BY STEWART JEAN
Well, Drumming Community, 2020 is a little rough for all of us right now. I’m going to use this opportunity to connect my 2020 lessons thus far by presenting a tricky Afro-Cuban groove with a few hi-hat foot variations. While most Latin grooves are in 4/4 with a straight feel, the Afro-Cuban groove is in 6/8 and felt in 2. Counting a 6/8 time signature means there are six beats to the measure and eighth-notes are counted as downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Generally, you would simply count each dotted quarter note (worth three eighth-notes) as beats 1 and 2 in order to simplify the counting.
As mentioned in earlier lessons, the cascara is the rhythmic glue to Latin grooves. Consider the cascara as your ride pattern. The Afro-Cuban 6/8 cascara is usually played over a two-bar phrase on a drum hoop, ride bell, cowbell, Jam Block, or hi-hat.
Before tackling the full groove it is important to have a grasp on the cascara pattern in 6/8 (Ex. 1).
If this is difficult, try breaking down the smaller components of the pattern. Extract the first two notes and repeat them (Ex. 2).
Next, move over to the next two notes, extract and repeat (Ex. 3).
Then move over to the second bar of the pattern and repeat (Ex. 4).
Once all three aspects are under control piece them back together to create to full cascara pattern (Ex. 5).
The role of the left hand (or the hand you normally use to play the snare drum) covers the role of the conga. There are many variations but we will stick to this pattern that maintains a consistent pattern throughout the two bars (Ex. 6).
Now, put both hand patterns together (Ex. 7).
Both feet hold down the groove by playing a steady dotted quarter note pattern (Ex. 8).
Once you have this down you can splash the hi-hat with the foot on every other dotted quarter-note (Ex. 9).
To create a 3:2 feel, the hi-hat can move to playing every other eighth-note (Ex. 10).
Now play it with the entire groove (Ex. 11).
Finally, experiment with toggling between the two different hi-hat foot patterns (Ex. 12).
As with most Latin grooves, this will take time to gel. Always be cognizant of any tension or imbalance within your body. Take it slow and be patient. This groove can be used in a variety of situations outside of traditional Latin music. Happy drumming!
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.