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1972 Latin Percussion advertisement featuring the great Tito Puente
1972 Latin Percussion advertisement featuring the great Tito Puente
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What are timbales? Timbales are a type of drum, typically Afro-Cuban, but also widely used by hispanic communities throughout America and beyond. Latin rhythyms and instrumentation have blended with soul, funk, rock and pop, to create music with worldwide appeal.

The timbale was originally a scaled-down timpani, as used by European orchestras, and typically consists of two metal (steel, bronze or brass) single headed drums. The drums are referred to as male and female ('macho' and 'hembra'), with the male having a brighter biting sound, and the female a deeper, more mellow sound. These are accompanied by two cowbells, a mambo and a chacha, all of which are mounted on a single stand. Occasionally a cymbal or kick drum are used too.

The role of the timbale in a latin orchestra is to highlight musical changes, and as such it is often played by a band leader (see Tito Puente - left). Of course the timbale makes for some great soloing, but for the majority of the song it is used to keep time, and mark changes.