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Help me get my clave straightened out

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Cornbread, Apr 28, 2001.

  1. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Recently I've been gravitating towards Latin, and specifically Cuban music. I just love playing the stuff, but unfortunately I'm practically clueless about all the theory behind Latin music. I think I could fake a Latin bassline if I had to, but I don't really know all the in's and out's yet. You dig? So, I'd really appreciate if someone could at least point someplace where I can learn all about this stuff I read every now and then, such as: What's the deal with this clave/tumbao/montuno stuff?
    What is the difference between say, Merengue and Salsa? (and why do I like Salsa so much more than Merengue?)
    amm, maybe I'll think of more questions later.
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Tumbao: literaly translated, "Groove". More commonly refers to the bassline in salsa on the 1 "and" of 2 and 4 (and often just the "and" of 2 and 4.

    Montuno: the patterns the piano player plays. Also can be used to describe the solo sections of a Salsa tune.

    Merengue: Very fast dance music with usually a "two beat" feel in the bass line. Think country 1 and 5.

    Which is probably why you like salsa more than merengue.....at least it's why I like it more.
  3. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    Thanks, Jon! Now, regarding note choice, basslines seem to be pretty limited. Usually I hear just a root-5-8 type of motion, with maybe a minor 3rd thrown in sometimes. Is that all I really need to know about note choice in Latin basslines, or are there examples of more complicated lines? (I know that is a pretty broad question.) I've read here and at another website about the clave being a 2 beat/3 beat pattern (or reverse). Can you explain some variations of the clave?
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    There is a lot of Root, 5th, Octave stuff in latin bass. BUt in the years I've been playing it, I've been able to keep my note choice personal - lots of 3rd, 9th, 6th, etc. It's all about picking your spot, and that comes from doing it. I wouldn't keep the main groove to a song with a tumboa based on the 9th, 6th, and 13th! :D Unless I didn't want the gig.:)

    Explaining the differences in clave is a bit more complicated for me. I tend to play very much on feel, so I'm not constantly "counting" the clave. But there are several different claves; the typical 3-2 clave (which is identical to the "Bo Diddley" groove, or a New Orleans second line), the 2-3 clave which is the same groove but the bars are reversed. In son clave, a variation on the 3-2, the 1st bar, instead of 1, the "and" of 2 and 4, the clave is 1, the "and" of 2 and the 2nd 16th note after 4. This is also called Rhumba clave if I'm not mistaken (and I may well be).

    I can tell you this: Playing in a Salsa band is a blast! I started when I was in Hawaii years ago and still remain active. As far as I know, I'm one of the only white guys in Atlanta playing Salsa bass. (We'll see what happens when I get to San Antonio) The music is passionate, exciting, loud and the bands are huuuuge! And the eye candy at a Salsa gig is hard to beat ;)

    good luck
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Agreed on all the above Jon! Our band is doing a lot of Salsa gigs at the moment.

    Just to add a bit on the "Tumbao" - virtually all these basslines in Salsa are about missing out or avoiding the first beat in the bar and tying the notes across the bar - as Jon says - the 'and' of 2 plus the 4 tied across to the first beat of the next bar. The other characteristic is to anticipate the chord changes on the 4 of the previous bar.

    As the bass player you are becoming a part of the percussion section - almost, fitting in between the congas and piano. The most liberating thing is that there is usually no "kit" drums, but you are playing off the congas and timbales.

    I think that harmonically there isn't much of a challenge, but it is all about complex interlocking rhythms.

    You can find all the rhythms described and transcribed at the back of the "Latin Real Book" which is a good source for Salsa and Merengue tunes.
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    "...the second 1/16th note after 4"? Why not say the "& of 4"? ;)

    Son Clave 3:2-
    For 2:3, reverse the bars.

    Rhumba Clave 3:2-
    Again, for 2:3, reverse the order of the bars.

    Brasilian Clave 3:2-
    ***Note in the "2 bar" how the 2nd note is displaced by an 1/8th note; compare that to the usual "2 bar" where both beats are "on the beat"(the "2" and "3")***
    For 2:3, reverse...
    Now, try practice tapping the clave with one hand + tapping the PULSE with the other...the pulse is on beats "1" and "3".

    6/8 Clave-
    Again, reverse...
    For tapping purposes, the pulse for this is on "1" and "4".

    Incorporating both hands via the tapping exercise should help your slap/pop chops...maybe use your fretting hand slap as the "pulse" & choose between the thumb & popping finger as the "clave".

    You can also practice the 2-bar Clave in a 1-bar phrase(merely "doubletime" the note values).
    So, a 3:2 Son Clave becomes-

    ...and to further prove how full of S*** I am(as Dave K will attest)-
    You can practice "dropping" notes off to get an ODD feel(drop off the last 1/4 note, for example).
    Son "Clave"-
    Again, try tapping the pulse on "1" and "3".
    BTW, this type of ODD thing is NOT for authentic Latin playing...just some BS to practice on your own.
  7. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    As always, Jim, you are a rythmic Obi-Wan Kenobi! Those examples should keep me busy just trying to tap them out! I find it tough to tap out the clave with one hand and the 4/4 beat with the other hand.
  8. Huh? I think you're pretty right on. But this example feels like one bar of 7:4.
  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...no hard feelings, Dave(I sent you a private message). I do see I left off a "Smiley"; you'll have to forgive me as my post was kinda lenghty & was also "difficult" with all the bold & underline thingees goin' on.
    And true, those bars of 4 + 3 do feel like ONE bar of 7.

