The Drummer's Bible
How to Play Every Drum Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco
By Mick Berry, Jason Gianni
See Sharp Press Copyright © 2012 Mick Berry and Jason Gianni
All rights reserved.
Acid Jazz draws on many musical styles — Funk (mainly 1970s Funk), Soul, R&B, Hip Hop, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and Jazz — and it has no standard beat(s). It originated in the late 1980s, primarily in England, but achieved greater popularity in the United States, especially in San Francisco and New York City. Acid Jazz precursors include jam bands such as The Grateful Dead, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Phish.
Prominent Acid Jazz bands include Alphabet Soup (drummer Jay Lane), the Mo'Fessionals (Loring Jones), Galactic (Stanton Moore), Brand New Heavies (Jan Kindaid), Groove Collective (Genji Siraisi), and Digable Planets (Gary Dann).
Acid Jazz has also found a large following in Japan. Japanese Acid Jazz groups include Mondo Grosso (Yasuo Sano), Gota and Simply Red (Gota Yashiki), and United Future Organization (Genta Egawa). There are also prominent Acid Jazz groups in Poland and Russia: Skalpel (Czeslaw Bartkowski) and Moscow Grooves Institute (mostly drum samples).
Instrumental music is as important as the lyrics in Acid Jazz, and the style is characterized by danceable grooves and lengthy, repetitive compositions. A typical Acid Jazz ensemble blends horns, a full rhythm section (often with percussion in addition to a drum set), a vocalist (singing and rapping), and even a DJ, employing sampling.
The role of a drum set player in Acid Jazz is to maintain a solid rhythmic foundation with a characteristic relaxed groove. This is achieved by playing specific patterns (usually Hip Hop or Funk, but often Swing/Jazz, Fusion, or Afro-Cuban) with a strong sense of time. A small set-up is common (hi-hat, snare, bass drum, cymbal), but some drummers use a larger kit depending on instrumentation and musical influences. Acid Jazz players strive for a consistent sound, often imitating that of a drum machine.
Acid Jazz tempo range varies according to the style being played (see individual styles below). The following grooves are practical for this genre.
Example 1 (Hip Hop/Rap — CD 2, Track 34)
This is a common Hip Hop/Rap groove (for more variations see Hip Hop chapter), and is perhaps the most popular groove in Acid Jazz. The tempo range is quarter note = 60–120 bpm.
Example 2 (Standard Rock — CD 2, Track 80)
This is the "Standard Rock Beat" (for more variations see Standard Rock in the Rock n' Roll chapter). The downbeat eighth notes are often accented louder than the off beats. The most common tempo range is quarter note = 110–120 bpm.
Example 3 (Swing — CD 2, Track 42)
This is the standard ride time Swing pattern (for more variations see Big Band in the Jazz chapter). Take note of the accents placed on beats 2 & 4 on the ride cymbal. These accents double with the hi-hat foot pattern, defining a strong "pocket" and a relaxed groove. The wide tempo range for a standard time pattern is quarter note = 60–255 bpm (and even beyond).
Example 4 (Bossa Nova — CD 1, Track 77)
This variation is the Bossa Nova rhythm (for more variations see Bossa Nova in the Brazilian chapter). Note that the snare hand plays the familiar "Brazilian Clave" rhythm as a rim click. The style is counted and felt in 4/4 and usually played at a tempo of quarter note = 100–168 bpm.
Example 5 (Mambo — CD 1, Track 25)
This is the Mambo, a two-measure, up-tempo pattern. (For more variations, see the Afro-Cuban chapter.) Note the accents played on the mouth/edge of the cowbell or the ride cymbal bell. The Mambo is usually played around quarter note = 180–220 bpm.
Example 6 (Displaced Funk — CD 2, Track 21)
This is the Displaced Funk pattern (for more variations, see the Funk Chapter). Here, "Displaced" refers to the placement of the first snare drum note, which would normally be played on beat 2. In this groove it's played on the + of beat 2. The tempo is quarter note = 100–138 bpm.
