Salsa > How to learn timing?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by RightAsRain, May 5, 2013.

  1. RightAsRain

    RightAsRain New Member

    Hi, everyone. I have been taking salsa lessons for 2 months- both private and group. I am able to find the one, but lose timing throughout songs. Is this something that improves with time and practice? I was told that I should be listening to as much salsa as possible and that it would it help. Other than that, I have been advised just to practice.
  2. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Practice TO MUSIC, that is what will connect your movement to what you are hearing. The more you do it, the less you will have to think about it. So make sure you are on beat!

    Sometimes in songs, the most prominent source of "the beat" will fade out or go away completely, so pick something with a steady beat throughout to do most of you practicing.

    There is a saying (Arthur Murray? can't find quote in the books I have) that everyone has a sense of rhythm that isn't as well developed in some individuals.

    Eventually, if you keep at it, the "time keeping" function will shift to a lower part of your brain. So, yes, you will get better as you practice.
  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    No, it does not come by itself or simply by hearing or dancing. It only comes by active listening, I mean analyzing the structure of a song. It´s not recommended to keep on counting from the beginning. You should be able to get on board again right in the middle of a piece:

    Lyrics and singing hold informations, try to find out when a new verse is starting. Very often it´s always on the same beat.
    Also the instrumentation holds information to find the way back, try to find out when solos set in.

    Try to work with the salsa beat machine (press start botton):

    First reduce the volume control of almost every instrument, except of claves, congas, and the instructor ´s voice. Then work yourself through that app. Add instruments, play with the speed. Finally you can turn the instructor off and on in order to check if you´ve got lost or not throughout the tune.

    And of course welcome to DF
    Simi-Lanjiao and Borazine like this.
  4. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    In my experience (other dances - NOT salsa), "losing timing throughout songs" is most often a footwork problem. The music keeps going even when the brain stops to think; which means that the feet are on auto pilot. This frequently means a step happens late, or sometimes that the foot moves but the weight transfer doesn't happen, and Ta-Da, you are off time.

    Solving that is a matter of putting in the laps, so that your feet do the right thing on auto pilot.

    Learning to recognize what the music is doing takes practice. Having the right music in the background while you are multitasking will help, but if you really want to make headway, you should actively listen to the music (without the distraction of trying to dance at the same time) until you can track the beat without thinking about it. Start the song, find the one, and track the beat until you lose it... then rewind the song a little bit, and figure out what happened. Then go back to the beginning of the song and start over. When you can make it all the way through the song without losing the beat, move on to the next song. When you get that one, come back to the first one again to see if you still have it.

    Drill drill drill; the good news is that it doesn't take too long in practice to get it. The bad news is that you can kill your favorite song by working it long enough.

    If you haven't already had a basic primer in basic music theory (beats, time signatures, measures, phrases), have your instructor walk you through it, so that you have a framework for thinking about the music when you are practicing listening.
  5. conan1409

    conan1409 New Member

    Learn Dancing, First, this is your passion, not merely just listen music and dance with music, you have to do it with your heart.
    Listen music - Feeling - and your heart dance to that music.
    I think that is simply to learn how long, but you asked how long you love this dance
    Vera likes this.
  6. mjnemeth

    mjnemeth Member

  7. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Lots of people "just practice" for years and still don't hear the time in the music. Many think they are on time, but they are not.

    It is possible to improve with time and practice, the question is "what are you practicing?"

    Practicing wrong is almost worse than not practicing. (You get to undo all you've practiced.)

    For most people they become proficient faster if they start with other music, not salsa. Something with fewer layers. (Similar to we tend to start with basic, CBL, a few single turns and we get comfortable with those before working on complex combinations.)

    If you really want to know the music from the ground up (which pays off big time later), you might want to check out my "Music4Dancers" series (free) on YouTube. It's in my Autosig.

    It's not brain surgery, but it does take "listening with a purpose" not just listening over and over.

    That will work if you do it long enough, but most adults prefer to do it in less time rather than more...
    If you have questions fire away. I've helped a few people get through what you're working on.
  8. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Don has give excellent advice.. I would add this..get personal advice from a professional in addition to the above.
    Don Silver likes this.
  9. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Tangotime has it exactly right. If you work with someone who really knows how it works, they can help you get there much, much faster. Doing it by yourself does "work" but takes much longer, because much of the time someone doesn't know they are wrong.

