Watch the Tres online guitar lesson by Jesús Hernández from Buena Vista Cuban Guitar Guidebook
The Cuban tres is a guitar-like instrument. As far as we know, it is originally from Cuba and has six strings. Its sound has become a defining characteristic of the Cuban son. The Cuban tres has a great importance in the musical culture of Cuba as son Cubano music was initially played with this instrument.
Later on, the piano became also part of this music. The Cuban tres has three courses or groups of two strings each. From the low pitch to the highest, one of the principal tunings is in one of two variants in C major. Either: G4 G3, C4 C4, E4 E4 (top course in unisons), or more traditionally: G4 G3, C4 C4, E3 E4 (top course in octaves). The same system is used one step higher, in D Maj. Some treseros like Pancho Amat use E minor (like the first three strings of the guitar).
The main role of the Cuban tres is to play the guajeos during the whole song. When playing styles like changüí, the tres guajeo consists of all off beats. In the son montuno, styles it uses a variation of notes on the beat and on off-beats as well.