Latin Drum Set Patterns

Latin Drum Set Patterns

You have come across this cool drum set part and find out that it is a Latin groove. Latin styles are often generically lumped together even though that is much like lumping together drum set parts from rock, punk, reggae, blues, r&b, jazz, country, and metal. There are a lot of styles out there that not everyone has been exposed to or if they have, are not truly familiar with. Most of the traditional Afro-Cuban Latin styles did not originate with drum set being a part of the instrumentation. The percussion instrumentation depending on the exact style may have consisted of timbales, congas, guiro, maracas, bongos, cowbell, etc. Therefore, the drum set parts are usually based on the original parts of one or a combination of the previously listed instruments. The drum set part will change based on the instrumentation of the ensemble. For example, the drum set part would be different if the ensemble has a conguerro and a timbalero than if it just had a conguerro or even no percussionists at all. The tom parts usually come from the conga pattern. The cymbal part often comes from the timbalero’s bell pattern. The bass drum sometimes doubles the bass guitar part. The snare pattern could be based on either the clave or conga part. Following is a drum set part for a Cha-Cha.

The top notes are on the bell of the ride which is filling the cowbell part. The top space is the first rack tom, which is an open tone on the conga part. The next space down is a rim click on the snare drum, which is somewhat of a conga part. It is almost like a slap tone. The next space down, which is the second space from the bottom, are played on the floor tom. These floor tom notes are being played in substitution for open tones on the tumba (lowest conga drum). The bottom line is the bass drum and the very bottom note is the hi hat being played by foot.

The Cha-Cha has many drum set variations since the conga, timbale/bell pattern, and bongo parts are the original instruments and the drum set part didn’t exist. The pattern above is one of many that could be used when there are no percussionists on the gig.

There are a number of styles, like the Cha-Cha, that never had drum set parts. Some of those styles are the Guajira, Bolero, Son, etc. The drum set can be used in any of these styles in lieu of percussion or in addition to percussion. The important thing is to play what fits the tune and the instrumentation. Remember that the most complex pattern isn’t always the best choice for every tune.

– Meg Thomas

Meg Thomas Bio
Meg Thomas Headshot B-W 3.5MBDrummer and percussionist Meg Thomas has performed in musical realms that range from rock to calypso, avant-garde to spoken word, Latin-jazz to punk, and dance ensembles to percussion ensembles. Her drum and percussion set-ups range from the traditional ideas to unique set-ups that incorporate a vast range of percussion instruments. She received her degree in Music from Millikin University and she founded and runs the Chicago Women’s Drumming Group. Meg is a Vic Firth Private Drum and Percussion Teacher and teaches lessons out of her studio in Chicago. She plays recording sessions, performs with an array of bands and ensembles, and has toured the U.S. and Europe. Meg won a Drummie in Drum! Magazine’s 2010 Drummie Awards as runner-up “Rising Star Percussionist,” was named “Musician of the Month” for January 2013 by the Chicago Music Guide, and is endorsed by Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Evans Drumheads, LP Percussion, PureSound Percussion, and Humes & Berg Cases..

Visit Meg’s website:

Related posts