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Introduction to Caribbean Drumming Styles

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


Much like a variety of other styles, Caribbean music can cover a wide range of sub-styles, anything from reggae to calypso to soka, and so on. There’ts many different ways of drumming and approaching the style of music. I’tm going to just talk about two beginning sub-styles of two separate styles. I’tll start with some reggae and talk about a style called one drop. One drop basically refers to the one note or the one drop note, you’tre playing between a snare drum and a base drum at the same time. Basically, you’tre playing just quarter notes with upbeat accents; one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, on the high hat. And, you’tre dropping a base drum and a snare drum at the same time on beat three. In addition, you’tre using what’ts called a cross stick on the snare drum. You’tre holding it backwards. You’tre laying it about an inch from the rim. You’tre getting a nice crack from the wood of the cross stick on the snare drum. So, one drop feel and reggae would sound something like this; one, two, three, four. [music]

And again, reggae has such a wide range of material in it’ts style and it’ts good to just listen to reggae and see what you can pull out of it. Someone, especially like Bob Marley and the Whalers is great to listen to, because you see how many different patterns there are. Another popular style of music in the Caribbean is soka. And often times,
you here soka with steel drum bands and danceable type situations. The best approach to playing soka on a drum set is to keep a strong quarter note pulse on your base drum. We often call it four on the floor. And, you’tre actually playing the same pulse [music] in both of your feet, while you play eight notes on the high hat. It’ts creating an open stroke on upbeats. And then, you’tre creating a displaced snare drum rhythm against it. And, it sounds something like this; one, two, three, four. [music]

And you can see what that pulse and that feel, how it could really enhance a dance style situation. So again, it’ts good to experiment with some different things and do some research on the wide range of Caribbean styles, but that’ts a good place to start.

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