Drummer Talk

DTU Groove Theory – The Songo

Hello and welcome to DTU’s Groove Theory.  Today, we’re breaking down the songo!  What makes the songo so interesting is while most Latin grooves are drumset interpretations of multiple percussion parts, the songo is a Latin groove written FOR the drumset (originated by the Cuban band, Los Van Van in the late 60’s and early 70’s).  That means it’s a lot of fun to play, but extremely challenging!


Songo Notation

Backing Tracks

The Breakdown

The most important aspect of the songo is to treat the pattern as a linear, interdependent polyrhythm.  Unlike other Latin grooves where you try to separate and isolate each independent pattern, with the songo you want to try to all the parts interlocking together.  Feel all four limbs working together as one larger rhythmic unit and not simply planes of different patterns.  It’s not hands and feet, it’s all four – together.

Building the Groove
Start out with quarters on the bell of the ride.  Take it nice and easy, and let the tempo set in.  Now, lock in that HH foot and just play that for a bit.  Trust, me – this kind of practice pays off!  Your next step is working on the kick pattern.  and getting a feel for that Baio kick.  There’s no downbeat, which can feel odd at first, but remember – in the long run you’re not thinking of the groove that way.

Once you feel good with the ride, hat (foot), and kick, remove the kick pattern and just get a feel for the “melody” pattern.  Practice it locked in with the ride hand and with the hat.  Once you’re feeling good with that, try to get a feel for how the kick drum part fits in snuggly in-between the melody part.  Let the kick drum notes become part of that melody!  That’s the secret to linear playing!

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