Beyond Salsa Piano Vol. 1 For Beginners

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Beyond Salsa Piano, Volume 1 begins around 1900 and covers the origins of the tumbao concept using exercises adapted from genres – such as changüí, danzón, and son – that pre-date the use of piano as the primary instrument for tumbaos in Cuban music. This material is designed to be playable by near-beginners, musicians who play other instruments, and arrangers seeking to acquire a basic facility on piano.

Among the artists covered are Grupo Changüí de Guantánamo, Sexteto Habanero, Sexteto Boloña and Arsenio Rodríguez.

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About the book

Volume 1 has dual purposes: to chronicle the earliest ancestors of the piano tumbao and to provide exercises for beginning pianists to develop the technique necessary to play salsa and timba piano tumbaos. It begins with piano adaptions of tres guajeos from the seminal folkloric genre of changüí, which predates the first Cuban recordings. Next we study the danzón and son genres of the 1900-1940 period to look for early roots of the modern piano tumbao in the tres and violin parts. The volume concludes with an extensive study of the various types of tumbaos pioneered by Arsenio Rodríguez in the 1940s.

This material is ideal for a “beginning” method book for two reasons:

  1. Because the patterns were original played on stringed instruments, they can be learned very easily by a beginning pianist.
  2. The material is also the beginning historically – the first instances of tumbaos in pop music.

Depending on your style of learning, you may want to start by reading the explanatory text to absorb “the big picture”, or you may want to dive right in and learn the music, after which the explanations will have much more meaning. You may want to learn the patterns by reading the music or by ear.
The material in Volume 1 is arranged chronologically:

  1. Changüí (originated prior to 1900)
  2. Danzón (1900-1940)
  3. Son (1915-1940)
  4. Son Montuno (1940-1951)

If you already have some experience playing piano, we suggest tackling the material in this order, but if you have limited technique, we suggest that you learn the exercises in order of difficulty:

  1. Son
  2. Danzón
  3. Son Montuno
  4. Changüí

Examples from Beyond Salsa Piano, Volume1

Chapter 1 discusses the concept of the tumbao — explaining what it is and following its development from its African origins through the various Cuban genres of the 20th Century to its integral role in rock, soul, jazz and funk.

Chapter 2 covers changüí, the first genre to use tumbaos on instruments other than pitched drums. Changüí tumbaos, or guajeos, are played on the tres, making them ideal material for beginning pianists.

notation example from Beyond Salsa Piano - The Cuban Timba Piano Revolution - by Kevin Moore

audio – full speed

audio – slow motion

Each tumbao is shown in 16th note and 8th note notation, with two audio files, one at full speed and one in slow motion. The left and right hand parts are panned hard left and right respectively so you can use the balance control to learn each hand separately by ear if you don’t read music. Even if you do read music, we suggest learning them by ear if you have the patience, and only using the music to check your results. If you learn it by ear, you “own it”.

Later in Chapter 2, we cover kiribá and nengón, two very easy genres which pre-date changüí.

Chapter 3 discusses rumba, which, although it doesn’t use tumbaos, is essential to mastering the feel of Cuban music.

Chapter 4 contains several tumbaos derived from danzón violin parts from the 1920s and Chapter 5deals with very easy son tres guajeos from the 1920s and 1930s.

Chapter 6 on son montuno, is the longest section of Volume 1. It can be thought of as a pianist’s companion to my online book on the bass tumbaos of Arsenio Rodríguez between 1940 and 1951.

son montuno sample tumbao

audio – full speed

audio – slow motion

Volume 1 also contains an extensive appendix on clave and rhythmic terminology.

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