How to find THE 1 (Part II)

*If you have not read part I, click here to go back and read it*

Now lets get down to business….

Many people who are new to Salsa are able to do the basic step and basic patterns without much trouble. What proves to be more challenging though is doing those patterns on the beat, which for many is the hardest part about learning Salsa. Anybody can memorize dozens of patterns, but dancing on time is what separates complete beginners from more advanced dancers. How then do you learn to dance to the beat of the music? It turns out, that there are a couple of tricks one can learn to distinguish where the ONE starts. After you have learned some of these simple tricks, you will then be able to start building your Salsa beat intuition.

So here are the tips you have all been waiting for…..

Listen to the Music
Listen to the music and eventually it will sink in. Even when you can already find the beat, listening to the music a lot will improve your dancing as you learn to interpret the music & and develop a new level of musicality.

Find the Bass Beat. The bass beat is the easiest beat to find as this is the beat that you would tap on your steering wheel to any song you like as you drive or that you would clap at a concert to your favorite song. 1 Bass beat = 2 salsa beats.

Listen to the different instruments. The instruments you want to mainly listen out for are the claves, cowbells, timbales, conga, trumpets, trombones, bass guitar & piano.  Changes in the music or the introduction of an instrument will usually occur on the ONE.  As an example, normally you can hear the cowbell on the 1 and the 3.

Listen to the Melody. As you listen to the the music you will start to develop the intuition to predict changes in the melody. Listen for where the music is the loudest with a higher tone since most of the  musical instruments come together at that beat which is the 1 just after a climax or low tone (This is a dramatic noticeable change in the melody towards the end of the 8 count followed by a short silence on the 8 count which is also known as a break).

Listen to the Lead Singer
The lead singer cue is one of the easiest ways to find the 1st beat. Usually the Lead singer, and/or the chorus will start to sing on the “1” beat.

Celia Cruz

If you are counting correctly then you should be counting off the number ‘1′ when the lead singer starts his new verbal phrase(especially easy to hear with the piano) . Please bear in mind that sometimes the lead singer can also have a long phrase which may take up two full 8 counts before they are done. This should not throw you off because you should still be counting the number 1 as they begin to sing again.

Vocalize the music
Start being aware of the tempo (the speed at which to count the 8 beats) when listening to Salsa music. Then learn to vocalize either out loud or in your head each count – meaning 1,2,3,4, 5,6,7,8.

When you are dancing on “the 1″(or for that matter vocalizing 1,2,3..5,6,7..), you should feel a connection to the melody.

If you want some help on how to learn to count a Tempo I found this really cool website, Set the speed to 144 bpm for a slow salsa tempo and 208 bpm for a fast salsa tempo and play with a few in-between.

Listen to the other Beats
After you get good at picking up the 1, you should then start to pick up the other 7 beats.  The best way to do this is to do the Salsa Drill Clap.

Pick a number from the beat, let’s say 5. Every time you hear the 5 beat just clap your hands together & Keep doing this on the 5 until you can “feel” the 5 beat coming. Then go to another beat, let’s say 3 and clap your hands together to the 3. Keep clapping your hands on the 3 beat until you can “feel” the 3 beat coming.

By doing this every time you listen to Salsa music, you will notice that you can pick any beat, and keep your timing throughout the entire song.

Listen and dance & listen and dance & listen and dance and eventually it will sink in.
Practice makes perfect. So practice!
You can also find someone else in the class who wants to practice and work on it together.

If all else fails:
1. There is also music available where a guy will count out the 8 beats as the song plays and will even explain the instruments. Listen to it. Pick up patterns and listen for breaks and pauses as the music hits the end of the 8 count and how everything comes in on the 1.

2. When you have time to kill in front of the computer watch salsa dance videos and try to see if you can see how the feet match the rhythm.

3. When you get onto the dance floor, look at someone who you know can follow the music and then copy when they hit the 1. (This should be a last resort because sometimes you may be the first person on the dance floor or that person may be dancing on2.) 😉

I really hope this Helps. Till next time….. Live, Love, Salsa!

About Chilly

Causality - I believe for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Cause and Effect. I am the cause - what will be the effect?
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2 Responses to How to find THE 1 (Part II)

  1. Shireen McWhite says:

    All I can say is you know how bad I am at finding the 1 it is easier for me to dance on a beat…or start with 5,6,7 and ONE! then I get it…ohlord and those who dance next to the beat…bless – there are so many out there. Noodle

  2. Thanks for this Chilly, lots of great tips!

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