• • Speaking of Rhythm deeply involves YOU in the process of learning and expressing rhythm. You will learn to hold three contrasting parts : voice, feet and hands. This mimics the parts of the ensemble and you deeply feel how music works.

    • Speaking of Rhythm is a fun and challenging game : lean where voice, hand claps and feet all interact in sequences of conjunction and opposition. You go at your own rate.

Track 2. Mid Drum Lesson
Lesson Length 4:40 min
In this lesson I teach you the main theme of Bembe, which is played on the middle pitch drum, the conga. First we learn it slowly by syllables which mimic the drum strokes, then we learn how it fits in time, then we play it on the drum using bass, tone, tip and slap strokes. This pattern is a 3 in the time of 2 cross rhythm and requires attention to not lose the main beat as you play a pattern of three hits and feel a pulse of two beats. This is one key to the “lock” of playing trance inducing cross rhythms – having the 3:2 polymeter completely grounded in your body. When that becomes easy, I show you how combine this part with Clave. This is the core of these music lessons; relating each drum part to the guideline Clave pattern.

Track 3. High Drum Lesson
Lesson Length 1:46 min
In this lesson I show you the high pitched drum for Bembe, which plays a short, consistent part which drives the rhythm. The placement of the slap in this part is often challenging for people. Make sure you keep a strong beat in you body while playing this pattern, and do check your self to make sure you haven’t slipped in time. This part is used in many different rhythms and is very important to learn for developing your musicianship.

Track 4. Practice Groove 1
Lesson Length 4:00 min
In this lesson I play the mid and high drum parts together so you can hear and feel how they work. You can play along with either part and see if you can stay in the groove, or you can create you own variations. I don’t talk in this track, I just give a count in.

Track 5. Bell Lesson
Lesson Length 1:40 min
In this lesson I show the Bembe bell pattern, which is the rhythm I call “12 Bell”. This pattern is widespread throughout the African Diaspora and is central to many rhythms. For a full breakdown, special exercises and practice session on this most important pattern, please check out my Son Clave and 12 Bell lessons here.

Track 6. Practice Groove 2 – with High and Mid drum plus Bell
Lesson Length 4:05 min
In this track I play the basic groove of Bembe: the mid and high drums plus the bell pattern which modulates them. When you have learned the bass part to Bembe you can play it over this groove for a more complete experience of rhythm. If you are a singer or dancer, this is great track to practice with. This is a trance inducing groove, please be careful!

Track 7. Low Drum Lesson – the lead part
Lesson Length 3:10 min
In this lesson I teach you the part for the lowest pitched drum. In Bembe it is the lead drum. It is the longest and most complicated part in the ensemble and uses bass, tone, slap and palm-tip strokes. We will learn the basic groove and later in the lesson I’ll show some solo movements. Make sure you learn to play this pattern with a relaxed feel that incorporates the four pulse.

Track 8. Shekere Lesson
Lesson Length 2:50 min
In this lesson I teach you to play a shekere part for Bembe. Shekere or Chekere is the gourd rattle with the beads on the outside. The technique is similar to tossing water out of bucket, one hand holding the neck and one hand at the bottom. This shekere rhythm can be used for most any 6 beat rhythm. It is based on the 12 bell pattern.

Track 9. Mid Drum Lesson 2 – six-eight tumbao
Lesson Length 2:15 min
This is a Master Lesson in a very useful and valuable pattern for general use in six beat rhythms. Some people call it “six-eight tumbao” because of its similarity to the common “four-four” tumbao. The pattern is built from a combination of single and double strokes using palm-tip, tones, slap and bass strokes making it a full workout for your hands. According to my master teachers, this pattern is actually part of Columbia (a form of Rumba) and is often added to Bembe to make the melody sweeter. I use it as an optional part to Bembe, though many people use it as a basic part.
The second part of this lessons is “six-eight tumbao” with Clave. Notice that the drum pattern repeats twice in the time of one Clave, and in the first repetition, the drum accents aligns with the first three hits of Clave, and in the second repetition, the Clave hits go in-between the main drum accents.

Track 10. Practice Groove 3 – high conga, shekere and low drum.
Lesson Length 3:05 min
This a nice alternate arrangement for the rhythm, without the main support parts. You can practice playing the bell, mid or high parts along with this track. Notice how the conga enters the rhythm before beat One. This is a great track for singing or dance. I don’t talk in this track, I only give a count in.

