How to find the beats on Salsa?

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by granrey, Oct 2, 2008.

  1. granrey

    granrey Sonero

    Hi guys,

    Any suggestion on how to find the beats on Salsa?

    I've been listening Salsa for the last 10 years as a hobby. As many people from my country (Dominican) we listen and sing salsas even though we might not dance it at all.

    I dance Merengue and bachata pretty well (I've got pretty good reviews), but I have not been able to dance Salsa. I thought I knew how to dance Salsa until I tried one day and I simply got lost (8 years ago).

    My pride was hurt that much that night that I did not try again even though I practiced on my own.

    Recently, I decided to try again and researching on the internet I think I have found the main problems:

    1) I did not know that there were beats and I cannot find them all. I think I can identify #1 and probably 5 but the rest I don't feel them at all. my counting is 1,2,3----5,6,7.

    2) I also noticed that I dance "On 1" and I did not know that there was an style called "On 2". I think I can find a solution to this.

    I do not live in Dominican anymore but I want to know the beats so I can try a salsa school.

    I even try a salsamelizer tool but I still don't get it.

    any ideas?
  2. ShineGuy

    ShineGuy Son Montuno

    This DVD helped me:
  3. smiling28

    smiling28 Moderator

    Hi and welcome.

    Counting music is a great tool. (look up Mike Bello).

    Also, some basic classes anywhere should help.

    Stay positive though, most of us on here had experiences that could have scarred/stopped us from learning/progressing. Just stay positive and keep trying no matter what and you will get there :)

    Have fun!
  4. dahvee

    dahvee Sonero

    Hola Grangrey!

    Everytime someone ask this question I always recommend to this website...

    I think it is a great resource and it really helped me. Best of all its free so you have nothing to lose.

    BTW - I have the Mike Bello CD and wouldn't recommend to someone who can't already find the one. I think this CD would be more useful for someone looking to improve or refine their ear.
  5. chrisk

    chrisk Super Moderator Staff Member

    Welcome to SF, granrey!

    Our own member UnlikelySalsero did an experiment via his blog to teach somebody to find the one over the net. The person which he thaught had also problems to hear the beat in the music, a bit similiar to you. So maybe this posts will help you:

    Finding One over the wires:

    I think it might also be helpful to try to count all beats in the music instead of leaving out the 4 and 8 as we dancers do. Also I've posted in the past a review of two timing CDs in the 'Members Review' section, which I've found to be helpful as well.

    And last but not least, I'll suggest you take your time to hear the beats and don't push yourself too hard. Everybody who's dancing salsa, once had to learn how to hear the beats in the music. It's just that some people needed less time and others needed a bit more. But in the end we all managed to hear the beat and dance on time with the music and make our partners happy. So I'm sure you' ll also soon find and feel the beats in the music.

    As you problem is currently with hearing the beats in the music, I'll suggest to not concern yourself with the different styles of dancing. It's best to pick the style which is most common in your town and learn that one first. You can then later take your time and learn the other style as well. If you really want to directly learn more about take a look at this sticky post On1, On2, Cuban, whatever... SF salsa style guide
    Marcos likes this.
  6. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    If the salsamerlizer didn't help, then you can't be helped!

    ( :) kidding -- I have to say that because I made the salsamerlizer! )

    Incidentally, sometimes the salsamerlizer is screwed up: it's better to download it and run it from your desktop than to run it straight from the web. I don't know what causes it exactly, I can only think it's to do with the recent versions of flash.

    Can you find the beats on merengue music?

    How about in the salsamerlizer with everything turned off except the bongo bell?

    The bongo bell rings out on 1,3,5,7 and makes little ticks on 2...3 & ... 4 & ... 6 &; like this
    What if you then add the guiro? can you still count it?

    If you're doing well there, then add the clave next, otherwise add the conga tumbao.

    Counting salsa is hard because the horns, vocals, and bass mostly sound on "ands" -- between the beats instead of on the beats. Enjoy the journey!
  7. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    further Salsamerlizer news:

    I found out it's broken in firefox 2.0 whether or not you download it first. It works in IE 6.0. I've added a compatiblity page. I'd appreciate it if people who know what salsa should sound like would try the salsamerlizer and PM me whether it sounded right or wrong in your browser. (MacOSX, Win2k, Vista, Linux) X (IE7? Opera? Safari? Chrome?)

    Thanks in advance,

  8. Jambo

    Jambo El Sabroso de Conguero

    Works just fine on both Opera and Safari (Mac OS X)
  9. AndrewD

    AndrewD Shine Officer Soviet Russia the beat finds you.
    Marcos likes this.
  10. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    ta. I'll update the compatibility page.
  11. t0mt0m

    t0mt0m Sonero - helped me a great deal as it does it bit by bit and builds the music up - can recommend. Anthony Persaud has a podcast on it, and the above links should help too
  12. granrey

    granrey Sonero

    Merengue is natural for me. I do not notice beats on it what I follow is the rythm. In Bachata however I feel beats which I feel and follow while I'm dancing.

