Have you heard of the Mano Secreto? It is the secret hand technique used and first made popular by percussion legends Changuito and also Giovanni Hildago. Prior to these great conga players there was another player named tat Guines in Havana Cuba who was developing this technique. Why is it secret? Because until recently (well about 10 years or so ) no one else could do it. Now everyone is doing it but there are not a lot of great instructional videos about it unfortunately.
There are many different hand techniques and patterns used in the Mano Secreto. I do not profess to be a master of them all. But I know a bunch of them and from what I have seen and studied they all start here with what I call the basic form number one.
The secret hand technique in it’s most basic form is a drum roll. It consists of 4 beats. It starts with a strike on your right hand, then there is a heel or palm hit with your left hand followed by a hit with your finger tips with the same hand. Your left hand actually rocks as if it was a paddle or board. This is followed by a hit on your right hand. So your left hand hits 2 times in the same space as your right hand hitting one time.
Before learning the basic Mano Secreto pattern number one for congas, you must know the left hand flutter or “palm tip” technique used in this pattern and most of Latin music and many rhythms as well.
One of the secrets or keys to the palm tip (or heel tip) flutter or rocking motion is to keep your left hand perfectly straight. To do this you have to lift at the wrist and drop at the wrist. There should be almost no bending at eh knuckles. This breaks the connection between the fingers and the wrist so that is why you do no make a cup shape with your left hand (like if you were doing “old school” style slapping like I do!), and your left hand stays straight as possible. You want your left hand firm yet flexible when you are hitting the conga drum or rocking on it. That should be your goal.
When you drop at the wrist your palm pushes into the drum and your finger tips simultaneously pull or point up wards. When you pull your wrist up you push off with your finger tips like you are on a spring or diving board. All the time keeping your elbow in the same place. Your elbbow does not move.So all the action is really happening in three places. Your wrist going up and down and your hand rocking like it is a board.
If you do this rocking movement correctly your wrist goes up and down Think “drop -tip, drop tip” as you practice this motion. The palm of the hand and the finger tips hit back and fourth, and that is it! This is the very first beginning step to developing the palm tip (aka heel tip in the old days).
Please click on the brown link below to see this technique in action: