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Beyond Salsa: The Bass and Piano in Contemporary Cuban Dance Music



The Latin Pulse with Michael Lazarus: Beyond Salsa: Interaction Between The Bass and Piano in Contemporary Cuban Dance Music

Meet Michael Lazarus

One of the great things about playing timba is that you get the chance to play in a band with multiple drummers. A typical configuration for the rhythm section is bass and piano, congas, timbales and drumset. As a bassist this liberates you because all the subdivisions within the beat are already being articulated by the percussion -so you get to decide which ones to highlight or feature for each particular song. This means you can play off the kick drum part, the whole kit, the timbale part or the congas.  Unlike many types of North American music (rock n’ roll, pop, soul, etc.), where the bass and kick drum are expected to lock with each other as a fundamental part of the groove, in Cuban music the kick drum is an independent voice. One of the funkiest aspects of a timba groove is hearing the kick drum punching through the holes of the bass movement.

While salsa bassists have a standardized, repetitive bombo-ponche (and of 2 and 4) bass movement, which the dancers use as a metronome to count their dance steps, timba bass movement plays off the clave in all kinds of ingenious and different ways (read my first three articles here on BMM). To go off on a tangent for a second, in my opinion this is part of the reason salsa dancers have such a hard time making a transition to Cuban style social dancing, as they are not following the clave per se and use the bass as a crutch.  As Yorgis confirmed in the last article, timba bass can be thought of the art creating of clave based, melodic loops over a specific harmonic progression.

…..which brings us to the piano. If you are playing timba in band you’ll quickly realize that the old school, traditional piano montunos only go so far, and a whole different concept is needed to play up to par with your bass and percussion matrix. Your bass groove is integrated harmonically with the piano and h or she is the one filling the spaces you selectively leave. Hip your piano chair to this with a new series of instructional piano books called Beyond Salsa Piano. It covers the history of Cuban piano movement from the 1910’s all the way to the 80’s (Volumes 1-4) and then beyond salsa into the Cuban timba revolution (Volume 5). In this article we’ll work off excerpts from Volumes 6 & 7, which cover the individual style of Iván “Melón” Lewis. A legend in Cuba, Mr. Lewis is still relatively unknown but in my opinion perhaps the greatest keyboard genius in the history of Latin dance music.

Before taking a listen to the following audio samples, please note that they are stereo separated. The Alaín Pérez bass part is on the right and the Melón piano part is on the left. Use your balance control on your stereo to isolate each channel.

Here we go….

Volume 6 – La Vida Sin Esperanza

Download the audio sample here – la-vida-sin-esperanza-bass

Download the piano transcription here (BSP-Vol6-LaVida)

The bass movement of La Vida Sin Esperanza contains all the trends we previously discussed -heavy downbeats on the 20-side, emphasis on the second stroke of the 3-side, omission of the 1 on the 3-side- and the piano shadows the 1-2-3 movement of the first three quarter notes. Here is the first clue to why the old school salsa approach won’t work. To lock in with the bass (and percussion) the pianist has to essentially memorize the piano part like a classical piece, play it note for note, and understand that it’s a riff that belongs with this specific song. There are more sophisticated approaches to the piano parts like “theme and variations” and “controlled improvisation” but that lies outside the scope of this article (read the Beyond Salsa Piano books).

Volume 7 – Luz Viajera

Download the audio sample here (luz-viajera-bass)

Download the piano transcription here (BSP-Vol7-Luz)

Here in Luz Viajera the bass emphasizes the first stroke of the 2-side of clave (measures 1 and 3). Its cool that the piano leaves a hole for the first quarter note of the phrase. In general the piano ride provides counterpoint to the bass movement.  The and-of-three of the third measure (G minor) is another very interesting place where the piano and bass lock, or the piano goes off into variations.

For both these tunes and for the style in general, the bass movement has a stock theme over the chord changes and then spins off into variations. I hope I’ve spiked your interest enough to play these examples through with your fellow pianist. Cheers.


–       Audio tracks and transcriptions used by permission from Kevin Moore, editor-in-chief of and author of the Beyond Salsa Piano series of instructional books.

–       All content ©2010 Michael P. Lazarus

Bass Videos

Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan



Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

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Bass CDs

Album Review: Mark Egan, Cross Currents



Album Review: Mark Egan, Cross Currents

Mark Egan, Cross Currents…

It is exciting every time I get a new album from Mark Egan as he is such an amazingly versatile player and I never know what to expect (except for excellent artistry!) In his latest release, Mark has teamed up with Shawn Peyton on drums and Shane Theriot on guitar to bring us “Cross Currents”.

This collection of eleven tracks transports me to the Gulf Coast (New Orleans specifically). Mark’s fretless basses lay down a solid groove and lots of juicy solo work for this rootsy collection of funk, ambient, swamp-rock, second line, ballads, Cajun and even Indian Raga.

This trio is super-tight and the musicianship is flawless as each member has ample opportunity to shine. Even though each player is very talented in their own right, I feel that the collective energy is greater than just the sum of the players on this album. Each musician contributed to composing music for this project but the lion’s share are Mark’s original pieces.

I spent the summer of 1981 in New Orleans and this wonderful music takes me back to those fond memories. I participated in a wacky raft race on Lake Ponchatrain and this opening track elicits images of fun, sunshine, music, and great food.

