Montunos Made Easy!
The grooves found in Latin music are full of intriguing rhythmic options. Here’s how to cop that vibe to make the music dance!
- Learn how to create infectious Latin riffs.
- Apply elements of tres guitar technique to the standard 6-string.
- Understand how to play major and minor montunos.
A montuno is a two-measure improvised pattern that you can use to add some authentic Afro-Cuban spice to your Latin-style playing. This pattern follows the clave. A clave is the foundation of nearly all Latin music. In our examples we will be using the 2-3 clave, which refers to how many hits are in each measure. (The first measure will have two and the second will have three.) Each example will start off with the clave pattern. This will help you get the sound in your ear.
The first montunos were played by the tres—a 6-string guitar-like instrument where each pair of strings are tuned in either unison or octaves. The most common tuning is G–C–E. This creates a unique sound with the lowest string doubled an octave higher and the other strings doubled in unison.
In Ex. 1, I play a montuno in the key of A major, using a I–IV–V progression (A–D–E) so you can easily hear the chords move along. To imitate the lowest strings on the tres, I'll play octaves on the top and bottom of each chord. Always be mindful of good voice leading. Knowing all your chord inversions is super helpful when coming up with strong voice leading. You'll also notice I'm not using any extensions on these chords—they're all just basic triads. Later you'll see how we can add more advanced harmonic ideas by using passing chords and substitutions.
Now I'll take the same chords as in the previous example, but voice them differently (Ex. 2). By inverting the chords you can give the effect of a subtle change without altering the chord structure. You'll start to notice by listening and playing these examples that there is a greater emphasis on beat 4 than on beat 1. Listen to the clave and the bass player, it will help you feel the groove. In this example, I also moved away from having the octaves on each chord. It still sounds great!
Montunos are traditionally used in solo sections, which are often just one- or two-chord vamps. Ex. 3 is over a C7 vamp. I start with a C triad in 1st inversion, which allows me to have E as my top and bottom note with G and C in between. I take this exact fingering and move it down a whole-step to create a D–F–Bb voicing of a Bb triad. Those notes are the 9, 11, and b7 of a C7 chord. I then move up a half-step to create a passing chord to get me back to my original C triad voicing. Whenever you play a chord a half-step below or above where you're headed, it creates a leading-tone effect. You don't need to over-analyze this—it just sounds cool.
For Ex. 4, let's start looking at some minor-key montunos. This time our chord progression will be Am–F–E–F. You'll notice that again these are all triads. This style of music employs the clever use of basic harmonic materials combined with African rhythms to create an exciting sound. This example will feature our octaves as outer voices. Our Am chord is in 2nd inversion, yielding E as the highest and lowest note. Both the F and E chords are in root position.
We'll use the same chord progression in Ex. 5, but we'll revoice our chords for a new sound. Now our Am chord will be in root position, which gives us an A on the outside voices. Our F and E chords will be in 1st inversion, thus giving us A and G#, respectively, as our outside voices. I encourage you to come up with your own voicings for these exercises.
For our final example (Ex. 6), I'll demonstrate a montuno over Am–E7. As I outline the two chords, I'll lean heavily on the note F. Against the E7 chord, the F functions as a b9. This creates a nice tension that makes E7 want to resolve to the Am. Delaying the resolution of the E7 chord for two bars really helps heighten this tension.
As with any style, you need to listen to the masters and imitate what they do. Start with Tito Puente and work your way forward and backward from there.
Sweetwater vs. Reverb
Which one do you prefer?
Rhett and Zach unpack the big news for secondhand guitar sellers and buyers: Sweetwater has launched their new Gear Exchange. How does it compare to Reverb, Craigslist, and Marketplace? To find out, Zach takes the site for a spin and buys a pedal. He calls the process both “very easy” and “normal.” They discuss the pros and cons of the various used-gear outlets and share tips for not getting got when buying gear. Plus, Zach grew a mustache, Mythos Pedals is moving, and he talks about his forthcoming line of Strat pickups inspired by Hendrix’s reverse-stagger setup.
Sweetwater vs. Reverb
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Supro Introduces All-New Royale Head and 1x12 Cab
The Royale was designed to deliver loud and vivid clean tone with a responsive, tactile low end.
Designed to offer massive headroom, the 50-watt Royale Head lets you indulge in smooth clean tones at even higher volumes on stage without any breakup. Select between class A and class AB modes, with its variable mode switch, so you can choose between gushing Supro tone or a punchier, tight midrange response.
Introducing the Royale Head & Extension Cabinet | Supro
The Royale 1x12 Extension Cabinet features the custom Supro BD12 high-power driver, offering the same mid-range punch and clean articulation as the Royale combo but with additional stage volume. More info: suprousa.com.
Royale Head | $1,499.99
Royale Cab | $669.99
D’Addario Foundation Kicks-Off Education Initiative with Online Auction
D'Addario Foundation's education project sets out to help schools throughout the country and kicks off with an online auction.
The D’Addario Foundation will host a virtual auction from November 9 to November 30, 2022, with the overarching goal of raising $30,000 for the D'Addario Foundation’s Immersive Music Challenge.
Inspired by a new study published in the Journal of Youth Development, the D'Addario Foundation recently launched the Immersive Music Challenge. This ambitious project will help school districts and charter systems throughout the country boost academic achievement by implementing effective, multi-day-per-week music-based mentoring programs that include training, administration, and evaluation. The D’Addario Foundation has invested in an incredible team of consultants that include school superintendents, public health experts, and data analysts to ensure sound results. In addition, D’Addario is actively seeking corporate partners to support the establishment of these programs and champion their success.
Thanks to the generosity of D'Addario artists and industry partners including Gibson, PRS Guitars, D'Angelico, Taylor Guitars, and more, one-of-a-kind items & experiences are up for bidding. Some of the items include:
- Evans Drumhead signed by Anderson Paak
- ESP Mirage Deluxe '87 Signed by Bruce Kulick of KISS and Grand Funk Railroad
- Gibson Les Paul Custom electric guitar
- D'Addario bass string set signed by Bryan Beller of the Aristocrats
- PRS S2 McCarty 594 Singlecut
- Virtual Lesson with Marty Schwartz
Xotic Effects Introduces Revamped RC Booster
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Xotic Effects unveils an updated version of their classic boost pedal.
Xotic’s RC Booster pedal is back to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The RC Booster’s original design was a customer favorite due to its versatile clean boost, active treble, bass, gain and volume controls. This classic reissue will join their regular pedal lineup permanently.
• Transparent boost pedal for electric guitar
• Up to 20dB of boost for adding volume or sending your amp into overdrive
• Treble and bass EQ controls with +/-15dB range for fine-tuning your sound
• True bypass switching removes the effect from your signal path when disengaged
• Powered via 9-volt battery or optional AC adapter (sold separately)
• 9-18 volts
The first 1000 pedals will contain a special limited edition packaging with special items and actual guitar picks from Andy Timmons, Paul Jackson Jr, Dean Brown, Kirk Fletcher, Allen Hinds, Chris Duarte, Scott Henderson, Oz Noy, Michael Thompson, Yuya Komoguchi, Toshi Yanagi.
RC Booster with limited edition packaging street price is $172.00. More info: xotic.us.