How to Play Cumbia Bass

🔊Welcome! 👉🏻today we are going to learn how to play this👇🏻

como tocar cumbia en bajo 10

10 Bass Cumbia Bass Ornaments

Once again your bass teacher Ernesto Martin is here. Today we are going to see a very fun latin style that you can play on the electric bass. By the end of this lesson you will know how to play cumbia on the 4 string electric bass.
Cumbia is a very easy latin style for the beginner bass player, so with this lesson you will surely be able to play it.
It is a folkloric style of Colombian origin deeply rooted in the indigenous culture, but the truth is that cumbia has been spreading over the decades to many more countries. Cumbia is played in many Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and in turn, has derived in specific styles in each country. We also play it in Spain, and surely people all over the world have danced to the rhythm of cumbia at some time.
The truth is that the electric bass is a fundamental element for this style to sound like cumbia, that is to say, cumbia needs an instrument that plays the bass, such as an electric bass or a double bass. In addition, the rhythmic pattern or rhythmic patterns that we will now see are very important within the genre.

This is a lesson of cumbia rhythms for bass guitar with tablature. If you are just starting to play bass, you will be able to follow it perfectly.

The cumbia rhythms for bass are based on rhythmic figures such as, black and eighth notes. So, I advise you, if you still don’t know the value of these figures and how to play them, check the rhythmic reading lesson for electric bass that you also have available in this website.

Well, for this lesson we are going to need to explain a series of concepts.

👉🏻Cumbia Chord Changes

Let’s focus on a cumbia with two major chords. Such as the classic Colombian song “La pollera Colorá”. The cumbia is not very complex harmonically, with this I do not mean that there are not more elaborate cumbias as far as harmony is concerned. But basically it is a style that is nourished mainly by two chords.

As you have already studied in some lessons here, the tonic chord is the I degree of the key and the dominant chord is the V degree.
Well, with these chords we are going to work in this lesson.
We are going to play 10 cumbia patterns in the key of D major. This means what:

  • D major will be the grade I (tonic)
  • A major will be the grade V (dominant)

You can review the major chord and the major arpeggio if you have any doubts, before you start working on this cumbia bass lesson.

👉🏻Cumbia Rhythms for Bass

The basic cumbia rhythmic pattern is not difficult as it uses the notes in the ground parts of the measure. This means that in the beginning we do not have any counterpoints, which is something more difficult. Another characteristic is that the basic pattern does not use syncopations, therefore it is a simpler style to initiate us in the Latin rhythms with our bass.

The articulation of the bass in cumbia

We must keep in mind that for a cumbia to sound with flavor, and by this I mean that we play with our bass adapted to the style, we must master the articulation that this latin style needs.
Basically, we need to shorten all the notes a little bit when we play them.
This is going to be really the hardest thing to achieve for a beginner. I mean, you will have to play the musical figure, either a quarter note or an eighth note, and you will have to turn off its duration with the opposite finger.
This articulation is what we call staccato in music and it is written with a dot above the note, and this means that we will have to play or articulate the note with approximately half the value of what it really lasts. Let’s listen to an example of the difference between notes without staccato and notes with staccato.

staccato con el bajo

If you want to play well the cumbia style on the Bass you will have to master the staccato.
Did you hear that right? To achieve this articulation technique you will have to put the opposite finger to stop the string and also stop pressing with your left hand. This technique requires coordination so if you are a beginner bass player it will be difficult at first.
Practice with this audio until you get the correct articulation of the cumbia and then you can start with the following exercises.

Ok, having explained the cumbia articulation let’s start with the cumbia patterns for bass.
We are going to use only these intervals in each chord, review them if you have doubts:

  • Tonic or fundamental
  • Major third of the chord
  • Just fifth of the chord
  • Just octave

⭐️Playing bass cumbia 1

🔊listen and play

tocando el bajo cumbia


To begin with we are going to make a basic cumbia bass pattern using the notes of the chord, tonic and fifth and adding two eighth notes to give a little mobility. All this pattern, as you can see or rather as you can hear, is played with the articulation technique we have explained before, the staccato.

⭐️Playing bass Cumbia 2

🔊Listen and play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 2

The second rhythmic pattern of bass cumbia that I propose is based on the tonic, the fifth and the octave of the fifth bass. If you notice this will give us a lot of rhythmic mobility, the addition of the eighth notes pushes the quarter note figure of the third beat. Although the first quarter note is articulated as a staccato note, you should also play it normally until you feel comfortable with the swing of the cumbia.