This is another superb album that everyone will enjoy. Get your copy today! Cross Currents is available online at Visit Mark online at

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp



Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp: A Tribute to 90’s Iconic Sounds

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the realm of bass preamp/DI pedals, capturing the essence of iconic tones from the 90s can often feel like an elusive pursuit. However, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp emerges as a great option for bass players seeking to replicate the signature sounds of that era, particularly the revered tech21 SansAmp. With its robust feature set and compact design, the Tidal Wave offers a faithful homage to classic rock tones and low-gain distortions, all while providing modern conveniences for today’s bassist. Let’s delve into why the Joyo Tidal Wave stands out as a versatile and budget-friendly tool for both stage and studio.


Measuring at 130 * 110 * 50 mm and weighing 442g, the Joyo Tidal Wave strikes a balance between portability and durability, making it ideal for gigging musicians and studio enthusiasts alike. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Tidal Wave ensures reliable performance in a variety of settings.


At the heart of the Tidal Wave’s versatility lies its comprehensive control set, allowing bass players to sculpt their tone with precision. Key features include:

– Level: Sets the overall output volume of the pedal.

– Blend: Blends the dry signal with the cab-emulated signal, offering seamless integration of the pedal into any setup.

– Presence: Controls the dynamics of the high upper-mids, crucial for shaping drive tones.

– Drive: Introduces low-gain distortions and classic rock sounds into the clean tone.

– Treble, Middle, and Bass: Provides a 3-band EQ with frequency selectors for bass (40Hz – 80Hz) and mids (500Hz – 1KHz), offering ample control over tonal shaping.

– Middle Shift and Bass Shift: Allows for further fine-tuning of midrange and bass frequencies.

– Ground Lift: Helps eliminate ground loop noise in certain setups.

– DI Attenuation Switch: Adjusts the level of the DI output signal.

– LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal.


True to its inspiration, the Joyo Tidal Wave excels in delivering classic rock tones and low-gain distortions reminiscent of the tech21 SansAmp. Whether you’re seeking gritty overdriven sounds or pristine clean tones, the Tidal Wave offers unparalleled flexibility and sonic versatility. The inclusion of a headphone out, XLR DI out with cab simulation, and throughout for the original bass sound make the Tidal Wave a versatile tool for both stage and studio applications. From practicing silently with headphones to crafting quality recordings in an ampless setup, the Tidal Wave delivers on all fronts with clarity, definition, and unmistakable character.


The Tidal Wave boasts an array of advantages that set it apart from its direct competitors:

– Headphone Out: Transforms the pedal into a convenient practice tool.

– Size and Weight: Compact and lightweight design for easy transportation and setup.

– Rugged Construction: Durable build quality ensures longevity and reliability.

– DI and CabSim: Offers professional-grade direct recording capabilities with authentic cab simulation.

– Familiar Tones: Faithfully replicates the classic rock sounds of the tech21 SansAmp.


While the Tidal Wave excels in many aspects, it does have a few drawbacks:

– Plastic Knobs: Knobs may feel less premium compared to pedals with metal controls.

– Cab Simulation Only on XLR Output: Limited cab simulation functionality may require additional routing for certain setups.


In conclusion, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classic rock tones from the 90s. With its faithful homage to the tech21 SansAmp, comprehensive control set, and modern conveniences like headphone out and XLR DI with cab simulation, the Tidal Wave offers bassists a versatile  tool for sculpting their sound with precision and finesse. Whether you’re seeking to replicate iconic tones from the past or forge new sonic territories, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp is sure to inspire creativity and elevate your playing to new heights.

Available online at

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram



TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @cb_basses @alesvychodilbasses @odiengcustom @ramabass.ok @mauriziouberbasses @mgbassguitars @capursoguitars @thebassplace @adamovicbasses @ishguitars

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Bass CDs

New Project: NEMESIS CALL Announce “Kingdom of Shred” Album



New Project: NEMESIS CALL Announce "Kingdom of Shred" Album

ALBERTO RIGONI’s New Project NEMESIS CALL Announce “Kingdom of Shred” Album, Feat. Super Talented Guests Such as Mike Terrana, Alexandra Zerner + Many Others

Worldwide known Italian bassist and composer ALBERTO RIGONI (soloist, BAD As, Kim Bingham, Vivaldi Metal Project, etc.) announces the new album “Kingdom of Shred” of his new project NEMESIS CALL. 

Alberto says: 
“Even if my latest album “Unexpected Lullabies”, dedicated to my newborn Vittoria Parini Rigoni, was released on June 4th 2024, I felt the need to compose new music (yes, I really can’t stop!). This time will be quite challenging because I’m willing to release an instrumental shred/prog/rock/metal/melodic album, that will feature many talented top-notch musicians such as drummer Mike Terrana, Alexandra Zerner, Alexandra Lioness, Aanika Pai (11 years old!), Keiji by Zero (19 years old!), SAKI and many others TBA/TBC). It won’t be easy to manage all such great musicians but I will make it! Are you ready to face a new prog experience? The album will be released in Digipack CD and in high-quality digital format approximately at the beginning of 2025 or maybe for Christmas!.”

As an independent artist, Alberto Rigoni has launched a fundraising campaign to support the project. Support at 20% of the income will be donated to Lega del Filo d’Oro (, an Italian association that helps deaf and blind children!

Visit online at | | |

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