GO LATIN! 10 fab­u­lous flavours ex­plored

Latin mu­sic com­bines ex­cit­ing rhythms with the coolest feel and is both chal­leng­ing and re­ward­ing to mas­ter. If you are after a‘fun to play’les­son look no fur­ther, says Jon Bishop, with this Top 10 Latin Styles ar­ti­cle!

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Beat the cold win­ter nights! Snug­gle up with your ny­lon-string to learn Bossa, Merengue, Samba, Beguine and other sizzling Latin styles.

Latin is such a vi­brant and sexy mu­si­cal genre that ev­ery­one should have a few of its styles and tech­niques un­der their belt. So the aim of this les­son is to pro­vide you with some core con­cepts to help you build a vo­cab­u­lary in var­i­ous Latin mu­sic forms. We have cho­sen 10 con­trast­ing styles and recorded a 16-bar per­for­mance piece for each - com­plete with in­di­vid­ual back­ing tracks.

The gui­tar plays a vi­tal role in many of th­ese styles and can also be used to play parts that a pi­ano would oth­er­wise han­dle. A ny­lon-string fla­menco or stan­dard clas­si­cal gui­tar will be the most stylis­ti­cally ap­pro­pri­ate choice for playing Latin mu­sic styles. It is im­por­tant to how each in­stru­ment of the en­sem­ble func­tions, and help­ful to learn the spe­cial name that is given to that in­stru­ment’s func­tion within the ar­range­ment.

The is a rhyth­mic pat­tern used in Afro Cuban mu­sic styles (salsa, cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, samba etc). The five-stroke, clave rhythm is two bars long and forms the back­bone of the rhythm sec­tion. The name ‘claves’ is also used for a per­cus­sion in­stru­ment that con­sists of two wood­blocks that are banged to­gether The rhythm sec­tion usu­ally im­plies the ‘clave’ feel, as op­posed to playing it in a crude or ob­vi­ous way. Each style has its own ‘clave’, and the most com­mon ones have been writ­ten out for you to study (see Figs 1 to 3 be­low).

The ‘cas­cara’ is a rhythm that was orig­i­nally played on the side of the tim­bale drums. The word ‘cas­cara’ means shell, and this rhythm was played on the shell of the drum, hence the name. Drum­mers of­ten play cas­cara rhythms on var­i­ous parts of the drum kit and this adds to the com­plex­ity of the sound.

The syn­co­pated (off-beat) pi­ano fig­ures com­monly used in Latin mu­sic are re­ferred to as a ‘mon­tuno’. Th­ese lines of­ten re­peat over and over, and in­cor­po­rate chro­matic pas­sages and oc­tave in­ter­vals. Trans­fer­ring th­ese pi­ano ideas across to the gui­tar can be chal­leng­ing.

They Syn­co­pated na­ture of the rhythms can add ex­tra dif­fi­culty - es­pe­cially if you are not used to playing ‘off the beat’.

Fi­nally, in Afro-Cuban styles the bass line is of­ten re­ferred to as the ‘tum­bao’. The tum­bao can be con­fus­ing to lis­ten to if you are a rock or pop mu­si­cian as the bass line starts on beat 4 of the bar. Bass lines in rock mu­sic tend to start on beat 1 so it’s im­por­tant when playing along with a tum­bao bass line to re­mem­ber where the start of the bar ac­tu­ally is.

So, turn the page to see the 10 styles cov­ered with in­for­ma­tion on each one’s ori­gins and idio­syn­cra­sies. There are au­dio demon­stra­tions of all 10 styles with back­ing tracks to prac­tise th­ese ideas over, or to try out some of your own ideas.

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