Introduction All the instruments (except the Guiro and Maracas whose rhythms interpret the pulse), at some point during Salsa/Timba music, have implied Clave in their rhythm, i.e. the 3 side of a rhythm is more syncopated than the 2 side and they relate in some way to the Clave rhythm ; There are indicators of clave orientation and location within the instrument rhythm itself even though no explicit clave instrument is being played. Basic tumbao rhythms on the conga and bass are symmetrical ; The same on both Clave sides (from one bar to the next), so that's not the best place to start. Although sometimes players may add additional accents which imply Clave. In my opinion I think it's a good idea to start with instruments and rhythms that are highly syncopated most of the time, like the Cascara rhythm on Timbales, the Montuno rhythm on piano and the Mambo/Timbale bell on Timbales. The problem for people listening to a real Salsa track is that there is a lot going on at the same time. It's hard to determine and separate the implied Clave in the rhythms from the strong accented 1, the melody, call-response and the clave instrument under layers of instrumentation. It's hard to know if you're getting it right if you don't have a way to test yourself. Exercises I've intentionally picked samples which have less of these other indicators (although Clave may be played explicitly now and again for reference). The Piano would be an obvious first choice for listening as often it's a very prominent feature of Salsa tracks and most people are familiar with hearing the instrument even if they've never heard Salsa before. However there's a difference in how the Piano is used and perceived in Salsa. The Montuno rhythm combines both melody and clave rhythm simultaneously. Even with mature ears the more notes played the more you tune in to the melody, the less notes played the more you tune in to the rhythm. It's human nature, particularly for western ears and those of us not used to poly-rhythms. So that may make it initially more difficult to hear the rhythm on the piano than on the mambo/timbale bell or cascara even though those instruments are often more softly played. Try listening to cascara and bell rhythms (without clave at first), count 1 to 8 and tap the rhythm then see if your ear can determine 1 from 5 and 34 from 78. Click on a sample in the middle of playing and then see if your ear can tell Clave orientation/sidedness/1from5. Does your ear have a natural tendency to side in a particular direction when the instrument rhythm (e.g. cascara) is played on it's own? I would suggest doing these exercise tests before going through the tutorials and filling your head with all kinds of other things you might want to listen for, just to get an idea of the state of your current rhythm appreciation. Again, at this stage it's not about understanding consciously what's happening just hearing a difference. If you have trouble finding the 1 in each bar use the 2 and 4 on the Timbales drum or the first of the open tones of the conga on 4, 4& to help orientate. Rhythm samples Roughly in order of simpler rhythms first with more complex variations at the end. Cascara with less beats and left hand on 2 and 4 (timbales drum) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dFioMGYKNE Afro-Cuban Rhythms - Cascara http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I6adj2nvFA Cáscara and conga http://www.salsa-merengue.co.uk/audio/yo_soy_el_sonero/timbales/Sonero_ct.mp3 Timbale bell and conga http://www.salsa-merengue.co.uk/audio/yo_soy_el_sonero/timbales/Sonero_2c.mp3 Cáscara, conga and piano http://www.salsa-merengue.co.uk/audio/yo_soy_el_sonero/timbales/Sonero_cpt.mp3 Timbale bell, conga and piano http://www.salsa-merengue.co.uk/audio/yo_soy_el_sonero/timbales/Sonero_2cp.mp3 Basic patterns of salsa in timbales (features the cascara rhythm, 2-3 and 3-2 cascara versions with and without clave, mambo bell rhythm, 2-3 and 3-2 mambo bell versions with and without clave, then - groove section - putting them together with some variations): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9BQ9JaK5FM Cascara and Mambo bell rhythm accents Most of the time the cascara rhythm accents all but one of the beats of the Son Clave rhythm and all the beats of the Rumba clave rhythm. The same can be said about the mambo/timbale bell. However there will be rhythm variations that don't hit all these accents in other samples or real Salsa music. Applying awareness of rhythms to Salsa music Once you have an appreciation for these rhythms, go back to Salsa tracks you know well and listen for the rhythms. To start you might want to try this Salsa video by our member Salsa4fun which has a visual for the timbales cascara and mambo bell patterns whenever they're played: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-qaWk0VJ0I I think in the above track it's after about 3 and a half minutes in when enough instrumentation drops out for you to clearly hear the cascara. This track has very clear Mambo/Timbale Bells and Cascara not to mention it's a great listen: Wolf Like Me (Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra) http://soundcloud.com/williamsburgsalsaorch/wolf-like-me-by-tv-on-the Tutorial and further technical information For those who are further along in their understanding of rhythms, the following is a detailed tutorial on Cascara and Mambo bell which features and breaks down some of the above samples and gives further exercises. Dancing With The Sinners: Core http://www.salsa-merengue.co.uk/VidTutor/salsatwo/up_beat/core_timbale_rhythms.html Note: I've tried to simplify this first post for dancers (including use of terminology) as much as possible to make it an introduction that anyone can try (it does assume a certain level of awareness of Salsa rhythms though), rather than an all encompassing description that musicians would be happy with (so no mention of Bombo, Ponché, rhythm breakdown etc), including that always annoying use of counts greater than 4&.