    ...keep practicing the pulse + the clave. Start with the "3" side ONLY & do it sloowwww! Both hands will tap on "1", the RH will tap on the "& of 2", the LH will tap on "3", the RH will tap on "4". If I can do it...I know you can.
    (If you have a drum machine, program the kick on "1" and "3" & the snare(or cowbell or handclap) as the clave).
  10. Check out _The Latin Bass Book_ by Sher publishing for starters. It has three play-along CD's and transcriptions of all the basslines. IMO, it's great. I've also heard great things about what I think is called, _Latin Bass Grooves_. It's also a play-along. I can't remember the publisher right now. The second thing to do is to start listening to the music as much as possible. Find some Latin radio stations or programs. Buy CD's and listen to them a lot. You can't beat Tito Puente. I recently bought Tito Puente "Live at Birdland '99". There's a great version of "Lullabye of Birdland" that I love and tons of great playing and examples of the tumbao and different feels and grooves: lot's of mambo, a cha-cha-cha, a guarijua [sp]. Also, you can check out any recording w/ a cat named Cacao. He's the cat that invented the tumbao.
  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
  12. I keep seeing references to that Sher book, guess I otta get it, hmm? :)

    Listening to and transcribing/playing along will get you into it the best. Get your feet wet, nothing will take the place of that, I'm speaking from experience! (I play with Tito's son, Tito Jr.) I'm no expert, heck I don't even know the proper names of the feels most of the time, I just do the "right" thing, based on either what I've heard in similar situations, or what one of the percussionists suggests.

    Oh, and it's spelled guajira (gua-hee-ra), apparantly it's an old dance form from the "country" in Cuba. And the bassist you're referring to is Cachao (Chah-chow). Amazing player, really laid the foundation from everything I understand. It's all about the groove, don't stress too much about the particular clave (being aware of it is good, of course), just find the pocket, and STAY IN IT. Yeah, harmonically it's not amazing, but rhythmically it's some heavy stuff. Big fun to play, like Pacman said. :cool:
  13. Hi all

    Is Cachao the bassist on the Buena Vista Social Club album?

    If he is it's little wonder he's a machine as the liner notes say that he comes from a family of 40!!! bass players - that's gotta help.

    Ok cheers

  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    The Bassist on the "Buena Vista" allbum was leading his own band which played on "Jools Holland's Later" - a TV programme on BBC UK TV last Friday.

    His name (nickname?) is Cachaito - similar, but presumably not the same person. Jools Holland mentioned that he had just released his first solo album at the age of 68!! So there's hope for us all yet then...;)

    The music sounded very interesting and there was a fusion of Cuban and Dub Reggae going on at times - a very cool Rasta guy playing hammond organ along with Cachaito and other players from the Buena Vista. I've seen Cachaito twice with the "Afro Cuban All-Stars" and he is a great double bass player - effortlessly in the groove all night, but when he gets a solo, he plays some amazing stuff - incorporating the body of the instrument as percussion!
  15. Thanks Bruce

    That Jools Holland show sure has some interesting stuff on it - I lived in London from 93-97 and it was one of my regular viewing treats!!

    I'll have to keep an eye out for Cachaito's solo album as I enjoyed the BVSC music a lot!


  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I'm probably way off...isn't Cachaito("little Cachao")Cachao's son?
    (& I don't mean son clave, either).
    While browsing the local record store on Saturday, I did notice some of Cachao's recording are being re-issued; usually, his bin is empty. If we have them here, they should be readily available anywhere!
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well you could be right, but I don't know the answer. There is a Tito Puente track called "Ode to Cachao" and it says on a CD that I have that "(this track) takes us back to the heydays of Cuban music. This is Tito's tribute to the great Havana bass player Ismael Lopez (Cachao), the greatest bass player that Latin music has ever produced."

    On the Buena Vista album it says that Bass is by Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez - so given that they have the same surname, it sounds like a possibility - but I presume "Lopez" is a very common surname in Cuba? I'll have to watch the film again (on video) and see if this is mentioned - I remember an interview with Cachaito, but not the details.
  18. Chachito is indeed Cachao's son (as JimK said, not the clave ;) ). He is an excellent player as well, he had no choice with his father in the house, eh? :D
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Lots of potential for puns there! The band I'm in plays a tune written by Dave Barnard, who is a local bass player who is really into Cuban Music (he also play with Terry Callier) which he titled "Mi Tres Son" - which sounds sort of Cuban and fools mosts people, as the piece itself is quite authentic : Cuban-style. But of course it is just nonsense and is titled for the fact that Dave has 3 boys! :D

    Thanks for clearing up the father/son thing - it does make sense, but as I say Cachaito is 68, so it's difficult to think of him as the "son"!
  20. slam

    slam Guest

    Mar 22, 2000
    Clave is the basis of all latin music. You need to have the clave internalized. Clave is the call-and-response pattern built into the music. Some people talk about call-and-response being a vocal thing, but really it is the clave and it underlies all latin music. If you don't know clave you will not play the music properly.

    Definitely check out Cachao. Andy Garcia realeased a movie about Cachao a couple of years ago. It is well worth watching.

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