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Salsa & Merengue
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Revealing Items

Exploding Myths
Salsa: The Music
Salsa: The Dance
A History Of Salsa
Merengue: The Music
Merengue: The Dance
A History Of Merengue
Glossary: Rhythms & Styles (A–M)
Glossary: Rhythms & Styles (N–Z)
Glossary: Band Instrumentation
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Band Instrumentation

Became extremely popular in the 1950s because of its sweeter sound when the brass section was substituted with violins and the Cuban ebony flute. The vallenata variant from Colombia features the accordion.

    Percussion: timbales, güiro, conga.
    Bass: piano, bass.
    Melody: violin, flute, accordion.
A Cuban version of the North American jazz combos.
    Percussion: drum kit, congas, timbales (plus other assorted Cuban percussion)
    Bass: piano, bass.
    Melody: saxophone, trumpet, electric guitar.
(Conga de) Comparsa
Originated as a slaves' march through the towns on special occasions, now used to interpret carnaval music with improvised percussion instruments.
    Percussion: congas, bombo, sartenes, campana.
    Melody: trumpets, corneta china (chinese trumpet).
Best known and popular successor to the son groups. Developed in the cities, possibly from septetos.
    Percussion: conga, bongó, güiro, maracas, clave.
    Bass: piano, tres, bass.
    Melody: three or four piece brass section, usually trumpet.
Modern combinations not falling under any particular category.
    Percussion: conga, timbales, bongó (and campana), maracas, clave.
    Bass: piano, bass.
    Melody: brass, strings, woodwind.
Grupo de Guaguancó
Instrumentation for groups interpreting rumbas.
    Percussion: conga, cajón, palitos, cucharas, clave, shaker.
    Bass: botíja.
    Melody: guitar.
Orquesta Típica
An old type of orchestra used to interpret the contradanza criolla.
    Percussion: güiro, timpani (later replaced with timbales).
    Bass and melody: brass, strings, woodwinds.
As the sexteto with the addition of a trumpet, founded by Septeto Nacional in the late 1920s.
    Percussion: bongó, maracas, clave.
    Bass: contrabass.
    Melody: guitar, tres, trumpet.
Instrumentation founded by Sexteto Habanero in the early 1920s.
    Percussion: bongó, maracas, clave.
    Bass: contrabass.
    Melody: guitar, tres.
The oldest form is vocals accompanied by guitar and tres (guitar with three double strings). Other instruments were added later.
    Percussion: bongó, maracas, güiro and clave.
    Bass: marimbula (African thumb piano) and botíja (a ceramic oil jug).
    Melody: guitar, tres, and later trumpet.
Please note
We've split up the rhythm section into two: percussion and bass. The instruments are therefore segregated (loosely) into three sections based on their roles. However, roles do overlap or interchange between bands.
Percussion section: instruments of limited melodic range used for constructing the rhythm layer.
Bass section: melodic instruments that also have a percussive role in constructing the rhythm layer.
Melody section: melodic instruments that play on top of the rhythm layer.

1999 Salsa & Merengue Society