" It is a fusion of samba and jazz, and is characterized by its relaxing vibe"

Intro to Bossa Nova: Essential Drum Beats for Beginners


The bossa nova is a Brazilian music genre that emerged in the 1950s. It is a fusion of samba and jazz, and is characterized by its relaxing vibe. Learning to play Bossa Nova beats on the drums is a great way to add a Latin feel to your drumming.

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Table of Contents


The Bossa Nova is based on “the clave”, which is a two-bar rhythmic pattern that is used in a variety of Latin American music genres including salsa, mambo, rumba, and cha-cha.

The clave is traditionally played on a pair of claves (two short sticks that you strike together–yes, the rhythm and the instrument used to play that rhythm have the same name) but for our purposes we are going to play the clave as a “cross stick” or “side stick” on the snare drum. The cross stick is represented in drum notation as an “X” in the middle of the staff:

You can think of the clave as the foundation of the bossa nova groove, and there are two types of clave we are going to learn, the “son clave” and the “rumba clave”.

Each clave is shown above in the “2-3” position of the clave, which means the “two side” of the clave (the one with only two quarter notes in the measure) is played before the “three side”. But it is important to also learn the clave played in the “3-2” position, and to do this you simply reverse the order you play the measures:


Now that we understand the clave rhythm, the only thing we need to do is add the kick drum and hi-hat. For all the bossa nova drum beats we’re going to learn today, the hi-hat and kick drum are going to be playing an “ostinato” (which is just a fancy word for a repeated rhythmic phrase). 

In every measure of these drum beats the hi-hat and kick drum do the exact same thing the entire time:


Now that we’ve learned both claves (and how to play them in either the 2-3 or 3-2 position) it is time to combine each clave with our hi-hat and kick drum ostinato:

Here are some additional tips for playing the bossa nova drum beat:

  • Keep the beat steady and relaxed. The bossa nova is a smooth, swinging rhythm, so don’t rush it.
  • Use a light touch. The bossa nova is a delicate sounding groove, so don’t hit the drums too hard.
  • Listen to some of the great music in the Bossa Nova style. One great example is the famous album Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz and João Gilberto. The drumming on that album is a great way to get a feel for what these beats should feel like.
  • Practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the better you will become at playing the bossa nova drum beat.

I hope this has helped you to learn the basic bossa nova drum beat!

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