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 3

🔊Lisyen and play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 3

In the third rhythmic pattern we will use the same rhythm. One quarter note two eighth notes, one quarter note two eighth notes. This time we will play the tonic fifth and octave pattern, very characteristic in cumbia rhythms and also in Latin rhythms. As you will see, you will have to master the tonic fifth octave accompaniment with the bass to play different styles that use it. With the left hand we will play the tonic with finger one, the fifth with finger three, and the octave with the little finger.

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 4

🔊Listen and Play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 4

Okay, now it’s time to change chords. The three previous patterns corresponded to the D major chord, next we are going to see three patterns for the A major chord and then we will join the two chords.
This time we will play three crotchets in A and in the last beat we will introduce two eighth notes to give mobility and push the crotchet that comes in the next measure in strong part.
As you will see we are using the tonic and fifth pattern, where the fifth what is in a low octave.

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 5

🔊Listen and Play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 5

Now, in the 5th cumbia bass pattern we will play only crotchets. But be careful, they are going to be crotchets played all with staccato, so that you get used to this technique, besides, it is not as easy as it seems because we have to alternate between the sharp fifth and the low fifth. The difficulty of this chord resides in the fact that the low fifth is played with an open string on the 4-string bass, and this destabilizes the staccato a little bit.
When we have to do staccato with an open string it is a little more difficult, since we have no way to control the duration of the note with the left hand without pressing down. We will have to lower the hand and rest it on the string to mute it. This is more difficult, but go for it bassist!

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 6

🔊Listen and play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 6

Well, pattern 6 is simple and we have already played it before for the D major chord.
We will play the tonic and then followed in eighth notes the fifth of the chord and the octave. Even though I said that the quarter notes should be played staccato, don’t do it. Play them for their full duration and you will notice the swing of the cumbia, or the sway of the cumbia, which is where the fun is.

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 7

🔊Listen and Play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 7

Well… and now to fly. It’s time to put together the two cumbia bass chords we’ve been studying.
We will make two measures, one measure with the D major chord pattern and another measure with the A major chord. In this case it’s going to be simple for you, quarter note rhythm and we play the tonic and the fifth on each chord.
⚠️Caution. Whenever we are going to play the tonic of a chord and we have just played the fifth of the previous chord, if it repeats, as it is the case, we must play the fifth of the chord we are going to play and then the tonic. Uff… What a mess!
That’s what happens in this cumbia bass pattern. The fifth of D is the note La, and the next chord after D is La. It would be very ugly to repeat that note, therefore, what we have to do is to change it for the fifth of the chord, in this case, the fifth of the A chord is E, then we will play the tonic of the chord without problems. Understood?

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 8

🔊Listen and Play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 8

Now in this pattern, we will apply what we have seen previously. When we play the A chord, we will enter by playing the fifth of the chord, in this case E.
This pattern is very fun to play and it is also very practical. As long as you have two major chords you will be able to use it without any problem, so keep it in your cumbia bass notes wallet.
As I said before, play the crotchet figure without staccato and you will get the cumbia swing.

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 9

🔊Listen and Play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 9

We are nearing the end of this cumbia bass lesson and we are going to incorporate more chord notes into our patterns.
Now it’s the turn of the bass major arpeggio and building the cumbia rhythm pattern on each chord.
We will play a rhythm with the tonic, the major third and the fifth of each chord, crotchet-quaver will be enough to get one of the most characteristic cumbia bass patterns. Another one to keep in your portfolio of cumbia bass notes.

⭐️Playing Bass Cumbia 10

🔊Listen and Play

como tocar cumbia en bajo 10

Finally, I propose a much more advanced cumbia bass pattern, but at the same time very fun and very pleasant to listen to.

If you notice, the rhythm does not go beyond the pattern we have played before, but the difference is that we will have to articulate the major arpeggio with a little glissando in our left hand. By this I mean that we will have to slide the hand without stopping pressing the note to get this sound appreciated in the bass.

You should follow the tablature carefully and listen to the audio. Try to imitate the sound, for it we change the position of fingers and we will make the slide or drag with our little finger.

I hope that with these cumbia rhythms for bass you have been able to get closer to this fun style of playing.

Now it’s your turn to leave me any comment you want and I will answer you.

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