Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Finding “One” in Salsa Music

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

As a Salsa dancer, you may find some songs easier to dance, while other songs can be trickier in figuring out the rhythm and finding the “1″. Luckily, our partner Don Baarns is here to Help! You will find some very useful tips in the instructional video series Don recorded for you called “Finding 1″.

The first video serves as a quick introduction to the topic of “Finding 1″, using the POV (Point of View) method developed by Don. This method focuses on three main components which define his approach: Phrase, One and Verify.

The second video takes a popular Salsa song from the sound track of the movie “Dirty Dancing – Havana Nights” and shows you how to break it down using the POV method, giving you some exercise to train your brain for finding 1.

Curious to know more about the POV method? Just go ahead and watch these free videos from Don. Then you will be able to practice with our unique Visual Salsa Online widget, with the very same song Don used in his second video. You will be able to watch the basic salsa step synchronized to the music, and then test yourself to get immediate feedback how good you are doing.

Let’s start!


Part 1 – Intro:

Part2 – Analyzing the Song “Do You Only Wanna Dance”:

Don spends great amounts of time and money providing your these instructional videos for free. If you found them useful, you may wish to go ahead and give your donation: Don Baarn’s Donation Page.


The following widget will let you practice and test yourself with the song used in the second video, “Do You Only Wanna Dance” by Julio Daivel’s Big Band. Just press the Play button on the youtube video to get the shoes start moving to the rhythm, then try your luck in the “Test Yourself” tab to see how good you are doing.

Don’t worry if you don’t get the timing for this song on the first try – this is not an easy song! Come back to practice until you are happy with your progress.

Final Words

Did you like Don’s videos? Please leave a comment and let us know. Also, we are here to answer any question you may have. If you liked the Visual Salsa Online widget, you may wish to consider purchasing a monthly package, which gives you 30 songs to practice with, one per day. Visit Visual Salsa Online Purchase Page for a discounted price!


Listen to Salsa Music online, free

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

While listening to a variety of songs and musical styles is essential for developing your musicality, many dancers don’t know where to find new sources of Salsa music. One of the easiest ways to discover new songs is by listening to an online Salsa radio station. For example, you could listen to the broadcast while working or doing your homework. When you hear a new tune that you like, you just write down the name and the name of the artist, and later obtain that track.

So where to start? We have collected a few links to quality online Salsa radio stations, run by professional Salsa DJs who also play in parties. Some of these radio stations also have live shows:

Radio Candela

The first station is the new kid in town. Launched just a few months ago, run by DJ Nrike from Stockholm, Sweden (and originally from Cuba), the Radio Candela station plays a hot mixture of Salsa, Reggeaton, Bachata and other latin music styles.

Salsa Picante

Hosted on Live365, this station has more than 5 years of broadcasting in its record. This station mainly plays new songs and is a great channel for discovery of recent releases. In the station’s web page you will find links to additional Salsa stations hosted on Live365, as well as and option for free listening:

Note: Live365 also offer a VIP package, free of advertisements, with desktop software & mobile application so you can listen on-the-go. If you want additional details, Click Here for 25% off the regular price.

Radio La Zeta

Based in Bogotá, radio La Zeta broadcasts Salsa music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This station plays music most of the time, but they have occasional talk shows too, which can be very interesting if you are a Spanish speaker. This radio is broadcasted over the air in the area of Bogota, Colombia, but there is also a link for listening to the broadcast online:

Do you know any additional quality Salsa radio not listed here? Write a comment below and we will review it and add it to the list.

We wish you best time listening to your favorite Salsa music online, free!

Can Salsa Change Your Life ?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

I asked some of our users to tell us their personal story, how did Salsa change their life. In this article, I am going to share with you some of the more interesting answers that I got.

