Rosie Lopez Mores is on screen the video is ablaze with energy. While there is much to be learned from Conga Drumming, it also provides a highly entertaining viewing experience that will inspire any beginning conga drummer." DRUM Magazine.
The Joy of Six for Piano (download of book and CD)Regular price $9.95
by Alan Dworsky
Before I was a drummer, I was a piano player. And in this book, I've gone back to my original instrument and adapted African and Afro-Cuban polyrhythms to the keyboard in a world-beat classical style. At the heart of this 96-page book are four beautiful solo pieces designed to teach a variety of rhythms and rhythmic concepts. Each piece is covered in a separate lesson, where it's broken down into bite-sized patterns that start easy and gradually get more difficult.
The video clip below was made by Owen McCall, who bought the book, learned all the pieces by heart, and then posted them to YouTube. Here he plays the last piece in the book--Invention 4. Thanks so much Owen!
Although this book is for intermediate to advanced players, there's nothing here that's difficult from the standpoint of piano technique. In fact, what each hand does separately is actually pretty easy. It's the rhythms that are tricky--getting the hands to dance together in time.
But I'll be with you every step of the way, anticipating your questions and pointing out whatever I think will make your journey easier. And the audio files that come with the book contain a recording of every pattern and piece, making "The Joy of Six" a complete self-instruction package.
“Within fifteen minutes of opening the book and listening to the CD, I was playing the first few patterns to invention one, and was so excited I could hardly stand it. Easily the best, most systematic, most immediately rewarding book on keyboard playing I have ever used.” Schim Schimmel
“Fantastic!” Jeremy Hanson, Piano Instructor, MacPhail Center for Music
"I feel like you are sitting next to me on the piano bench." Jesse Summers
"Thanks for your wonderful instructional materials. You really take a student step by step in a logical, clear, and fun manner. If music was taught in your manner, everyone would be playing music". Elliott Shapiro, New York
Hip Grooves for Hand Drums (download of book, CD, and DVD)Regular price $14.95
You don't need a drumset to lay down a groove. All you need is one drum. It can be a djembe, a conga, or anything else you can get both your hands on. Whether your goal is to play in a band, jam in the park, play in a church group, or just drum along with your favorite music, this book will show you how, step by step. This is the download version, which gives you the book as a PDF, the CD as mp3 audio files, and the DVD as a download.
There are no boring exercises in this book, just great dance grooves. Many of them are adapted from drumset patterns used in rock, pop, and funk music. Others are based on traditional African or Afro-Cuban rhythms. You can play all these grooves in a wide variety of musical styles and settings. And you can hear how each one sounds on the play-along CD that comes with the book. And you don't have to know how to read music either. All the patterns are notated using simple box charts that even non-musicians find easy to understand.
The video shows you how every pattern in the Hip Grooves book is played. It's designed to be used with the book and the CD to create a complete learning package: use the book for the charts and explanations, use the CD to hear how the patterns sound and for play-along practice, and use the video to see how the hands move on every pattern.
How to Play Djembe (download of book, CD, and DVD)Regular price $14.95
by Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby
This is the complete package as a download: the book in pdf form, and audio CD as mp3s, and the DVD as a download.
The book is a step-by-step course for beginners on how to play djembe. Right from the start you'll be learning interlocking parts for some of the most popular West African rhythms: Kuku, Djole, Kassa, Madan, Suku, Sunguru Bani, and Tiriba. While you learn the patterns, you'll also learn how to make each of the basic strokes--bass, tone, and slap--with proper playing technique. We use life-like illustrations to show how each stroke looks from the outside and give detailed descriptions to explain how each stroke feels from the inside. The book also has easy-to-read box charts and a friendly writing style that creates the feel of private lessons.
The video shows you how every pattern in the book is played, like this:
The audio files that come with the book gives you a chance to hear how the parts for each rhythm fit together. It was recorded by Joh Camara, a master drummer from Bamako, Mali. Each rhythm lasts at least five minutes, so you'll have plenty of time to play along. And when Joh solos during the final three minutes of each track, you'll feel the thrill of playing your part along with an ensemble and lead drummer.
The video is also available separately as a download. Just click on the image at the bottom of this page on the right.
"A superb work... it makes learning easy and fun, and Joh Camara's playing on the play-along CD is a joy to hear." Professor Michael Williams, Dept. of Music, Winthrop University
Secrets of the Hand (download of book and CD)Regular price $14.95
This is the download version of our book for any hand drummer who wants to learn to improvise and solo. Whether you play djembe or conga, the practical hand-pattern strategies explained here will help you get the most out of your hands with the least amount of effort. And whether you want to solo in a traditional African or Afro-Cuban ensemble, in a drum circle, in a band, or in your living room along with your favorite CDs, Secrets of the Hand will help you take your playing to the next level.
