samba-variationsFor the majority of people from the western hemisphere Latin music is quite a mystery. The previous statement is especially true when it comes to aspiring drummers. Since Latin music deviates from the standard pulsation of the music that the radios and MTV play, when you first try to play some samba or merengue, it is now wonder if you feel a little confused.

Since these types of rhythms are not the ones that you have heard day in and day out from your childhood, it is a tad bit harder to actually fell the groove of the music. In the following paragraphs we will talk about one of the most popular Latin styles, the Samba.

Let us have an overview of how the Samba is and should be constructed, how it can be turned into something quite fascinating and how it can still conserve its character even when played in a three over four time signatures.

Basic Samba Grooves

Disassembling any Latin beat will reveal that this kind of music consists of three major building blocks. The top of the cake is the clave, which is usually played on the rims of drums or on the snare drum in modern setups.

Then comes the accompanying groove played on one or more of the cymbals – this can be anything from a simple shuffle pattern to a groovy paradiddle-diddle. Last but not least, we have a bass pattern, which actually is the soul of any Samba or Bossa Nova beat.

In the examples below you can see two slightly different configurations for Samba, the first being probably the most basic possible Samba beat. The second variation makes the clave a bit more interesting by adding side sticking and making the foot pattern deeper with the addition of off-beat hi-hat pedal strokes.

Basic Samba Grooves

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Making Samba Really Groove

While the basic Samba groove presented above is a hundred percent correct and it is something that you might want to play, when you actually start to attend and maybe play at Latin gigs, you will soon find that what drummers actually play are far from the basic beat. Below you can see a four-measure compilation of Samba drumming that even includes a minor and a major drum fill.

Quite surprisingly, the plus that this version of Samba has as opposed to the previous basic groove is the complexity of the pattern played on the ride cymbal. While the clave and the foot patterns remained the same, the change in what your right hand plays has given the groove a whole new dimension.

Making Samba Really Groove

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Creating 3/4 Variations for Samba

Even though Samba is generally a 4/4 groove, the whole point of this article was to introduce you to Samba in 3/4. In the example below I have turned both of the beats presented previously into 3/4 beats. The algorithm for doing this might be obvious after studying what is below. It is quintessential to keep the original foot pattern intact, as this is what makes Samba actually sound like Samba.

However, your hands can and should accommodate to the new environment provided by the 3/4 time signature. 3/4 is 4/4 minus a square note in this case: you should try to come up with a clave and ride pattern that will keep the character of the groove.

Creating 3 4 Variations for Samba

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