Quinto or Requinto???

   The little drum in rumba is the quinto. It is the highest pitched drum for rhythms like Guaguanco , Rumba Columbia, Guarapachangeo and Yambu. For  Guaguanco , Rumba Columbia and Yambu it is the main improvising drum, responding to the dancers movements, the singer and the other drums. Frequently during the montuno of a song the lead singer may cry "Quinto!!!", which is a signal for the coro to stop and for the quinto player to really let loose and play a solo. Guarapachangeo is kind of a different story with all the cajons and multiple drums being played sometimes.

   There can be some confusion regarding this drum, mainly in the terms quinto and requinto. When we look at big manufacturers like LP we see the quinto and the requinto in their catalogs. However when we look at this album by Grupo Afro-Cubano and look at the quinto player, we see what Lp would call a requinto. To Grupo Afro-Cubano it is the quinto, and they credit Giraldo Rodrigues with playing it.
   LP is mainly referring to the requinto as a size of drum, their smallest. While in rumba the names for the drums mainly refer to their role or position in the ensemble. I've also heard the quinto referred to as "a fifth", assuming the fifth drum. I don't know how accurate that really is, but if you have claves, palito, tres dos, salidor then quinto, that makes five. Also quintet means five, thus quinto???
   So why requinto? I'm assuming LP adopted the name for size purposes again. An LP quinto is not really different enough in size from the conga and tumba be an authentic sounding quinto for rumba. You need something smaller, with a different shape to sound like that. Listen to an old Los Munequitos album and hear how high pitched the quinto is. Look at the examples in this blog and see how small the "quintos" are. 
From Wikipedia
The term requinto is used in both Spanish and Portuguese to mean a smaller, higher-pitched version of another instrument. Thus, there are requinto guitars, drums and other instruments.

     It doesn't look like Jesus Alfonso needs a smaller version of his quinto here does it?  An 11" LP quinto just isn't going to compare with Jesus's drum there, so they've got to have a requinto. We also have Nolan Warden saying:
The words quinto, conga, and tumbadora are now used as a practicality among performers and retailers to indicate size. Quinto, the smaller drum, traditionally refers to the lead part in rumba......
Some manufacturers now produce requintos (extra small) and/or supertumbas (largest). It should not be inferred, however, that drums with these names were ever used together in a traditional ensemble. ~(Warden pg.2)

    You never see Jesus Alfonso Mira credited with playing the "requinto", he plays quinto, he is a quintocero. You also never hear the gallo call out "requinto!" when he wants to hear the solo, it's always "quinto!". As Nolan Warden says, you really don't hear the word requinto used referring to a traditional rumba ensemble at all, unless your referring to drums that have been sized along the newer LP "standards". This old Gon Bops ad doesn't use the word requinto, even though their "Super Quinto" size is what we might think of as requinto nowadays. Actually super is the name of the line, along with the Voodoo, and International lines, which also feature the 9 3/4" size. What's even more confusing is the new DW Gon Bops feature a "super quinto" as well, but it is a size in their California series, it's a smaller quinto, what others call a requinto, however DW Gon Bops call it a super quinto, perhaps in reference to the older Gon Bops.

   The only rhythm that I have actually learned that calls for a drum part with the name of requinto is a Comparsa taught to me by Sandy Perez. In that rhythm the quinto is still the main improvising drum with the highest pitch, and the requinto drum plays a repeating rhythm and is described as being the 3rd highest pitched drum.

   I've also heard that the music Plena from Puerto Rico uses a drum called a requinto.  However I know so little about that music, that all I am going to do is mention it and post this little image I found describing what a requinto is in Plena. I assume it's accurate. There is also this from Wikipedia
The requinto drum is used in the Puerto Rican folk genre plena, wherein it is a small conical hand drum that improvises over the other drum rhythms.
    I myself have 3 quintos, or  2 small quintos or "requintos", and a quinto. My largest quinto is by Resolution drums and is 10 1/2". I use this drum as a cachimbo for folkloric rhythms like Bembe, Palo, Makuta, etc. It is a fantastic little drum, but it is not quite the right size to get that high, high pitch that your really want for an authentic sounding rumba. I mean, I can and I have used it for rumba, and it works fine, but I was after a different sound. In folkloric rhythms it works great, because in that music the cachimbo, or high drum typically plays a recurring rhythm that forms a melody with the other drums. The larger size makes a pitch that is closer to the middle and low drums and makes the rhythm more melodious. In most folkloric rhythms the low drum is the improvisor. In contrast, a rumba quinto is so high pitched it occupies it's own realm in the music, along with the other drums and the voices.