Alex Schamenek from Texas gave us the following answer:

  • I stopped watching TV so much.
  • I have a real social life with actual friends.
  • I have a confidence I never thought I would have.
  • I know more about what it means to be a real leader.
  • I learned more about women in 2 years of dancing with them than in 20 years of trying to date them. (I’ve been dancing for over 7 years now.)
  • My attitude about women and life in general has flipped on it’s head.
  • I used to want to be wrapped around a cute girl’s pinky. Now I know that she wants me to be a good leader.
I could go on but basically I would be a sorry person without salsa.
Thanks to my cousin Dan for introducing it to me.
Darren Sharman from Germany also shared with us his exciting story:
“I was out dancing Salsa in Mannheim Germany (I am an Ex-pat brit) about 11 months ago. I met my Turkish girlfriend who was there visiting to improve her German for two months. We dated nearly everyday, 3 months after that first Salsa night I moved to Istanbul and we have been living together here for 9 months together. We are planning on getting married early in 2012. If that isn’t a life changer then I don’t know what is :-)”
Photo by Rain Ader

Photo by Rain Ader

Getting Started

Do you want Salsa to change your life too? Start right now. It’s a long process you have to undergo, but the end result is well-worth the effort.

In the following weeks, we are going to publish several articles with Tip and Tricks how to get started with making the change. Even if you already dance Salsa, we are going to share with you some techniques that will make your Salsa dancing more social, more professional, and above all – more fun.

If you haven’t done so, please join to our mailing-list, by clicking the following link:

Join our mailing list now!

You will receive a letter from us twice a week, with information how to improve your dance and timing techniques.

Share Your Own Story

How did your life change with Salsa? Post your story in the comments section below, and share it with our readers. We are going to give a free copy of the Salsa Rhythm Software to the dancer with the most exciting story!


The Key to Dancing Salsa “On-2″

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Dancing Salsa “On-2″ is very popular amongst our users, and we have received many requests to create a Salsa timing video that illustrates the “On-2″ foot step pattern. Many dancers have trouble finding the “2″ beat and still can’t isolate the percussion patterns that accent that beat. In this timing video we will focus on the Timbales patterns, the Cáscara and the Mambo Bell, both can help you to keep in time when dancing Salsa “On-2″.

The song we chose is “La Llave” by Grupo Latin Vibe ( “La Llave” means “The Key” in Spanish, so we hope that this video will provide you the key to unlocking the “On-2″ rhythm and let you unleash your full potential on the dance floor without having to worry whether you are still in time with the music. This is also a relatively slow track (164BPM), and many Salsa dance studios play this song for practicing.

Another thing to notice about this song is the use of a Vibraphone. The vibraphone is a percussion instrument, but it’s also a chromatic one. This means that it can play all sort of notes, and is suitable for playing the melody. The instrument itself resembles a big xylophone with the bars arranged like the keys on a piano keyboard. Many Salsa groups and artists utilize the magical sound of the Virbraphone in their music. Some examples are The New Swing Sextet, La Sonora Carruseles, Louie Ramirez, Joe Cuba Sextet as well as many others.

Gropo Latin Vibe with Tommy Mattioli on the Vibraphone

Grupo Latin Vibe with Tommy Mattioli on the Vibraphone

So here we go, the new timing video:

We will now explain to you the two Timbales patterns illustrated in this video, their relation to the “Clave” pattern and how they can be used to find the “On-2″ beat.

The Cáscara Pattern

Cáscara illustrated in Gold

Cáscara in Gold

Cáscara is the Spanish word for a shell, and it is also the name of a very common timbales pattern. This pattern is played by hitting the shell of the drums with the woodstick.  It is usually played during the verses, either with one or two sticks, and has a direct relation to the Clave. The pattern itself consists of single and double-strokes, and sounds like:

Ta  TaTa  TaTa  TaTa  Ta  TaTa

Each ‘Ta‘ signifies a single stroke and ‘TaTa‘ a double-stroke. We have a single stroke, followed by 3 groups of double strokes, another single stroke, and finally a 4th group of double-strokes. The interesting thing about this pattern is that it starts on beat 2: The first ‘Ta’ in the sequence falls on the second beat of each phrase, that is the beat where the men break backwards when dancing “On-2″. To illustrate this, we will show you the cáscara pattern again, but this time also with the beat numbers:

2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 & 1 &
Ta  TaTa  TaTa  TaTa  Ta  TaTa

The best thing about this pattern is that you don’t actually have to remember all these beats – once you internalize the pattern, by listening to it and memorizing how it sounds, you will be able to pick it up very easily. Then you will be able to find the “2″ beat just by listening for this pattern, and whenever you hear that the pattern repeats and a new iteration begins, you will immediately know this is the “2″ beat and that you ought to break backward with your right foot (or forward with your left foot, if you are the follower).

