Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc
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By James
two of the most common handing types are alternate and hand-over-hand. there are, of course, other handings that are in-between or don't conform to either of these.
Is hand-over-hand the same as ghosting? When you talk about handing are you refering to traditional handing? What do you mean by the in-between ones and ones that don't conform?
By bubudi
hand-over-hand type handing simulates how a pattern is played if the hands were in constant motion, even during the gaps. however, it is not necessary to do ghosting to achieve it.

in fact, it is preferable to play many patterns in hand-over-hand without ghosting, as ghosting has three major drawbacks:

1. ghosting forces you to play patterns straight, without microtiming/swing. accomplished players may be able to ghost and still apply the appropriate swing at slow-moderate speeds, but even a master drummer can't do it at higher tempos. many rhythms are swung in a way that makes them "lean forward". when such a swing is achieved, the rhythms sound more lively and gain momentum, which makes it easy to play at high tempos. when ghosting is used, the rhythms tend to lack this kind of momentum, and certainly lose momentum when taken up to a decent tempo, which inevitably results in a gradual slowdown.

2. ghosting is intensive on the hands. they get tired playing at high speeds, causing a player to slow down. i have observed this with many djembe players many times, even in moderate tempos.

3. ghosting causes reliance on constant hand movement for timing. one should aim to develop one's inner metronome. this is achieved partly by listening and partly by playing: feeling patterns over a rhythm, not breaking them down into neat little units (e.g. sixteenth notes). the gaps between strokes can be internalised without ghosting. westerners have the most trouble applying this when the ghost note would fall on a downbeat (i.e the played notes are on the upbeats only). to be able to play such patterns with the correct feeling over a steady rhythm require the player to deal with the "rests" on the downbeats in different ways. to be able to do so without feeling compelled to play the downbeats in some way (ghosting, foot-tapping or head-bobbing) requires a certain maturity in one's playing.

alternate handing on the other hand, is one where the left hand follows the right, and the right follows the left. in other words, the played notes are always alternately right, left, right, etc. it feels more natural to play in this way when it's practical to do so. thing is, often it's not practical, often because there are an uneven number of played strokes, which would mean that you would have to lead with alternate hands. while it is good to be able to lead with both hands, one has to consider that the sound changes because the sounds made by the left hand are slightly different to those made by the right hand. also, changes in microtiming occur.

practicality of playing and the overall sound dictate the handing. there are times when other handings are called for. in other words, there are patterns where it's not practical to play them strictly alternate or strictly hand-over-hand. it might be necessary to combine a little of the two. these are the in-between handings i spoke of. sometimes, a unique handing might be necessary - one that doesn't conform to either of the two main handings.
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By Carl

I have definitely gotten the impression from Mamady that there is a correct handing for each accompaniment part.

Mamady used to do this funny demo where he'd play "passport" with all of this crazy handing, yet it always sounded the same. Then he would go on to say that the handing was important! and to make sure you do it the right way. he would stop a class as long as necessary to make sure EVERYONE was playing the same way. He has said that the alternate handing came from the ballet where the tempos get 'crazy'.

I teach Mamady's handing for any song that I put out there. I do mention that in performance situations "anything goes" to make sure it comes out right. But I make sure to emphasize the tradition "in class".

As to the ghosting issue. I find ghosting a good teaching tool for those who can do it. However I find raw beginners are often confused by the technique. Also as an audience member, I find ghosting distracting when it is in the accompaniment parts. I do like it when it is used in a djembekan or unaccompanied djembe solo.

my 2 cents.
By bubudi
Carl wrote:I have definitely gotten the impression from Mamady that there is a correct handing for each accompaniment part.
different teachers will teach their handing as the correct way. some teachers will say that a particular pattern can be played with more than one handing. i think it's important to be consistent in what handing you use. it really can affect the feel of the rhythm and sound of the notes though.
Mamady used to do this funny demo where he'd play "passport" with all of this crazy handing, yet it always sounded the same.
i think in the hands of a master you can change handings and sound pretty similar but i think mamady may have been trying to demonstrate that even for him, handing can change the feel of the accompaniment. it's hard to demonstrate feel. many times i have demonstrated a pattern played with two different feels and had people looked at me blankly. i just smile and tell them that it will eventually click. some people are born with an ear for detecting subtle differences in swing/feel. most people have to develop it and immersion is the best way of developing an ear for the often subtle differences in swing/feel.