La Mano Secreta or “The Secret Hand” made popular by the legendary Changuito is what I call a ‘technique’ or rhythm system for playing rolls with a heel tip (a.k.a. palm tip or shuffle) on your left hand. If you are lefty then it would be your right hand and when you get more advanced you play it on both hands.
The heel tip is also known as a heel toe and also as the “left hand shuffle”.
These are just names for the same thing, which is to say a rocking stroke that includes a touch (or slap) and a press (or bass).
The motion works in the same manner as a children’s swing. One side of your hand hits (or lands) then the other side of your outstretched straight hand hits the other side. For example your finger tips hit then the base of your palm hits, back and fourth in a self perpetuating motion.
This creates a kinetic energy that fuels itself and when you start to develop and relax into this technique you start to get a “2 for 1” effect. Your left hand drops and two beats happen in what seems to be one unified motion.
In La Mano Secreta, “the secret hand” technique 31, which consits of 4 beats the left hand heel tip motion is preceded by an open tone or bass note on your right hand and a four stroke roll (of sorts) is finished by adding a slap (like a pop) sound at the end of the roll on your right hand. Please check out the free videos below (just click on the brown links).
So technique number one is, ” tone -heel/tip-slap”. When the time is slightly pushed together it becomes a fast roll.
This roll or what I am calling technique number one (through 9) is placed in specific places in conga patterns , typically the latin rhythm pattern called “Tumbao” to give an accelrated or accented feel that is very exciting. Because of the self perpetuating kinetic energy you can seemingly play many more notes faster then you could with single strokes.
Changuito, (José Luis Quintana) the famous Cuban percussionist made the La Mano Secreta technique famous. Prior to Changuito, Tata Guiness (Federico Aristides Soto y Alejoà) was doing similar techniques. Giovanni Hildago has also mastered his own version of the techniques as well. I first was introduced to Changuito in 1985 in Havanah Cuba when we saw him play timbales with the famous group Los Van Van at a latin jazz festitval.
Everyone does La Mano Secreta very differently and to me that is the beauty of the technique and drumming in general. You find what works for you and put it to use the best you can. You can introduce these techniques into your drumming at any point of your drumming career.Use what is useful and drop the rest.
I have made a series of short videos on La Mano Secreta available on my Youtube channel as lesson previews and as full lessons at