Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Samba Coordination Builder

12 Independence Exercises Based on Chick Corea’s “Sicily”

by Daniel Bédard

I remember first hearing Chick Corea’s 1978 recording Friends at my music teacher’s house. This was when my ears got hooked on jazz. I was coming from a background in rock and punk, and I was amazed by the high energy and great technique displayed by the musicians on this album. It completely changed my thoughts about drumming and about music in general.

I listened to Friends a lot, mostly trying to figure out what Steve Gadd was doing on the drums. He plays a few fun sambas on the recording, and in this article I’ll share some of the exercises I came up with while trying to master the beat to the tune “Sicily.”

The “Sicily” drumbeat is based on an inverted paradiddle played over a samba foot ostinato. You’ll execute the part open-handed, which means you’ll play the hi-hat with the left hand and the snare with the right (or vice versa if you’re left-handed).

Here’s the main groove. It’s important to play the accents as written so that the pattern has a nice flow to it.

After practicing Gadd’s beat for a while, I came up with a routine of playing various rudiments in the open-handed position. This proved to be a great coordination challenge. Begin with singles leading with the right hand, and then try leading with the left hand. Make sure the hands and the bass drum are aligned.

Now play all four possible variations of double strokes.

Gadd’s original pattern consists of a displaced paradiddle in the hands. Here are the other three paradiddle variations over the samba bass drum pattern.

Here are some variations based on odd groupings of three, five, and seven. Once you have all of these down, start mixing the exercises together to come up with your own variations of Gadd’s samba groove.

All of the exercises are written with the right hand on the snare and the left hand on the hi-hat, but you could play them with your right hand on the ride cymbal and left hand on the snare, or with your right hand on the rim of a tom and your left hand playing rimclicks. It also sounds cool to play them using a brush in the right hand while striking the snare or tom with your bare left hand. To increase the coordination challenge, try playing the left-foot hi-hat on beats 1 and 3, on beats 2 and 4, or on all four beats. Have fun with it!

Daniel Bédard is a professional drummer from Montreal. For more information, visit