What is Songo and more importantly, what can it do for your playing?
Songo is a form of Cuban drumming which is heavily influenced by Rumba, jazz, and even funk, and it can take your groove abilities to a whole new level.
Unlike Rumba drum beats, Songo uses a full snare stroke, not a cross stroke. However, just like Rumba, learning Songo is not very easy. This is especially so if you are a rock drummer or built your foundations around rock music. Songo is not for beginners, as it deals with odd rests and, if you are inexperienced, can seem choppy.
Before we get to the example, we should first discuss style. To properly play Songo, your body needs to be relaxed. You also need to have a well developed sense of rhythm, as Songo drumming beats utilize very peculiar seeming rhythmic patterns.
If you have trouble keeping rhythm, use a metronome and practice a basic 4/4 beat. Once you have mastered that, try playing the same beat with a rest every three, fifth, and seventh note. This will help you develop an awareness of odd rest placements, which will in turn help you to be able to play them more easily, more efficiently, and more relaxed.
The other important thing you need to master before attempting Songo is the art of relaxation.
This may sound silly, but relaxation is more important than rhythm, at least in a sense. If you are tight and tense, not only will you injure yourself, but you will also throw off your rhythm. No matter how good of a sense of rhythm, you may possess, if you are too tense to put it to proper use then it becomes a useless skill.
The final thing you need to be aware of before we move onto the example is your power. As with all drumming styles, power control is a necessity. If you are performing cringingly loud, piercing strikes then you aren’t going to be able to play Songo.
This is a style that is built around rhythm, and just as important, feel. If you have problems with the power of your striking then take your time before approaching Songo to develop control.
Now finally, if you have all three categories mastered, you can move onto the example. This is a basic Songo drumming beat.
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Take note of the seemingly awkward rest placement. Before attempting to play this pattern on your drums, try clapping the pattern out, as it may lend you a better understanding of the piece, and help you to properly enunciate the rests. With your metronome set at 100bmp, clap the pattern out, allowing each note to reach its intended duration. Once you grasp the pattern, try it on your drums.
Note that this Songo drumming beat uses only the ride bell and the snare. Many Songo patterns use very similar instrumentation. It is somewhat of a staple in this unique style of music.
Once you can play this piece consistently without fault, try to implement different drum rudiments to give it a different spice. It is important to try adding different techniques to different styles, as it will not only help you with improvising down the road, but it will also help you to avoid becoming a one dimensional drummer.
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