Cuban percussion has been around for quite some time. In fact, it has been around a bit longer than our beloved rock and roll has.
Rumba is quick paced Cuban dance music. The term ‘Rumba’ was coined in 1930, and the music has always been very drum oriented.
But you aren’t here for history lessons, are you?
If you are familiar with jazz drumming, then you may already be familiar with claves even if you don’t yet realize it. A clave is a five note pattern that, upon sight, may seem broken up, as it involves frequent rests.
Unlike most techniques, this one is actually best learned on your kit, or at least sitting behind your snare, as Rumba uses the cross sticking technique.
If you don’t know how to cross stick, don’t worry. To cross stick, lay your drum stick on your snare. Let the butt end of your stick hang over the edge of your snare. Now put the flat of your palm over the head of your stick. Lift up the butt end of the stick with your thumb and forefinger and strike the rim, keeping your palm against the snare. Don’t let your palm or the head of your stick raise.
You have just performed a cross stick stroke.
Now that you know how to play a cross stick stroke, you have the skill to learn the Rumba clave beat.
Keep in mind that throughout the Rumba clave beat, your palm and the head of your stick will not leave your snare. If you feel your hand lifting up, your palm no longer muting the snare, that’s okay; be patient, and try again, making sure to pay more attention.
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This is a traditional Rumba clave beat made using Guitar Pro 6. For rock styled drummers, this pattern may be difficult, as it has a peculiar grove. Don’t let this discourage you; the Rumba clave beat is a great tool to learn, as it will teach you, more than anything, how to keep good timing.
To practice this piece, I strongly suggest that you use a metronome. If you find you are struggling then slow down. It may help you to develop the groove if you watch videos of other drummers playing the Rumba clave beat, as this will help you to internalize the rhythm if you are struggling with grasping the style.
Pay special attention to the dotted eighth note and the dotted eight note rest. If you overlook these two extended notes, you fill fall an eight of a beat behind. This may not seem like much, but it will be highly noticeable.
Record yourself playing the pattern if you are still struggling after having watched other players, and try to pinpoint what section of the pattern are giving you problems.
• Am I coming up a note short?
• Am I lifting my palm?
• Am I abiding to the metronome
• Am I playing too fast, causing me to loose my rhythm?
• Am I playing too slowly, causing me to extend the time signature?
These are all questions you should ask yourself if you are having problems with the Rumba clave beat. There are no magical solutions to these issues, either. The only way to solve the issue is through awareness and steady practice. Good luck, and have fun!
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