Playing in Fix

A place where discuss about secrets, tips and suggestions for practicing on congas and to improve your skill and technique ...

Re: Playing in Fix

Postby Derbeno » Fri Mar 29, 2013 5:34 am

KidCuba wrote:Derbeno, could you guide me to where I could purchase the book?


Sorry KC, did not notice your post; here is the link

http://www.percusioncubana.com/index_en.html
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby vasikgreif » Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:05 am

I didn't go thru the whole thread, but anyway, I just would like to say, that I feel, that intellectual analyzing how the "fix" works is wrong way to learn it, the same as learning batá from sheet music. You know, we US/EU guys found a way how to "learn" cuban music from books, scores, "understanding" how the music works. But that's not the real thing.

With all the respect to Spiro - he knows A LOT of stuff and has a gift to explain things - anyway you can see in his videos, that the swing isn't something that comes from understanding the music intetectually - just compare his and Jesus Diaz lessons.

The only way to learn the music right is to have a great cuban player next to you to show you how to play, and trying to repeat what he does. Forget books, scores or whatever - listen and repeat - that's what I'm trying to do.
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby joaozinho » Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:19 am

vasikgreif wrote:I didn't go thru the whole thread, but anyway, I just would like to say, that I feel, that intellectual analyzing how the "fix" works is wrong way to learn it, the same as learning batá from sheet music. You know, we US/EU guys found a way how to "learn" cuban music from books, scores, "understanding" how the music works. But that's not the real thing.

With all the respect to Spiro - he knows A LOT of stuff and has a gift to explain things - anyway you can see in his videos, that the swing isn't something that comes from understanding the music intetectually - just compare his and Jesus Diaz lessons.

The only way to learn the music right is to have a great cuban player next to you to show you how to play, and trying to repeat what he does. Forget books, scores or whatever - listen and repeat - that's what I'm trying to do.

MAn,I couldn't agree more with you.All that stuff of "fix" and mesures and teorie bla bla bla,but in the end you have no swing no feel and no soul.If you play with your brain(only) you are a machine,in rigth tempo perhaps,but nobody going to dance :wink:
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby jorge » Fri Mar 29, 2013 1:29 pm

I think the main contribution of the concept and terminology of "fix" is to make the point that analyzing the music of rumba and other Afrocuban music according to Western nomenclature and music theory cannot adequately capture much of the way Afrocuban music is really played. Patterns played in "fix" are not straight 4 or straight 6, both of which are only rough approximations of the true timing. Play it like it sounds when a master plays it. You are learning another language and accurately imitating vocabulary and pronunciation is what you need to do. Trying to write it, sequence it, quantize it digitally, analyze it with Western mathematics, or understand it theoretically are academic exercises unlikely to help you play it better. Learn it by listening to, watching and playing with Afrocuban musicians and drummers who can play Afrocuban music well. Not all Afrocuban musicians and very few non-Afrocuban musicians can play Afrocuban music well. Audio and video recordings can take you a long way (since many of the mayores have passed on) and they do have their limitations but nowhere near as limited as written musical notation and verbal descriptions.
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby JohnnyConga » Fri Mar 29, 2013 4:34 pm

THANK YOU JORGE AND VASIKGRIEF ..I concur and couldnt agree more with you both...Academia has it's place but trust me when your in that 'Real Rumba''..NOBODY is thinking in 'fix'...the Best way to learn is 'hands on' NOT from a book..all that tells me is that ok you can read notation...but playing comes from the "Soul" not from a book...immerse self with "Real Rumberos' that know their shit...is the best way to learn..punto final!...
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby Quinto Governor II » Fri Mar 29, 2013 5:02 pm

As one who can't read percussion notation functionally, I can not totally discount analyzing music in the western approach. It certainly has its advantages, and those who can comprehend the music in both ways certainly has even a greater advantage. I think Spiro has a feel for the music, whether he has it naturally, or how much of it was developed through the application of western analysis is not known to me, but listening to him, it sounds like he has it. What I do question more so than counting in general is the particular area of instructing how to play quinto - specifically the quinto lock as it is called. Do Cubans really teach it, or speak of it? My approach to playing quinto has been to start with one, two, and three stroke patterns of varying combinations of open and slap strokes, then build up to longer phrases and rolls, as inspiration leads me. Some of the phrases come from having played along with recordings, so sometimes I may sing out loud - usually by myself - because the other drummers do not sing or don't know the song, or I will sing internally so as to try to conjure up inspiration for patterns to play. I always looked at the simple 1,2,&3 stroke patterns as my quinto ride or lock so to speak. I just never looked at it as that complicated. Of course I could me missing something, and I'm totally wrong.
Besides this don't get me started on clave. Someone in another post - may have been jorge - commented about American jazz musicians not understanding clave, and not being able to solo in clave. I asked a jazz musician's opinion years ago on whether the music conformed to clave, or was clave simply superimposed over the music, and his reply was the latter, which was always my opinion. My simple mind says to me why can't charts be written in clave if it is such an exact musical reality? If phrases are started and ended within 2 bars are they naturally in clave?
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby Kaban » Fri Mar 29, 2013 5:55 pm

JORGE and VASIKGRIEF...thanks for setting it straight.
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby congamyk » Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:45 pm

I agree, vasikgreif reiterated what Johnny said the first time.
The rhyme dude just took it wrong and blew it up from there.

