When I started dancing salsa I did not even know that salsa could be counted much less that there was actually different ways to understand the timing. All I had heard at the time was that salsa rhythm was supposed to quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow. So if you are confused about salsa timing like I was let me share some insights that have helped me along the way. I am going to give you a 4 simple tips that will start you off toward the mastery of salsa timing.
Tip # 1 – Learn To Count The Music
Salsa music is actually played in measures of 4 beats. As salsa dancers, we then take two of those measures and combine them to get total of 8 beats to make our basic step. We then count out only the beats that we actually take a step, which are 1,2,3,5,6,7. This then leaves the beats 4 and 8 silent. In other words, we hold the 4th and 8th beat of the music. It is these steps and the pause after the third and seventh count which then also makes the rhythm quick, quick, slow, and quick, quick, slow rhythm.
Tip # 2 – Find The 1st Beat Of The Music
For a beginning salsa dancer it is often much easier to find the rhythm than be able to correctly count the music. In other words, it is always easier to find the quick, quick, slow pattern, than be able to recognize the 1st beat from the fifth and vice versa.
While a comprehensive discussion about how to find the 1st beat of the music is beyond the scope of this article, my best tip for you is to ask someone who knows how to find it to simply count the music for you as you listen to a song. As you both listen to the song and he/she is counting the music, try to become aware of the different rhythms one at a time and just take a moment to notice how they correspond to the timing. This process is kind of like finding your heart beat. Your pulse is always there, but you just have to tune into it carefully and become aware of it in order to find it. Having someone count the music for you is like putting your index finger on your vein to count your pulse.
Tip # 3 – Emphasize The Pause In The Music
A great way to learn to get more familiar with the salsa rhythm and the steps is to actually consciously try to emphasize the pause in the music, which again is on the counts four and the eight. Emphasizing the pause will force you to make your steps a bit quicker. By making making the pause relatively longer this way is a good way to drill the quick, quick, slow rhythm so that you get more comfortable with the timing and the steps.
Once you master this rhythm, you can then make your dancing more relaxed and even continue to move through the pauses to eventually make your movements and steps smoother.
Tip # 4 – Buy A Salsa Timing CD
A good way to make sure you are staying in rhythm and counting your steps correctly is to buy and salsa timing CD. By listening to salsa song with a voice over of the actual counts is very helpful for you to monitor your progress and ability to stay on the correct count. Simply, pop the CD on when you are driving to work, or play it while cleaning the house. Ultimately the only way you are really going to master salsa timing is by practice.