    There are some famous instructors in LA who constantly mix up the 1 & 5 (for example.) Nobody is going to tell them they are wrong, as overall they are way above average dancers and instructors, but it's obvious to anybody who really knows.

    They simply keep doing what they are doing.
  10. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Really ?.. thats amazing ! ( but not, I guess, surprising ) Thats the very 1st thing ,I teach my beginner men and ladies .
    And , I tend to start dancing with them ,at the beginning of a new phrase or coro. Just makes common sense to me ,and all of the pros I know.( a lot to do ,with B.R. training )
  11. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    I suspect because those instructors get it right 80% of the time, they think they are right all the time. You're starting with the new phrase or coro is right on, but something so many miss.

    I'm always amazed when some of these instructors are getting it wrong. If they do it once, then I write it off as a mistake, but I see them doing a few times in one class and it becomes obvious they don't know... Some of them move really well though, and that's what impresses students who don't know much about the music either.
  12. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    That's a really good analogy, there.
  13. Chr0n

    Chr0n Member

    Personally, I have properly (ie going to comps) started dancing about a year ago and have had lots of trouble with staying on time. After practicing A LOT (I counted music and later tried marking the time to it for about half an hour every day), I can now comfortably stay on time with most of the music we are dancing too (though sometimes I still struggle with complex songs).

    The two things that helped me most were:
    a) this book: h t t p : // w w w . a m a z o n . c o m /Every-Survival-Guide-Ballroom-Dancing/dp/093025144X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368179677&sr=8-1&keywords=every+mans+survival+guide+to+ballroom+dancing
    He gives really good (introductory) information about music, how to count it and (best of all!) excercises you can (and SHOULD) do.

    b) for a more detailed coverage use Don's Music4Dancers series (as has been mentioned before), these videos are fantastic!
  14. ajiboyet

    ajiboyet Well-Known Member

    I kind of agree with this. After watching people dance a little and knowing that I was supposed to count "123 567" I could find the 1. Instinctively. No one taught me to. I just knew where it was. And the 5. And if it does happen that I mix up the 1s and the 5s, I know within about 2 measures.

    Consequently I don't know how to explain how to find the 1. I have taught a few people the rudiments of salsa, and I can never seem to explain that part. Recently I was teaching someone, and I sat down to take a break while she practiced her basic step; music was still playing. Each time she knew exactly where the 1 was (this was about one and a half hours into her first salsa lesson). I asked her how she found the 1. She couldn't explain.

    I think those CDs where there's someone counting with the music will help make the rhythm ingrained in you. Kinda like training wheels. Then you take them off.
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    In many cases, the "1" is the dominant beat ,and the Piano, which is often used to commence a song, is ideal for identifying the first bar.One should also listen for the phrasing (8,16 and 32 bar sequences) and.. sometimes, a 4bar clave change . And worth noting, some songs seem to blend more than others, so music selection has to be well defined for clear e.g.
  16. ajiboyet

    ajiboyet Well-Known Member

    You seem to have knowledge of music theory. That does help too, I believe.
  17. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Dancers who know some music fundamentals are way ahead of those who simply do it by ear. There ARE dancers who learn it organically, but it takes much longer to do it that way.

    Most adult learners want to speed up the process and learning some music basics makes it happen much, much faster.
  18. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

  19. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Yes, those are good resources. A little on the older side and they assume some prior knowledge, but certainly a good read.
  20. manteca

    manteca Member

    Personally, I keep time using my shoulders/ribcage, maybe because they're closer to my brain than my feet :) odd as it sounds I can almost always immediately find the count with the cuban motion of the shoulders/ribcage. My body just naturally feels the music in my shoulders/ribcage and the feet just follow. If I try to use just the feet, I will eventually lose the beat at some point.

    The cool thing about using the shoulders to keep time, is that you can be much more creative with your steps because you've disconnected them from having to keep strict time, I find it's easier now to play with pauses and syncopation. If the feet get jammed up somewhere, I can just pause or stutter step as if I know what I'm doing :) and step right back into the beat using the rhythm and count in the shoulders.

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