This lesson is intended for bassists who are new to Latin music and who cannot play or feel a tumbao rhythm. If you are already familiar with the tumbao, this exercise will be of no value to you!
tumbao exercise 1
Most blues and rock bassists should be familiar with this bass line. I call it a New Orleans rumba, but it is best known as the bass line to Elvis Presley's version of "Hound Dog". It is also often the default "Latin" bass pattern for blues.
tumbao exercise 1 mp3
tumbao exercise 2
Here the bass line has been converted to the tumbao rhythm. Beat one is played in the first bar but never again. After the first bar only the 3rd & 5th of each chord is played. To memorize and internalize this rhythm, play it and count the silent "one" of every bar. You should also sing it out loud or in your head. Sing, tap or play only the rhythm WITHOUT PITCH! Do this whenever you can! You can apply this to any music you hear that is in 4/4 time. The key is always to know where beat one falls. When this is easy for you you are ready to move on to the third and final lesson.
tumbao exercise 2 mp3
tumbao exercise 3
All that remains is to apply the correct notes for a basic Salsa tumbao. Instead of playing only the 3rd & 5th of each chord , we play the 5th followed by the root. The 5th is always anticipating the root of the next chord. This will feel "backwards" at first as we are used to playing the root first, followed by the 5th. Try adapting this exercise to other chord progressions that are familiar to you.
tumbao exercise 3 mp3
You now have the basic tumbao timing. If I were to write out a bass line in quarter notes this would be the correct basic timing for swing but it would not swing as written. In the same way , playing the tumbao as written above would not necessarily groove. I highly recommend the books below. And most important, find a good teacher and play with other experienced musicians!