While African music dates back to prehistoric times, the primary concern of the drum set player is contemporary African music. Since Africa has one-fifth the land mass and population of the planet, and literally hundreds of cultures, musical styles number in the thousands. Though a drummer may encounter other contemporary African styles (Nanigo, Zoblazo, Mapouka, Mbalax and Makossa are a few examples), the styles presented in this chapter are the most common types a drum set player may need to play.
Contemporary Sub-Saharan African music began with the sounds and rhythms of Afro-Cuban music in the 1920s and 1930s. At about that time, African composers began to create early versions of African Pop and Jazz. In the 1940s, Greek-run record labels helped promote the new music developing in the Congo-Zaire region of Western Africa. With the introduction of radio throughout Africa after World War II, and later through television broadcasts, contemporary African music achieved mass popularity across the continent. As Western instruments (most importantly the electric guitar) became cheaper through mass production, African musicians began to use them. This enabled composers to easily incorporate new developments in Western music (e.g., Rock n' Roll, Reggae) into African musical culture. Today, contemporary African music has achieved popularity on a global scale, influencing many other genres while continuing to develop in its own directions.
(Because of its musical characteristics — vocals in Arabic, use of quarter tones, very different rhythmic patterns — Northern African music has more in common with Middle Eastern music than with other African styles, and is covered in the Middle East chapter.)
* World Beat
World Beat is associated with various African styles including Juju, Afrobeat, Afropop, and Highlife. These styles originated in the early 20th century in Ghana and Nigeria and eventually reached their peak in Africa toward the middle of the century. This music blends African tribal songs with popular music from the West. It originally incorporated the sounds from Big Band horn sections and later adopted grooves from the Caribbean as well as Rock and Soul music. A resurgence of World Beat in the last two decades has created a global following attracted to the music's celebratory and joyful nature. Important World Beat musicians include Fela Kuti (drummer Tony Allen), King Sunny Ade (Rasaki Alodokun), Chief Udoh Essiet (Nicolas "Ringo" Avom), Rex Lawson, and Prince Nico Mbarga (a drummer himself).
As this form of contemporary African music adopted styles from North America and the Caribbean, it's helpful to be thoroughly versed in playing Reggae, Ska, Soca, and Rock. Much as in other styles of dance music, the role of the drummer is to maintain a steady beat and strong time. In addition, relatively soft dynamics are an integral characteristic of World Beat, as the drum set functions primarily as a background instrument. The tempo is quarter note = 100–138 bpm.
Example (CD 1, Track 2)
This features a rhythm similar to Soca (see Soca in the Caribbean chapter) rhythm on the snare drum.
Variation 2 (CD 1, Track 3)
Notice the snare drum ghost Notes and the accent on beat 4, as compared with variation 1.
Soukous is a type of dance music that emerged in the Congo/Zaire region in the early 1960s. Soukous (French for "to shake") is regarded by some as the most prevalent style of contemporary African music, with popularity that extends into Europe and North America. The roots of this style go back to the post-World War II era when radio stations in the Congo/Zaire region played Cuban Rumba music. African musicians used this sound to create what was originally called "African Jazz." Prominent Soukous bands and musicians include Zaiko Langa Langa, Franco, and Tabu Ley.
As Soukous is primarily dance music, the role of the drummer is to maintain a strong, unwavering pulse. Soukous grooves usually have a 16th-note feel and generally feature quarter notes on the bass drum (a "four on the floor" pattern).
Recent developments include a fast version (roughly 112–132 bpm) known as Soukous Ndombolo, which often uses a straight-up Soca beat. (See Caribbean chapter.) Performers include Dany Engogo, Mibilia Bel, and the groups Extra Musica and Wenge Musica.
As in Rock, the tempo range is relatively narrow at quarter note = 92–132 bpm.
