Workshops, ensembles and master classes at your college, high school or community center. Half-day, one-day, weekend, and three- or five-day programs can be arranged.
Percussion and Song Ensembles: Afrocuban, Brazilian, and Ghanaian (Ewe).
Master class: Afrocuban percussion. Concentrated instruction for more advanced students.
Concepts of Rhythm in World Music: The intriguing possibilities of world rhythms clearly explained and made available for students on all instruments, not just percussion.
Rhythmic Improvisation: Students on all instruments, not just percussion learn techniques for greater rhythmic creativity in their soloing. Applicable to many styles, but the focus is jazz and rock.
Assembly: Music of Africa and the Caribbean. An introduction to instruments, styles and history. While I’m at your school, why not let everyone listen?
I offer individual and group lessons online through Zoom, and in person in Brattleboro, VT and Northampton, MA. I have over 40 years’ teaching experience, and am clear, comprehensive, patient and affirming. I teach mainly instruments and rhythms of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil, including congas, atabaques, barríl, bongó, surdo, shekere, guiro, maracas, and bells. I will show you traditional styles such as rumba, bembe, makuta, samba de roda, and bomba; popular styles including son, salsa, samba, soca, biguine, highlife, afrobeat, funk, and R&B; and how to use percussion in jazz.
I retired from academia in 2015 but love teaching, and since 2008 have worked with the Vermont Jazz Center, a wonderful educational non-profit in Brattleboro, VT. In addition to private lessons I teach three classes at VJC:
Latin Jazz Ensemble. Co-taught with Eugene Uman, this all-ages group is devoted to the many jazz styles inspired by Caribbean and South American music, including but not limited to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Colombia. We play both Latin Jazz classics and Eugene and my original compositions. Contact vtjazz.org for more info.
Galera da Samba: Co-taught with Ron Kelley, this community samba group plays the high-energy music of Brazilian Carnival. We learn rhythms from both South (Rio) and North (Salvador), and participate in local parades and fundraisers. Contact vtjazz.org for more info.
Photo: Galera da Samba on truck
Understanding Rhythm: For all instrumentalists and vocalists (not just drummers!), this is a course about rhythm: how it works, how to master it, how to read it, how to use it creatively. We clap, walk, sing, dance, listen, figure out, invent, and compose. Learn to play rhythm more accurately, to communicate through and about rhythm, and to find inspiration in this fundamental musical force. Contact vtjazz.org for more info.
Musician’s Guide to Rhythm
The Musician’s Guide To Rhythm is something new in the world of music education: a practical guide to rhythm for all instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, and teachers. Expand your rhythmic skills and creativity on any instrument! MGR introduces basic and complex rhythmic concepts clearly and progressively, demonstrates their melodic potential, and provides extensive hands-on exercises for immediate results. Whether your focus is jazz or classical, rock or folk, country or the blues, Cuban or Brazilian, mastering rhythm gives you the tools to expand your creativity and become a more confident and powerful musician.
THE MUSICIAN’S GUIDE TO RHYTHM is for all musicians who want to explore the joy and passion of rhythm. To be a complete musician on any instrument, you need to master rhythm just as you do melody and harmony. This book unveils basic rhythmic ideas such as shape, suspension, orientation, pulse, wheels, and pyramid—the rhythmic building blocks of much of the world’s music. We’ll show you step-by-step how to master these, and how to use them creatively.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE: NOT JUST READING NOTES. Unlike most other training books in rhythm, MGR is not mainly about reading rhythmic notation, but about playing, feeling, using and understanding rhythm. We give you concepts you need in order to understand rhythm, and, after each chapter, an extensive set of exercises. You’ll start hearing the results right away, and seeing them in almost any style of music you play, whether it’s rock, jazz, Sousa marches, country, polka, West African highlife, or the music of the Western classical tradition.
MELODY AND MELODIC INSTRUMENTS. There is a lot in this book about melody as well as rhythm. That’s because melodies are pitches in time. They’re 50% rhythm. Several chapters in the book deal primarily with melodic applications: accompanying and arranging songs, composing, and improvisation.
A WIDE RANGE OF MUSICAL STYLES, FROM THE U.S. AND AROUND THE WORLD. MGR’s two authors have worked professionally in jazz, rock, funk, gospel, Broadway and Las Vegas shows, choruses and choirs; in popular music from five continents including reggae, salsa, samba, cajun, afrobeat, mbaqanga, French-Israeli and Indian wedding bands, Mexican son and ranchera; with traditional ensembles from Ghana, Cuba, Brazil, Martinique, the Balkans, and the Middle East. We have both lived extensively overseas, and have worked with immigrant musicians in the United States. While we can’t pretend to cover everything, what we can do is give you powerful concepts for approaching just about any style you’re likely to meet.
A LOGICAL APPROACH. MGR begins with fundamental concepts such as beats, subdivisions and accurate note placement, using your voice, hands, feet and instrument (chapters 1-3). In chapters 4-7 we introduce two of the most powerful concepts you need to understand rhythm: suspension and shape. These concepts are present in much of the music you’re likely to encounter as a working musician, and are more exact than the usual term syncopation.
Chapters 8-14 develop creative applications of the basics. Chapters 8 and 9 introduce polyrhythm, and chapter 10 presents wheels—changing perspective by beginning rhythms in new places. Chapters 11-14 explore different ways of changing rhythmic feels: pyramid, or switching between different subdivisions; tempo, including ways to deal with very fast and very slow speeds; swing, rhythmic transposition and morphing, which are more subtle ways to alter feels.
The last third of MGR (chapters 15-22) applies these ideas to songs: accompaniment and arrangement, orchestration, composition, and three chapters on improvisation. The book concludes with a chapter on practicing—an art in itself.
Among the most detailed descriptions of rhythm ever published, which
simultaneously pays attention to mathematical aspects, aesthetics and stylistic contexts (world beats, jazz, funk, etc). Enough for a lifetime.
— Dave Liebman, jazz saxophonist & educator
For twenty-eight years, from 1987 through 2015, I taught ethnomusicology and cultural anthropology at over a dozen universities, colleges and community colleges, including Wesleyan University, Clark University, Marlboro College, San José State University and Keene State College.
My PhD research took me to Martinique in 1993-95, and I have returned several times since. In Martinique I studied the traditional dance/music bèlè, and its revival as a social movement. This research has resulted in publications in Ethnomusicology, Latin American Music Review, Black Music Research Journal and other journals and books. Dominique Cyrille and I edited two CDs of Alan Lomax’s 1962 Caribbean recordings, “Martinique: Cane Fields and City Streets” and “The French Antilles: We Will Play Love Tonight!”, both on Rounder Records.
With Ken Dalluge, I wrote The Musician’s Guide to Rhythm, a step-by-step approach to understanding and creating with rhythm, for musicians on all instruments.
Academic CV (PDF)
This article is written for undergraduate classroom use, as well as general interest. If you wish to use it in class, please contact me for copies of the relevant music.
Mongo Santamaria’s Congo Solo in Ti Mon Bo
Here’s a transcription of one of the great conguero’s classic solos, for your study and entertainment.