You can practice this pattern along with the video. All you have to do is to say it aloud (the ‘Ta’ and ‘TaTa’) following along with the timbales animation – whenever their shells highlight in gold there is a stroke of the Cáscara pattern. If you find it hard to follow, you can begin with just saying the ‘Ta’ on the 2nd beat (when the instructor voice says “2″), then you can add the first ‘TaTa’ following immediately on beat 3, and gradually add more ‘Ta’ and ‘TaTa’s until you master the complete pattern.

→ Listen to the Cáscara pattern on the Salsa Beat Machine

The Timbales Bell Pattern

Bell in Purple

Bell in Purple

The Timbales bell is usually played during the chorus and the more energetic parts of the song. In some cases, the Cáscara pattern we discussed above is also played on the timbales bell, but usually it the bell its own distinct pattern that goes as follows:

2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 & 1 &
Ta  TaTaTaTa  TaTaTaTa  TaTaTa

As you can see, this pattern consists of a single, accented stoke on the 2-beat, followed by 3 groups with multiple strokes (each group consists of either 3 or 4 strokes). All you have to look for is that single, accented stroke, and when you hear it you will know you found the “2″ beat and you are dancing in time. Again, you don’t have to remember all the beats in this pattern – once you internalize the sound of this pattern you will learn to recognize it in music and you will be able to dance Salsa in On-2 timing easily.

The bell strokes are indicated in the video using a purple glow. For practicing, you can try spotting the single ‘Ta’ stroke that falls on “2″. Once you can spot is visually in the video, try closing your eyes and see if you can still spot it without the visual clues. Then you can try saying ‘Ta’ on beat 2, and gradually add additional “Ta” sequences until you will be able to read aloud the complete pattern while keeping in time with the music. After you master the bell pattern in this video, you can look for it in additional songs. “Idilio” by Willie Colon, for example, has a very clear bell pattern starting at 02:35.

→ Listen to the Timbales Bell pattern on the Salsa Beat Machine

The Clave

The Clave is a fundamental rhythmic pattern in afro-cuban music. It is usually played with two wooden stick, or by striking a special woodblock mounted on the Timbales set. We are not going to explain this pattern in detail here, but in favor of those who are already familiar with it, we provide a chart to show you how it relates to the other Timbales patterns:

2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 & 1 &  <- Beats
Ta  TaTa  TaTa  TaTa  Ta  TaTa   <- Cáscara
Ta  TaTaTaTa  TaTaTaTa  TaTaTa   <- Bell
X   X       X     X     X        <- Clave Pattern

Each stroke of the Clave is represented by an ‘X’ in this chart. As you can see, the 2-side of the clave (the one with the 2 strokes, on the left) comes together with the accented Ta on both the Cáscara and the Timbales bell patterns. For songs in 2-3 clave, like “La Llave”, this falls on the beat number 2. For songs with 3-2 clave (for example, “La Salsa Nunca Se Acaba” by Susie Hansen), the accented Ta of these patterns still falls on the 2-side of the Clave, which means beat number 6.


You can find the lyrics of the song, along with a full English translation on a distinct blog post:

La Llave by Grupo Latin Vibe Lyrics + Translation

Final Word

We hope that the information presented in this article will serve as another step in your journey towards mastering the Salsa music rhythms. We have done our best to present it in a simple and accurate manner, and we would love to get your feedback about this. You can leave a comment below and share your impressions with us.

If you still haven’t joined to our mailing list you can do this by filling a simple form on the top of the homepage,

Salsa Music Around The World

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Salsa has become a world-wide phenomenon in the last two decades. Almost every country I can think of has a prosperous Salsa scene with thousands of dancers, clubs with Salsa music and an annual Salsa congress. Most of the countries also have local Salsa bands, some of them write original Salsa music in their own native language. While the vast majority of the Salsa music is still in the Spanish language, there is also a great selection of salsa Music in many other languages.

