by claudia . June 26th, 2011

“When you start a painting, it is somewhat outside you. At the conclusion, you seem to move inside the painting.” Fernando Botero

I remember very clearly the first time I learnt a Spanish Flamenco Rumba pattern. I was taking a private class with cajonero Isaac Vigueras at his place in Sabadell, just outside of Barcelona. Isaac is an amazing player, and teacher, (a wonderful combination), has played with some of the best flamencos around, and I learnt some of my most important lessons about rhythm, music and playing cajon from him.

I picked up the basics of the rumba pretty quickly and could play along with him fine, and was kind of expecting him to compliment me – and instead he just said – good – now practice that for 30 – 40 hours and see if you can get it “caminando”. (caminando translates as walking – and in this context means, grooving along, or what drummers sometimes refer to as being ”in the pocket”). That kind of stopped me in my tracks, and made me reassess what it meant to learn a rhythm. Sure enough, after putting in hours of playing something relatively simple, the rhythm did start to change – both the way I heard it, felt it, understood it – and of course the quality of the groove when I played it. I started to kind of … well…move inside the rhythm!!

Like me, a lot of people are in a rush – they want to play fast, complicated, fancy, and straight away… Actually it’s probably pa symptom of our times – this wanting to rush thing…But music is not about making noise or rushing (well…ok maybe sometimes that’s fun too…) So how do we play so that we are “inside the painting”…or “inside the rhythm”?

Rather than seeing practice purely as a means to “getting something” or performing, you might try thinking of it as just part of your life – a way of stilling the mind  – a meditation even. Try the Learn Cajon tip this month and see how rhythm develops for you – whatever level you are currently at.

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