10 Mambo Drum Beats and Patterns (With Sheet Music)

Mambo Drum Beats and Patterns

Mambo is a style of Latin music originating from Cuba. Most mambo rhythms are played on multiple percussion instruments, but over the years, drummers have adopted those rhythms and applied them to the drum kit. 

A mambo drum beat is essentially a group of different rhythms being played by one person, so mambo grooves are always quite tricky to play. 

I’ve written out ten mambo grooves to learn. They’re very challenging, and they’ll test your independence levels on the kit. 

Mambo Drum Beat 1

Mambo Beat 1

This first groove is the most basic one on this list, and it’s going to set a foundation for what a mambo groove should sound like. 

You’re going to start by playing straight quarter notes on the ride cymbal. You’ll then keep time with your feet by playing the bass drum on beats 1 and 3 and your left foot on the hi-hat pedal on beats 2 and 4. This bass drum pattern is going to be played in most of these grooves. 

When you have your right hand and your foot pattern locked, you’re going to add a bit of texture with your left hand. You’ll play a cross-stick on beat 2, and then you’ll play two rack tom notes on beat 4. 

Mambo Drum Beat 2

Mambo Beat 2

For this mambo beat, you’re going to keep the same foot pattern as the last one. The difference here is that the ride cymbal pattern isn’t so straightforward. 

Most mambo grooves have syncopated rhythms on the ride, ride bell, or hi-hats, so this is a simple groove to start training yourself to play those. 

You’ll also play simple cross-stick strokes on beats 2 and 4, so your main focus can be on the ride cymbal pattern. 

You’ll play two ride notes on beat 1. Then you’ll leave a rest to play a ride on the upbeat of 2. After that, you’ll play a single ride on beat 3, followed by another single ride note on beat 4.

Mambo Drum Beat 3

Mambo Beat 3

You’re now going to move your right hand to the bell of the ride cymbal. The bell has a very short and distinct sound, and mambo grooves often sound better when you use that sound to play rhythms. This is especially true for playing mambo beats at higher tempos. 

You’re going to play two quarter notes on the bell, followed by two eighth notes on beat 3. You’ll then leave a space with the bell to play two rack tom notes on beat 4. 

Most mambo grooves are phrased over two bars, so this is technically only half of one. But it’s a good groove to practice before getting into heavy limb independence with two-bar phrases. 

Mambo Drum Beat 4

Mambo Beat 4

This is our first two-bar mambo phrase. You’re going to play the classic foot pattern of having bass drums on beats 1 and 3 and hi-hat pedals on beats 2 and 4. 

With your left hand, you’re going to play a cross-stick on the second beat of both bars. Then you’re going to play two tom notes in a row on the fourth beat. You’ll play a rack tom in the first bar and a floor tom in the second. 

Your bell pattern is going to look the same for both bars, but the second bar just doesn’t have the bell on beat 1. 

Mambo Drum Beat 5

Mambo Beat 5

This beat has the same foot and left-hand pattern as the last one, so the only thing you’re going to play differently is the ride cymbal.

This particular mambo groove is incredibly popular, and it’s quite easy to play quickly once you get the hang of it. So, it’s a great one to learn. 

In the first bar, you’re going to play the bell on the first two quarter notes. You’ll then play two bell notes on beat 3, followed by a final one on the “and” of beat 4. 

In the second bar, you’ll play two bells on the “ands” of beats 1 and 2. You’ll then play the bells on the downbeats of beats 3 and 4. 

Mambo Drum Beat 6

Mambo Beat 6

This mambo beat is slightly different from the rest, as it has a new foot pattern. You’re going to keep playing your hi-hat pedal on beats 2 and 4, but your bass drum placements are going to change. 

There are two bass drum notes in the bar, and they land on the “and” of beat 2 and the downbeat of beat 4. This foot pattern is regularly used in songo drum beats, but it works for mambos as well. 

Once you have that pattern going, you’re going to play cross-sticks on beats 2 and 3. 

Your bell will land on the first two quarter notes of the bar, and then you’ll play eighth notes to end the bar off.

Mambo Drum Beat 7

Mambo Beat 7

This groove builds off of the foundation we created with the last one, so make sure to nail Mambo Drum Beat 6 before moving on. 

We’re now going to incorporate a clave pattern into the groove. Claves are repeating patterns that regularly get used in Latin music, with the two popular ones being the 3/2 clave and the 2/3 clave. 

For this groove, you’re going to play a 2/3 clave on the snare drum. This means that there will be two snare drum strokes in the first bar and three in the second. 

Your ride cymbal pattern will also be a bit different in the second bar, so pay close attention to that. 

Mambo Drum Beat 8

Mambo Beat 8

We’re going to change our foot pattern yet again, incorporating the double bass drum pattern that you mostly hear in samba and bossa nova grooves. However, we’re not going to play a bass drum on the very last beat, making it a bit easier to play this groove. 

You’re also going to switch up the left-hand pattern, sticking to playing cross-sticks. In the first bar, you’ll play one cross-stick on beat 2 and two on beat 4. In the second, you’ll just play single cross-stick notes on beats 2 and 4. 

Mambo Drum Beat 9

Mambo Beat 9

Moving back to playing the surface of the ride cymbal, this mambo drum beat has straight eighth notes driving it. However, you’re going to just skip the first count of the second bar, leaving a rest there to make the groove sound more like a mambo. 

You’re then going to play cross-sticks on the second beat of each bar, followed by two tom notes on the fourth beat of each bar. 

Lastly, you’re going to still play the foot pattern from the last beat, having a double kick drum and the “and” of beat 2 and the onbeat of beat 3. 

Mambo Drum Beat 10

Mambo Beat 10

This last groove is arguably the most challenging mambo drum beat on this list. For this one, you’re going to play a 3/2 clave on the snare drum. This means you’re playing three cross-sticks in the first bar and two in the second. 

You’re going to go back to playing the simple alternating foot pattern, so you can mainly focus on what your hands are doing here. 

The ride bell pattern is quite a bouncy one, and it sounds amazing when played at higher tempos. 

Tips for Playing Mambo Drum Beats

Work on Your Limb Coordination

One of the key elements of playing mambo beats is using all four of your limbs to play different patterns. Four-way coordination is a skill that many drummers struggle with, so you need to work on that skill to be able to play Latin grooves comfortably. 

It helps to start by learning bossa nova grooves first. Once you get those down, your limbs should feel a bit more free. You can then move on to harder grooves like mambos and sambas.

Get a Cowbell

Cowbells sound incredible when you use them to play Latin grooves. You can use a cowbell instead of a ride cymbal for any of the grooves that we looked at above, and a cowbell is an essential tool for any drummer that plays Latin music in bands. 

A cowbell will give a much tighter and more distinct sound than a ride cymbal. They sound the best when you play high-speed mambo drum beats. 

Focus on Having a Light Touch

The last thing to focus on is playing fluidly and smoothly. Mambos are high-speed dance grooves, so you need to feel relaxed when playing them. 

If you play these grooves hard on the drums, they’re going to sound quite stiff. A mambo will always sound better when played lightly with plenty of dynamic variety. 


Mambo drum beats are also great to learn if you’re looking to get into jazz drumming. Latin styles are often played within jazz band settings, so jazz drummers should have some sort of idea of how to play them. 

While all the grooves we looked at are quite tricky, they do an amazing job of pushing your skills and forcing you to improve on the drum set. Work through them slowly and really focus on separating your limbs as cleanly as possible when playing. 

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