Syncopation Revisited Part 4: Brazilian Applications1We continue our series on ways to interpret the classic Ted Reed book Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer by applying Brazilian rhythms and phrasing ideas to the written manuscript. The following applications can be used with any of the seventy-two repetitive one-measure examples from pages 29, 30, and 33–36, the thirty-two-measure rhythmic melodies from pages 37–44, or the accented-8th-notes section that begins on page 46.

The cornerstone of Brazilian music is samba, and performing in this style requires intensive study and listening. Check out master drummers like Milton Nascimento, Airto Moreira, and Portinho to help you develop the feeling that’s essential for playing this beautiful music. Samba rhythms have a lift and propulsion, much like jazz rhythms do. To achieve this technically, strive for a consistent balance of dynamics while focusing on your stroke and touch on each surface of the drumset.

Foot Patterns and Warm-Up Exercises
Try the following three samba foot patterns. Strive for consistency of sound and rhythm. Assign various dynamics (soft, medium-soft, medium-loud, loud, and very loud) to each, and practice with heel-down and heel-up approaches. Do this with a metronome to ensure that each subdivision is solid.

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For a good warm-up, apply various exercise combinations from Syncopation, starting on page 46, on the snare. Here’s a two-measure phrase that utilizes Example 11 from page 46 and Example 21 from page 47 over the second samba foot pattern.

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Now try moving the accents to the toms while playing the unaccented notes on the snare. Below is Example 15 from page 47 and Example 26 from page 48 over the third samba foot pattern.

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Once you have control of the previous material, try replacing the unaccented 8th notes with 16th-note double strokes. Here’s Example 25 from page 48 coupled with Example 12 from page 46 over the first samba foot pattern

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Unison Study
Try phrasing any of the one-measure examples that begin on page 29 as unisons between the ride cymbal and snare. Then add one of the three samba foot patterns. Here’s Example 6 from page 33 and Example 35 from page 35.

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Also try applying your own accents to the written material, and experiment by playing the accents on the cup of the cymbal and as rimshots on the snare. Here are the first four measures from page 37 with one accent interpretation.

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Once you have control of the previous applications, separate your hands, and practice the following hi-hat patterns with your dominant hand while reading the rhythms from Syncopation on the snare.

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The following phrase combines the last four measures from page 43 of Syncopation with the third hi-hat pattern. For variation I’ve added accents to the written line.

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Surdo Substitutes
Here are four rhythms that are traditionally played on large bass-drum-like surdos in Brazilian music. These rhythms are essential to samba. Jazz drummers often apply the patterns on the floor tom or bass drum as a substitute for the standard samba bass drum ostinato.

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Here’s a fun application that incorporates the last eight measures of the written line from page 43. In this example I’m accenting the rhythms from Syncopation on the snare drum while phrasing the unaccented 8th notes as 16th-note double strokes and playing the first surdo rhythm on the floor tom.

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Also try stretching the phrasing, which is common in samba, by replacing each 8th/quarter/8th rhythm with a quarter-note triplet. Here are the first eight measures from page 37 applied in this manner.

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Our final application this month combines the first four measures from page 41 with the fourth hi-hat pattern and the first surdo rhythm. For variation I’ve added accents to the rhythm melody from Syncopation, which is played on the snare. Once you have all of these ideas down, experiment and come up with your own accent schemes and exercise combinations. Have fun!

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Steve Fidyk has performed with Terell Stafford, Tim Warfield, Dick Oatts, Doc Severinsen, Wayne Bergeron, Phil Wilson, and Maureen McGovern, and he’s a member of the jazz studies faculty at Temple University in Philadelphia. For more info, including how to sign up for lessons via Skype, visit