Finding A Latin Groove – Part 1

When playing chord melodies you are a one man band! If you want your listeners to tap their feet to your Latin tunes… you need to ” find the groooooove”. In today’s lesson, we will work with a simple (im7 – iim7b5 – V7 – im7) chord progression in the key of Am [Am7 – Bm7b5 – E7 – Am7]. Our band (which is just you) today will consist of a bass player and rhythm chord player.

Latin Rhythm Exercise 1
Chord Fingerings

This is not as hard as it sounds, but it does take a while to get. And…. there is an effective process that I use to help my students learn it.

1st. This is a finger style song using your thumb, index, middle, and ring finger to pluck with. Try and make the chords sound decent before trying the rhythm. When playing Am7, thumb=6th string, index=4th string, middle=3rd string, ring=2nd srtring. Thus, pluck strings 6,4,3,2 (not 5 or 1) at the same time. If it sounds good, move to the next: Bm7b5: pluck same strings, but you’re fingering a new chord…. E7: pluck same strings, but you’re fingering a new chord…. Am9 is just a way to end the progression (an extension of Am7).

2nd. Focus on the bass line – the thumb does all the work. This is done on purpose. You will not have to worry about moving your thumb around for this exercise. It is always plucking the 6th string. You can focus on the “groove” (rhythm). When plucking the strings with your index, middle, and ring finger, hold the fingers together as a unit. You should be able to feel the sides of the fingers touching each other. Once you get the hang of this, it makes it a lot easier.

3rd. Now that you have the picking hand working, it’s time to work with the fretboard hand. The idea is to create separation of parts (bass player and chord player). By relaxing your hand just after plucking the small chords with your fingers, a punchy chordal rhythmic pattern can be produced. At the “same time” remember that you want the bass notes to sound relaxed and ringing (especially when the 6th string is open). Take a listen to the MP3, you will hear the feeling of two players.

Your main goal is to create a nice Latin groove with a bass line. If you came up with something different but it accomplished this goal…. you’re there! If you have any questions about this lesson, I would be more than happy to answer them.


Also check out… Finding A Latin Groove – Part 2