rhythm for cha cha

• Jun 28, 2021 - 10:45

Hi Marc etc
sorry for annoying you. I'm in the search for the cha cha rhythm on music. i found Neon Moon - country. I'd like some from past dance halls. I know how to dance it but with teaching, I'd like to spot it on any music sheets.
1234+ 4/4 I'm not sure if each 2 bars would spread out in 8beat time or???
When we play keyboard, It says at the top what rhythm to use in some songs. But for me to make a cha cha score, that's another challenge. It's very hard to find cha cha songs in my case.
Hope you can help and not taking up too much of your time?


If you want a drumset with a Cha Cha style, I have attached a file derived from Band in a Box. I hope I'm not breaking any copyright rules since the program is excellent as a practice aid, and deserves support with an annual payment for updates. Cha Cha Drums 1.mscz

The tempo of Cha-cha-cha (or Cha-cha for short) is normally: 88~132 bpm, for dance: 128~144 bpm.
Clave rhythm is in the form of 2/3.
Although Cha-cha-cha rhythm is similar to Tango in terms of accompaniment style, both rhythms differ from each other in many ways.
It is said that Cha-cha-cha comes from Cuban rhythms: Danzon(*1) rhythm and/or Mambo rhythm, it is also possible that it is Son-Montuno at its base.
The fact that the first and last steps are doubled in dance has also caused it to be called "double-mambo" at a time.
The natural emphasis of this rhythm is on the first and third beats. However, it is not clearly articulate by the instruments. Instead: In the measure of 4/4, an oscillating (a kind of measure swing) effect dominates, which is felt as if there are two 2/4s.
This rhythm, accompanied by the guitar, does not allow for syncopations. It's rhythm be of uninterrupted fluency.

*1 Danzon rhythm is based on 3/2 clave. The first measure (see attachment) of the Danzon rhythm is known as the "cinquillo" (five-note rhythmic cell) rhythm and is always in the 3-beat part of the Clave rhythm.
In Cha-cha-cha, the "a" and "b" patterns (first and second measures) are swapped, so it turns to the 2/3 Clave pattern. Cinquillo rhythm is sometimes played by the Drummer on the hi-hat or the ride-cymbal.

It is difficult to give an exact pattern. And the reason for this varies depending on which instruments are used in the percussion and the Group.

(for Drums and Bass) Tango, Mambo or Son Montuno can be used in accompaniment.
On top of that, if a ride cymbal (or cowbell) showing the cinquillo rhythm and a 2/3 clave are used, it becomes cha cha. Congas will also diversify the rhythm.
The most important thing is the guitar patterns. For this, I have attached the most basic ones (From my own rhythm-guitar book.).

For the keyboard, simple eighth-note arpeggios or pad-chords may be better. Because there are many rhythm instruments here and the keyboard is likely to affect or disrupt them.

I also attached an MP3 I made with an old GuitarPro (in a zip file). As you can see: if you can somehow make the basic style sound, you can change everything else.

Attachment Size
cinquillo.png 10.29 KB
Chachacha-ziya.png 53.45 KB
202-Chacha.mscz 19.04 KB
Esperanza-ziyaMP3.zip 1.92 MB

In reply to by mpvick

I found a song with the beginning part played in Danzon and the second half in Cha-cha-cha style. In the second half, the saxophone improvises nicely.
Since it's a small band, there are no guitars, drums and other extra percussions. However, Conga and Piano instruments is fill this gap.


PS: There is no need to introduce the players separately, they are all masters.

In reply to by Raymond Wicquart

Brass and Saxes are well written and used as in Mambo and Cha-cha.

But the rhythm part isn't exactly Cha-cha style; Similar but missing one or two items. The rhythm is more like the Slow Beguine style. I think Mr. Bubble's arranger must have intended to write it that way; maybe he wanted a lighter cha-cha accompaniment.

Congratulations, you did a great job.

