Latin Drumming Essentials

Easy Drumming That Sounds Hard

Latin drumming is an umbrella term used to describe the rhythmic vocabulary developed for the drum set and hand percussion in various Latin American and Caribbean cultures. The melding of jazz with Afro-Cuban music in the 1940s–through guys like jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and percussionists/ vocalists Chano Pozo and Machito–and with the bossa nova in the early 1960s–through jazz musicians Charlie Byrd, Stan Getz and Brazilian composers João Gilberto, António Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes–introduced a whole new pallet of sounds and rhythms that were, for the most part, foreign (no pun intended) to mass North American and European audiences.

The cultural and musical exchange that took place between North American and South American musicians enabled the drum set, which was not originally featured in most Latin styles of music, to make its way to the heart of the bandstand for many Latin and jazz-Latin bands. The very unique rhythmic vocabulary shared by the many percussion instruments used in Latin music became the source of inspiration for a whole new collection of drum-set patterns. Rhythms played by various percussionists were now being reproduced by a drum-set player or in combination with percussionists. As Latin music grew in popularity, so did the need to learn to play its very different styles of music on the drum set.

In this free live drum lesson, Mike Michalkow teaches you the essential Latin drumming beats and concepts you’ll need to know to start playing various Latin styles of music with other musicians, and most importantly, authentically. Also, these exercises can come quite in handy if you’re auditioning for music college or any other music programs. The clave and the cascara; the Cuban cha cha and bolero, the Dominican merengue, the Trinidadian soca and Brazilian styles like the bossa nova and samba are some of the topics Mike covers in the video. Learning these styles of Latin music is fun and will increase your dexterity and independence on the drum set. However, to play them authentically and get the right feel for them you have to listen to the music where these patterns are played. This will give you a broader understanding of how and when they’re applied in real musical settings.

For the cha cha, we encourage you to listen to artists like Enrique Jorrín and his Orquesta America, Rafael Lay and Richard Egűes’ Orquesta Aragón, and Tito Puente. Enrique Jorrín’s “La Engañadora” and Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” are great examples of cha cha songs. Pepe Sánchez is a great artist to listen to for boleros. His song “Tristeza” is considered the first Cuban bolero and a great example of how this style sounds. The compilation album Afro-Cuban Roots Vol.2 – The Bolero Era (1998) is a great resource for great sounding boleros from various musicians. For the merengue, we encourage you to listen to artists like Luis Alberti, Fernando Villalona, Wilfrido Vargas, and Los Hermanos Rosario. Latin-pop superstar Juan Luis Guerra’s music is also a great resource not only for merengues but for boleros as well.

Moving on to Brazil, anything from João Gilberto, António Carlos Jobim and Wilson Simonal is advised for learning about the bossa nova. Milton Banana’s Trio have top notch recordings where the founding father of bossa nova drumming (Milton Banana) shows what’s possible to do with it. Listening to sambas from guys like Aniceto do Império and Nilton Campolino, Candeia, Geraldo Babão, Clementina de Jesus, Grupo Fundo de Quintal, Zeca Pagodinho, Almir Guineto, Trio Calafrio and Arlindo Cruz will do wonders for your partido alto playing. Songs like “Não Vem (Assim Não Dá)” and “Perdoa” are great examples of partido alto sambas. Lastly, for all of those interested in soca, checking out Endless Vibrations (1974) and Soul of Calypso (1974) from Ras Shorty and Soca Greatest Hits (1991) by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires is a must.




  • einarabelc5 says:

    Nothing like learning stuff when you’re a kid. I can tell the difference between Son and Rumba right away. I didn’t even tried to learn it :S I just HAD to.

  • einarabelc5 says:

    Songo or it didn’t happen.

  • Zac Herbison says:

    You should have pointed out that the Bosa Nova is used in the intro to Break On Through by The Doors; take #9, and replace the kick drum pattern with straight quarters, and that’s exactly it.

  • Des says:

    Sweet just what I wanted!
    Would be really cool to get some jam tracks for these too, makes practice so much easier imo.

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