Basic samba rhythm

The samba rhythm can be pronounced as 1a2 or SaS (slow-ah-slow). The second possibility, which is used in the Revised technique book, is a bit confusing because the whole rhythm is two beats long, and in every other dance a "slow" is already two beats long. But then, slows and quicks are an imprecise way of talking about rhythm anyway.

The next confusion is that some people count swing rhythm as 1&a2 - they only step on the 1, the a, and the 2 while the & is a counting aid or used for body motion - but the swing a is not the same as the samba a. In swing the beat is divided in a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio, in samba that is 3/4 to 1/4.

Counting the 3/4 to 1/4 ratio is tough. If you merely try to say 1a2 or SaS, in the correct rhythm, it is very easy to slip into a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio, as is used in swing. That cadence, while easy and comfortable feeling, does not have the crispness needed for samba, and in fact is not based on the music. You can count the samba rhythm out loud by first finding a way to pronounce all the four subdivisions.

Samba music divides the beat in four. You can pronounce such a division by saying 1e&a2e&a: "one-ee-and-ah-two-ee-and-ah". Now say this out loud and keep repeating it. While you are repeating it, stop pronouncing the "ee-and" part and only think them. What you are now saying out loud is "one-ah-two", and you are doing it in the correct samba rhythm.

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This file is part of "Feel The Beat", a musicology course for dancers, by Victor Eijkhout (victor at eijkhout dot net), who appreciates being sent additions or corrections on the material in this course. Copyright 2000/1 Victor Eijkhout.

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Last modified on: Sunday, May 6, 2001.