Beginning of All the Cuban Drumset Lessons

This is the first section of the Cuban drumset lessons on my site. Please cycle through all the Cuban Drumset Lessons with the Previous and Next links.

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Joss Stone Latin Groove

My classes at the Musicians Institute have been filled with some great music as of late. What I've been doing is finding more modern music that reflects the influence of latin music. Most of the drummers at PIT won't want to become "latin" drummers, so it's my job to demonstrate the "why" they should learn about latin music and then, if they're interested, the "how" to learn it.

This next groove from the Joss Stone song Arms of My Baby, with Questlove on drums. It's Questloves appraoch to a latin feel. This groove is relatively simple and very effective.

questlove
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Latin 101 Lesson from Modern Drummer Latin Symposium

Hey friends, I thought I'd put this up here. If you want, I can rewrite it so it's clearer. Just write me and let me know.

latin 101
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Indestructible - Timbale Solo Little Ray Romero

Whenever anyone asks me to define the word "salsa", I inevitably point them to a few choice albums. One is "Indestructible" by Ray Barretto (Fania Records, LPS 00456). If you really want an education in groove and swing with a "latin" perspective, this is the CD to get. It swings so hard and every song is a gem. The percussion on this recording is especially tight and swingin'. I use this CD with most of my students. Some students want to learn about bell patterns or conga patterns. Well, this CD teaches that. With other students, I use these tracks as "living metronomes". Playing the Purdie Memphis Soul Stew groove along with the salsa tracks gives you a great perspective on time keeping. Try it and see! For the next few lessons we'll examine a great solo by timbalero Little Ray Romero from the song Indestructible. I transcribed the solo on a jet, flying from Los Angeles to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Now, I'll be learning it and applying it to the drum set. Why don't you do the same? Hope you can see the manuscript OK!

We'll start with the first 18 measures of the solo, because that's what fit on one page! I'll be posting the remainder of the solo over the next month. I hope you can see this all right. Please write me if you cannot and I'll re-scan and try to improve the image.

indestructible solo
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Indestructible - Timbale Solo Little Ray Romero PART 2

Here's the next installment of the great timbale solo by Little Ray Romero, an additional 16 measures. Look guys, probably only a few of you want to play timbales. I know that. What I've found out is that there's a wealth of knowledge in these rhythms and phrases. You want to learn to play left foot clave. Well, play left foot clave and play the solo between snare and bass! You want to learn some "hip" phrases to round out your sound? You'll find some here. You have to LOOK for the phrases. EXPERIMENT. CREATE. BE INVENTIVE AND CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO.

indestructible
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Indestructible - Timbale Solo Little Ray Romero PART 3

Here's the last part of the great timbale solo by Little Ray Romero. Look guys, probably only a few of you want to play timbales. I know that. What I've found out is that there's a wealth of knowledge in these rhythms and phrases. You want to learn to play left foot clave. Well, play left foot clave and play the solo between snare and bass! You want to learn some "hip" phrases to round out your sound? You'll find some here.

indestructible
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Beginning the Afro-Cuban Groove Thang

This lesson features my own hand written manuscript! If you have problems reading the images, please let me know and I'll find the time to do them using Sibelius software. Thanks for your patience, if you haven't been able to see the images here. I hope this is now viewable.

I really know that learning about how to play Afro-Caribbean on the drum set can help you become a better musician. The command and control, the interdependence you can achieve, how you can learn to groove, it all works!   Here’s how we start, with the rumba clave. This pattern is the backbone of many Afro-Cuban rhythms.

rumba

The palitos pattern is found in the rhythm of rumba. My suggestion is to listen, listen, listen to this music. If you would like some information about which CDs to purchase, please be in touch with me. Here’s one palitos pattern with bass drum. The circled right hand is played a little softer than the other notes.

palitos

Now, pailtos pattern #2. Notice the hand pattern. We’re still in the 3-2 clave direction and even though we’re not playing the clave, it’s rhythm is still embedded in the pattern.   Here you’ll also find the cáscara pattern with the rumba clave. Notice how the cáscara pattern sounds just like palitos pattern #2. Notice the accent pattern. It’s very important for the feel of this groove. Take your time. The best thing to do is work on the independence then play with some music. (I used to practice my “latin” grooves with James Brown songs, playing along with JB blastng in the headphones!)

mas

The left hand plays an important part, other then just playing the clave. Here are two common patterns with which to begin. These patterns are played on the hembra (low drum) of the timbales. You can play it between snare cross stick and tom.

left hand

Lastly, let’s begin to look at soloing with the hand which is not playing cáscara. Here are three patterns which can really help you achieve this goal. I learned them from Changuito, Master Drummer from Cuba.

left hand

left hand

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You’ll find that these patterns will challenge you greatly. But, I can tell you from my experiences as a performer and educator, these and many other Afro-Caribbean grooves really make you better!!!

Mambo Grooves from Poncho Sanchez' The Conga Cookbook

Poncho plays this groove like the Masters of the style, Mongo, Patato, Aguabella, and other great drummers. This is one of many mambo patterns and variations from the soon to be released Conga Cookbook.

