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LATIN bassists/musicians - your take on the tumbao's clave neutrality?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Spfairchild, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. Spfairchild

    Spfairchild Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2005
    Hey folks,

    I've been interested in and playing Afro-Cuban music for a few years off and on, and I had always been told, or more likely I read somewhere or saw in an instructional video, that the descending half of a 2-bar bass tumbao - never the ascending half - should always fall on the 3 side of the clave.

    This is, of course, only for 2 bar tumbaos. To be clear, I had always thought that if you're playing 1-5-8 (tied to) 8-5-1, that the 5-8 should happen on the 2 side of the clave 2-bar pattern, and the 8-5-1 or just 5-1 should always happen on the 3 side.

    I now play in a salsa band that's not very Cuban-oriented, and I have read a lot of stuff on the internet that suggests that the bass tumbao is actually clave-neutral, meaning you can ascend on the 3 side and descend on the 2 side if you wanted? But actually I've noticed in most of the recordings of the salsa, merengue, bachata, etc songs we play (when there is a tumbao present), the majority of the bassists seem to prefer a one-bar tumbao, which gets you around the clave side issue, since you're repeating the same pattern in both bars of the clave.

    What are your thoughts on clave independence vs clave locking, and specifically, in what styles or scenarios would you do one or the other? I'm still learning a lot about playing in a salsa band. Are there names for different types of bass tumbaos, aside from just style/genre name differences? I thought I remembered hearing about the "mambo tumbao" as being different from another type of tumbao, but now I don't remember where or when I heard that, or if it's true at all.

    Thanks ahead of time!
  2. Spfairchild

    Spfairchild Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2005
    I'm eager to know what people who might know more than me think about this!

    More than 50 people have read this post, but no comments so far. If you think you know something about how the tumbao relates to the clave, even if you think you may not be completely correct, let me know what you know!
  3. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    With the exception of the first beat at the start of the tune, you're playing on the and of 2 and 4 and no matter which way the clave is going it lines up on the and of 2 and 4.

    The best thing is to listen to examples of each clave direction.
  4. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Whenever we play a new song in my salsa band, the piano player and percussionists always kibbutz to confirm whether it's 2-3 or 3-2. When I ask them "do I play anything different?", the answer is always "no".
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  6. Spfairchild

    Spfairchild Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2005
    Cool Phil, thanks. I understand the rhythms that the bass plays, but you're saying that it doesn't matter whether you're playing over the 3 side or the 2 side of the clave, you can play the tumbao pattern ascending (say from G on the E string up to G on the D string) or descending, just depending on what you want to do at that point in time?
  7. bassfuser


    Jul 16, 2008
    I've been studying Oscar Stagnaro's book "The Latin Bass Book". I've only been into it for about a month, but I don't see where the exercises make any preference of the bass line ascending or descending.
  8. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    In the end, you have to trust your ear as to what sounds good and you should also write out some lines to some changes and play them.

    Check this out:

    Play the tumbao R 5 8 a couple of times.

    Now vary it: R 5 8, 5 8, 5 8, 5 R 5 8.

    Now vary it again: R 5 8, 5 R, 5 R, 5 R 5 8.

    Hear the difference?
  9. rbolanos


    Apr 13, 2006
    \hey bud,
    my quick two cents without getting too complex. if you want to play it safe, yes the push on 2 and 4 will be a good choice. however, i think knowing where clave is at all times its important, so you can accent the 2 beat bar occasionally. this adds such a nice touch and classy feel to a bass tumbao.Now, some salsa arrangements change clave within the same song, so if you keep accenting the 2 beat bar thru the whole tune at the same bar section, you will end up Cruzado, and will get the looks from percussionists and director.
    hope that helps a bit, but the best its to listen as much as you can to different styles of latin. eg Puerto rican, \NY, Colombian salsa, two of my favorite players are Pedro Perez and Efrain Hernandez
    good luck!
  10. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    The tumbao matches exactly the 2nd and 3rd beats of the 3 side of the clave, the "ponche" and the "bombo". In most bass styles the improvs & fills need to come back strongly to the downbeat, the one. In a tumbao you want any such riffage to lead strongly to those 2 beats.

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