Salsa > How on earth do leaders confuse the 1 and the 5?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by nycsalsero, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    True as that may be, it's a bit distracting for SalsAlx who was saying "doesn't the clave stay 2-3 or 3-2 all the way through?" the point I was trying to make is that the clave continues, but the 2-3-ness or the 3-2-ness depends on the surrounding phrasing. According to the stuff I've read and all the (son-based) music I've listened to, actually reversing the clave (e.g. going 3-2-2-3 or 2-3-3-2) is rare. I don't recall hearing it ever, though I've picked up a couple of passages where percussionists have got the clave crossed.

    /edit: fascinating read, that! Thanks for posting
  2. SalsAlx

    SalsAlx New Member

    If I understand you right, since the 2-3-ness or the 3-2-ness depends on the surrounding phrasing, the clave (in effect) could appear to change when the surrounding phrasing changes since we generally don't LISTEN to the clave as our metronome (unless necessary). We generally listen to the melody or the other instruments, so if THOSE instruments add a bar,the clave might appear to change. If this happens...

    2 ... call
    3 ... response
    2 ... BRIDGE
    3 ... call
    2 ... response

    The entire phrasing shifts by one bar. But the clave remains. To those of us who listen to the melody or what-not the rigidity of the clave has actually made the CLAVE appear to have shifted, not the other way 'round. Even though the rest of the music is what shifted. Which means, during that "response-call" period... the clave would sound like 3-2 instead of 2-3 (or vice-versa).

    Those LOUSY creative musicians are screwing it up for us rigid clave dancers!!! :p

    Heh. Anyway. Could be confusing, but it makes a sort of sense. Cheese, if the clave playing fella would just loosen up a bit and go with the flow, right? LOL

    Ah, but this is yet another reason to love the ever-increasingly intricate music style we so adore.
  3. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Yup. There is no "3/2" or "2/3", or "forward" or "reverse," except the melody which makes it such.
  4. Catarina

    Catarina New Member

    I feel so smart!

    This has been so educational! I feel so much smarter about listening to music after reading this thread!
  5. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    You have it exactly on the button, SalsAlx. In Brendan's link, this is what the author calls "New York Style" clave change. Until reading that article I had thought it an almost sacred rule about clave, but it seems Cubans are not so uptight about it as New Yorkers, and "Clave License" (where it really does change) is also possible. The citation for that is Rebeca Mauleon, who is a San Franciscan, very friendly with Changuito of Los Van Van, who plays by his own rules anyway...

    As a gringo, I would not dare arrange a piece where the clave actually changed because the enraged voices claiming I did not know what I was doing would easily drown out the 3 people saying "actually, that's completely fine in Cuba!"
  6. Lita_rulez

    Lita_rulez New Member

    And you must realize what is really important :

    Mode =Matrix= ON

    There is no Spoon

    Mode =Matrix= Off
  7. HF

    HF New Member

    Part of the problem is:

    - The clave does not show the difference even if many people say so.
    - The tumbao most times does not show the difference even many people say so.
    - The beginning of the phrase is not reliable.

    The only thing that is dead on is the harmonic structure of the piece. We are lucky here since the harmony in salsa is following relatively simple lines, so you can easily tell where you are once you can spot the harmonic center.

    But the salsa teachers are rare that have a clue on what harmony is, and I never noticed an attempt to explain this to non-musicians. But I think that most people that can easily spot the 1 unconciously listen to the harmony without knowing a name for it.

    The second best is to get a feeling about the question-answer or call-response structure.

  8. Ron Obvious

    Ron Obvious New Member

    The other part of the problem is that we're dealing with music. You can't make such rules that stipulate that "clave never changes", or something similar, because music is made by musicians, and they do whatever they wish.

    Certainly, it wouldn't be difficult to compose a piece of music where the clave goes 3-2-2-3 (what the above mentioned author calls Clave Licence change). Because of this possibility, one cannot say that the clave itself never changes, because it may.
  9. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    When playing percussion in an ensemble you need rules, and this is a pretty good one. I don't think I own a single track where the "clave license" style change happens. I'll have to listen to my more cuban tracks and listen out for it. I have the impression it only really happened after songo and into cuban pop, rather than in what we would recognize as son based.
  10. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I have been watching this thread for a while. Interesting stuff. However, I am confused on why it matters?

    a) I learned most of my salsa breaking forward on 1.
    b) Then I took a shorter class with a different instructor that taught breaking forward on 2.
    c) Now, a different instructor is teaching small step back with left foot on 1 then break back on 2.

    So aren't b and c automatically opposit of each other? Couple b is breaking forward on 2 and couple c is breaking back on 2. Yet, within my ability to judge good dancing, both couples appear to be very good.
  11. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    The l. foot back followed by r. foot ( a/ m--step side l and back right ) Is the way that mambo was introduced to beginners in the chain schools and called the mambo box. Most teachers, however, would break forward on the " 2 ". with no prep step, when going out to clubs . Many p.r. start side r and break forward left.--- and the list goes on !

    This directional starting , is all tied in with the " call and response " theory . Bottom line-- do what makes you comfortable, the majority of " dancers ", cant find a beat in a bucket .
  12. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    But isn't the whole theme of this thread that it makes a big difference whether you break forward or backward on measure one?
  13. devane

    devane New Member

    Nah, it was nothing to do with different styles, ways of doing a basic.

    It was about when someone dances 4 beats out of sync, starting in the middle of a bar instead on the beginning.
    If you have learned to start on the 1 it will feel a bit weird cos' when you hear the start of a bar you will be on the wrong foot and can feel uncomfortable as being out of time completely.
    Also changes in the song may throw you off too as it will change on the 1 but you're 4 beats out.
    This is somethings referred to "dancing on the wrong side".
    This has nothing to do with On2, Power 2 etc....they can dance 4 beats out of sync too!:cool:
  14. devane

    devane New Member

    I spend a lot of time watching others dancers. Watching for things to "borrow" in terms of styling. There is this one guy from Brazil who is considered one of the best dancers. I noticed that whatever beat he dances on it's completely random, or should I say the music is ignored completely.

