Saturday, October 05, 2013

Snare studies for developing some Afro-Cuban bell patterns

There is so much heavy coordination involved in learning the Afro-Cuban styles that it's easy to neglect simply getting the bell patterns right— which is a lot like playing jazz without spending any time working on your ride pattern. So what I've done here is make some snare drum exercises which will help work on one aspect of that: conditioning the hands to consistently hit the right accents. In the left hand column there are some stock salsa bell patterns, and on the right are the matching exercises:

That looks like a lot of heavy mixed stickings and flams, but the difficult part of each of them uses this one flam pattern:

It may help to see the same thing written in 6/8— count each of these out loud when you work them up:

After you can play those warmups, learn the patterns for the Chacha, the Songo, and the Abakua, and then the rest of the patterns. It may be helpful to exaggerate the dynamics at first, being especially careful not to accent the flammed notes. Don't fixate on attaining absolute, mechanistic, precision; the end result we're after is a nice, grooving, bell pattern, with a little bit of that special Afro-Cuban swing, if possible— playing and listening to the music will get you to the correct interpretation.

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