Posts Tagged ‘clave’

Free Salsa Musicality Intro Lesson

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Thanks to our friends from you can enjoy a free instructional video about Salsa Musicality. You will learn how to listen to the basic rhythms, take advantage of the melodic patterns for finding the “1″ and how to synchronize your movements to the music. You will also be introduced to the Clave rhythm, and get a taste of additional Latin music styles, such as Cha Cha, Merengue and Bachata.

In addition to the video, you will also find here a widget for practicing with the songs from the video, so you can apply what you learn immediately and then test yourself to see how good you are doing. We recommend first watching the video, and then practicing with the widget below. Have fun!

Watch the Lesson

Get Adobe Flash Player to watch this video.

Practice Your Timing

The widgets below will let you practice and test yourself with twp songs from the lesson, “Acid” and “Otra Oportunidad”. The music tracks come from youtube, so please hit the youtube “play” button to get the widget going. You will then be able to switch between 4 tabs where you can see the On-1 dance steps, On-2 dance steps, visualize the Clave rhythm, and finally test your ability to find the “1″.

Ray Baretto – Acid

Jimmy Bosch – Otra Oportunidad

Learn More & Practice More

Did you enjoy the instructional video? You can find more many on Some are free, others are available for paying members, go ahead and check them out.

Do you want to practice with additional songs? Try our new Online Visual Salsa widget where you can choose from a selection of more than one hundred songs to practice with and then test yourself.

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,

La Rebelion by Joe Arroyo, a new Salsa Rhythm & Timing video

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Following a request by a user, we have created a new Salsa Rhythm & Timing video for the song “La Rebelion” by “Joe Arroyo y La Verdad”. This song is commonly known as “No le pegue a la negra”, which means “Don’t beat the black woman”. The song is about the slavery in America, in the 16th century, telling the personal story of a black slave whose wife was beaten. Finally, the slave could no longer stand this treatment, and rebelled, protesting about beating his wife.  The story happens in Cartagena, Colombia, the place where  Joe Arroyo, the singer, comes from.

From a dancer point of view, this song poses several challenges that can be easily spotted when watching the video:

  1. The speed (tempo) of the song changes constantly throughout the song. We have included a speedometer in the video so you can visually see the speed changes. As you can see, the speed varies by more than 15% across the song!
  2. There are two short phrases that occur in the song. A phrase is usually 8-beat long, and fits with a single forward-and-backward footstep cycle.  A short phrase, consisting only of 4 beats instead of the usual eight, challenges the dancers and requires them to break or use some other trick in order to accommodate to the sudden change of the “1″ beat.
  3. The Clave pattern breaks twice, using a technique called “3:3 Clave License”. The Clave is the fundamental pattern that holds together the rhythmical structure of the Salsa music. A “Clave License” happens when the arranger of the song decides to break the Clave pattern in order to match changes in the phrasing. This phenomenon is common in Cuban music, yet unusual in music from New York. We will publish a detailed post about the Clave, its role in the music and Clave changes, so keep an eye open.

For your convenience, here are the lyrics for the song. If you feel like translating them into English, please leave a comment with the translation below:

Quiero contarle mi hermano
un pedacito de la historia negra,
de la historia nuestra, caballero

Y dice así:

En los años mil seiscientos, cuando el tirano mando
las calles de Cartagena, aquella historia vivió.
Cuando allí llegaban esos negreros, africanos en cadenas
besaban mi tierra, esclavitud perpetua
Esclavitud perpetua
Esclavitud perpetua

Que lo diga salome y que te
de llego, llego, llego

Un matrimonio africano, esclavos de
un español, el les daba muy mal trato
y a su negra le pego

Y fue allí, se rebelo el negro guapo, tomó
venganza por su amor y aun se escucha
en la verja, no le pegue a mi negra
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra

Oye man!!
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra
No, no, no ,no, no, no,
No, no, no, no, no, no…

Oye esa negra se me respeta
Ehh, que aun se escucha,
se escucha en la verja,
No, no, no, no, no
No, no, no, no, no
No, no, no, no, no le pegue a la negra

Negra que me dice..

No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue

Y con ustedes… chelito de casa

Vamos a ver que le pegue a jeva
Porque el alma, que el alma, que el alma
Que el alma, que el alma se me revienta

Ehh, no, no, no, no, no,
No le pegue a mi negra
porque el alma se me agita mi prieta

El Chombo lo sabe
y tu también
no le pegue a la negra

Overall, there is a lot to learn from watching the video, listening to the music, reading the annotations and clapping the Clave rhythm along with the song. We hope you enjoy this video, and we encourage you to request a timing video for your favorite song by leaving a comment below.

Salsa Rhythm v1.2 on its way to AppStore

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

New version of the iPhone Application has just been uploaded to the iTunes AppStore: Salsa Rhythm v1.2.

So what’s new in this release?

  1. Ability to switch between Clave 2-3 and Clave 3-2 , both in Rumba and Son Clave modes.
  2. “Reset to Factory Settings” button to get the machine back to the default configuration.
  3. Compatible with the new iOS 4.1
  4. Updates to the help and links screens, including new “Troubleshooting” section.

It usually takes around 2 weeks for apple to approve a new version, so meanwhile let’s just keep on dancing while we are waiting for apple’s approval…

Salsa Rhythm iPhone App version 1.1 released

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

A new version of the Salsa Rhythm Application for iPhone has just been released.

Some of the new features in this version:

  • iPhone 4 Retina Graphics support
  • New BPM counting system, easier for dancers
  • Improved Clave instrument sound
  • New “Cuban Guaguancó” pattern for Congas and Bass
  • New graphics for Congas, Bass and Piano
  • New splash screen
  • Popup screen with quick help on first start

You can get the upgrade for free using the App Store application on your iPhone/iPod Touch.

If you haven’t purchased the application yet, you can find detailed instructions here:

You are also invited to check out a new salsa music timing video we uploaded earlier this week. High definition with annotations:

New version of the Online Salsa Beat Machine

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

The new version of the Salsa Beat Machine is finally ready!

Some of the major changes in this version include:

  1. Unified Mixer interface that replaces the old Instruments tab
  2. New “Visualizer” display, displaying the beat count along with animated congas and claves that move along with the music
  3. New sound sample for the Clave instrument
  4. Improved sound engine, with much more accurate beat display
  5. Play/Pause button, as requested by many users, and buttons to mute/unmute all instruments at once
  6. Popup menu for controlling instrument properties and changing patterns

You can view the new version immediately by going to our homepage,, and clicking the big blue “Start the Beat Machine” button.

Users of the standalone version can also download an update for free, using our download portal page at

We hope you enjoy this new release and looking forward to hearing your feedback, comments and suggestions.

The new visualizer tab

The new "Visualizer" tab