Track 11. Mix Minus Lesson
Lesson Length 21:30 min
In this track I play all the parts at a faster tempo and mix them in and out in various combinations, so you can hear their interplay. The bell is the consistent element, so you can hear each part along with it. In the middle of the track, the mix breaks down to just bell and shekere, then builds back up with each part in turn. There is no solo movement in this track, the groove is even and steady. This is trance inducing music, please be careful!

Track 12. Solo Lesson – “trading fours”
Lesson Length 14:00 min
In this track I play the lead drum and include some solo movements using bass, tone, slaps and cross rhythms. I play a solo pattern the length of four bell cycles, then I lay out for the same interval, with just the bell and shekere continuing. This leaves an interval for you to try your own variations. A good way to approach this is to just play the basic pattern all the way through and listen to how my variations relate to the basic pattern. The closer you listen to me as you play the basic part, the easier it will be to find your own variations.

Track 13. Vocal Ensemble Lesson Summary
Lesson Length 3:35 min
In this track I sing all the parts to the rhythm, layered over each other, and slowly bring in the drums under the voices. As the track progresses I feature each drum and corresponding voice with in the mix of all the parts. This track summarizes the whole lesson and is a fun game to try with your friends: sing all the parts together then change to drums or vice versa.

1 Bembe - Learn to drum

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... Kim breaks these rhythms down in every way possible and keeps your attention, while making listening and playing along to the different parts less like practice and more like fun.  He then builds the rhythms back up again in such a way that you get to hear every relationship between each of the parts played by the different instruments.  The best element in the series is his unique vocal adaptation of the different instruments played and sung in the rhythms. It is as entertaining as it is educational.

I thank Kim Atkinson for Sharing His Spirit with us in such a way that we can all become better players and facilitators
"I just wanted to thank you for actually caring to develop a simple yet enormously powerful teaching method that has transformed my music playing, listening and also speaking ability. Coincidentally, its also helped me run further without being as tired....I think its due me being able to feel and attend to each step I take more like a rhythm than a battle, and maybe it's because I've been stepping the pulse - when I practice speaking the rhythms - in an oval around my room"
"I really appreciate the way you have broken it down and shown how all the parts interweave.  It's a great way to get the whole rhythm into a non-left-brain part of my body." - Kathy
"I often teach my students that if you can "say it", you can "play it".  In his Speaking of Rhythm series, Kim takes this concept to the next level. Using spoken syllables and playing drums, each part is explored separately and then in every possible combination with each other, and against both the underlying pulse and Clave. These highly effective CDs accomplish what could only otherwise be done by having a multi-track recorder available for every class. (Except of course they are MUCH easier to use, and work in your car!)

Another extremely useful feature is that a different syllable is assigned not only to each different drum sound, but also to each hand making the sound. Thus, by learning to speak the rhythm, students also learn the proper "sticking" at the same time.

I enjoyed the arrangements so much that I even adopted the Afoxe rhythms for use with my Brazilian Bateria. We now play the same Afoxe patterns on Surdos, Repeniques, and Caixas."
"...the greatest benefit of your classes and CDs came to me as a salsa dancer, by improving my ability to hear and understand the Clave. ... this has made my enjoyment of salsa music and dancing that much better. Thank you again!"
"I've had some great fun and learning from Kim Atkinson's CD's. Bembe, Makuta, Nigerian Highlife and others are great sets of rhythms I was glad to add to my repertoire. It was helpful to really get inside clave rhythms too. Kim knows his stuff, makes it clear and accessible... and he rocks!"
WOW... Kim!! I spent about two hours enjoying and learning from your CD.. I was TRULY impressed with the format and success it gave me and will give others... YOU DID IT!

1) Connect the Syllables to Drum Strokes

Practice each drum stroke separately and speak the syllable as you hit the drum. Do this many times – you’re learning a kinesthetic language – connecting your voice and your hands.

If you need to review the syllables, hand positions and sounds on your drum, click here.

2) Speak Drum Language – Make Sentences:

Now learn the syllables for a drum pattern (for example, the tumba for Afoxé). Go slowly. Speak the sounds out loud and learn to say them effortlessly so they feel like a sentence.

3) Orient Yourself – Syllables with the Pulse:

Next, clap the pulse while speaking the syllables. This will show you how the drum part (via the syllables) relates to the main beat.

4) Make a Sentence with your Hands:

Now that you’ve learned a sentence in drum language map the vocal sounds to hand positions on the drum. (You can do this without a drum, but make sure you’re saying the syllables out-loud. You can practice this on a table, your body, anywhere).

5) Say the Sentence On the drum:

Say and play the drum rhythm. Notice that the drum is saying what the voice is saying and the voice is saying what the drum is playing.