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Cuban Masters Series Piano – Cha-cha-chá

In this episode, Emilio Morales discusses the Cha-cha-chá.

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The cha-cha-chá is a style that is majestic in essence.

This is an example of a famous Cuban cha-cha-chá pattern, whose chorus goes: (plays the piano).

“Drink chocolate, pay what you owe, drink chocolate and pay what you owe.”

The bass, which as I said before, should always be kept in mind by the pianist, would go like… (plays the piano and the bass) …and while the bass is going like this, the piano responds with a type of counterpoint: (plays a montuno)

The first thing that a pianist must do in order to establish a montuno (whether it be a cha-cha-chá, a son, a guaracha, or any style of Cuban music), is to have a clear notion of the harmonic progressions he will use.

If the harmony were like this: AM (plays the chord), D7 (plays the chord), GMAJ7 (plays the chord), and EM (plays the chord), he has to find a way, a harmonic link that would bind them all.

The progression shouldn't sound scattered; the A chord here (plays the chord), the D chord there (plays the chord), the G chord over there (plays the chord), the E chord here (plays the chord)…

One way to have cohesion is through the use of common tones. Common tones are notes that are shared in all four chords, and it would be… (plays the piano), and we establish the harmonic link: (plays the piano).

Once we have established these links, we can play cha-cha-chá's rhythmic cell, which is: the right hand on the beat and the left hand on the offbeat. Play the same chord on both hands. It would sound like this: (plays the piano)

The pianist can play variations at his will. He can also add… (plays the piano)

The latter would be for the chorus, although the pianist can hint at his part from the beginning of the piece…(plays the piano).

The most important things to keep in mind are the harmonic progressions and cha-cha-chá's basic rhythmic cells. Again, one hand on the beat—that would be this one… (plays the piano)—and the left hand responds… (plays the piano).

This is the other cha-cha-chá montuno; the use of either is determined by the pianist’s tastes. It goes like this… (plays the piano).

Remember, the bass part is always constant… (plays the piano).

This cha-cha-chá montuno is from the example that is included in the ensemble section: La Meneíto. The chorus goes like this: (plays the piano). The harmony plays two chords: (plays the piano). Playing it according to what I explained before would sound like this:

(plays the piano and sings) “La Meneíto, la Meneíto, la Meneíto”