Six Afro Cuban Drum Set Style Essentials

Six Afro Cuban Drum Styles is the tenth in the series: Essential Latin Drum Set Beats. Over the years, I have collected a bunch of books that talked about playing various Latin styles and patterns on drum set. I would go from one book to another searching for answers and ideas. There was some agreement. But mostly disagreement about what is authentic and correct for each Latin style. Here are simple, stylistically accurate and essential Afro Cuban drum style rhythms and patterns to play Beguine, Bomba, Cuban Bolero, Guaguanco, Merengue and Rumba styles on drum set.

Beguine, Bomba, Cuban Bolero, Guaguanco, Merengue and Rumba Styles on Drum Set


The Beguine developed as ballroom music on the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. It gained widespread popularity in the 1940s with Artie Shaw’s recording of “Begin the Beguine”. It has a characteristic accent in the first measure on the AND of beat 1 and is similar in style to the Rumba.


Bomba is one of Puerto Rico’s primary musical styles and gained widespread popularity in the 1950s. The Bomba pattern for drum set uses a repetitive bass drum figure as well as a distinctive bell pattern. It normally does not include a clave rhythm.

Cuban Bolero:

Boleros are in a ballad style with slow tempos and sentimental lyrics. The signature Bolero rhythm, originally played by Castanets, is now more commonly played on Maracas. The drum set can imitate the Castanets or Maracas sound by playing the Bolero rhythm on a drum rim or a closed hi-hat.


Guaguanco emerged early in the 20th century as the most prevalent form of Rumba due to its fast, energetic and passionate character. It is a two-measure, up tempo pattern based on the Cascara pattern and Rumba clave.


Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic. Authentic percussion instruments include the Tambora and Guiro. The characteristics of a Merengue drum set pattern are the recurring floor tom figure along with the bass drum and hi-hat maintaining a steady pulse.


The Rumba (often spelled Rhumba) indicates a ballroom dance style. It should not be confused with the Afro Cuban Clave of the same name. The Rumba style is similar to the Cuban Bolero and Beguine styles.

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 11. Calypso, Soca, Reggae and Ska

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