I have always loved sambas. There’s something about the boom-CHICK-ba-boom CHICK of the bass drum and hi-hat interplay that lays a rolling momentum that’s very relaxing. I used to spend a lot of time getting the bass drum pedal to smoothly pump and bounce off the head, and it really became very comfortable after a while.

One of my favorite grooves to play and improvise over uses a solid pulses in 5/4 to create a modified samba beat. I play 8th notes on the ride cymbal, and there’s a lot you can do make it flow.

You don’t subdivide the measure 2 +3 or 3 + 2; you just play steady quarter notes pulses in your mind, so it’s more like 1 + 1  + 1+ 1+1… this keeps the shape steady, with no lobes of time going up or down.

Next, and very important, you focus on RELAXING. I also use the dynamic level techniques that funk master David Garibaldi suggests in many of his publications, where the volume for your limbs is as follows:

Snare – loudest

Kick Drum – second loudest

Cymbal – third loudest

This takes some doing, but it’s what helps keep a goo flow, because you are not bombastically slamming the ride cymbal and washing out everything else with the highs.

Give it a try… do it singing this: boom-CHI-ba-boom-CHI-ba boom-CHI-ba-boom-CHI-ba-boom-CHI  in a five count… and do it slow so your b=mind and body can get used to the odd meter…

When you play on the set, focus on making the ride cymbal bounce lightly and smoothly. Play it for a couple of minutes, and you’ll find that it really does feel relaxing.

Finally, once you get the pulse rolling nicely, try improvising with your left hand. Stay very aware of where ONE falls, and just talk with your left hand. Have a conversation, see what comes out.

Once you get the overall flow down, soloing over a 5 samba is a very cool ride.

I’m putting some samples together for YouTube and will have them up shortly to demonstrate.

Meanwhile, keep breaking the rules…