Example (CD 1, Track 4)
This features a march-like snare drum pattern.
This features a Soca-like pattern (see Soca in the Caribbean chapter) with a prominent rim click on the snare drum.
Variation 3 (CD 1, Track 5)
Note: Any combination of accents or open hi-hat notes can be played against the constant bass drum pattern in this style. Endless variations incorporating other drums also exist. Alternate bass drum patterns are possible as well, though they are not used as frequently as the other types of variations.
Variation 4 (CD 1, Track 87)
This is a standard Soca beat. (See Caribbean chapter).
Bikutsi developed in the Beti culture in Cameroon. The origin of the word stems from "Bi" (more than one), "Kut" (to strike) and "Si" (the ground), translating to "strike the ground repeatedly." Whereas Soukous began as an "African Jazz" interpretation of Afro-Cuban music, Bikutsi is a contemporary development of internal African musical ideas. Bikutsi attained popularity in Western Africa by the middle of the 20th century, but only achieved wide exposure in the mid-1980s through music videos. Following that, elements of Bikutsi began to appear in the music of popular Western composers, notably Paul Simon's 1990 recording, "Rhythm of the Saints." Individuals and groups responsible for Bikutsi's success include journalist/promoter Jean-Marie Ahanda, Theodore Epeme ("Zanzibar"), Les Tetes Brulees, and Patou Bass, whose music incorporates elements of Zouk (a West Indian music) and reggae.
Much like Soukous, Bikutsi is primarily dance music, mandating the drummer's role as timekeeper. Though occasionally played in 9/8, Bikutsi music usually has quick 6/8 feels (written below in 4/4) and usually contains a steady "four on the floor" bass drum pattern, which allows opportunities for improvisation around the consistent pulse. The tempo is generally quarter note = 116–168 bpm.
Example (CD 1, Track 6)
Variation 1 (CD 1, Track 7)
Variation 2 (CD 1, Track 8)
This variation is played with syncopated accents on the snare drum.
Note: Improvisation in this style usually centers around ride hand patterns playing over the constant bass drum pulse. Other surfaces besides a closed hi-hat (ride cymbal, cowbell, drum rim, etc.) can be used for the ride hand patterns; in such cases, the hi-hat foot usually doubles the bass drum quarter notes.
Within 50 years after Columbus discovered the New World, the Spaniards instituted slavery in Cuba. Most of the slave trade was concentrated in the western part of the island, causing Afro-Cuban music to develop mostly in Matanzas, Havana Province, and the city of Havana, as the slaves' rich rhythmic and musical heritage gradually became integrated with the music of the Spanish colonizers. The Spanish permitted their slaves to worship through music and dance (in the Catholic religion), which led to the merging of the two cultures in both secular and religious aspects, establishing the foundation of Afro- Cuban music. What has survived is primarily a combination of the Spanish and West African cultures: Congolese, Yoruba and Dahomean (with their Cuban names Bantu, Lucumi' and Arara', respectively).
The styles presented here developed individually, so it's important to recognize the uniqueness of each style and its appropriate application in Afro-Cuban music. It's even more important to recognize and understand the differences between Afro-Cuban music (commonly referred to as "Salsa") and Brazilian music, because they're often lumped together under the vague term, "Latin Music." The information in the Afro-Cuban and Brazilian chapters will clarify the differences between these very different styles.
As a result of the extensive number of styles in the Afro-Cuban genre, this chapter is divided into two sections: More Frequently Played Styles and Less Frequently Played Styles. In addition, two non-Cuban styles have been included in More Frequently Played Styles — Bomba and Merengue. Though they're not of Cuban origin, it's necessary to know them when performing in most Afro-Cuban ensembles because of their widespread popularity. Similarly, there are other styles of non-Afro-Cuban origin included in the Less Frequently Played Styles section that are also played in the Afro-Cuban genre.