   The other two quintos (requintos) are 9 3/4" by Isla Percussions and a 9 3/4" California series Gon Bops. They both have the high, high sound you can hear in rumba recordings from Cuba.

   I'm assuming the LP sized quinto is intended for a Salsa or Latin Jazz 3 drum set up, as it's range would be more compatible with a conga and tumba. However, many of the guys I play with use that size as part of their rumba set and that is perfectly fine and acceptable.

  Then there's the Guarapachangeo. It's not unusual to see the quinto player for that rhythm to be playing a quinto cajon between his knees, a quinto to his right and then requinto or smaller quinto to the right of that. Not only that, but it's entirely possible for the quinto player to be playing very conservatively while the big bass cajon's are going off all over the place.

  So what can I say? Confusing isn't it? A quinto really isn't a quinto, a requinto is a quinto, unless of course you have a quinto and a requinto, but then you have a quinto and a smaller quinto. Oh, and a fifth isn't a bottle, it's a drum.


  1. Nice post. A couple of other points:

    Quinto means "fifth" in Spanish so what you might have seen was someone's awkward attempt at a literal transation. I've seen/heard the Cuban tres guitar referred to as a "three" more often than I care to remember.

    Also the "re-" prefix in Spanish is often added to certain words to give emphasis. For example "buscar" means to look for something; "rebuscar" means to REALLY look for it.

    So here if the term quinto is taken to mean "the small drum" requinto would mean "the REALLY small drum."

    It's function though remains the same so the player can be said to be "quinteando en el requinto."

  2. Thanks for the comment Barry. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  3. That's a very clear definition of the term "Requinto" by Barry "El Guarachonero".

    So as not to further confuse yourself and additionally visitors to this post, forget about anything "Lp says" or shows.
    And forget about what an old 1976 Gon Bops catalog shows or calls a "Super" Quinto.
    (Maybe is was made for SUPERMAN??)

    Real "Requintos" are not made anymore.. no one plays them. What is played are "Quintos".
    The only drummer that would want a real "Requinto" is a drummer who is a "highly proficient" Quinto player, who plays in a rumba group/show (or that wants to own a true "Requinto").

    You can see two photos of true "Requinto's" here:

    you can have a look here on Barry's web blog to see a "video" shot in Cuba with a true "Requinto" being played by the drummer in the middle:

    There is no mystery and nothing confusing...
    the difference between a Quinto and a Requinto is the "size".


  4. Thanks for the comment and visiting my blog Mark. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  5. I meant to add... I remember that 'Gon Bops' catalog
    well, I had one back in 1973.
    I used to love to look at it. LoL!
    It's probably a real collectors item now.
    I bought a pair of "Mariano Model" timbales from that catolog (back in the day).


  6. Hi there,

    I have a message for the webmaster/admin here at rumbainstruments.blogspot.com.

    Can I use part of the information from your blog post above if I give a link back to this website?


  7. Mark,
    That would be fine. I would appreciate the link to the article as well.


  8. Hi, I am a rumba freak from Copenhagen. I want to comment on the word quinto. You say that the word in spanish has something to do with five. In the rhythm la conga (which was the first cuban music) there are five tumbadores-roles: la conga, rebahador, tres-dos, salidor and quinto, making quinto the fifth drum. The names of the roles was taught to me by many different cuban congaplayers. ( Luis Abreu (Papines), Anga, Justo Pelladito, Regino Jimenez) They disagreed whether it is la conga or rebahador that has the lowest pitch, with most leaning to la conga being the lowest. I have never heard the word requinto used in Cuba.