Basic Bossa Nova Groove for Drummers

The straight 8th, bossa nova feel is an essential groove for any jazz drummer to have in their tool kit. It acts as a starting place for other straight 8th grooves and helps promote limb independence, variation, dynamics, and syncopation. It can be played at a variety of tempos using sticks or brushes. 

This lesson will build the basic bossa nova groove one part at a time from the ground up. This groove has many variations, we will cover one of the most commonly played, and include a few variations and sample fills. 

Start with straight 8th notes on the high hat. 

Once this is established, a good next step is to start working on your snare pattern. Starting with a cross-stick is a nice way to build dynamic variation as you have a lot of control over the volume.

The basic bossa nova cross-stick pattern is often called the “Brazilian Clave” as it has similarities to the afro-cuban clave patterns. The big difference is that the brazilian clave is open to interpretation and variation is encouraged. It is not “set in stone” and the player is free to change it as needed to fit the music. 

Another consideration is that bossa nova grooves in an American jazz context are often very different from traditional, Brazilian bossa nova. Below is the typical Brazilian clave pattern with the 8th note high hat groove. 

Next let’s try a different groove using the same hi-hat and cross-stick combination. This groove alternates down beats and up beats, and has a long rest in the second measure for the snare drum. It has a similar groove to “Oye Como Va” by Tito Puente.  

Sometimes it’s nice to simply play quarter notes on the cross-stick.


 Here are some examples of similar grooves being played on classic jazz recordings. None of these are traditional bossa nova, but are examples of the type of groove we’re going for with the “jazz latin” feel we so often encounter. 

Once you have a pattern or two that you feel comfortable playing with a cross-stick, it’s time to start adding in a kick drum pattern. There are a few options to choose from when playing a straight 8ths, jazz/latin, pseudo-bossa. In this lesson we’ll focus on the most common bossa kick drum pattern.  

It may be helpful to start with just the kick pattern and to add the snare drum once the kick pattern is solid. If this is difficult, start with the kick drum on beats 1 and 3 only.