    Anyway I asked a few of the girls about this and some said he danced well but some said it feels horrible dancing with him because he keeps changing what beat to dance on. I have still stolen a few styling elements from him.

    I have asked this question to the girls before and they say they just follow whatever speed the guy is doing. Some are completely unaware that the music dictates this, both guys and girls, both beginners and eh....advanced.
    But it's rarely taught anyway so what can you expect.
    We are taught On1 but if I watched 20 couples dancing I'd expect 1 or maybe 2 couples doing that.

    I don't mean to dictate but dancing on time (whatever your style On1, On2) isn't a advanced concept, it's a basic concept.
    There are plenty of discussions about this on this forum but I never hear a thing about such things in a salsa school.

    Why are students allowed to advance without fundamentals.
  15. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I was asking my AT teacher, recently become my standard teacher, about counting in AT one time and I got a very interesting answer which your post reminded me of.

    My teacher is Brazilian, and started off as a samba dancer. He was saying that there's often a cultural element at work with South American dancers, in that the focus for them is to focus on the lyrics and melody, as opposed to the beat. This, understandably, can create a lot of lyricism in their dancing, but can also interfere when you're dealing with more beat-oriented music.

    He was saying that a lot of South American ballroom (or salsa, etc.) dancers will often look slightly "off" because to them it's a matter of counting and steps/patterns, without a lot of connection to the beat. Because, to them, the beat has always been way secondary to the melody in terms of importance. So, they don't fully "get" the connection of the steps to the beat.

    Interesting, I though. Disclaimer here: I have no idea how true this is. I don't mean this as a commentary on South American dancers. I'm just passing along what was said to me by a native South American.
  16. alemana

    alemana New Member

    money, of course.
  17. noobster

    noobster Member

    Interesting. I have noticed that I tend to get off-beat when I listen too much to the lyrics. And I think it is true that the 'count' in the melody does not adhere completely to the beat-count. The percussion count is totally regular, whereas the count that I get from the melody line seems to weave in and out, with slight syncopation, though still staying close to the percussion.

    I've seen a bunch of threads about lyrics on this site, and it didn't seem like for most people they were very integral to their enjoyment of the song. I've always been a very verbally oriented individual though, and lyrics (if they are in a language I understand) are a crucial part of the song for me. They can make it or break it (bad lyrics can really kill a catchy beat; conversely, great ones will make forgettable music wonderful).

    The worst thing I can do for my dancing is sing along. It's terrible because my worst dances end up being to my favorite, favorite songs, the ones I can't help belting out.
  18. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Thanks, I will experiement a bit and see if I can sense it messing me up? I am a lot better at chacha than salsa. So, if I start hold-break forward 2-3 or start left-break back 2-3, I end up exactly 4 beats opposit of the other right? I start both ways and decide usually by how crowded the dance floor is. If I have lots of space, I might as well use the space and tend to start with a side basic and lead more paseo type steps. If it is really crowded, I condense things and do lots more slot/cbl kinds of steps. I think I still have about the same amount of fun either way.

    At a dance last weekend, the DJ loved Santana and played the same song twice times during the evening. Maybe I should try it one way each and see what I do different?
  19. Catarina

    Catarina New Member

    The place I take lessons from started out pretty soundly teaching about starting "correctly" on the 1 in the music--learning to hear the 1, and stepping in the appropriate place---forward, back, or in place depending on which style you're dancing. in talking with a guy I know on Saturday, he poined out a dancer we both know and how the guy she was dancing with was dancing 5-6-7, 1-2-3, and that you could see on her face the question of whether he heard the shift in the music/clave change...he pointed out that where we take lessons teaches clearly about hearing that in the music, but as devane mentioned, not everyone teaches this, so it's unpredictable whether the person you are dancing with will adjust or even start the dance correctly.

    as a follow who hears the 1, it bugs me, and I am left wondering if the lead hears it or not, particularly when the count changes...I probably get that same question face at that point in the dance, but I still keep dancing and remember, quick, quick, slow, rather than 123, 567 since I do tend to step out of spins or combinations in time with the music, not with the lead when we're dancing on the wrong side of the music (i like that phrase!)

    having just written that, devane, was your post more about keeping tempo that stepping correctly on the count in the music?
  20. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    You're exactly right devane, it's a basic concept. Unfortunately far too many people after dancing only a short period of time consider themselves anything but beginners... :(

    As to schools teaching it.. I heavily emphasize this when I teach classes. Again, the problem is that it's really difficult to teach timing and dancing on time. How do you do it? There's the music with counting in the background, which seems to help... but take away the counting and add a 'real' song, and some get just as lost. There's explaining instruments, but this technical approach confuses most who are still very very wet behind the ears. So many wind up not able to hear the music well...

    And this is the answer to your question about why students are allowed to advance without good timing. Despite a teacher's best efforts, many will still not be able to dance on time. So do you hold back half the class because they can't dance on time? Is there something about repeating a level that will cause them to automatically "get it" the second or third time around? Even drilling timing in a class over and over and over will get frustrating to those who don't get it still, and boring to those who already get it. It should be a fundamental that's emphasized, but unfortunately it's lacking. And you must realize that just like styling or body movement comes with time for most, so does timing for some (while others get it immediately). So holding someone back from learning may only serve to frustrate them, causing them to stop, whereas they would have learned given more time. As I have said before, if anyone discovers the silver bullet of teaching timing, I would pay good money to know the secret...

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