Samba is a funky march that permeates the valleys of Brazil and beyond. It’s the music of the people, the music of the street. And it’s an equally egalitarian rhythm for the drum set player.

The samba is very user-friendly and adaptable to many musical situations. It is always beneficial for every drummer to have their own go-to samba pattern for when the opportunity arises. As with all styles of music, there are many sub-genres and variations of samba, so consider this an introduction to get you started.

While there certainly are incredible drummers with a firm grasp on Latin drumming who did grow up with a Latin background, I chose to simply develop enough Latin chops to get by on a gig, sound fairly authentic, and not completely make a fool of myself. I would never say I was an authority on Latin drumming by any means, but by living in Miami for 13 years I ended up learning mostly through osmosis. Here is part two of four from this month’s focus of “Working Drummer’s Latin Grooves.” The goal is that these will get you through a gig and will also take away some of the mystery of Latin drumming.

Let’s start with the most common Brazilian samba clave pattern (Ex. 1).

samba drum lesson

Ex. 1

Next, play this pattern over continuous hand-to-hand eighth-notes (RLRL) on the hi-hat (Ex. 2).


samba drum lesson

Ex. 2

To emulate the surdo (deep bass/tom drum of samba), add the repetitive bass drum pattern (Ex. 3).

samba drum lesson

Ex. 3

To add a third voice we move up to the ride cymbal to simulate the hi-end of the often-used triangle. Now the left hand takes over the entire clave pattern on snare drum sidestick. The right hand on the ride toggles between the bell and the surface of the ride (Ex. 4). Be sure not to over-strike the bell, as it is crucial to the groove that each voice be played at the correct dynamic level. In this case, keep all voices at a cool simmer, with the clave being clear over all voices.

samba drum lesson

Ex. 4

To get a little closer to the real deal, add eighth-notes on the ride to create an over-arching pattern (Ex. 5). This pattern will take more coordination as there is a few overlapping voices.

samba drum lesson

Ex. 5

Other options are to move away from the snare drum sidestick sound, adding the snare drum to create the pandeiro (tambourine) or paixa (snare) effect. Additionally, the left hand may also be developed to sightread rhythms in order to build independence under the samba ostinato that can come in handy in more jazz-orientated improvisational situations.

Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.

Lesson: Mambo 2:3 Son Clave (Working Drummer’s Essential Latin Grooves Pt 1)