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Cuban Masters Series Guitar – Bordoneo

Bordoneo - Strumming

In this Cuban guitar masters class, Dayron Ortega talks about the different strumming that is done in Cuban music.

[S3VIDEO file='video/Guitar/Bordoneo-Strumming.mp4']


The bordoneo is very characteristic in the trova. This pattern was common to even the guitarists that had limited academic training. For example, we play the B7 chord like this… (demonstrates with the guitar)

Back in the day, half of the troubadours who played B7 used to do a simple switch with the fingers, and for them that was the B7 chord, because they used the bordoneo a lot. (demonstrates with the guitar)

In vocal songs, the bordoneo technique would occur whenever they stopped singing, because it is impossible for someone to sing and do the bordoneo at the same time. When there was a separate singer and a solo guitarist, the song was very colorful, because the guitarist would complement whatever the singer would do.

The same happens when there is no bass player, in the case of the son. The guitarist must take… (plays the guitar) must… [assume] the bassist’s role, so that everything sounds a little bit fuller. When there is a tres player and a singer, the guitarist plays the bass line only (demonstrates with the guitar).

The guitarist practically becomes the left hand of the piano. The pianist's right hand is playing the tumbao, even though both hands sometimes play the tumbao. There are parts where the piano has to punch the chords, and in those cases, the guitar comes in to play that role and simplify what we do with the piano.

Let’s remember that a peasant is not going to have a piano, so obviously they used the guitar, sometimes a tres and guitar, and in the case of changüí, tres without guitar. Usually the instrumentation would be based on whatever they had at hand. Thus, the guitar played an important role in all different types of instrumental and vocal groups.

Some people call the guitar the harmonic güiro, because it plays the chord but does not go too deep into the harmony, and it is a bit more rhythmic (plays the guitar).

For instance, it is the rayado that intertwines with the maraca, the clave, and the güiro, and creates a thick rhythmic base. And because it has the harmonic part, the guitar is practically the belly of a sextet; below is the bass, in the center the guitar, and above, the tres. In the case of peasant music, there is another element above, which is the lute. The lute plays melodies when the singer doesn’t (plays the guitar), and then continues back and forth.

There are times in the punto guajiro where there is no double bass. Here the guitar alternates its role between a harmonic and a rhythmic instrument. The guitar is the simplification of all of these elements in the case of a sextet.