In this blog post, I have collected for you a few examples of Salsa songs in 15 different languages. If you have any additional examples of Salsa in these or other languages, just leave a comment with the song/performer name, and optionally a link to a youtube video.


Salsa music in English:

Alex Wilson – Ain’t Nobody

Lenny Kravitz – Thinking of You

EuroCuban Project – Never Leave You

David Cedeno – Will You Love Me Tomorrow

Junior Gonzales – Lady In Red

Angeles – No Woman No Cry

Puchi Colon – We Wanna Worship (Christian Salsa)


Salsa music in French:

Fatal Mambo – Probleme

Africando – Aicha

Deldongo – concert à la “féria de Cali”


Salsa music in Hebrew:

Perla Malcos – Shir ha’Frecha

Shalom Hanoch – Haya Kedai

Salsa Groove with Perla Malcos – Emor Li Ahuvi


Salsa music in Russian:

Sever Combo – Lesnia Chislivaga Chilavieka

Sever Combo Live at Moloko 15 nov. 2001


Salsa music in Italian:

Croma Latina – Più che puoi

Kel Torres – Farfalle e Fiori


Salsa music in Arabic:

Cheb Sahraoui – Je Suis Naif (Algeria)

Hanine Y Son Cubano – Ala Bali (Lebanon)

Hanine Y Son Cubano – El Helwa Di (Lebanon)


Salsa music in Polish language:

Polatino – Zycie w Ameryce

Polatino – Bylas Kiedys Moja


Salsa music in Deutsch:

Los Dos y Compañeros – Kula Sack


Salsa music in Duala Language (spoken in Cameroon):

Richard Bona – Te Dikalo


Salsa music in Dutch:

Cache Deluxe – Geef mij je angst

Chinese (Mandarin)

Salsa music in Chinese:

Mandarina China Band – 月亮代表我的心 (The moon represents my heart)

Mandarina China Band – 最熟悉的陌生人 (los extraños mas conocidos)

Special thanks to Simon Fung from Hong Kong for sending us the names of these songs.


Salsa music in Swedish:

Pablo Cepeda – Himlen runt hörnet


Salsa music in Japanese:

Orquesta De La Luz – 真夏に咲いた花

Song in Okinawan Japanese:

Haitian Creole

Salsa music in Haitian Creole:

Haitiando – Pa Koute Konsèy

Wolof (An African language from Senegal)

Africando – Aicha

Visaya (a Philippines language)

J.R. Reyes – Matud Nila


Final Word

I truly hope you enjoyed listening to the collection of the songs I brought you here. For the beginners amongst you, it is many times easier to correlate to songs in your own native language, and this collection can serve as a starting point for you. For the more advanced dancers, this collection will let you extend your horizons and taste additional flavors of Salsa coming from exotic places around the world. I would love you hear your feedback about this collection, so feel free to leave your comments below.

Do you know any additional songs in these languages?
Just leave a comment with the song/performer name, and optionally a link to a youtube video. Thanks!

New Piano Patterns – “El Preso”

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

We have just rolled out a small update to the Salsa Beat Machine, adding new patterns from the salsa song “El Preso” from Fruko y Sus Tesos.

Despite what many beginners think, not all Salsa song are romantic songs that talk about “corazón”, “flores” and “amor”. “El Preso” serves as a great example: It’s an excellent Sasla tune, with a driving music and rhythm that makes you want to move your feet and start dancing. However, once you listen to the lyrics, you realize it’s actually a very sad piece with a really melancholic theme.

The song tells the story of a prisoner who is condemned to spend the rest of his life in a small prison cell, has nobody left in the world and has been left alone with his pain. The only thing that holds him alive is the eternal memory of his mother, and being totally hopeless he is just waiting for the day of his death, the day when he can finally join his mother.

We have translated the coro of the song for you, so you can get a feeling of what it goes like:

Ay, que solo estoy
Solo me espera la muerte
Ay, que solo estoy
¿Cuando cambiará mi suetre?

