Salsa Rhythm – Mastering The Four Most Important Salsa Rhythms In The Music

As a salsa dancer, the more you understand the different salsa rhythms that make up the music, the better salsa dancer you will be. But that is not all. When you understand and can recognize the different rhythms in the music you will enjoy your dancing much more as well. But dissecting and developing an understanding of the different rhythms can seem like a daunting task, especially when you are just beginning. Furthermore, the way the rhythms are interlaced in salsa is often more complicated than in many popular pop songs. This is what sometimes gives salsa its exotic unique flavor. While it is these interlaced rhythms that gives salsa its tropical flavor, it is what also makes the rhythms often hard to understand for a beginning dancer. The complexity of the rhythms are often hard to understand by even more advanced salsa dancers. To help you master the four most important rhythms, here is some help for you.

Rhythm # 1 – Understanding The Clave – The Key To Salsa

All musicians and most dancers agree that it is the clave rhythm that is basically the key rhythm of salsa. It is kind of like the father of all salsa rhythms. While I personally would not put as much importance for fully understanding it if you are just starting out, it is nevertheless said that all other salsa rhythms are structured based on the clave. It is often played with two wooden sticks that are hit together. There are basically two types of clave rhythms, the 2-3 and the 3-2 clave. The 2 – 3 clave is played on the counts of 2, 3, 5, and 8. Within the 8 beats that compose a basic salsa step, where the, “and” count is simply the count that is between any two counts, e.g. the count between 5 and 6. Basically, most salsa music is played with the 2-3 clave. For you to truly learn to understand the clave rhythm is beyond the scope of this article, but the next time you hear salsa, listen to the wooden sticks played on the counts 2, 3, 5, and 8. Just try to pay attention to it and that should get you started. Just make a note that while the rhythm is always inherit in the music, it is not always played with an instrument in all salsa songs, so if you can’t hear it that might be why.

Rhythm # 2 – Understanding The Cow Bell – The Key To Dancing In Rhythm

The reason I think the cow bell is one of the most important rhythms in salsa from a dancer’s perspective is because it is played on what is called the core beats of salsa, 1, 3, 5, 7. As you notice, the basic salsa rhythm goes quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow, or in other words, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7. The cowbell is played with a percussion instrument that is similar to an actual cowbell, typically without a clapper, and it is struck with a stick. As you notice, the 1, 3, 5, 7 is very close to the actual steps, so recognizing it amongst the other salsa rhythms in my opinion is one of the easiest ways to learn to stay on salsa rhythm when you are just starting out as a salsa dancer.

Rhythm # 3 – Understanding The Montuno Rhythm – The Key To Dancing On1

The montuno rhythm is a rhythm that is often played with a piano. The reason I call it the key to finding the first beat of the music is because unlike the cow bell, it actually loops over the 8 beats. In other words, while it is possible for you to find the rhythm of salsa by listening to the cowbell, it is impossible for you to find the direction of the music just by listening to it. Since you can mistaken the 1st beat of the music to be the 5th and vice versa it is impossible for you to find the 1st beat of the music solely listening to the cowbell, unless you catch it the very first time it is played. As I said, the montuno rhythm is played over the 8 counts, and therefore it makes it the ideal rhythm to find the direction of the music. So next time you hear a piano playing in a salsa song, take a note and try to see if it plays the same rhythm over and over again, looping back to the beginning of the rhythm after eight counts. If you are able to recognize this, voila, you have learned one of the easiest ways to find the first beat of the salsa music.

Rhythm # 4 – Understanding The Tumbao Rhythm – The Key To Dancing On2

Tumbao is a rhythm in salsa that is played with the conga drums. To try to vocalize the rhythm out, it would sound something like: “cu, cum.. pa… cu, cum… pa”, where it is played with the count of 8 and 2, & 4 and 6. The reason I consider the rhythm to be the key to dancing On2 is that in the tumbao rhythm there is a heavy emphasis on the beats 2 and 6, which are also the beats that are emphasized when you dance salsa On2. As a caveat, however, if you are just starting to learn to dance On2 it is, in my opinion, immensely much more easier to learn to dance on the correct rhythm and direction just by finding the 1st beat of the music and then simply count out the second beat of the music rather than trying to hear the tumbao in the music. But once you get comfortable with the overall rhythm and you learn to recognize the tumbao rhythm clearly, dancing On2 will become even that much more enjoyable for you.

And there you have it, the four most important salsa rhythms.

Source by Mikko Kemppe

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