Afro-Cuban Latin grooves are some of the coolest and hardest drumming you can learn on the drum set. The reasons they are difficult to play are the same reasons they will change your drumming for the better.
In this article, I’m going to focus on one Afro-Cuban Latin groove, the Songo. We’ll dive into what makes it sound and feel so good. I’ll also break down for you, how I play this awesome drum beat. Let’s Songo!
#1 – Latin Grooves Dynamics
All Afro-Cuban Latin grooves use dynamics inside the groove between each of the limbs. The Songo is the same. For example, the snare drum hand plays accents surrounded by ghosted (quieter) notes.
The dynamics of the snare drum hand go from extremely soft (pp) to loud (f), all within the space of one measure. This is what gives it a smooth and flowing sound and makes the Songo one of the most popular Latin grooves.
Check out my video below about the power of ghosted notes using the Songo drum beat.
#2 – Latin Grooves Feel
The feel used in Latin drumming and the Songo drum beat are very different than the feel we use in most other drumming styles. It uses a rhythmic phrase I call the Brazilian 16ths.
Learn more about drumming feel in my article How To Play Drum Set – Time And Feel.
The feel used in Brazilian drumming is also similar to Afro-Cuban Latin drumming. In fact, I teach this unique feel and the Songo drum beat in my Afro-Cuban Latin Drumming Course at jazzdrumschool.com.
Here’s an excerpt below from my Afro-Cuban Latin drumming course. I teach you how I play the Songo on the drums.
#3 – Latin Grooves Syncopation
Latin drumming uses a ton of syncopation. I like to define the word syncopation as, playing notes that are not on counts 1 and 3. For me counts 2 and 4 are even syncopated compared to counts 1 and 3.
Latin drumming uses syncopation across the board in all of the Latin grooves including Songo. At first the feeling of where the notes are played is a little tricky. With a little practice though, they will quickly feel more natural.
Being able to play and feel syncopation in your drumming will make it easier to play other styles of music too. Jazz, Funk, Brazilian and other styles will come with a lot less effort if you learn Afro-Cuban Latin grooves.
Jazz and Afro-Cuban Latin drumming are also like rhythm brothers. We use Latin drumming a lot in Jazz drumming.
#4 – Drum Set Independence
Drum set independence (drumming coordination) is probably the biggest thing Afro-Cuban Latin grooves will change in your drumming. All of the Latin drum set grooves like Songo are actually a combination of multiple percussion instruments.
We’re taking 3-4 different percussion parts at a time from Afro-Cuban Latin music and combining them into a unified drum set groove. Because of this, we learn complex patterns between our hands and feet when learning Latin grooves.
Just like learning Jazz Swing drum patterns, Afro-Cuban Latin drumming patterns will greatly improve your drum set independence.
Improve your drum set independence fast with my Jazz drumming patterns course.
#5 – Versatility
A final benefit of learning Latin grooves like the Songo, is you can mix them with other drumming styles. New Orleans Second Line, Funk and Brazilian Partido Alto work really well with Latin grooves.
To me, it’s like having more colors to paint sound. You can use these drum beats by themselves or combine them into interesting hybrid drum grooves. The Songo groove blends really well with all of the grooves I listed above.
One of the goals of playing Jazz drums is to be creative and flexible so we can spontaneously adapt to the music. Knowing Latin grooves like the Songo will really help you do this.
In fact all of the Latin grooves I teach in my Afro-Cuban Latin Drumming course will give you more ability on the drums. Your improved drumming skills will make the music sound better and get you more playing opportunities.
Learning the Songo drum beat and all of the Latin grooves will change your drumming in the following ways:
- Improved dynamics within your drum grooves
- Better drumming feel
- More syncopated drumming
- Better drum set independence
- More creativity and versatility
These are all core drumming abilities and can be transferred to any style of drumming you want to play. If you want to learn Jazz drumming, you will certainly want to add the Songo and other Afro-Cuban Latin beats to your playing.
The name of the game is to make great music. The Songo and Latin grooves will expand your drumming and make you a more creative and skilled drummer. Keep swinging my friend!
Have you learned the Songo or other Latin grooves?
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