Writing Sambita: A Latin-Rock Samba Instrumental

Actually written before Savor was even on the drawing boards, Sambita began life as a jazz-influenced Latin song written for a 3-piece instrumental band: guitar, bass, and drums.

Screenshot of Timbale player
Sambita, a Latin-rock instrumental song based on a Samba beat.

Building the original arrangement

Structured in a fairly conventional pop song format, Sambita consisted of a verse, a bridge to connect it to the chorus, and a chorus. The parts then occurred a second time, but that iteration included a guitar solo played over the chorus.

In fact, this was one of my first forays into writing Latin music. And aside from my love of the genre itself, the audience reaction to this song — universally positive — really got me to thinking about expanding on that theme.

Adding new parts and reworking the melody

The original version was played on a very clean guitar (no distortion) which allowed for some complex chordal accompaniment in addition to the melodies. Once Savor was formed, the song had to be adapted to the new instrumentation — including a guitar sound in the rock vein, which meant a thick, rich distortion tone.

Probably the largest change was coming up with a melody to be played on the guitar during the choruses. (In the previous version, the guitar had played a chordal melody; that part was moved to the piano.) So I created a melodic line to go on top of the chord pattern.

Next, I dropped the original verse, and expanded a single phrase from the bridge to become the entire verse. For some reason, in the initial version of the song that phrase — which I came to realize was a powerful hook — occurred only once.

Song crafting versus songwriting

As I have generally found throughout my years as a songwriter, reworking a song in such a way inevitably made it stronger.

This composition is an excellent example of how songs are actually built — as opposed to simply being pulled out of the air wholesale. Many of the great songwriters whom I have long admired and whose memorable works taught me much, also classify themselves as song “crafters” rather than song “writers.”

What this means, essentially, is that you are constantly evaluating and improving your creative product. In the end, you wind up with a much better song than if you had just stuck with what you conceived of in the beginning.

NOTE: It is not in songwriting alone that I find this approach to be valuable. Having written hundreds of articles, essays, and other text pieces over my career, I have always found editing to be the most valuable part of that process as well.

Getting to the final arrangement

Since the song had been fairly well worked out in the previous band, the arrangement came pretty quickly — which is not always the case! Mainly, we added an intro that built a percussion section one instrument at a time. And we also ended the song with percussion as well, and a few light riffs alternating between the guitar and piano.

Even with those two additions, the song still clocks in at just a few seconds over 3 minutes. A fun little ditty with which to open the album, Moviendote.