Caribbean Drum Set Style Essentials

Four Caribbean Drum Style Essentials is the eleventh in the series: Essential Latin Beats for Drum Set. Over the years, I have collected a bunch of books that talked about playing various Caribbean styles on drum set. Here are simple, stylistically accurate and essential rhythms and patterns to play Calypso, Soca, Reggae and Ska styles on drum set. 

Calypso, Soca, Reggae and Ska Styles on Drum Set

Caribbean music is a fusion of several musical styles, including South American, Cuban, African, North American and European. Steel Drums are frequently the signature sound of this “Island” or “Tropical” music which often reflects a “party” atmosphere. Caribbean Music is rather simple rhythmically and does not usually stray outside 4/4 time.


Originated in Trinidad with Steel Drums as the primary instrument and signature sound. Although its patterns are similar to those of Soca, the bass drum in Calypso plays a more syncopated rhythm with a less prominent snare pattern.


Emerged from Calypso style. However, Soca has a faster tempo, a steady “four on the floor” bass pattern and a prominent syncopated snare rhythm. The repetitive accents or opening of the hi-hat on the upbeats helps propel the groove.


Originated in Jamaica. Its development closely follows that of Ska. Reggae incorporates Rhythm and Blues, African rhythms, Jamaican folk tradition and Rastafarian culture. While other Caribbean styles have largely retained their original forms, Reggae continues to develop into hybrid forms. The most common distinguishing feature of the Reggae beat is the simultaneous snare click and bass drum on the 3 beat of each measure referred to as “One Drop”. A frequent variation is playing the bass drum on all four beats similar to Ska.


Emerged from the guitar pattern of accenting only the upbeats in comping patterns. This gives Ska its characteristic sound. As with Reggae, a common characteristic of the drum beat is a snare click on beat 3 of each measure. The outstanding difference from Reggae is the straight feel along with the steady “four on the floor” bass drum pattern.

Other Essential Latin Drum Set Beats: 1. Cha Cha 2. Bossa Nova 3. Mambo 4. Salsa Cascara 5. Salsa Campana 6. Samba 7. Songo 8. Bembe 9. Conga and Mozambique 10. Beguine, Bomba, Bolero, Guaguanco, Merengue and Rumba

You may also want to see: Three Basic Latin Beats to Cover Your Ass