Excuse me.... Now I need to go get my fix.
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby rhythmrhyme » Fri Mar 29, 2013 7:44 pm

I always find it interesting how we as people gravitate towards a "black and white" interpretation of things that are complex. Ambiguity is difficult to tolerate I guess.

This isn't a this or that type of argument. Mike Spiro's westernized interpretation is very helpful for those of us approaching the music first from that perspective. With this knowledge in hand, it makes learning from Cuban's and African's much easier. It's real easy to get "locked up" as a western trained musician if the intellectual understanding of the music isn't there, after all, many of us spent a lifetime learning that way. Although the perspective may seem false, or perhaps even disrespectful, to those trained in a folkloric manner, it makes the music accessible to a wider audience and increases understanding. With this comes appreciation and respect. The obvious next step is to seek out a folkloric instructor or master rumbero to learn "in situ". This latter point was never questioned. A funny thing for me is that when I went to train with a classically trained cuban timbale player, a guy who had been formally trained in music schools in cuba and really could play any percussion instrument well, one of the first things he talked about was "fix". The man could swing for sure! We worked the guaguance and columbia from straight time, into fix, and back again many times. It was super informative and helpful.

I understand "fix" and enjoy playing in that zone. It is challenging because I had 25 years of western training before I came to really dig into it, and that's why I like it. When I play this way it creates a tension in my mind that I find truly enjoyable. I still haven’t heard back from the pro’s on the board about pushing and pulling the “swing” during a rumba. I’m not so much interested in how this could happen in a salsa style band like the one youtube vid on this thread, examples of the push pull happening with dancers, changes in tempo, as players solo etc in a rumba context is much more interesting. I’m just trying to tie it to my experiences with west African folkloric dance groups.

As an edit: I'm also interested if anyone has a thought or opinion on if "rumba cycle" may have historically been a continuous rhythm that moved towards 6/8 from 4/4 as it got faster, and if the distinctions of yambu, guaguanco and columbia were imposed later.
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby jorge » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:32 am

Quinto Governor II wrote:My simple mind says to me why can't charts be written in clave if it is such an exact musical reality? If phrases are started and ended within 2 bars are they naturally in clave?

All good Cuban timba charts are written in clave. Many classically or other professional conservatory-trained musicians (horns, percussion, piano, bass,etc) can play them. Very few of those conservatory-trained musicians, other than the Cubans (raised in Cuba), can IMPROVISE in clave, even if they can play a complex chart in clave. Simply being 2 bars long does not mean a phrase is in clave. The accents, spaces and feel of the instrument have to fit with all the other instruments and vocals that are all in clave too.

RhythmRhyme wrote:A funny thing for me is that when I went to train with a classically trained cuban timbale player, a guy who had been formally trained in music schools in cuba and really could play any percussion instrument well, one of the first things he talked about was "fix".

Who was that? Was he born and raised in Cuba? Of course this is only my experience but I never met a Cuban who talked about "fix", most rumberos I know don't even use concepts like 4, 6 or downbeat in their discussions of rumba. Only one of the best rumba drummers I have known even knows (knew) how to read and write music.


Would anyone here try to learn to sing opera from books or YouTube without studying with an opera singer? Unlikely you would ever get to the Met. Even classical violinists who want to learn to play bluegrass fiddle would generally study with bluegrass fiddlers. I never heard anyone play good Puerto Rican plena who had not studied, played and hung out with really good pleneros. So what makes people think you can learn to play, sing or dance rumba without learning directly from rumberos?
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby Derbeno » Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:18 am

This phenomena under discussion is not unique to Rumba or Cuban music. You may think you are playing any of the Sambas with the right feel only for a Brazilian to shake their head, show you what you should do and you don't hear the difference!

Being from the Islands I know instantly if it's a non-caribbean (being PC here) is playing or singing Reggae. I am sure this applies to many other genres with a few exceptions.

African American music also comes mind. Think of Gospel for example.

Even those who study and immerse themselves a lifetime may come very close but there is still that 'je ne sias quoi' missing at times.

