Joropo rhythm, from the South American plains

The Joropo rhythm, very popular in the plains of South America, is a 3/4 strum with 6 strums per measure, that resembles the Spanish fandango. This genre is original from Venezuela, where it is played in different styles throughout the country. Depending on where you are in Venezuela, or the Colombian plains, you can listen to Joropo Corrio, Central, Tuyero, Llanero, and a wide variety of other types of joropo.

If you’re interested to go deeper into learning this musical genre, we recommend completing the following Course.

How do you play the Joropo rhythm?

The Joropo is very particular, as all 6 strums of each measure are played. Using the Venezuelan Cuatro, we play these 6 strums with 2 intermediate frenados, to mimic the sound of a Maracas.

The measure of the most basic Joropo is composed of 6 strums where the first one goes down. This particular pattern is known as Criollo or Llanero, where each measure is played with the first strum downwards and then up, then the third strum as a “frenado”, and then up, finally the fifth strum down, and sixth one as a upwards frenado. The resulting effect is demonstrated in the following arrow diagram:


The diagram above indicates that your right hand will need to do the following:

  1. Strum down
  2. Strum up
  3. Frenado down
  4. Strum up
  5. Strum down
  6. Frenado up

Be sure to practice the frenado up so it can sound clear and cristal when you do it at the last strum of each measure. Here’s a good Frenados practice that you can review before starting with the Joropo.

Once of the most difficult parts of joropo is the upwards frenado. Thus, It can be complicated to master this technique as not many instruments require this type of tricks to be played. Be sure to read the information on upwards frenado at the following link: Ascending frenados for the Cuatro.

There’s also another type of Joropo called Cruzao or Central, where the frenados interchange positions with the strums, so you start with 1 frenado at the beginning and continue until you encounter a frenado in the 4th of every measure.

Now watch this demonstration of a Joropo so you can get the idea of how this rhythm is played:

Demonstration of Joropo Rhythm

Now let’s try to imitate this with your Cuatro. Firstly, in the following video, we will show a typical Joropo song at a fast pace first and then slowing it to half the tempo.  This will allow you to follow the right-hand movement and imitate the strums and frenados. Try to follow the video and mimic the sounds and chords on your own Cuatro.

What is the typical chords progression for this musical genre?

These are the chords we’re going to use:

D =
A7 =
D7 =
G =
E7 =
A =

And this is the progression:

D A7 D % D7 % G % % E7 A G D A7 D %

Secondly, let’s go to the second half of the video to see how to do it slow, very slow and imitate it with your cuatro:

Don’t worry about the chords!  In this part of the course, we will only focus our attention on the rhythms and right hand.

If you want to dive into learning how the Progressions are played, we recommend you to visit our course for Joropo Progressions, where our teachers will show you the different musical variations for this genre.

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