The very Cuban “tres” in the island’s music

The very Cuban “tres” in the island’s music

Heritage & Traditions


A descendant of the Spanish guitar, a younger brother perhaps due to its smaller proportions, the Cuban “tres” (three) has played an important role in the music of this Caribbean island, recognized throughout the world.

Originating in the Guajiro (rural) festivities of the Cuban fields, according to historians, this unique musical instrument closely linked to the rhythm of the son, was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation in 2011.

The references that can precede the tres date back to the seventeenth century, with the existence of mandolins executed by immigrants from the Spanish Canary Islands, but it was in the middle of the nineteenth century, in the cities, that the native chordophone began to present his credentials.

The tres generally has six strings tuned in three even orders, to which it owes its name, and in the son its execution is very prominent in the various types, such as the changüí, the sucu-sucu, sones montunos and guarachas.

Used by troubadours, the instrument combines dotting, when the melodic line is highlighted, and scratching, when chords are scratched in the form of rhythmic accompaniment of the alternate voice within the same performance.

Through its evolution, this variant of guitar was increasingly incorporated into diverse and prominent groups, such as the Sexteto Habanero and the Ensemble of Arsenio Rodríguez, called the "wonderful blind man", he himself tresero, which marked a new stage in the sonority of the Cuban son.

Among many other relevant players of the tres are Francisco Repilado, known universally as Compay Segundo, and Pancho Amat, today one of the main players and diffusers of this “pulse and pick” instrument. Beyond popular Cuban rhythms, tres can transcend other genres of so-called cultured and universal music.

According to proven professor and tresero, Efraín Amador, founder of the Cuban school of tres, who for more than 30 years has developed the elementary, middle and higher-level teaching programs of this instrument taught on the island, so that it is always in the national sound legacy.