Funky Bell Patterns

By Billy Martin Originally Published In DRUM! Magazine's March 2009 Issue

Central African music has some unique bell patterns that can be applied to numerous funk beats in 4/4. In Brazil, there are a few set patterns like this that define the basic samba feel. These are almost exactly the same as the bell patterns from various Congo regions in Africa. These rhythms are what make samba so funky in addition to the special phrasing Brazilians give to that music. They can also be used for some very funky backbeat grooves. If you combine the funk beats in Exs. 1 and 2 (i.e., Ex. 1, 3x + Ex. 2, 1x) add these Congo patterns (Exs. 3—4) on your hi-hat, cowbell, or ride and get some very musical syncopation. Check out the first pattern and then continue to experiment using the variations following it. Mix them up and play with the freedom of jumping from one pattern to the next, creating your own special form. Try them using three tempos (slow, medium, fast).

*Note that each of these clave patterns share a common rule: One-half of the phrase generally sounds on the downbeat and the other sounds on the upbeat.

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