Poncho
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Mongo Santamaria, 85, Influential Jazz Percussionist, Dies February 3, 2003

By BEN RATLIFF Mongo Santamaria, a Cuban conga player and percussionist who arrived in New York at the beginning of the jazz-Latin fusion and was arguably the most popular Latin musician of the 1960's, died on Saturday. He was 85. He had been placed on life support at a Miami hospital after a stroke last week, said Rosy Lopez, his niece and manager.

mongo
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Maracas Sound for Drum Set

As we have seen in other lessons, that the sound of the maracas is very important with regards to Afro-Cuban drumming. Here are three patterns which you should work on mastering. The sound that you are aiming for should mix well into the overall sound of the rhythm section. Don't play too loud. Strive for an even mix with the rest of the rhythm section and band.

maracas

maracas
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My First Cuban Rhythm Lesson

A while ago, when I lived in Miami, Florida, the great drummer Victor Lewis was staying at my house. I noticed that as Victor was listening to some Cuban music he was playing something with his drum sticks. He showed me how he was playing the clave rhythmn, just playing "hand-to-hand" and accenting the rhythm. Victor told me that this was he was learning the feel of the rhythm and the music. This is your assignment, to find some Cuban music (or "salsa"), find the clave and play along with it for a while, to "find the groove". Thanks to Victor for this important lesson!

first lesson
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The Conga Cookbook by Poncho Sanchez and yours trulyhas many items on its menu.

Some of its tasty offerings include:

  • Mambo Grooves
  • Chachachá
  • Soloing Ideas
  • 6-8 Rhythms
  • Great Playalongs featuring Poncho
  • and Recipes developed and tested by Poncho and myself!

me and poncho

Here are four 6/8 patterns from The Conga Cookbook.

Poncho book

Here are three great grooves for chachachá.

poncho book
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Developing a Seven Note Phrase

This lesson goes back three lessons, to an orchestration idea for cascara. Please take a moment to review those previous lessons by using the lesson archive, Cascara Applications #1 and #2. and #3. As you can see, this a septuplet or seven note phrase. I pulled this phrase out from the cascara application in the previous lesson. In the first exercise we're playing three 7 note phrases and one triplet. When practicing this, you may want to keep the hi hat playing on 2 and 4, or all 4 quarter notes. In the second exercise, we're performing true septuplets, 4 of them in the bar of common time.

groups of seven
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More on Orchestrating the Cascara

This lesson goes back two lessons, to an orchestration idea for cascara. Please take a moment to review those previous lessons by using the lesson archive, Cascara Applications #1 and #2. Take your time with this 4 bar phrase. We'll examine what patterns are within this phrase in upcoming lessons. I've used this as a "jumping off point" of sorts in order to develop soloing ideas on the set. Oh, what was chopped off at the top of this image says, "Here is a fill idea based loosely on the 2*3 cascara sticking exercise." Also, we're in common time here, 4/4.

cascara
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Cáscara Hand Pattern. Application Lesson 2

Let's take the previous lesson's hand pattern and make a drum set application. This rhythm is based on what a student and fine drummer, Glen Sobel, showed me. It uses a permutation of a paradiddle-diddle. (RLRRLL) My suggestion is to practive this very slowly at first then, as you become more fluent, add a hi hat with the left fot. You could treat this as a jazz application, as a four bar jazz style solo. Play four bars of time, then play this application of the cascara. In any case, the cascara is outlined with accents, as it was in our previous lesson.

cascara
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Cáscara Hand Pattern

This hand pattern, the accents within the pattern, is inspired by the Cuban rhythm know as cáscara. I have developed this pattern into many drumset ideas, which will follow here in the weeks to come. Take your time with this pattern use a metronome, and have your feet play with the metronome.

cascara
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Great Chacha pattern

This is a very practical pattern to use for playing chachachá. The pattern played with the left hand (cross stick and tom) is exactly what the conga part is for chachachá. The top line is for cowbell or ride cymbal. You'll notice all eighth notes are played, with the downbeats being accented. You'll be playing cross stick on the snare and tom, all with the left hand, if you're right handed. Notice the bass drum is only played on the "and" of "2". This pattern is to be played only if you are not playing with a conguero in your band. Hi hat is not written. You can choose to play quarter notes or eighth notes. It's up to you. As with many of these grooves, the emphasis is FEEL.

Cha
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Manny Oquendo

For those of you who do not know of Manny Oquendo, to me he is one of the heroes of drumming. Yes, that intense! Manny has been in the Afro-Cuban music scene for over fifty years and has played with the ALL! He has his own group called Conjunto Libre and lives and performs in New York and all over the world. Manny is a wonderful musician. I hope to meet him some day. Here is a solo by Manny, taken from Understanding Latin Rhythms from LP Music Ventures. As you can hear, it's me playing timbales, trying to sound like Manny! You can hear the solo here, as a Real Media file, or write to me and I will send you the MP3 file. This lesson is taken from my new book, Afro-Caribbean Drum Grooves (aka Articles of Independence.)

Now, applied as a rudimental exercise. Notice how the exercise is played using paradiddle sticking. I have developed many solo and fill ideas using this exercise. You can use it for warming up, for developing independence, for developing paradiddle speed and dextrerty, and also for expanding your vocabulary.

Manny
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Transitions

transitions

transitions

abanico

abanico
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Easy Two Bell Pattern

This is an exercise from my latest book, Afro Caribbean Drum Grooves, from Cherry Lane Music. I learned this funky, practical two bell pattern from Jose Luis Quintana, Changuito.

changuito bells
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Cascara Funk Grooves

Many of you have learned something about the cascara pattern, a very common rhythm found in a lot of Afro-Cuban music. If any of you would like a primer regarding this rhythm, please email me. These next two grooves come directly from the cascara pattern. They also come right from my book, Practical Applications, Part 3. Click right here to read more about Book 3. To be quite honest, I had gotten bored playing the same pattern on the hi hat and I wanted to spice things up a bit. So, I just placed my left hand on the snare and went with the groove. I ended up with this pattern and many variations. Don't get thrown off by the beat displacement. Follow the notation.

cascara

This next variation has one added bass drum note. I've also tilted the notation so you get dizzy!!

cascara

Now your job is to make some cool sounding variations and send them to me as AIFF or Real Audio files so I can put them here! If you do send me some sound files, please please compress them first! Cool!!
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