In this article we’ll be taking a look at three must-have latin piano grooves. The great thing about these latin piano grooves is that they’re fairly easy and illustrate quite nicely how much music you can make using simple chord structures and some syncopated rhythms. If you like latin piano grooves and want even more great examples, complete with detailed instruction and demonstration, be sure to check out our great lesson Quick Latin Grooves! Be sure to practice these grooves with your metronome to really perfect the syncopated, rhythmic sense of time.
Latin Piano Grooves: The “ii - V” Groove
This is perhaps the most basic and one of the most common latin piano grooves. If you like listening to or playing latin music you’re destined to encounter this groove at some point. What makes it so common? Well, it’s a simple groove so it’s something that can be learned quickly. It’s also effective because it works over a “ii - V” progression, which is one of the most common progressions in all styles of music.
Let’s plug in a couple chords and get started. We’re going to play this latin groove in the key of Bb major, so for the “ii” chord we’ll use a C minor 7th chord, and for the “V7” chord we’ll use an F7 chord.
Look at how basic and simple the bass line is - moving from ‘C’ up to ‘F’ and up to ‘C,” and then back down. Notice also that this groove emphasizes the upbeats (what we call the “ands” of each beat when counting “one and two and three and four and“).
Latin Piano Grooves: Minor (i - V/V - V)
This groove is much more challenging than the “ii-V” groove above, so be sure to work hands separately before putting hands together. It also sounds really great at a faster tempo, so start slowly and gradually increase your speed.
This groove is based in C minor. It’s basically a “i-ii-V” progression except that the “ii” chord is not minor - it’s dominant. Where does that D7 chord come from? It’s what we call a secondary dominant, and we refer to it as a “five of five.” The terms “secondary dominant” and “five of five” (or V/V) mean that the D7 is the ‘V’ chord of the G7. The D7 chord is outside of the key (C minor) but resolves to the G7 (which is inside the key).
Latin Piano Grooves (BONUS): Another (Famous) “ii - V” Groove
I’m guessing that most of you have heard of this one before, but if you haven’t it’s absolutely a must-know “ii-V” latin groove. Perhaps one of the most famous “ii-V” grooves of all-time - “Oye Como Va” by Santana. It’s pretty easy, alternating back and forth for the whole tune between A minor 7 and D7.
Notice again that this groove stresses the upbeats (or off-beats, as they’re sometimes called). Learn this groove and then practice playing along with the original recording to really master the vibe and feel. (Hint: the original groove is played on organ).