Introduction to Latin Drumming

Learn about Latin drumming from drum teacher Jason Gianni in this Howcast drum video.


I think it's important to understand that there really isn't a lot of basic playing when it comes to Latin drumming. There is a lot of independence and coordination involved. In addition, I think it's really important to understand the difference between the styles in Latin drumming. I think a lot of people confuse them. The two most prominent styles are under this umbrella is Afro-Cuban drumming and Brazilian drumming.

Now, within the Brazilian style you have sub-styles like bossa nova, samba, baccata, and bione. In Afro-Cuban, you have separate styles like cascata and mambo and mosempika and songo. These are all terms that are important to separate and understand the difference between the two as they really don't mix and they have a lot of differences.

With all types of African, Cuban, and Brazilian drumming, it's very important to understand that you're limbs are taking place of a variety of different players. In Afro-Cuban, you're taking the place of Congo players, and bell players, and even clave in your left foot at times.

In Brazilian playing, you're taking the place of surdo drums, bigger drums, and different percussion instruments in the Brazilian. If you're going to start to work on the background of Afro-Cuban drumming, it's important to start with the understanding of clave and clave rhythms.

The clave's, in general, are two rose wood sticks about this long that are hit together to create this sound, and there's specific rhythms like son clave rhythms, and rumba clave rhythms, and two three clave, and I'll give you an example of one right now and I'll put it into a rhythm so you can hear it.

If this is my tempo, a son clave rhythm and a two three son clave rhythm, two three meaning two notes in one section, three notes in the other, would sound something like this. One, two, three, four, one, two, one, two, three, one, two, one, two, three.

Now, there are a lot of ways to sort of base your rhythms off of that clave rhythm. A good starting point with Afro Cuban is to understand a cascara rhythm for drum set. Cascara is a bell pattern that you put on the shell of the drum, or the hi hat, you would integrate that clave into your playing.

So, this is pretty advanced but I'll play you an example of that, so you can hear a clave in this rhythm. I'll be playing the cascara rhythm here, the clave rhythm here, and what's called the tumbao rhythm on my base drum. One, two, three, four. If you want to approach Brazilian, a good way of approaching Brazilian is start with a bossa nova. A bossa nova is a very gentle style of playing, where you play a foot pattern of boom chick boom boom in your feet matched with a straight time pattern in your right hand.

And then what's called a Brazilian clave rhythm in your left hand, which is not exactly the clave rhythm, but it's a variation of something you hear in Afro Cuban rhythm, and that would sound something like this. One, two, three. Again, these rhythms are a little tricky to play, but if you get them in your ear, and you start associating with them, it's a good launching pad on how to go through these styles.

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