Note there are two kind of unrelated style of music that go by that name. Not entirely unrelated, but there is what a Cuban would recognize as cha-cha-cha and what an American ballroom dancer would recognize as the "anglicization" of it. "Oye Como Va" (original Tito Puente version) is what I'd mention as a familiar example of the former. The repeating accompaniment rhythm in that piece typifies the genre:

Screenshot 2021-06-29 10.15.04 PM.png

For the more Americanized ballroom dance version, though, I don't have much insight.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hi Marc!

Thanks for the feedback. I knew this song but I didn't remember its melody, it is by Guitarist Carlos Santana. I like her a lot for being happy, it serves as an even more enthusiasm in this very delicate moment that humanity is going through!
I know the key is Am doric, it seems to have only two chords (tetrads): Am7 and D7(9). Am I right? If I can get the grid with the main instruments,
I would like to work it with my students.


In reply to by mjbartemusica1

Just to clarify, as I mentioned, it is actually by Tito Puente, but Carlos certainly did a well-known cover. The original, however, is much more obviously a cha-cha-cha, whereas Carlos' version has more rock influence.

And yes, it is pretty much a two-chord pattern that repeats over and over (a "vamp").

FWIW (with my semiprofessional knowledge ;) in addition attached a score with excerpts from a workbook in my library for studying the characteristics of this rhythm.
At least written there, one characteristic is the staccato in the right hand piano and legato in the left hand (maybe also with using a guitar as rhythm instrument?).
If you're using a percussion instrument in your score, it's common to use the cowbell for the quarter beats.
If you're using a instrument for playing the bass line, you can leave out the bass line for the rhythm instrument and playing chords there instead of.
But as mentioned it's only semiprofessional knowledge ;-).

Attachment Size
Cha-Cha-Cha.mscz 23.62 KB

In reply to by kuwitt

Good examples;
I think that other forum members who are curious about this subject or just starting out can also benefit from these examples and use them in their own scores..

Most of these can be used when the Piano acts as the only accompaniment instrument.

The most familiar Cha-cha accompaniment (for piano) used in bands is the Chik-Boom-style reverse accompaniment at the end of the first page of your score (when the piano is not playing the bass line and is not the only accompaniment instrument).
The second page features variations of this accompaniment with the added bass line for piano. The bass pattern on the first line of the second page is also a beautiful and preferred pattern.

The remaining patterns are also useful in different styles besides cha-cha:

First page, first three lines: Also suitable for Beguine and 4/4 Bolero and similar style accompaniments.

First page, fourth line: It can also be used with Tango accompaniment. As a variation, it is also possible for bass (LH) to be played in the Habenera style.

Note: It's also possible for the piano to play with Montuno patterns in Cha-cha. But this can be for a more advanced level.

In reply to by kuwitt

@kuwitt... I had fun looping your examples in the player. :-).

Concerning cha-cha-cha, exact interpretation might be a regional thing. Looking through Wikipedia, I see Mexico, Cuba, east/west coast of USA, etc. can have different styles for the same 'dance'.

When listening to your first few examples, I imagined more "tango" than cha-cha-cha -- although your third example does end on the "cha-cha-cha" motif.
So does this 'tango', which borrows from your first 3 examples:

OK, so my experience with "cha-cha-cha" relates more to "wedding bands" as it relates to this particular musical style:
Tea - 4-2-Cha-Cha-Cha.mscz
BTW: Triangle was used for the "cha-cha-cha" rhythmic motif. I found that the güiro in the default soundfont was lacking.

You wrote:
The most familiar Cha-cha accompaniment (for piano) used in bands is the Chik-Boom-style reverse accompaniment at the end of the first page of your score (when the piano is not playing the bass line and is not the only accompaniment instrument).

