Latin music is one of the most popular styles of music in the world, so taking the time to learn how to drum to this amazing style is something every drummer should do. Most drummers will stick to rock drumming for their whole life; which is not a bad thing. However, if you want to increase your skills in all areas of drumming (including rock) then Latin is the place you should start. With so many types of Latin music to learn, there is no wonder why Latin drummers are so highly looked upon. Developing some of the basics in Latin will help you develop skills and techniques in other areas of drumming like rock. So let’s take a few moments to learn how to play Latin drums!
Latin drumming is not the same as rock drumming. In rock music, the drums are very prominent, with one drummer playing a loud steady beat. With Latin music, sometimes there are many percussionists that share the stage, and playing the beat is secondary to other instruments. This is the first thing you should learn if you want to play Latin drums – Dynamics. Knowing when to play, and how to play, soft and hard at certain parts of the song is a very valuable attribute to have. This is important for your sticks, but also with your bass drum pedal. Definitely take the time to learn both heel up and heel down bass pedal techniques.
The next step in learning how to play Latin drums is to surround yourself with Latin music. Listen to all sorts of Latin grooves and songs like the Salsa, Mambo, Bossa Nova, Bembe, and Merengue to name a few. This is the only real way to get a feel for the style of music that you will be playing. Try and get a feel for what the drummer on the drum set is playing.
(Antonio Sanchez, Professional Latin drummer)
The third step is to actually start playing some of these rhythms on the drum set. There are way too many rhythms to show you in one lessons, so keep coming back while I eventually post them all! To start things out, I will show you how to play the basic Clave pattern. This pattern is one of the most essential patterns of Latin music. It is like the single stroke roll for rock drumming. Do not go to your drum set right away, this pattern should be learned first on the practice pad. Before we go on, the Clave pattern deserves a full article on its own due to the vast explanation of it; however I will show you how to play one variation of it now. The clave is a two bar pattern that can be played in either direction. There are 3 main types of clave, the Son clave, Rhumba clave, and the 6/8 clave. This pattern is the Son Clave, and it looks like this:
This clave pattern can be played many ways; check this lesson out on learning how to play the clave with your left foot!This 5 note pattern can be played either 2-3 or 3-2, and is used in so many Latin songs and styles. This can be played in a Salsa, Merengue, Bossa Nova, or Samba. Master this pattern and you are one step further in learning how to play Latin drums. One very popular rudiment used in alot of latin grooves, is the Flam Stroke. There is much to learn with Latin music, however taking the time to experiment with this genre will increase your skills as a drummer, and get you more work!