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How do you play "Guantanamera"?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by pklima, Dec 12, 2006.

  1. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    I'm curious how others approach an extremely simple song that most of us have played at some point and that doesn't really have a "standard" bassline or style because it's played in many different cultures... so let's take "Guantanamera".

    In a way it's a challenge. How do you give the harmony a sense of direction while it's really just going in small circles? How to avoid the temptation to overplay without making it sound too monotonous? What style and rhythm do you like best?

    Possibly a dumb thread unworthy of discussion... but then again it's songs like this that put food on many of our tables.
  2. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Folk songs are usually harmonically monotonous which is why they are easy to remember. I usually just try to nail the feel.
  3. massasahib


    May 22, 2006
    Well, a very interesting question. Maybe you go to Guantanamo and ask there. They should know.
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Hey, P... I've played that with a couple of different guys. One was a straight salsa version, a little faster than you might be accustomed to hearing it. I remember that the guy changed one chord at the top of the chorus; instead of playing the four chord, he would play a minor two chord for one bar, second bar was two beats on the four then two beats on the five, and then business as usual after that. It created just enough interest every time the "Guantanamera" lyric came around.

    The other one was with the great pianist Gene Argel and drummer Mike Buono, and we used to play it pretty straight and slowly at the top, and then just let it develop and go as "out" as we felt it could go. It was different every time we played it. We actually used to use this in our swanky hotel lounge gig, and we found that it's a great way to push the envelope a bit. We found that most people really dug hearing something beyond the typical "lounge gig" thing. It must have worked, because we played there for eight years! I think this particular song worked because the tension in the solo portion was eventually released when the melody came back in. It was something along the lines of what Brad Mehldau is doing with his trio, although Brad was still in diapers when Gene was doing it.
  5. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    You played Guantanamero for eight years?
    I could never be angry enough to say that about you.
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Yeah, we couldn't figure out how to end it, so we just did a slow fade....
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I hope you were using spirocores.
  8. Pklima -- What type of group are you playing it in? What combination of instruments? This would help others provide some suggestions. Vocal group? Jazz trio, quartet, etc.?
  9. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Most recently I've found playing it with a Spanish vocalist (not Cuban but somewhat more authentic, I guess), Polish guitarist and Polish violinist. We've been doing the first verse as just bass and voice. Very relaxed. I always accent the four and play the verses in a higher range than the refrain for a little "variety".

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