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Salsa: Ear Training

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To bolster your aural comprehension of the sounds and rhythms, we have provided graphical representations wherever possible. Visual reinforcement of the rhythm that you hear and the feeling of the steps as you take them achieves a multi-sensory "triple-lock", providing an integrated learning pathway (the best kind there is).

The below example, taken from the advanced 'More salsa tumbaos' tutorial, possesses the salient features of a typical graphical representation:


Figure 12.1. Mozambique New York variant in 2-3 rumba clave with pulse

An array has been preferred over a traditional music score for the benefit of non music-readers. A heavier vertical line immediately precedes the start of the music bar/measure.

The Count Row
One of the rows, usually the topmost, features a count in which each whole number represents a beat as understood by a dancer. The plus (+) symbol represents the 'and' count used by drummers. Hence the verbal count could be:

  • simple - "one-two-three-four-..." for dancers; and
  • advanced - "one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and..." for percussionist dancers.

The significant difference is the one hundred percent increase in timing resolution from simple to advanced.

White circles on a grey-shaded backgound indicate the beats of a master rhythm: this is usually clave, used to indicate clave orientation.

The Instrument-Rhythm Row
Possible symbols of the instrument-rhythm row are:

  • an uparrow (inverted 'V') representing a dry sharp sound, normally the conga slap stroke;
  • a single circle representing a full, rounded, higher-pitched sound, normally the conga open stroke;
  • two concentric circles representing a full, rounded, lower-pitched sound, normally the tumba open stroke;
  • an asterisk representing a simple (non-qualitative) sound or stroke; and
  • a dot representing a ghost or touch stroke, which is played but not audible.

The Foot-Rhythm Row
Contains the paw prints. These indicate a lower limb action: steps or taps, usually either to a downbeat/pulse rhythm or a dance rhythm.

Miscellaneous Annotations
Additional notes will appear on figures to make things absolutely clear. You can bet on it.


1999 Salsa & Merengue Society