From DRUM! Magazine’s February 2018 Issue | Text, Music, And Video By Brian Andres

To truly understand a rhythm is to be able to play it freely and with improvisation. A great way to get beyond simply playing “the beat” is to have the facility to comfortably add or subtract notes within it. In the same manner in which a good jazz drummer can comp on the snare drum while swinging the ride cymbal, let’s look at freeing up the snare drum part while playing a common Afro-Cuban groove in 12/8.

In Cuban music there are numerous bell patterns. For this lesson I’ve chosen a standard pattern that can be found in Bembe music that also translates well to other forms of music (Ex. 1).  It is best to master this rhythm before proceeding with the rest of the lesson. Pay attention to the accents as well. The rhythm is commonly played on a cymbal, the bell of a cymbal, or a cowbell.

To keep your feet busy I’ve added a dotted quarter-note pulse on the hi-hat pedal (Ex. 2), which can also be played on a cowbell or jam block that is attached to a foot pedal.  For a more authentic Afro-Cuban feel, I’ve added the bass drum on beats 3 and 9 to create a three-limb ostinato pattern on which to improvise a snare drum part.

In Ex. 3 through Ex. 8, the snare drum part moves through the eighth-notes in groupings of one or two notes.

Once you’ve practiced these six measures enough to gain some control and fluidity with them, you can then combine them to create your own musical phrases. I’ve given you one six-measure phrase to get started (Ex. 9). You can also move these snare parts to the toms to add more color and musicality to your playing.


BRIAN ANDRES performs with numerous Latin, Caribbean, and African ensembles in the San Francisco Bay Area and leads the critically acclaimed Latin jazz group The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel.  He is a Bosphorus Cymbals artist and a Regional Artist Endorser for Sakae Drums. Visit his website at www.brianandres.com.


Video Lesson: Clave As An Accent Pattern


Video Lesson: Clave Accents, Part 2