When playing Afro-Cuban music without other percussionists, the drummer takes the place of the traditional percussion section. That section usually consists of a Conga player (conguero), a timbale player (timbalero), and a bongo bell player (bonguero); hand-percussion instruments such as guiro, claves, and maracas are also often included. An understanding of the rhythms played on these instruments allows one drummer to assume the role of many percussionists.
The drum set is a modern addition to the Afro-Cuban percussion section. When other percussionists are present, the drum set rhythms are often stripped down or replaced by alternate rhythms to avoid duplicating the parts of other percussionists. When playing alone, the drum set player will assume the responsibility for all the percussion parts, increasing the demand for a high level of limb independence on the drum kit. This chapter not only provides the specific patterns to play, but also includes examples of how to apply the patterns when accompanied by other percussionists.
For additional information on this genre, perhaps the most comprehensive drum set book is Afro-Cuban Rhythms for Drumset, by Frank Malabe and Bob Weiner. For further info on Afro-Cuban and Salsa history, development, and the roles of other instruments, refer to The Salsa Guidebook for Piano and Ensemble, by Rebeca Mauleon. (We would like to give special thanks to Rebeca Mauleon for her generous help with this chapter.) The music of pioneer drummers/percussionists such as Tito Puente, Orestes Vilato, Walfredo Reyes Sr., Ignacio Berroa, Jose "Changuito" Quintana and modern-day drummers/percussionists such as Horacio Hernandez, Robby Ameen, Alex Acuña, Pete Escovedo (and family — including Sheila E.), Jimmy Branly, Calixto Oviedo, Antonio Sanches, Paul van Wageningen and Walfredo Reyes Jr. will provide a good introduction to the sounds of Afro-Cuban music and drumming.
 Clave Rhythms
The most important feature in almost all Afro-Cuban music is the clave rhythm. ("Clave"is Spanish for "key," as in a piano or other musical instrumentkey; there's a separate word for the key to a lock ["llave"].) Therefore, the styles presented in this chapter include a specification of the order and type of clave: 3-2 or 2-3 son clave, 3-2 or 2-3 rumba clave, and 6/8 clave.
A repetitive two-measure pattern, the clave has become a universal rhythm whose influence extends beyond Cuba to North American Jazz and even Rock n' Roll (e.g., the familiar "Bo Diddley beat"). Although "clave" generally refers to the rhythms found in Cuba (African in origin), a variation of the clave rhythm is found in Brazilian music as well. However, Brazilian music and rhythms are not built around the clave to the extent that Afro-Cuban music is.
The two most popular Cuban clave rhythms in 4/4 are the son clave and rumba clave. Both are two-measure patterns that contain three notes in one measure and two notes in the other. The order of the measures may begin with either the "3" side or the "2" side, hence the terms "3-2 clave" and "2-3 clave."
The sole difference between son clave and rumba clave is the placement of the last note of the "3" side of both rhythms. In son clave, the last note of the "3" side is on beat 4, while in rumba clave the last note of the "3" side is on the + of 4. Keeping in mind the difference between son and rumba clave and the order of 3-2 or 2-3 clave rhythms, there are only four possible combinations: 3-2 son, 3-2 rumba, 2-3 son and 2-3 rumba.
Knowledge of all the grooves in this chapter, the piano montuno (the familiar Salsa piano ostinato/rhythm), melody, experience of other ensemble musicians, listening skills, and even a possible indication on sheet music determine the specific clave rhythm of a song. The main consideration is that all musicians playing the song agree on the order of the clave (2-3 or 3-2) and the type of clave (son or rumba). Even in Cuba musicians often disagree on whether a song contains a 2-3 or 3-2 clave rhythm. However, it is extremely important that all musicians ultimately agree on what type of clave to play so that the rhythms throughout the ensemble will not clash. The examples below cover all four combinations of the two most popular clave rhythms in 4/4 as well as the 6/8 clave pattern. (Continues...)
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