Bass for Ballroom and Latin Dance band

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Avigdor, Sep 9, 2021.

  1. Avigdor


    Aug 23, 2018
    besides playing the bass I am also an avid ballroom dancer. The rhythms and bass lines defining these are quite prescribed and VERY characteristic in good dance music, and I've been looking for reference material so I can start learning some of these rhythms and incorporated them into my repertoire. Specifically cha-cha, rumba, samba, jive & paso doble for the UKA. Listening to tracks only gets me so far - I am looking for the principles behind the lines.

    I have really struggled to find good technique materials with specifically in mind, but surely they must exist? A book: "Bass for dance orchestra" would be perfect. I can do a basic tumbao, but it never really feels like the dance I need, so there must be more to it. I'm really looking for proper notation and am willing to part with money for it.

    Peter Torning likes this.
  2. Avigdor


    Aug 23, 2018
    Thank you very much, they're a good start. I guess I was hoping to find something more directly geared towards the actual formal dances, but they're a great start and will keep me busy for a bit. Walk first, run later :thumbsup:
  3. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    I'm not an expert but I'd maybe look at the origins of these dance styles. Jive stems from swing dancing so I'd do a deep dive into swing music and get to grips on whats going on with that.

    For Latin dance styles you might want to check out The Latin Bass Book and True Cuban Bass. They really dig into the tumbao and cover a lot of things like Cha Cha, Rhumba etc. When it comes to Cuban music they are great. The Latin Bass Book touches on other music from South America but I personally don't think it's as well represented or thorough as Cuban music is.

    For Brazilian music I'd recommend Brazilian Music Workshop and maybe Inside The Brazilian Rhythm Section.

    Tango I'd recommend - The Bass In Tango

    It might not give you all the answers but they should give you a pretty strong base knowledge of whats going on musically and most of the books to demonstrate the fundamental rhythms or underlying idea that is going on in these styles. So using that and adding your knowledge of the dance styles you should be able to thread them together somehow.

    Then you never know, you might be the one writing the book for the rest of us to check out!
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    The Latin Bass book is pretty comprehensive and well regarded. But it is of course bass specific not dance specific

    Your point about something truly targeted at formally dance rhythms is a valid one. I toyed with swing dancing and salsa back in the day, I have a kid who’s into Irish dancing and flamenco. It seems like there is a completely different approach to counting and understanding the rhythms when it comes to dancing as opposed to an instrument.

    bass in particular is a late comer to most traditional dance music and in many cases the rhythms are inherited from percussion / drum parts. The Cuban tumbao for example was originally a rhythm on two drums.

    my experience with Cuban music showed me that learning the parts of the percussion and rhythm section and really investing in being a part of that whole fabric parts really pays off. I imagine a similar attitude for other Dance styles will benefit similarly
  5. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    I played this type of dance music quite a bit. I'd listen to old recordings in the styles you want to play, and transcribe the rhythms. They are generally VERY simple, and for good reason: it's music played to serve the dance, not for pure artistic expression. It's mostly just rhythmic variations on a half note played on the root, 5th up quarter note, 5th down quarter note. (C - G - G [octave below])

    I think the Latin Bass Book will cover this stuff (I lost my copy so can't be totally sure). It quickly gets into heavier stuff that is NOT ballroom oriented, though. It's a lot of info. I studied with Oscar, he is such a beast.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I think The True Cuban Bass may be a better resource for old school styles for that reason.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
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