Timbal (15 Videos)

The paila (or as we know it in  the country, the timbal(es) was created in Cuba to replace the tympani in a style of music known as the “danzon”. This Cuban dance form was born at the end of the 19th century, and originally was generally performed outdoors by a woodwind and brass ensemble with the percussion accompaniment provided by the tympani. But when the music moved indoors into smaller venues (salons, dance halls, etc.), the style changed to include piano, strings and flute. The tympani was much too loud for that setting, so the paila was created to substitute for that sound (along with the guiro). In that era, it was played with very small sticks, and only the drums themselves were played. There were no cowbells or woodblocks mounted on the drums. As the danzon developed into the “cha-cha-cha”, a small cowbell was added, and then later the shells themselves were used to play the cascara pattern for different styles like the gauracha, son montuno, and so forth (listen to the amazing paila playing of Guillermo Barretto on the Cachao “Descargas in Miniature” records of the late 1950s).
By the mid 1950s the more modern style of playing with a larger “mambo” bell started to appear, and soon thereafter the use of different bells emerged. Finally, by the 1970s you could find extremely complex set-ups developing, with several bells, blocks, snare drum, kick drum, etc, a la Changuito with Los Van Van, Daniel Diaz with La Orquesta Ritmo Oriental in Cuba, and Orestes Vilato and Nicky Marrerro here in the United States. Nowadays, anything goes—drumset integrated with the timbales, bells, blocks, agogo bells—You name it!
Here on the site we show you the basics, the stylistic developments from the traditional to the modern day, and we will add more and more stuff as we go to help you create and develop your own approach to this beautiful instrument.
Michael Spiro's overview of the Timbal.
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