I could imagine Beguine for some, for others I could not audealize* the "cha-cha-cha", so I pasted the percussion line from my examples into kuwitt's file.
*audealize? - like visualize, but for sounds, not images ;-)

P.S. Cobbling this stuff together by copy/paste, I re-discovered the improved layout as changes are made to the score -- resulting in much faster completion time!
Normally, I deal with only 1 or 2 staves per system. Today, these examples were easy (and fun) to work on.
(Even used SND for the trombone, and tweaked the beat strength velocities for the claves. ;-)

In reply to by Jm6stringer

You have prepared very nice examples.
It's also nice to listen to and think about. I wish there were more of these things.

a note: the original version is usually 1, 2, 3, cha-cha; cha. So the last cha goes to the first beat of the following measure. Guiro plays 1 2a 3 4a for this reason(*1). I modified the Tea 4 two example accordingly. Listen this way, what do you think?

*1: But there are also examples of 1, 2, cha cha, cha, but this shifts the rhythm by one beat. While some non-Cha-cha-cha pieces are adapted to the Cha-cha-cha style, they may be modified in this way to better suit the melody or rhythm.

Attachment Size
Tea - 4-2-Cha-Cha-Cha-bis-ziya01.mscz 18.16 KB

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Very interesting...

For dance music, knowing when to "jump in" once the music has already started reminds me of 2 children twirling a jump rope round and round while a third waits for the proper moment to "jump in".

Your attachment shows 1 2 3 cha-cha; cha 2 3 cha-cha; cha 2 3 cha-cha; etc,
Another way of looking at it is: 1 2 3 cha-cha; 1 2 3 cha-cha; or 1 2 3 4&; 1 2 3 4&;
The cha-cha-cha crosses the barline at the last 'cha'. (Though not a bad thing.) So, it counts as cha-cha 1, or 4&1.
You wrote:
But there are also examples of 1, 2, cha cha, cha, but this shifts the rhythm by one beat.

Indeed, I was researching some dance videos (Youtube) and have seen both ways -- with the same song.
But it is only the dancers who are timing the cha-cha-cha's differently. It's the exact same song.

The 1 2 3 cha-cha; 1 2 3 cha-cha; etc. requires a "prep step" when starting from beat 1, so (for the 'traditional' male partner):
1 (prep)
2 (back) 3 (forward) 4&1 (the triple cha-cha-cha step).
Then 2 (forward) 3 (back) 4&1 (the triple step)
Rinse and repeat, omitting the prep step as beat 2 is next.

The 1 2 cha-cha-cha dancers can enter on the first beat, so ('traditional' male partner):
1 (back), 2 (forward), 3&4 (the triple cha-cha-cha step).
Then 1 (forward), 2 (back). 3&4 (cha-cha-cha)
Rinse and repeat.

Here's 1 2 cha-cha-cha in action:
(starts from ~ 43 sec)

Here's the triple step (cha-cha-cha) at (count) 4&1
(observe ~ 22 - 58 sec.)

This one looks like the count is cha-cha-cha 3 4:
(starts from ~ 26 sec)

I thought that dance steps had more of a connection to the music. In other words someone wouldn't dance a cha-cha to a rhumba tune -- although it probably could be done.
By using those cowbell accents, your attachment reinforces the 1 2 3 cha-cha-cha so there is a noticeable difference in the music (compared to 1 2 cha-cha-cha).

In reply to by Jm6stringer

Listen to this version. Don't mind if it says 1,2 cha-cha in its description; it's a 1, 2, 3, cha-cha (At least in the middle you can hear a smooth rhythm.) :)


PS: With all due respect, the same piece of the T0mmy D0rs3y orchestra unfortunately has the wrong rhythm emphasis. I think people misremember the emphasis of the rhythm because of such versions. I'm not saying it's bad, but it's a reverse of the original.

In reply to by mjbartemusica1

Unfortunately there is no automatic split option for this type of rhythm writing that comes combined from the midi file. Even if you Explode, you will still run into some issues.

One option would be to look at what instruments are available and add them manually one by one.

Also some beats in this file have shifted (written as 1-2-cha-cha instead of 1-2-3-cha-cha I mentioned above.
I'm leaving another file below. You can listen only play percussion instruments (by muting the others from the mixer).

note: The piano accompaniment style is advanced. You can ignore it if you wish.

Attachment Size
chacha-alternative-ziya-02.mscz 19.33 KB

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