Solo, con mi pena
Solo, en mi condena

Ay, how lonely I am
Only death waits for me
Ay, how lonely I am
When will my luck change?

Alone, with my pain
Alone, with my condemnation

As you can see, this piece is one of the few songs that does it so well telling pain in music. Apart from the melancholic theme, there is also a musically interesting phenomenon in this track: Just after the coro, the piano begins to play a pattern similar to the timbalero’s cáscara. We have put this pattern in the new Salsa Beat Machine and you can look it up under the name El Preso – “Piano Cáscara” in the piano pattern list.

Finally, we are going to show you to set up the Beat Machine to play the patterns like they are in the original song:

Step 1 – Set the master key to “C” and the tempo to 220 BPM:

Step 2 – Choose “El Preso – Bassline” in the bass pattern list:

Step 3 – Choose one of the new piano patterns for “El Preso”:

And you are ready to go! You can also experiment with turning on/off the clave, timbales, guiro and other instruments. By cycling between the 3 different piano patterns and playing with other instrument settings, you can actually create a neat salsa piece of your own…

I invite you to experiment and create your own machine setting, then save it using the blue save button (it’s on the top panel, near the “Tempo” box), and post here the link to your machines. Enjoy the music!

Flash Player 10.1 and the Salsa Rhythm Software

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Adobe has released the long-waited version 10.1 of the Flash Player just a little more than a week ago. Ever since, I have began getting reports from users about problems they had experienced with running the Salsa Rhythm Software on their machines.

As it turns out, adobe has changed the internals of their Flash Player in the 10.1 release, and the changes make it incompatible with older Flash Player 10.0. Thus, any of you who will upgrade their player to the new 10.1 version will no longer be able to run the Salsa Rhythm Software on their computer.

We know this may pose a problem to some of the users, and we are working very hard to get a new version which will be compatible with the new Flash Player released as soon as possible. Follow this blog and we will post an announcement as soon as such version will be available.

You can easily check what version of Flash Player you have on your system by going to this page and looking inside the “Version Information” box to the right of the text.

Sandrine, a user of the Salsa Rhythm Software, has sent us the following instructions, how to go back to Flash Player 10.0 in case you have already installed the new 10.1 version:

  1. Download the uninstall_flash_player.exe program from adobe site here and run it. This will uninstall Flash Player 10.1 from your system.
  2. Install the lastest 10.0 ActiveX version of the Adobe Flash Player. You can download it here.

Thank you Sandrine for sharing this information with us!

Exercises to practice your rhythm with the Salsa Beat Machine

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I have been getting a lot of questions from users about how beginners can use the Salsa Beat Machine to improve their perception of the beat in salsa music. In my opinion, the best way is to practice – and do that gradually, begin from something simple, then slowly increase the difficulty level.

So here are some exercises I came up with for helping you improving your musicality and feeling of the Salsa Rhythm:

1. Turn all instruments off except for the Congas. Now try counting the one and the five. (hint: The should fall exactly after the pam-pam open tone)

2. Turn all instruments off except for the Clave. Repeat the process – try counting while only hearing the clave.

3. Listen to the Clave and the Cowbell playing together. Can you tap both rhythms one in each hand? (e.g. left hand tapping the Clave, while right hand hitting the cowbell accents – 1,3,5,7). Note that this one is not very easy – might require starting at slower BPM, practicing, and gradually increasing the speed.

Do you find these exercises useful? easy? complicated? Can you come up with a few more ? Let me know!

Introduction to the salsa beat machine

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Instructor Joel Dominguez created an introduction video to the online Salsa Beat Machine.

In this video Joel goes over the basic functions of the software, including a breif review of the clave, cowbell, congas and the piano. He also explains the importance of the music timing in the dance, and demonstrates how he takes advantage of the Salsa Beat Machine in his Salsa classes.

The video is available online both in English and Spanish on his website:

And the Spanish version:

Hacking the Beat Machine

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Yesterday I was asked by one of my users whether it’d be possible to make the Salsa Beat Machine enable the instructor only once per 4 intervals (3 intervals without, 1 interval with and so on…)

So I’ve decided to write a little post about hacking the Salsa Beat Machine. By “hacking”, I mean extending it and modifying the way it works under the hood. I’m writing this simple tutorial giving an answer to that user – How to make the instructor count only once per 4 intervals.

