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Cuban Instruments

Old Cuban Instrument (© 1996 Jon Griffin)

Cuba is home to many unique instruments, and these pages will explore them. You will learn about not only the instruments, but also the context in which they are used and musical examples.

Bata Drums - The Sacred Drums of Cuba

By Olavo Alen Rodriguez and Jon Griffin The batá drums are the sacred instruments of Cuban Santería. They are made up of three hourglass-shaped drums of different sizes that perform specific musical functions. Their main religious function is th...
Bongos – The Most Cuban Instrument

Bongos – The Most Cuban Instrument

Cuban Bongo By Olavo Alén Rodríguez © 2009 Jon Griffin This Cuban musical instrument was born in the context of the complex musical styles that pertain to the Son, in the mountainous regions of the eastern extreme of the country. It consists of...
Claves - The Composers Best Friend in Cuban Music

Claves - The Composers Best Friend in Cuban Music

By Jon Griffin  and Olavo Alen Rodriguez The claves are a musical instrument of Cuban origin and are classified as a member of percussion family. The instrument is comprised of two separate wooden sticks that are cylindrical in shape. To play the i...
Cuban Laud - The 12 String Guitar From Cuba

Cuban Laud - The 12 String Guitar From Cuba

The Cuban laud is a 12 string instrument originally from the Arabic ood, although it is much changed since than and bears little resemblance today. The main use of the instrument historically was playing punto guajiro  music which was traditionally p...
Cuban Tres - Tres Cubano (The 3 String Cuban Guitar)

Cuban Tres - Tres Cubano (The 3 String Cuban Guitar)

By Jon Griffin The first thing to understand about the Cuban tres is that it is a rhythm instrument. Even though it looks like a guitar, the actual playing of it is rhythmic with melodic lines. Chords are seldom “strummed”, and in many styles the...
Cuban Tres Examples - Son Montuno

Cuban Tres Examples - Son Montuno

By Jon Griffin Here are some more examples of patterns and parts the Cuban tres would play. Son & Son Montuno Son and Son Montuno are basically the same thing. The main difference is that the Son does not have two distinct sections. Like...
Marimbula - The Cuban Thumb Piano

Marimbula - The Cuban Thumb Piano

By Jon Griffin The Marimbula belongs to sansa family of that originated from the Bantu cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. The sansa instruments create sound by plucking or striking the metal fingers. Sansas also include the Kalimba or African thumb piano....
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