Salsa > Salsa music BPM speed determination for comp

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by rhythm mouse, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. rhythm mouse

    rhythm mouse New Member

    I have an Amateur Salsa comp coming up in 2 weeks, and we're trying to get a feel for the music speed they'll play. My instructor (who is only mildly coaching us with this - not part of my regular program) was trying to help us figure it out, but was equally unsure, except to say that in competition settings, there is a standard speed for EVERY type of rhythm. In this case, he says, "they'll play a medium speed Salsa" (not specific enough, I'm afraid).

    Does anyone know what the standard speed is for a Salsa comp?
    Do you know how to determine it from a CD (i.e. counting # beats in a minute, 1/2 min, etc. doesnt' appear to be even close to "regulation".) I have two different web sites with BPM listing and they are miles apart for the exact same song. For example "Aisha" by Africando is listed on Ultimate Latin 5 CD (I have it) as 43 bpm, and on the site it is listed as 172 bpm.

    I'm always worried I'm starting a thread everyone else has already been-there-done-that; yet in my searches, I haven't seen anything about this around here. Maybe I'm too technically challenged...:confused:
    Thanks for the help...
  2. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    DJs and electronic musicians talk in Beats Per Minute, whereas ballroom folks talk in Bars Per Minute or Measures per Minute. Since you have 4 beats per bar, it's reasonable to assume that it's 43 bars per minute, which == 172 Beats Per Minute.

    It shouldn't be too hard to tell which BPM is in use at a given time, as 80 beats per minute would be extremely slow music and 80 bars per minute would be exremely fast. So numbers lower than 80 are likely to be in Bars and those above are likely to be in beats.

    As to "standard speeds" I have no idea sorry!
  3. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    In addition to what sweavie said--

    Is this a salsa comp, or a ballroom comp with salsa heats? If this is a strict salsa competition, then chances are any tempo would be allowed--if a salsa organization sponsors the event, then it's whatever they say, which is probably "whatever we want it to be."

    IME, salsa entries at ballroom comps tend to use a song with a traditional mambo tempo. USISTD lists this as 48-51 measures per minute. This translates to 24-25 phrases of 8 per minute, or 192-204 beats per minute. This is of course a very rough guide. Be prepared for faster speeds, and slow it down as necessary. Salsa for competitions tends to be judged quite loosely, as there are no syllabi to follow, and thus the tempo requirements tend to be loose as well.
  4. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Very true, although I think, if it's an amateur competition, organisers tend to play medium-speed songs, as rhythm mouse's teacher says.

    As to what is medium-speed salsa, as a non-ballroom, non-competing salsa dancer, I can only say "those songs we all find easiest to dance to -- not fast, not too slow"... :oops:
  5. tj

    tj New Member

    The salsa dj, El Caobo, puts definitions of slow, medium, & fast over on the music section of our sister site, I'll go copy his definition over here.

    So Aisha would be 172 / 2 = 86 BPM (slow tempo) by this definition.
  6. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Josh-- thats his opinion ( and thats o.k.) but when comps. are involved, as you are aware, the best way to find out-- contact the organiser . They may have set official speeds .

    remember-- one mans dura-- anothers descarga .
  7. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Well, I can't agree on his rationale for counting "dancers beats" and "musical beats" differently, but I understand what he is saying. He's counting "1, 2, 3, 4" where we're counting "12, 34, 56, 78".
  8. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Those BPMs look like he's counting half-notes, i.e. counting to four where we dancers all count to 8...
  9. rhythm mouse

    rhythm mouse New Member

    Well - that also answers my unwritten question - what is mpm vs bpm. I'm musically trained, so bars vs. beats per minute makes more sense, and helps greatly with the discrepancy I was finding. I highly appreciate the background in all this. Thanks, sweavo.

    This is an "Amateur Street Salsa" comp, that runs on a Friday evening after all the Ballroom sessions for that day (Cincinnati DanceSport). So I would guess that the "standards" so to speak, will be very loose. The organizer of the event is also the franchisee of my studio, but I see her very rarely. I don't think she'll have much to add, except to yield to the DJ of the event, who has been doing this event for years. Don't know where to find him exactly, but I just might try.

    TJ - the definitions are awesome, thx.

    My partner and I actually thrive on the faster Salsas ("I Love Salsa"), so that much wouldn't be a problem. However, we don't want to practice at that speed; I've found it to be much harder to slow it down than the other way around, and think we'd best prepare for it that way.

    Where do you guys get this stuff anyway?

    :cheers:Much obliged
  10. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    If the same DJ has been doing it for years, could you find someone who has participated before? They could tell you what they experienced and might even remember some of the songs used in previous years.
  11. rhythm mouse

    rhythm mouse New Member

    I actually have video footage from last years comp - and I'm familiar with the music they played then from the Salsa club we frequent now. I'm just trying to determine the approx speed of the music we already have, so we can practice. My partner seems to have this endless supply of Salsa music, so we're trying to pull appropriate practice songs from that. The trouble is, they're not marked by bpm/mpm or anything else.

    I'm trying to locate several songs that he might be familiar with (or has), and let him know the speeds of those, so he can bring them to practice.
    This isn't life or death, but as I started looking into it, it only served to become more confusing.

    Believe me, I've been talking with everyone I know. My partner was more familiar with all this than I (friends of his have competed before), though he himself has never entered.
  12. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    well to get your mpm, count
    5,(2,3,4) ... etc for fifteen seconds and multiply by 4, or for 30 seconds and multiply by 2. To get beats per minute, multiply the answer by 4.
  13. rhythm mouse

    rhythm mouse New Member

    So how is bars per minute different from measures per minute?
  14. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Semantics !
  15. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Bars and measures are the same. The other "b" is beat, so sometimes bpm = beats per minute.
  16. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    yes - americans usually call it a measure, brits usually call it a bar. For our purposes, both mean four beats.
  17. salseiro

    salseiro New Member

  18. If it's the same Aïcha by Africando that I have, from the Baloba album, both are wrong. 172 bpm is quite slow for a salsa song. Marc Anthony’s Si Tú No Te Fueras on Otra Nota is 172bpm. Aïcha is definitely faster. The tempo is actually about 196 beats per minute. I counted it manually with and confirmed it with

    Computer programs that automatically count tempo often get salsa wrong. Salsa's too complex. I don't trust any source for the tempo (though it's nice to have a starting point.) I manually figure out (or at least confirm) the tempo myself for all of my music.
  19. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I dont think there has ever been a composition in dance music, that is written with an odd number of bars per minute-- the phrasing would be nigh impossible !!
    Some latin bands, add a " pick up bar" and then revert back to the standard 16 and 32s
  20. delamusica

    delamusica Active Member


    As long as the phrases are even, it doesn't matter a lick whether or not they fit evenly into a minute.

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