Part 1: Bossa Nova and Samba


Latin Rhythms In Pop Music keyI often meet drummers who just aren’t interested in studying Latin rhythms.

I’ve heard the same thing many times: “I’m never going to play a samba, mambo, songo, or 6/8 groove, so why should I learn it?” I’ve realized that as an educator, it’s part of my job to show, through musical examples, why drummers need to learn about these rhythms.

For the better part of a year I’ve been searching for pop songs that contain grooves emanating from traditional rhythms found in places like Brazil, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. I’d like to share some of these with you. To begin our investigation, let’s look at the song “Stacked Actors” by Foo Fighters, with Taylor Hawkins on drums. The verse groove that Hawkins plays recalls a Brazilian bossa nova. Here’s a traditional bossa nova.

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Hawkins’ groove is more or less a standard bossa nova. Most drummers, however, learn the traditional version beginning with bar 2, where the rimclick starts on beat 1.

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There’s also a clave overdub during the verses of “Stacked Actors.” The claves play the reverse of the rimclick pattern. If you play the clave part with the left foot, you have a very challenging four-way groove to work on. This pattern will not only challenge your independence but may also inspire you to come up with your own creative ways to utilize your left foot in any style.

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Here are some other advanced four-way bossa-style grooves. Pay close attention to note placement when practicing them, and make sure all of the notes are lined up correctly with no flamming.

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Another popular song featuring Brazilian rhythms—this time in the form of samba—is “Yankee Rose” by David Lee Roth. Gregg Bissonette is on drums. Brazilian drummer Christiano Rocha pointed out this groove to me and identified what Bissonette plays at 2:30 as a “samba telecoteco.” Practicing this pattern will develop your control and coordination, dynamics, and note placement.

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Bissonette plays the bell of the cymbal on “Yankee Rose.” You can also try various tamborim patterns on the bell. (A tamborim is a small handheld Brazilian drum.) Here are a few ideas to try in place of the original bell pattern.

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Another example of applying Brazilian rhythms in a modern pop context is the Alien Ant Farm song “Tia Lupe.” The verses are in seven, and drummer Mike Cosgrove plays some fluid samba during these and other sections of the track. It’s very natural to play samba grooves in seven in Brazil. Two famous examples are “Tombo in 7/4” and “Mixing,” which were recorded by Airto Moreira. Airto’s rhythms and grooves are flowing and flawless.

Here are some examples of Cosgrove’s playing during the verses of “Tia Lupe.”

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The chorus of “Tia Lupe” is in common time (4/4). Cosgrove plays some gorgeous grooves in this section. Here’s one that sounds and feels particularly great. You really have to hear what Mike plays in these sections to get the full effect.

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Hopefully these three brief examples show you how studying Latin rhythms can really help you become a better and more creative drummer. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to share your own Latin-inspired discoveries with me at [email protected], or you can reach me through my website,

Chuck Silverman is one of the world’s leading proponents of Cuban and Brazilian drumming. He recently produced the instructional DVD The Latin Funk Connection, and he teaches privately and at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. For more info, visit and