Before we dive in, let’s review in 3 short steps what we are going to do:

  1. Download the default machine XML file
  2. Edit that XML file and modify the way the instructor works – we’ll add a new instructor program
  3. Load the XML file we edited into the machine and enjoy the new instructor

Downloading machine XML file

Before we can edit the XML file with all the machine’s settings, we need to grab ourselves the default settings file. This can either be done by saving a machine (clicking the Save Button button in the Beat Machine’s main window) or simply by downloading it from here:

Just right-click on this link, choose “Save Link As…” and save it to your computer.

Editing the XML file

Now that you have the XML file, you can edit it using any text editor that you have. I use Notepad++, but it doesn’t really matter, you can even use the default Notepad that comes with windows.

Looking into the XML file, you’ll see a lot of variables and settings you can tweak and play with. Since we want to change the way the instructor works, let’s just search for the word “Instructor”. We find this:

<Instructor xmlns="" title="Instructor">
    <bm:Program length="16" title="1">
      <bm:Note index="0" pitch="0"/>
    <bm:Program length="16" title="1,5">
      <bm:Note index="0" pitch="0"/>
      <bm:Note index="8" pitch="4"/>
    <bm:Program length="16" title="1,2,3,5,6,7">
      <bm:Note index="0" pitch="0"/>
      <bm:Note index="2" pitch="1"/>
      <bm:Note index="4" pitch="2"/>
      <bm:Note index="8" pitch="4"/>
      <bm:Note index="10" pitch="5"/>
      <bm:Note index="12" pitch="6"/>
    <bm:Program length="16" title="2,6">
      <bm:Note index="2" pitch="1"/>
      <bm:Note index="10" pitch="5"/>
    <bm:Program length="16" title="1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8">
      <bm:Note index="0" pitch="0"/>
      <bm:Note index="2" pitch="1"/>
      <bm:Note index="4" pitch="2"/>
      <bm:Note index="6" pitch="3"/>
      <bm:Note index="8" pitch="4"/>
      <bm:Note index="10" pitch="5"/>
      <bm:Note index="12" pitch="6"/>
      <bm:Note index="14" pitch="7"/>

As you can see, the format of the file is pretty straightforward: We first define the Instructor instrument, then open a <programs> tags, and within that tag we define the individual programs for the Instructor.

Since we want to add a new program, we’ll start by making a copy of an existing program, the “1,5″ program. It’s defined in lines 7-10. We are also going to give it a new name: “1,5 every 4th bar”. So the new program looks like:

    <bm:Program length="16" title="1,5 every 4th bar">
      <bm:Note index="0" pitch="0"/>
      <bm:Note index="8" pitch="4"/>

There’s one step missing before it’s perfect: Making the instructor speak only once per 4 bars. To achieve this, we simply change the pattern length from 16 to 64. Every bar is 16 ticks long, and this is how the Beat Machine Sound engine internally represents all the stored patterns. So since we want to make that pattern span over 4 bars, we simply set the length to 64 and now we get:

    <bm:Program length="64" title="1,5 every 4th bar">
      <bm:Note index="0" pitch="0"/>
      <bm:Note index="8" pitch="4"/>

We add this new program to the XML file, just after the original “1,5″ program, and save it.

Loading the XML in the Beat Machine

This step is the easiest. We simply go to the Beat Machine, right-click on the Save button (the one with the diskette icon), select “Load machine from XML…”, and choose the XML file we’ve just edited.

To hear our new instructor program, we click “Edit Machine”, click on the Instructor, choose the new “1,5 every 4th beat” program, and volla :-)

Final Words

I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial. Editing the XML files and experimenting with the parameters allows you much more: You can create new programs and instruments, modify the instrument arrangement, their sound, etc.

Once you’ve created a XML you are happy with, feel free to save it on our server using the Save (the blue diskette) button, and then you will get a link you can share with your friends.
If you create something cool, write me about it and I’ll publish it in one of next my posts…