Instructional Videos & Scores

tito puente timbales


The mambo sound, often considered the signature sound of Cuban popular music is also the style at the heart of the collection of styles known as “salsa.” Mambo first appeared on the American popular music radar in the 1940s as a dance craze that rapidly swept across the American cultural landscape and beyond.


Cha cha chá

Cha cha chá (or cha cha) is one of the more familiar rhythms to emerge from Cuba’s rich musical history. Like many other popular styles, cha cha chá, evolved from earlier Cuban styles and eventually fueled a dance craze in the 1950s and ’60s that spread to North America and beyond. The medium tempo and accessible rhythms gives this style instant appeal for dancers, listeners and musicians.



The first and foremost consideration when playing rumba is utilizing the rumba clave. The rumba clave is distinguished from the son clave by the third beat on the 3-side of the clave pattern. This beat is delayed, sounding on the offbeat, thus providing more syncopation and signaling a series of unique musical considerations.


Afro-Cuban 6/8 (Bembe)

Afro Cuban 6/8 is used here not as a specific style, but as a descriptive term to identify the cowbell pattern that is a unifying factor in many Afro Cuban 6/8- (or 12/8-) meter styles. These include mostly folkloric styles such as bembe, arara, güiro as well as more generic 6/8 Latin-jazz styles found in big band and combo jazz charts. Of all the Cuban rhythms and styles, 6/8-based patterns maintain the strongest and most direct ties to Cuba’s West African roots.



Songo most commonly refers to a timbale/drum set pattern created in the 1970s by the famous Cuban percussionist, José “Changuito” Luis Quintana, who played with the Cuban super group Los Van Van.



Boléro is one of Cuba’s oldest, most synthesized and exported musical styles. Its slower and ballad-like pace and typical emotion-laden melodies evoke the tropical, passionate image of Cuba and the Caribbean that has endured for over 100 years.



Samba is a broad style-indicator that includes hundreds of sub-styles. In American jazz terminology, samba usually means a jazz samba, with roots in the carnival, parade-style music originating from the mostly black neighborhoods (favelas) of Rio de Janeiro.


Bossa Nova

Originating in the late 1950s in urban areas of Brazil, bossa nova, which translates to the “new thing,” became a hugely popular music and dance trend in the 1960s. Not as percussion-heavy as samba, but greatly influenced by it, bossa can be played by anything from a single guitar to a large orchestra or jazz ensemble.



This deceptively simple but energetic style of rhythm and dance comes from the zabumba groups of the northern Brazil state of Bahia. The style became prominent in Brazil in the mid 1940s, when Luis Gonzaga, one of the earliest and most notable baião artists, was heard over radio stations playing the hit song, “Baião.”


Partido Alto

Partido alto, like other rhythms listed here, is both a song-style and a rhythm. Coming from the African roots of rural sections of southeast Brazil, partido alto is rhythmically defined by its two-bar, two-note melodic pattern that can be played by agogô bells, cuica, pandeiro, tamborim, drum set, any of the family of Brazilian string instruments (guitar, cuatro or cavaquinho) or any melodic instruments.



Calypso emerged from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the early 19th century and is a combination of West African, French, English and Spanish colonial influences. When slavery was abolished in 1834 and “carnival” emerged as an important, populist and musically competitive event, calypso became a distinct musical style.



This energetic, fast-paced music from the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, remains a popular dance style and an important part of the contemporary dance club repertoire. Although not as common as some of the other styles presented here, Merengue is appearing increasingly on the jazz stage.