So, you’ve started taking Salsa lessons and have been told that practice makes perfect – but now you’re in the privacy of your own home, you don’t know where to start. At Arthur Murray, we not only teach you the steps, but also how to recognise the rhythms yourself so that you can practice as much as you like, wherever you are, without a teacher telling you what to do.
The Salsa beat is hard to identify, because it does not have one dominant drum pattern that stays constant throughout the song. Instead it puts a greater focus on rhythms. Salsa compositions involve Afro-Cuban percussion based around the Clave rhythm (which has no less than four types), and it is this rhythm that dancers tend to mark, either directly with the feet or indirectly, through shoulder movements.
It takes a while to get your ear tuned to recognising the beat as there can be multiple percussionists, a piano and bass, not to mention the vocalist – each with their own rhythm. A quick tip is to fast forward a track to the chorus, or ‘mambo section’, which is usually the best part of the song to hear the beat. Unfortunately you won’t be able to do this at a dance club, but at least it will help when you practice at home.
Here’s a selection of suitable tracks for practicing Salsa:
1. Yo No Se Mañana – Luis Enrique
This is a lovely song with a nice slow start and romantic mood to really capture the connection with your partner. As a modern number, it is particularly popular in Salsa clubs, so if you want to feel comfortable on the dance floor quickly, practice to this song to gain confidence with it in the social setting.
2. Lluvia (Rain) – Eddie Santiago
This is a favourite from one of the major romantic Salsa singers of the 1980s and ‘90s, and is a popular dance for Salsa classes because it is very slow and therefore ideal for perfecting your moves. If you haven’t heard this song in a class yet, try practicing your steps to this great number, which has gorgeous vocals.
3. El Tun Tun De Tu Corazon – Orquesta La Palabra
This is another slow Salsa song that effortlessly provides all the elements you need while learning – you can clearly hear the clave and the ‘pa-pa’ sound in the music, so you can easily hit the right marks. This song is perfect practice material.
4. Agúzate – Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz
This classic song, by the American duo who were famous in the 60s and 70s, has a beat that’s slow enough for practicing beginners, but boasts lots of instrumentation so you can play with the musicality as your confidence and skill improves.
5. Todo Tiene Su Final – Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe
Learn some steps to this medium-paced classic and you’ll find you can often have the last dance, as clubs tend to play it at the end of the night. This is because the title translates to ‘Everything Has An End’. Other great tracks by these legendary songwriters include ‘El Gran Varon’ by Colon, with a long intro to help you get into the faster rhythm and ‘El Cantante’, by Lavoe, which is a moderate-paced heart-wrencher.
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