Improving Facility With Afro-Cuban Inspiration

by Mike Johnston

When I began writing my latest book, Groove Freedom, the goal was to gain flexibility both within my students’ grooves and my own. As I practiced the book’s systems, I realized they helped with independence as well as with groove. This allowed me to approach future systems differently. I started mixing things together that were previously off limits.

This lesson is an example of that approach. When I started working on world grooves in my teens, I learned quite a few traditional hand patterns and foot ostinatos from Cuba, Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Until recently, it never occurred to me to treat them as drumset rhythms without a cultural association. Once I made that leap, I started to mix and match to improve my independence on the kit.

In these exercises, the right hand plays a 3-2 cascara rhythm (a traditional Cuban hand pattern) while the feet play a samba ostinato (a traditional Brazilian foot pattern). The goal is to keep this three-limb ostinato going while cycling the left hand through multiple permutations on the snare drum.

Once you’ve completed Exercises 1–3, you should have enough left-hand independence to play the rest of the one-bar phrases. This system and others can be found in my Groove Freedom app, available in the iTunes App Store.




























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