Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am writing a conga part in LilyPond. I saw on LilyPond's documentation how to write conga notes: (under the congas-style section)

It mentioned "cgh", "cgho", "cghm", "ssh", etc. for the notation, and it showed an image of those notes. I figured out that "h" is for the high part (top line), and "l" is for the low part (bottom line), but I do not know what the notes mean (for example, what does the plus sign mean?).

You will understand everything after viewing the link provided above.

Any help?

share|improve this question
The abbreviations are spelled out here: – Dave May 31 '14 at 4:17
What's sidestick? – user8886 May 31 '14 at 4:18
Hitting the rim (or side) of the drum, rather than the drum-head. – Dave May 31 '14 at 4:18
Excellent! RTM, as usual. So I was wrong about the ss. Makes sense. – Caleb Hines May 31 '14 at 4:28
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'm guessing 'cg' is for conga, given that most of them start like that.

I'm pretty sure:

  • o = open tone
  • m = muted tone
  • ss = slap? sidestick

So 'cgho' = Conga high open tone; 'cglm' = Conga low muted tone. I'm not sure why the 's' for slap is doubled and lacks a 'cg'. If you aren't familiar with these terms, you should be, since you're writing for it. They refer to different ways of striking the drum head. Here's a comparison of open and muted tones:

(I only know about these because I was recently given a set of bongos, and they have similar strikes, so I've been trying to learn about it.)

share|improve this answer
What's the difference between "cgh" and "cgho"? Also, by chance, do you know what the "low" and the "high" tones mean (are they different drums, or different ways of playing one drum?)? – user8886 May 31 '14 at 3:48
High and low refer to two separate drums. Congas (and bongos) always come in a pair -- one high and one low (you can see them both in the video. He's playing the high drum. The low one is attached just to his right, and slightly larger). The other question, I'm not so sure about, unless maybe 'cgh' is just meant to be a generic strike, without specifying whether its open or muted? – Caleb Hines May 31 '14 at 3:52
I asked that question because in some videos, people only use one drum. Anyways, thanks for helping! I might just use "cgh" so there wouldn't have to be that symbol over every note. – user8886 May 31 '14 at 3:55
I'd consider at least putting some open tone marks over certain strategic accented notes. If you aren't already familiar with the instrument, you might consider (if you haven't already) watching plenty of youtube videos to get a feel for how different types of rhythms are constructed from different types of strikes. I'm always amazed by just how complicated the technique of "hitting something" can be. – Caleb Hines May 31 '14 at 4:24

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.