by Alan Dworsky
This series is my latest and most complete course on soloing. It's for any djembe player or conga drummer who wants to learn to solo in a systematic, step-by-step way. In the original version of this course, each of the eight lessons consisted of an hour-long CD (with 2 full CDs for the final lesson) and printed sheets containing charts and explanations of all the patterns.
Now I've made the whole course available as a download, with the 9 CDs converted to mp3 audio files and the printed charts and explanations converted to a 50-page PDF file.
The lessons are organized around licks, the building blocks of a great solo. Each lick is woven into bite-sized patterns that start simple and gradually get more complex. And each later lesson builds on earlier lessons, so you'll be expanding your soloing skills outward from a solid center.
Here are the lessons:
Lesson 1: The Power of Pairs
Lesson 2: The Rippled 8 and the Illusion of Speed
Lesson 3: The Perfect Lick--The Rippled 6
Lesson 4: The Funky Offbeat Path
Lesson 5: Hip Deep in Six
Lesson 6: Getting Off the Grid with Quarter-Note Triplets
Lesson 7: Upbeats and Half-Note Triplets Over a Burning Disco Groove
Lesson 8: Checkered Licks Over a Polyrhythmic Pulse in Six
On the CDs, each pattern is played for about two minutes in four different ways: slowly on djembe, slowly on conga, medium fast on djembe, and medium fast on conga. The djembe tracks are played over West African grooves and the conga tracks are played over Afro-Cuban grooves.
On each track, I leave space between repetitions of a pattern. That way you can alternate playing a repetition along with me and playing a repetition on your own. And on the CDs for lessons 7 and 8, all the individual licks you'll be learning are combined into an extended improvisation you can play along with, so you'll really get a feel for how to tell a story with a solo.
“I think your step-by-step course on soloing is one of the most musical, well-organized, and well-explained of any of the instructional materials on the market.” Salil Sachdev, Professor and Chair, Music Department, Bridgewater State University
"I wanted to drop you a line to say how pleased I am with your books and CDs. I play congas, dununs and djembe. I started out as a set drummer years ago, then got into multi-percussion such as tympani and marimba. So I come into this with rhythmic independence and knowing how to read music.
However, I must say that your three works A Rhythmic Vocabulary, Secrets of the Hand and the Learn To Solo series have provided me with the most solid foundation I think possible. Your systematic solo method allows me to easily construct musical phrases that sound impressive because their underlying simplicity comes alive when played at burning fast tempos. Soloists are story tellers as well as illusionists - and both elements are amply captured in the Dancing Hands paradigm.
Thanks for providing a great product and a great service to serious drummers such as myself." Jeff Halverson