Jan 15,2011


At our next practice, I'd like to see if our rhythm section can't come together on a Latin beat for "Spanish Eyes."  Here's a simple pattern that would work.  Learn it in two steps.

Step One.  Think of each measure as being divided into 8 eighth notes.  You are going to strum the chords with a strictly alternating down-up stroke by the right hand:

1            2        3          4         5           6          7          8         1          2          3         4.....

down  - up – down  -  up  -  down   -  up  -  down  -  up  -  down  -  up  -  down  -  up, etc.


Get an easy chord for the left hand, then leave it there—this step is all about the right hand. Practice this up and down movement at a slow metronome speed, then gradually (over a 30 minute period) bring it up to tempo.  I find it is helpful to count the beat numbers out loud as I practice. The idea is to get the right hand so familiar with the steady down/up movement that you can do it no matter what else is going on (e.g., while you’re watching the news on TV).  Put the right hand on auto pilot—it’s going to continue this steady up-down pattern until the song is finished. 

Step Two.  Now what can we add to make it sound Latin?  Nothing.  To the contrary, we need to subtract two things to make it sound Latin. 

First, we'll simply omit the 3rd beat in each measure.  Notice we don't omit the 3rd stroke, only the 3rd beat.  That is, continue moving your right hand up and down in its regular motion but when you come to the down stroke that would produce the 3rd beat, just "miss" the strings with the pick as the hand moves down, resuming contact with the strings again as the hand moves up for the 4th "up" beat, etc. Again, start at a slow metronome speed and gradually (over a 2-3 day period) bring it up to tempo.

Second, keeping the right hand with its steady up and down movement, we eliminate the ringing of the chord on beat 2 by using the left hand to stop the vibration of the strings after the beat. That means beat 2 will  be a short, staccato beat.

I think it would be interesting to play Spanish Eyes the first time with our usual 4/4 rhythm, then do the second chorus with a horn solo and this Latin beat from our rhythm players.  To allow the audience to feel the new Latin beat, that beat should not be heard during the first chorus.

Give it a try (15 minutes every day) and we'll see how it's beginning to sound on the 23rd.                                                                                                                   

Bill Andersen