The book is organized into two main sections. The first section covers the five basic hand-pattern strategies and the second covers the five strategies for creating the illusion of speed. Each new strategy builds on the ones before it. And while you're learning the strategies, you'll also be learning over a hundred patterns that should be a fountain of ideas for you when you solo. Finally, the CD (delivered here as mp3s) contains a short recording of every pattern in the book.
Slap Happy (download of book and CD)Regular price $9.95
by Alan Dworsky and Betsy Sansby
This is the download version of Slap Happy, which includes the book in PDF format and the audio CD as mp3 files. Slap Happy is for kids of all ages. It turns drum rhythms into body rhythms you can step, clap, and slap with a buddy. Right from the start, you'll be learning traditional dance rhythms from West Africa and the Caribbean: Kuku from Guinea, Sunguru Bani from Mali, Kpegisu from Ghana, Bomba from Puerto Rico, and Conga from Cuba.
You can do Slap Happy in pairs or in groups, indoors or out, at home or at school. If you're a parent, it's a great way to do something fun and educational with your kids that doesn't require any previous musical training. If you're a music teacher, you can use Slap Happy to give your students a hands-on experience of world rhythms without having to buy any instruments. It's physical, it's funky, and it's fun!
Slap Happy is also available as part of my downloadable "Rhythm for Kids Package Deal" that includes the videos "Cup Drumming" and "Boomwhacker Rhythms" If you want all 3 for the price of 2, just click on the image on the left in the top row below.
"I came across Slap Happy years ago and used it with joy and pleasure in my classroom. Thank you for the happiness it brought to my elementary and middle school students! Joan Kingsolver, Wyoming
"Slap Happy is the BEST!!!!!" Shannon Williams, K-6 general music teacher in Athens City Schools in Ohio
World-Beat & Funk Grooves: Playing a Drumset the Easy Way (download of book and 2 CDs)Regular price $12.95
It's never too late to learn to play drumset. I learned in my fifties using an ingenious approach that makes complex rhythms magically emerge out of simple sequences of body movements. Within days you'll be playing world-beat and funk grooves that usually take months to master.
The secret is to play only one note at a time, an approach that drummers call "linear drumming." Instead of learning separate parts for your hands and feet and then layering one on top of the other, you only have to learn a single pattern that moves note by note from limb to limb. It's as easy as connecting the dots.
This book sold out in its original printing. Now I've brought it back as a download. You get the book in PDF form, as well as a patterns CD and a timelines CD to practice with as mp3s.
Keyboard Lessons for Beginners (video download)Regular price $9.95
You don’t need to know how to read music to learn to play keyboards. This video gives you a player’s-eye view, so all you have to do is play along. And rather than make you wait while I explain preliminary information, my approach is to get you playing immediately and then explain what you need to know along the way. So set up your keyboard and put the video where you can comfortably see it, and be prepared to be making music within less than a minute after we get started--even if you've never touched a keyboard before.
The video contains seven lessons that are between 5 and 10 minutes long. By the time you’ve finished watching each lesson once, you should be well on your way to mastering a simple but beautiful piece. And as you learn to play, you’ll also learn to identify notes and get a basic introduction to technique, rhythm, harmony, and chords. The best way to tell if the video is right for you is to watch Lesson 1 above.
You can play the pieces on any keyboard (including an acoustic piano) and you can use any sound you like. Good luck as you start your keyboard journey!
Running time: 52 minutes
Keyboard Rhythms: Improvising Like a Drummer at the Piano (video download)Regular price $9.95
There are countless instructional resources available to keyboard players who want to learn to improvise using scales and chords. But rhythm? Not so much. So in this video I’ve tried my best to fill that gap by applying the rhythms I’ve learned as a drummer to the keyboard.
The video is an hour long and divided into seven step-by-step lessons. You’ll learn to improvise using the pop clave rhythm, offbeats, shuffle steps, 6-licks, 7-licks, 10-licks, triplets, and mixed licks. What you won’t find are boring exercises. And throughout the lessons the music never stops, as you can see in the sample clip below:
To make the licks and the concepts clearer, I use charts on-screen. These aren’t traditional music notation, but rather the simple box charts that drummers use to notate rhythms. Even if you’ve never learned to read music, you’ll find them intuitively understandable.
Once you’ve learned the rhythms in this video, you can apply them to the scales and chords you already know, and take your keyboard improvising to the next level.
"Al's exercises and ideas open countless possibilities for improvisation. Incredibly helpful!" Pablo Augustin Obregon, Switzerland