Groove Tweaking (Part 2)

Welcome back to our groove tweaking explorations! I hope you’ve been having fun with these adaptation exercises as we continue to broaden our musical vocabulary and versatility.

Our “untweaked” groove reprises one of the straight 8th-note grooves in A minor from last time. Again, I want to emphasize that there’s nothing wrong with the untweaked version; it might be the best thing to play based upon a variety of factors (song tempo, rhythmic cadence of the vocal melody, etc.).

The tweaked versions are simply examples of what could be done if we were asked to inject the line with another genre feel while still working with the drum pattern (particularly the kick, which we’ll once again assume is similarly hitting beats 1, 3 and the “and” of 3). Both of our tweaked grooves today are nods to iconic Latin grooves, while not abandoning the original part.

The bass part in bar 3 is a very common bossa nova line (or samba, if it’s uptempo). You’ll note that the bass line sustains through the 8th note after beat 3, missing that kick drum hit. It’s not necessary to hit every single kick drum beat, particularly since we already hit beats 1 and 3 with it. However, you’ll note that the figure in bar 4 jumps down to catch both 8th notes of beat 3. This adaptation could work well in a situation where the arranger or producer wants to very subtly imply a bossa nova vibe while keeping the drums straight to avoid going all the way there. The 2-bar phrase helps the part straddle the line between bossa nova and the original pop or rock groove.

By the way, the accent on beat 3 (and corresponding lack of emphasis on beat 1) is an idiom of the genre; it can be emphasized or de-emphasized depending upon how far toward Latin you want to take it!  :^)

The 2nd tweaked version implies an Afro-Cuban tumbao groove, particularly in the first half of each measure. The hits on beat 3 of both measures 4 and 5 serves to keep us rooted in the original groove and kick drum placement. The half-note tied to beat 1 of bar 6 is a stretch toward the tumbao’s characteristic lack of downbeats.

As I mentioned last time, tweaking grooves by implying different genres requires familiarity with the harmonic, rhythmic, and sonic idioms of those styles. This series assumes that knowledge (note that we didn’t spend any time discussing how the tweaked versions employ the Latin harmonic idiom of primarily utilizing the root and 5th), so please track down resources if you need to brush up. Both Volumes 2 and 3 of my Grooving for Heaven instructional DVD series, as well as my instructional website, cover musical genres in detail.

Set a drum machine to 90-100 bpm and work through both the untweaked and tweaked versions.  Happy woodshedding till next time!

Blessings – Norm

Adapted from curriculum at

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