The Goal: Play a two-hand Montuno Pattern over the Pulse

day 3 - montunoAs we continue to learn our montunos, it is important to understand it’s relationship to the pulse. The pulse is felt on beats “1” & “3” and the easiest way to explain it in words, it would be the beat we would naturally tap our foot to when listening to music. Instinctively, we tend to feel this “pulse” on those beats so it’s a great start to feel the montuno rhythm against it.

In the following example, let’s see how the montuno lines up with the pulse. If you find it difficult to get a comfortable feel with the montuno against the pulse, you can also use quarter notes in the beginning to see where each beat falls. However, it is the pulse that maintains the stability of the montuno so we will add some exercises in a future lesson that will increase your ability to feel the pulse against the other rhythmic patterns.


Typical Montuno Rhythm over Pulse

A solid montuno pattern is one that creates a balance between repetition and variation and does not distract from the featured instrument or singer. It sort of stays out of the way while providing a great sounding support. The example below is to be played over a 2-3 clave and we will see exactly why that is important in a future lesson. For now, let’s listen to what it sounds like and get a feel for the syncopated rhythm.

Right hand Typical C6 Montuno Pattern over pulse-1


Bringing in the Left Hand

Now it’s time to add our left hand since all salsa piano players will be playing montunos with both hands. Fortunately, there is a direct relationship between the rhythms in both hands so adding the left hand will most likely prove easier than you expect.

In the example below you will notice that we start using quarter notes instead of 8th notes. This is because montuno is legato and should not be interpreted mathematically. We used 8th notes in the previous examples to make it easy to understand how it lines up with the pulse and clave. Do not become rigid in your interpretation of these rhythms as montunos are hardly ever written out. Be sure to not get caught up in the notation but more in the ‘feeling’ of these montunos and most importantly, have fun!

Two-hand Typical C6 Montuno Pattern over pulse