Here are two example below of Spiro and Jesus Diaz playing Guarapachangeo respectively. Don't get me wrong, Mike is a master, but he just can't swing it compared to Jesus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya_5kTpyt5w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSqwiaT2K9k
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby JohnnyConga » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:00 am

Totally right Derbeno!...."it don't mean a thing if it aint got that swing!" and no written music can give that to you or teach it to you.... Rumba is a 'lifestyle"....and depending on who your sitting with will also determine the swing of the Rumba based on their experience and style in playing(some guys cant sit and play with some others. Something else to consider)...Havana ,Matanzas and Santiago all play Rumba differently.....Los Papines played their own 'style' Rumba..and they played it in a way that was not common, not even today..and once again Rumba is played all day everyday in Cuba, it is the land of the Drum...the same as it was when I was growing up in the Bronx....and Bronx Rumba has it's own 'thing' as well... 8)
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby rhythmrhyme » Sat Mar 30, 2013 7:45 am

jorge wrote:Who was that? Was he born and raised in Cuba? Of course this is only my experience but I never met a Cuban who talked about "fix", most rumberos I know don't even use concepts like 4, 6 or downbeat in their discussions of rumba. Only one of the best rumba drummers I have known even knows (knew) how to read and write music.


Hey Jorge - it's Jose, here's a link to his CV: http://www.richardaloysius.com/pdfs/JOS ... le2007.pdf He's not a rumbero, and that wasn't my point. Simply that there are different approaches to learning.

Andy Shloss is a respectable guy as well. I believe his wife is cuban and that he may have some blood in him as well. He's lived there for extensive periods and travels to cuba a couple times a year. He was instrumental in putting together Afrocubanism in Banff Alberta in 1996 which led to this recording, amongst many "ethno-musicology" recordings in archive at UVic: http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/mus ... +Live!.htm Just because he's totally deep into his esoteric electronic instrumentation doesn't mean he hasn't done a lot of playing and learning in cuba and with talented cuban musicians. Changuito and Anga were there, I also think some or all of Menequitos de Matanza were there. I've done workshops in Victoria with Changuito and Menequitos de Matanza and another popular rumba group but their name escapes me right now.

Many of the folkloric rhythms from the 1996 Banff event were transcribed and recorded. This provides a very unique opportunity for students at UVic to review the transcripts while listening to recordings. If done this way I believe it's actually possible to interpret the swing, document it on the notation and then learn it in conjunction with listening to the recordings. Once you got the "feel" of it interpreting future transcriptions is much easier. I've tried to transfer this to Bata though with little success - very difficult indeed.

for those of us without a cuban rumbero on tap, these approaches to learning are also very helpful. They're obviously not going to get you "all the way there" but there's lots to gain along the way.

"This phenomena under discussion is not unique to Rumba or Cuban music. You may think you are playing any of the Sambas with the right feel only for a Brazilian to shake their head, show you what you should do and you don't hear the difference!" I totally agree with this statement - it's a really common phenomenon in most folkloric African music as well.
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby bengon » Sat Mar 30, 2013 5:17 pm

The concept of fix can be a useful tool. It's a way to describe the swing of rumba (and other afro-cuban folkloric forms). That's it. If it helps you to learn how to play with feel, you use it. For people who didn't grow up as rumberos, it may be a helpful way to understand feel. Ultimately, you will have to play with other people, listen to recordings and really study to to get the particular touch.

For people who grow up as rumberos, they've grown up hearing rumba- it's a part of them. Why would they need to describe music in words? It's not so different from learning any language. As a native English speaker, I can tell you more about Spanish verb tenses than I can tell you about English verb tenses, even though I speak English better than Spanish.

BTW- I've had the good fortune to play Spiro. Mike struck me as somebody who has control over his playing. I don't intend to speak for him but I suspect he will change his feel depending on what the music calls for. There's a reason he plays folkloric gigs.. and it's not because he's wrote a book.
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Re: Playing in Fix

Postby guarachon63 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 5:57 pm

[url]As an edit: I'm also interested if anyone has a thought or opinion on if "rumba cycle" may have historically been a continuous rhythm that moved towards 6/8 from 4/4 as it got faster, and if the distinctions of yambu, guaguanco and columbia were imposed later.[/url]

My opinion is that "rumba" was once a catch-all term for any sort of african-esque party music (that is, in a non-religious context), regardless of tempo and instrumentation (probably predominantly percussive but could well have included other instruments as they were available, such as marimbula, botija and even trumpet), the main constant being a call-and-response between soloist and chorus. I imagine there were local variants that were fairly standardized and known to those living in the area, but rumba playing became generally standardized only with the advent of mass media (records), then later even moreso with the advent of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional.

Also, to me, it is a mistake to use tempo as a determinant of the genre, I think its more appropriate to use song structure to distinguish between yambú, guaguancó and columbia.
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