Talking Style: The Tresillo Rhythm

Editor’s note: Please help us welcome our newest contributor, bassist Ted “Blyss” Gould III! Blyss’s “Talking Style” series will focus on various grooves and styles in music.

The tresillo is derived from the fundamental Latin music groove called “habenera”. It can also be thought of as a variation on the Afro-Cuban son clave. Ragtime pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton famously called the tresillo that “Spanish tinge” that is a necessary ingredient for New Orleans jazz.

The prominence of the tresillo in African-American music traditions and, particularly in the music of New Orleans is a clear indicator of the connection between and retention of Afro-Cuban traditions in America.

In this lesson I will give you some examples of the tresillo in early Rhythm and Blues, 70’s funk and modern day Brass Band music. And here are some examples to study (PDF download).


Here are some videos demonstrating this style:

  • First video: Dave Bartholomew, “Country Boy”
  • Second video: Professor Longhair, “Mardi Gras in New Orleans”
  • Third video: The Meters “Hey Pocky A-Way”
  • Fourth video: Rebirth Brass Band. “Do Whatcha Wanna”

Ted Gould III, also known as “Blyss”, is a bassist and music educator originally from New Orleans now based in the Bay Area. Connect with him at and check out his new Slap Bass course.

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Share your thoughts

  1. MikeyOnBass

    Dig’n on this. Good stuff!

  2. Fantastic stuff, bring on some more!

  3. Thanks, great stuff Ted! ..and I enjoyed the video format.

  4. The “Habanera rhythm ” is, also, the foundation of Argentina tango, it´s a development through the “Milonga” and then the “Tango”

  5. hazem

    great stuff, nice delivery :) thank you

  6. Bob DeRosa

    Great presentation, Blyss! Thank you. Can’t wait to see and hear more.

  7. Mark S Beretta

    I was able to work some funk into “habenera” using my thumb to pluck.
    My own thumb pluck style barley palm mute ,,, dig it , OH yes I do.
    Thanks Blyss ,,,

  8. Mark S B

    Never forgot driving thru Louisiana many years ago , stop for gas outside Slydale before long bridge to Texas.
    Gassing up look around thought oh no , scary dudes with beer quarts walk my way , black lady at cash register said do you know where you’re at boy , no mam.
    Don’t ever come back , last warning , paid for beer quarts for scary dudes and gas then hauled ass.

  9. Totally awesome!!

  10. always a fan thanks for spreading the good music word.