Guitarist - Composer - Arranger

(10) Rhythm, continued

March 22, 2018



I’m a long time student and teacher of tango guitar. This series of articles is for tango guitar students and guitarists interested in pursuing tango. Contact me for more information on lessons and workshops.


Back in article 4 I discussed two broad categories of rhythmic patterns for tango: marcato and síncopa. It’s time to get into a few more. Without further ado…




Remember that marcato, in one form or another, dominates tango rhythm. Here are three options,variations on the same theme: 

Before we give them names, I´d like to point out what they have in common. All of them accent beats 1 and 3. This is the characteristic of marcato, literally to ‘mark’ beats 1 and 3, which in classical music are known as the ‘strong beats.’ The differences boil down to two main things: the articulation (are they long or short) and to what degree the strong beats 1 and 3 are contrasted with the weak beats 2 and 4.


In the first example (sometimes called marcato in 4) you play all four beats but make 1 and 3 louder than 2 and 4.


In the second example this difference is taken to the extreme: you simply get rid of 2 and 4.


And the final option is what I call ‘guitar marcato.’ This version of marcato only exists on guitar, and it’s one of the most convincing ways to make a guitar sound like it’s playing an authentic tango rhythm. Beats 1 and 3 are accented and long, and beats 2 and 4 are ‘ghost notes,’ with the right hand muting the strings and the pick (or fingers) playing non-tones. When played correctly it simply feels like you’re concluding the long chords from beats 1 and 3. 


Think of these three marcatos as general guidelines rather than set-in-stone patterns. My best advice is that you start listening for marcato in guitar recordings and trying to make out the subtle differences. Then you can start to develop and fine-tune the different ways that you like to play marcato.


And of course, to learn to play t