Every culture has its own music style that is near and dear to the nationality. For Brazil, this style is Bossa Nova, which when transcribed, literally means ‘new trend.’
Bossa Nova is extremely similar to Rumba in many ways, but in many ways it is also entirely different. Bossa Nova is a dance form of music, and is meant to get your body moving.
In this article, we will give you the tools needed to learn the basics of Bossa Nova, so that you might come to better understand the genre, as well as build the foundation with which to master it.
Before we start though, it is best that you take a moment to assess your skill level. Bossa Nova deals with syncopated rhythms as well as off-beat rhythms, so needless to say, it is not the greatest style to begin with if you are just starting out with the drums.
If you are, it is best that you take some time to master simply note rhythms, as well as simple off-beat rhythms. Syncopation will come last, as it is a bit of an intermediate to advanced drumming leveled concept.
Use a metronome and practice your basic quarter, eighth, and sixteenth note rhythms.
When you are comfortable with these basic rhythms, the next step is to learn off-beat rhythms.
When you play a full 4/4 measure using eighth notes, each pair of notes has an on beat, and an off-beat.
The on beat is the first eighth note, and the off-beat is the second eighth note. If you were to count a full 4/4 measure of eighth notes, it would look like this:
One and Two and Three and Four and
On off On off On off On off
Below each note is their respective value within the measure. The counting note –or the first eighth notes of each pair– is the on beat. The ‘and’ note –or the second eighth note of each pair—is the off-beat.
Bossa Nova uses this concept to the fullest, as many of the rhythms are built off of off-beat patterns.
Syncopation is the unusual variation of notes, varying between highlighting stronger beats (on beats) and weaker beats (off-beats). Bossa Nova music tends to vary which notes are highlighted within the context of a pattern.
For a full example of this odd note patterning, here is a basic Bossa Nova snare drum beat:
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You may notice that this pattern is nearly identical to the Rumba clave in every aspect save for speed. This is because, in all reality, the Rumba clave is actually a huge part of Bossa Nova. In fact, it is the foundation of most Bossa Nova songs.
The difference in Bossa Nova is the use of voices; Bossa Nova music tends to add other voices on the off-beats, which requires much more coordination and focus.
When you have thoroughly practiced the Bossa Nova snare drum beat, take some time to try and add your own voices. Remember, practice is the only way to increase your fluency, so set aside a block of time each day in which to practice your Bossa Nova drum beat. Have fun!
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