    I actually learned last night that I can follow the clave based on video on I noticed the first three beats of the clave are the 1,2,3 and the last two are 6 and 7. (am I right?)

    However, when added the conga, I noticed the conga does two quick beats on 1 and 4.

    In other words I found the beats on that video but I cannot find it on other salsas that I play because the other instrument do not let me to follow the clave.

    but any way I'm gonna try the salmerlizer again with your recommendations.
  13. granrey

    granrey Sonero


    I'm going to check all those websites plus recommendations and I will report back.

  14. chrisk

    chrisk Super Moderator Staff Member

    It's nice to read that you learned to follow the clave, but you aren't completely right about the clave beats here. I'm not sure if I know the addicted2salsa video that you mentioned, but there are two variations of the clave. The clave which you seem to have heared in the video is the 3/2 clave, where the beats are on the 1, the 'and' between 2 and 3, the 4 and 6 and 7. But there's a variation of the clave called 2/3 clave, where the beats are on the 2, the 3, the 5, the 'and' between 6 and 7 and the 8.

    In my understanding, that's because in a lot of salsa the clave isn't actually played and heared as instrument, but it's rhythm is rather implied by the other instruments. But you can find some music that features a prominent clave and therefor might help you as a start, ie. 'Acid' by Ray Baretto.
  15. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    One thing you could try is to start counting to merengue. Although you don't need the counting to fix your merengue dancing, it will get you in the habit of counting in a regular-spaced manner.

    when counting, you are not actually counting the actual beats you hear, but you are counting a "pulse" which is an equally-spaced division of the musical measure. In merengue music the beats are played actually on the pulse, so they are the same thing. Similar with bachata. You get that bongo reinforcing the count (pulse) with its beats (tones):

    1   .   2   .   3   .   4   .    
    PAK-u - tuk-u - PAK-u - POK-u - 
    So if you do this counting, it will give you more of a conscious understanding of the tempo. You don't need this for your bachata dancing but we will need it for fixing how you are hearing salsa music.

    Step 2 is then to carry over the habit of counting equally spaced pulses while listening to the percussion parts of salsa. If you're not used to counting then salsa is hard music to do it to, because there are so many sounds that are not on the pulse. For example, as chrisk points out, the clave isn't all ON the beat:

    1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6 . 7 . 8 .
    x     x     x       x   x    
    Note the second clave strike is between beats 3 and four. musicians call this the "and of three" or we often write 3& on the forum.

    remember that the counting carries on steady throughout. The quick beats are actually on 4 and 4&:

    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 
        X       O O     X       O O 
    ( X = slap sound, O = those quick beats)

    yeah! this is (1) the challenge and (2) the beauty of real salsa music! You need to cut through all the other instruments that seem to be trying to put you off!

    Hope this helps. Good luck!
  16. hannaaran

    hannaaran Changui

    A great way to practice your Salsa steps while perfecting your timing. A basic dance class plus a music tuition in a single CD, made easy by using vocal, visual, and written instructions. Unlike other rhythmic CDs, here each instrument is isolated and analyzed individually, then reassembled, one by one, to form a full Salsa band.
  17. granrey

    granrey Sonero

    LOL. Well, when I thought I understood something I notice that I just understood partially.

    Ok, I'll continue the pursue.
  18. granrey

    granrey Sonero


    How do you indentify beats?

    I mean if there are 8 beats, how do you know who is who?

  19. opm1s6

    opm1s6 Sabor Ambassador

    the patterns tell you. if there is clave, for example 2/3 clave, you'll know where the beats are very easily and the tempo, because the second you hear the 2 side of the clave you'll know to match your feet on 2 and three. Clave gives you the timing and tempo, so if you want the more in depth technical information, you start there and move to the next instrument and how it meshes with the clave.

    I could write out paragraphs on this, but why when I could just link you. :D

    It comes down to listening, and practice, so go out there and try to notice the beginning of the patterns that that percussion section repeats. Do that with the song in the above link, and then do it with another song, and then another. The more you try to notice the patterns, the better. With on2, notice how breaks on 2 and on 6 are suppose to match certain accents in the percussion (depending on which song). One of my favorite patterns is the cáscara pattern and for some reason my ear easily keys in on it when present. All the patterns though will go back to the clave, so focus on that for now. Remember your mind is wired to notice patterns, so it will eventually come with time, regardless whether you know the types of patterns or what the clave is. You can't get around it, you just have to listen and eventually, you won't have to focus on what the patterns are, your feet will just match atomically without you even thinking. That could take months of listening (maybe less if you're keyed into it) but it comes down to really getting used to it.
  20. granrey

    granrey Sonero

    BpmChecker 3.0

    I'm gonna try this software at home.

    Acording to reviews. This software can find the beats on the songs.

    I'll see if it is true. LOL

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