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BOOK REVIEWS

Afro Cuban Rhythms For Drumset

Afro Cuban

Afro Cuban Rhythms for Drumset has been written by two well respected teachers at the Drummers Collective in New York - Frank Malabe and Bob Weiner. Both these guys have played with some great names in Latin music, and are definately authorities when it comes to this style.

Here they have put together a guide to understanding and playing some authentic Afro Cuban Rhythms. And with the likes of Peter Erskine and Dave Weckl giving it the thumbs up - It's looking good. Let's get started...

So, What's Inside?

The book has 11 sections, each covering a particular groove or concept - Afro-Cuban 6/8 feel (Bembe), Clave, Palito patterns and Cascara, Bell patterns, Guaguanco, Conga, Mozambique, Songo, Merengue, Frank Malabe patterns, and finally a medley of playing examples.

A nice touch is the introduction which gives a brief history of the style and the countries where it originated from. And, you also get an invaluable cd so you can hear these wonderful rhythms and how they are supposed to sound.

Each section starts with a short bit of information on the rhythm you'll be learning. Then it gets you to play some basic exercises and/or shows you examples of the component parts of the rhythm. For example, the 6/8 Bembe feel is traditionally played on 6 different instruments. The book shows you the 6 parts seperately and then how to put them all together for the drum set. It's really easy to understand it this way.

Once you've got the groove down, the book then gives you some interesting alternative ways to play it like adding a backbeat or hi-hat variations. It's quite an in-depth approach and shows you how these grooves can be adapted and also used in other settings like Jazz.

Some of the sections such as Bell patterns simply show you the different Mambo, Bongo, and Cha-Cha patterns which are played on a cowbell. You can then use these patterns in your playing and could even build your own grooves around them.

Near the back of the book you get a couple of cool patterns from Frank Malabe that are a mixture of different Afro-Cuban rhythms that sound really unique. Then there are examples of the rhythms that have been covered in the book with accompanying cd tracks too.

Lastly, if you turn to the back of the book, there is a discography and a glossary so you can get some great cd's and make sure you know what everything means. Nice.

What's It Like To Use?

I like the fact that there are plenty of examples in the book as these rhythms do take a bit of getting used to if you're not familiar with them. The rhythms can be quite challenging and need you to have a fair amount of limb independance to play them.

The cd is great, it's really important to hear these rhythms so you get the interpretation right. All the grooves and patterns are on there so you won't be left wondering if you've got it nailed.

Afro Cuban Rhythms For Drumset does as good a job as it can to teach you some simple steps and then progress to more complex exercises. But, these rhythms are fairly tricky so you'll have to be prepared to face a couple of tougher challenges from the start.

Overall - The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly...

Interesting, vibrant, fun, challening - these are some of the words i'd use to describe this book. It gives a really good introduction to these rhythms and then shows you how to play them properly and transfer them to the drumset.

A good cd and some nice history and pictures finish off this quality book, and with 64 pages it should keep you busy for a while.

Any downsides? It's a little complex in places, but that's just because that's what the rhythms are like - a little more complex. It's not really a bad thing, playing through the book will make you grow as a player.

I'd reccommend this book for any intermediate or advanced player that wants to spice it up with some captivating grooves. The rhythms are a little tricky so if you're a fairly new player - leave this book for now until you're ready to tackle it.

Best place to buy? Amazon usually have some good offers, so I'd try looking there for the best price. There's also another good book available called Brazilian Rhythms for Drumset which is worth a look.

The Final Word: if you want to learn some Afro Cuban patterns and bring them into your playing, this is a very, very good book. It's authentic, detailed, and will challenge you to improve. Super.

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