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Finding the Beat in Salsa
Finding the Beat in Salsa Music—A beginners tool for understanding Salsa Music.
First start with knowing what kind of salsa is danced in class or on the dance floor (salsa on 1, salsa on 2 or cumbia). The Salsa On 1 foundation comes from a system of a 4/4 timing (1 2 3 4 then 5 6 7 8) following two measures. The dancer breaks with a stronger accent on the first beat of the measure on the 1 and 5 while transitioning the weight on the 4 and 8. This melodic rhythm repeats with various musical elements, such as, clave, piano, hooks, conga tumbao, bass rhythm and trumpet phrases. A dancer should express all beats within the two measures and not stop for the midbreak. This causes a missed beat or directs the dancer into a faster or slower tempo.
Here are some suggestions
1. Start the dance by counting 5,6,7,8 to bring you to the first break.
2. Listen for the downbeat or clave.
3. Practice listening to Salsa music everyday.
4. Develop an ear for various tempos to distinguish the beat from slow to fast.
5. Watch and study seasoned dancers as they express the beat.
6. Keep an inner count, but don’t count out loud or loose your breath!
7. Pick an instrument in the band to follow.
8. Develop a library of favorite salsa songs. Here are just a few:
a. Sonora Carruseles Heavy Salsa.
b. Susie Hansen-The Salsa Never Ends-La Salsa Nunca Se Acaba
c. Salsa Fresca compilation-all the songs are great for beginner salseros.
d. Rough Guide to Salsa volume 1 and 2
e. Old School Salsa Classics compilation filled with hard driving salsa rhythms.
f. El Gran Combo-a classic band from Puerto Rico and a fav amoung many musicians.
Your salsa journey should never end. Keep listening and finding out more about what you like and don’t like in a salsa song and make it yours. Listen to it every morning and then ask a friend to dance to it. Your salsa will never be the same.