For several years now, my most popular YouTube video teaches the Bossa Nova drum beat with Jazz brushes. In this article, I share more detail about the history of Bossa Nova, how to play it with drum brushes and how to connect your playing to the music and other musicians.
Please take a minute to watch the video below to see how I play both Bossa Nova and Samba on the drums with brushes. This will help you understand more about what I’m going to share in this article.
What is the Bossa Nova beat?
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The Bossa Nova beat was created back in the 1960’s when Jazz musicians like saxophonist Stand Getz from America teamed up with Brazilian musicians like guitarist João Gilberto. They created a new genre of music called Bossa Nova. Bossa Nova actually translates to “new trend.”
Bossa Nova uses Samba rhythms but in a more relaxed style. Maybe think of Samba as the party music of Brazil. Bossa Nova would then be the sophisticated relaxed version of Samba. Both are arguably the most important musical exports from Brazil.
Jazz drumming beats
The Bossa Nova drum beat is in the family of Jazz drumming beats. We often use it when we play Jazz music. There are dozens of famous Bossa Nova Jazz Standards that find their way into Live music gigs, private events, music recordings, live stream performances.
Here’s a short list of some of the most popular Bossa Nova tunes. It’s good to familiarize yourself with these tunes to prepare for Jazz gigs:
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Knowing how to play the Bossa Nova drum beat is an essential skill for any Jazz drummer. Being able to play it with both drum sticks and drum brushes is equally important.
If you’d like to learn more about how to prepare for Jazz gigs, I have another good article, 2 Tips To Survive Your First Jazz Drumming Job. It might help you even if you’ve played a few Jazz gigs.
The Bossa Nova drum beat with drum brushes
Over the years, I have developed a style of brush playing that uses a few motions to play many styles of music. I think that may be why my Bossa Nova brushes video is popular. Even complete beginners on drum brushes, can get up and grooving easily.
In my style of Bossa Nova brush playing, there are two parts to my drums pattern. The right hand plays the tambourim rhythm (Small Brazilian hand drum played with a beater) and my left hand fills in between the right hand notes with swishes. The swishes are imitating the ganza or shaker part.
After the hands are grooving, you add in the feet with the traditional Bossa Nova/Samba bass drum and hi-hat pattern. This video shows you how to add the feet.
When to play Bossa Nova brushes on the drums
Of course, Bossa Nova brushing works perfectly with Bossa Nova music. It can also, be used in other styles. Bossa Nova drumming is quite versatile. You can use the same brushes and feet pattern in Pop, Rock, R&B, Hip-Hop and Country styles of drumming.
When I’m in the recording studio or playing live I often get asked to play a slightly funky syncopated brushes beat. When I start playing a Bossa Nova beat, I usually get the reaction, “That’s it!.”
Other Latin drum grooves like Samba
The handy thing about my Bossa Nova brushes pattern is that it works great for other Latin drum grooves like Samba too. You simply speed up the tempo.
Bossa Nova music is usually played in a tempo range from 70-120BPM. Samba is generally played from about 130-320BPM. If you take the same patterns you’re using in Bossa Nova drumming and speed them up, you’ll have Samba!
More drum brushes patterns for Bossa Nova
I have other brushes patterns I use for playing Bossa Nova and Samba. If you’d like to go deeper into Brazilian drumming with brushes and Jazz brushes in general, check out my Brushes Mastery Course. It’s the most complete online brushes course ever created.
The course videos on how to play Bossa Nova and Samba brushes include the following:
- ESSENTIAL BOSSA NOVA-SAMBA HAND MOTION 12:00
- 6 BOSSA NOVA-SAMBA RHYTHMIC PATTERNS FOR BRUSHES 10:13
- THE 6 BOSSA NOVA-SAMBA RHYTHMIC PATTERNS WITH FEET 08:41
- SKIPPING WIPERS SAMBA PATTERN 12:13
- MIXING THE 2 BOSSA NOVA-SAMBA PATTERNS 08:11
- CHOOSING THE BEST BOSSA NOVA – SAMBA RHYTHM FOR A SONG 05:26
- BACKWARD SLAP ACCENT WITH BOSSA NOVA AND SAMBA 04:38
- BOSSA NOVA DEMONSTRATION – SO NICE 01:06
- BOSSA NOVA DEMONSTRATION – MANHÃ DE CARNAVAL 01:16
- USING A BRUSH AND A STICK FOR BOSSA NOVA & SAMBA 11:39
Make your brushes smooth
Brushes are a smoother alternative to sticks. Playing brushes in a smooth and relaxed feel will make them blend perfectly with Bossa Nova music. It’s the smooth factor that always gives Bossa Nova brushes playing its light and airy feel.
Pay particular attention to your left hand and try to get that sound as smooth as silk.
Tips for authentic Bossa Nova feel
The Bossa Nova drum beat is actually a combination of several different percussion parts played across the drum set. These parts also lock in with the rhythmic parts of other instruments as well.
To dial in your right hand tambourim patterns, you can also listen to the guitar and piano rhythms. Typically, the guitar and piano comping (accompanying) are going to include the tambourim rhythmic phrases.
Listening to and locking in with these comping phrases will make a huge difference in the grooviness of your Bossa Nova groove. You don’t have to try and copy the phrases note-for-note. Just get the gist of the overall phrase and complement it with punctuated notes in your right hand.
Your left hand will then simply fill in the blanks. Together, your hands will be more connected to the music and the other musicians if you use this approach.
Be sure to check out my Brushes Mastery Course to learn the 6 most common Bossa Nova rhythmic phrases. They’ll work every time you play Bossa Nova.
How to practice your Bossa Nova
The most important goal I have in all of my drum teaching, is to prepare you for the bandstand. It’s not enough for us just to learn patterns on the drums. We need to be able to play them in the real world of music with real musicians.
For brushes playing, my Brushes Mastery Course will definitely help you do this with powerful practice videos and backing tracks for drums (practice tracks with no drums). My backing tracks for drums are specifically designed to prepare you for gigs.
At the Von Baron Store, I’ve got some great Bossa Nova and Samba backing tracks for drums to help you gain confidence with your Brazilian brushes playing.
In this article, I’ve shared a lot of information and resources with you about the Bossa Nova drum beat with brushes. If you’d like to learn to play Bossa Nova with brushes, it’s definitely within your reach. You can be up and grooving very quickly if you use my pattern, so give it a shot!
With the Bossa Nova drum beat, try to relax and imagine you’re on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Make it smooth, light and enjoyable.
When I traveled to Brazil in the mid 1990’s, the warmth and positivity of the Brazilian people taught me that fun is a state of mind. Bossa Nova is a musical expression of that thinking.
Have fun grooving my friend!
Do you use drum brushes to play Bossa Nova tunes?
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