Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Method book round up: Brazilian drumming

As some of you may have noticed, I've been thinking a lot about Samba of late. And as my friend Blake Thomas, an expert cuica (not to mention caixa and zbumba) player has loaned me a few of his books on the subject, I thought this would be a good time to give an overview of some of them. So he we are- the good, the great, and the fine:

Brazilian Rhythms for Drumset. By Duduka da Fonseca and Bob Weiner.

This has become a modern classic- the first serious attempt at dealing with the style authentically; at least the first gaining widespread usage in the US. Includes robust text dealing with historical background, the percussion instruments, performance/practice notes, glossary and discography. Takes you through fifteen pages of batucada-style samba, with the hands on the snare drum and toms, mimicking caixa, tamborim and surdo, before getting to the more familiar (to Americans) cymbal and snare drum based style. Covers Samba, Bossa Nova, and Baiao thoroughly, with  shorter sections on Maracatu, Marcha and Frevo, and odd meters.

The presentation is a little haphazard; some concepts that could've been easily explained verbally are instead written out as exercises, many (but not all) exercises have a written stop at the end, for reasons that are not explained. I believe the text could've benefited from some aggressive editing- many explanations for exercises contain no more information than the title of the exercise. For example:
Exercise 13 Samba Cruzado - Variation #4 - With 16th-notes on hi-hat 
Is explained:
Try playing sixteenth-notes on the hi-hat instead of on the snare. 

It's a small thing, but that kind of sludgy build-up of text is a little bit of a distraction. The book offers excellent information, but also feels somewhat laborious to work through for these reasons. Nevertheless, it's an essential book every drummer interested in Brazilian music should own.

More after the break:

Brazilian Percussion Manual. By Daniel Sabanovich.

An excellent early-80's book, primarily covering bateria-style Samba, but with a robust drum set section. The target audience appears to be college-level percussion students with no background in Brazilian music. The text is straightforward enough to be understood by anyone, but familiarity with basic musical terms is assumed (for example, when illustrating repinique lead-ins, the entrance of the full bateria is indicated by "tutti"). With two-to-several very good pages on each of the percussion instruments (I'm informed that the cuica section is "a joke", however!), and several complete sample bateria scores.

This is one of the very few books which attempts to give a real explanation of the repinicado feel, actually giving an example of it notated as a triplet. Though still not 100% accurate, it's a better starting place than is usually given for understanding this unique type of swing.

The drum set section is shorter, but very useful and well-organized. A variety of possible patterns are given for each voice, along with the usual ways of playing Samba, Bossa Nova, and Baiao on the drums- caixa-style, rim clicks with a cymbal pattern, hands together, hands crossed, and fusion-style. There are some cool hand lines I have not seen anywhere else, derived from agogo, cuica, and tamborim parts.

The Essence of Brazilian Percussion & Drum Set. By Ed Uribe.
A really great book, covering all the same things as the previous two, but going further with methods for application- this will be very useful for serious students and professionals with a jazz background. Includes complete sample rhythm section parts, and very importantly, guidelines and frameworks for authentically making phrase endings and improvising with patterns. There is much more to this book, but it's on loan to me and, hell, I've been preoccupied with my taxes and working on arrangements, and haven't been able to put much time in with it. But it's value is obvious- highest recommendation.

Latin Concepts for the Creative Drummer. By Glenn Meyer.

Covers both Brazilian and Afro-Cuban drumming. 28 pages dedicated to Brazilian drumming. Includes a number of different "contemporary" ways of approaching samba, using mainly composed grooves in the New Breed style. There is a very helpful "Bossa Nova/Samba system" section, which presents the key ideas for the student to mix and match. For the most part, patterns are not referred to by their proper names- rim click parts derived from the tamborim or partido alto are not labeled that way, for example. Written text is very sparse, in the form of author's notes and listening recommendations rather than a comprehensive explanation. I found the "hip" patterns to be of limited value- students interested in developing that style might just pick up The New Breed instead. Used selectively, it's not a bad book for learning essential patterns, but short on information needed to do the music authentically.

Afro-Caribbean & Brazilian Rhythms for the Drums. Brazilian section by Andriano Santos.

This book gives a quick practical introduction to various styles, written by staff at The Collective as part of their Contemporary Style series of books. The Brazilian section is eight pages long, covering just one or two versions of the essential styles- Bossa Nova, Samba, Batucada-style Samba (with a summary of percussion parts), Partido Alto, and Baiao. A good introduction, but obviously very limited in scope.


Anon said...

Hi Todd,

Michael Spiro's book (I can't remember the name right now) offers the best explanation of what he calls "fix"--as well as that elusive swing--that I've seen. To my mind, it's applicable to both Cuban and Brazilian musics.

Love the blog!

Todd Bishop said...

Thanks, Brad! I'll look into that- I just learned Spiro's term "tripteenths", which seems to encapsulate the feel thing nicely.