How to anticipate hits and breaks in music?

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by gprefix, Sep 7, 2008.

  1. gprefix

    gprefix Changui

    I like to get your feedback on how you anticipate hits in music so that you can accentuate your dance (say, do a dip etc.). Is there a methodology to this? I am not well versed in Salsa music (or Spanish), and so far I only focused on the beat (to stay on time). I am not very happy with my dancing since I sometimes get stuck in the middle of a turn pattern when there is an amazing hit in the music! Assuming that I do not know the song being played how do I go about predicting hits and breaks ahead of time? Thanks.
  2. nowhiteshoes

    nowhiteshoes Pattern Police

    actually being aware that breaks exist and wanting to stop to them is the first step! i find really listening to the music helps - ie listening to certain layers of a song (or certain instruments). most of the time it works really well - sometimes it goes horribly wrong :eyebrow: and ive had the odd time when a girl asked me after why i kept stopping :eek:
  3. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    I think the short answer is it takes dance practice time and music listening time to figure out the "secondary" structure of salsa. Its a lot easier if you already have developed a sense of timing from prior musical or dance training. People with that type of prior experience and who know music figure out pretty quickly that salsa has "phrases", a series of repeated measures followed by a break and then another series and so on.

    Most salsa is not too complex though so just listening to the music all the time even when not dancing should be helpful.
  4. chrisk

    chrisk Super Moderator Staff Member

  5. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    Leaving aside Latin music for a moment. When you listen to regular (pop or rock or whatever) music, are you able to predict the breaks then? usually the drummer (or other instruments, but I'm biased towards drums) will do little fills at the end of 8 or 16 measures, which usually coincide with the bits between the vocal line where the singer isn't singing. Then at the end of the verse you might get something a bit more exciting to lead you into the chorus. Plus there's usually a progression from the start to the end where things get busier or more dramatic in some way.

    The structure of a salsa song is more complex than verse-chorus, but it's easy to get into it once you are listening! (see )

    The structure will vary from song to song, but between the voice and the melodic instrument there is still usually plenty of warning that something is going to happen.

    Of course sometimes there's nearly no warning, since that was the musical effect the arranger wanted!

    So if the singer has sung 3 or 7 lines, the chances are that something's going to be different about the next line. Whether it'll actually be a break in the rhythm or just a clave reversal, or just a little counterpoint on the trombones, that's for you to guess at!

    A little secret: If you emphasize the break and there wasn't one, it usually just looks like you're having a good time. It doesn't look like you messed up. So be bold and create accents when you only half-expect an accent in the music. If you're only right 10% of the time, it will still make your dancing more musical!
  6. smiling28

    smiling28 Moderator

    LOL - man, I cam to the thread hoping to help a little and am so impressed with the responses. Well done guys!


    1) Listen to music in general (in car/where ever/ not dancing) and tap out on your hands (in air or desk) when you think a break is going to happen = laugh when you get it wrong lol.

    2) As you get better/more experienced. You will recognise patterns. ALsmost like you know there is going to be something. You may not know what but SOMETHING has to be there to match patterns.

    3) Listen to the music and see if you can realise the 'tension' -'relaxation' dichotomy across the music and the 'question - response' over the bars of the music. The response is usually the richest in accent for me.

    Buy the Edie salsa freak best leads musicality dvd. Really good to see how someone interprets the music.

    And keep on dancing. Your quest is a most excellent one!

    *to paraphrase Bill and Ted...
  7. MacMoto

    MacMoto Administrator Staff Member

    I agree with what everyone says - listen to salsa music and become familiar with its structure - and also with this gem from sweavo:
    You said:
    Another thing you may want to try then is to take a look at your turn patterns - do you tend to use patterns as they were taught in your classes? Think about breaking them up into smaller modules and see how you can get out of the patterns part way through so you can hit a break even "in the middle of a turn pattern". Musical phrases are mostly in units of 4/8/16 measures, so if you have a stock of moves that fit into these lengths and start one when one phrase ends, you can finish that one when the next phrase ends - you can have a go at trying to hit a break there.

    The DVD smiling mentioned can be useful as it shows different ways you can hit a break.
  8. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    Good point by Mac about breaking off "in the middle of a turn pattern". Although sequences taught in class are often quite long, most moves only take 8 beats or sometimes 16. The lasso, for instance, takes 8 beats to get into a funny position (i.e. not the position where the two dancers are facing one another) then another 8 to get out again. For my part, if I feel that a big change is coming up, e.g. the dip at the end of the song, then I'll usually avoid lassos and anything that tangles her up, and instead use simple, short sequences that allow me to get in cross-body position easily for the dip, or whatever else I might feel like doing.
  9. gprefix

    gprefix Changui

    Wow! thanks for all your valuable responses. Now I have a bunch of things to work on.

    Sadly, no. I am one of those 'unique' individuals who grew up completely oblivious to music all around (I grew up abroad but that is no excuse). I have not listened to rock/pop that much; the only other music that interests me is hip-hop. I feel relieved to learn that Salsa music has a structure, and that there are fairly common advance warnings before inflections happen.

    I like this advice!

    Excellent. Now this is going to be fun!

    You hit the proverbial nail. In fact, after I typed out the question yesterday it occurred to me that my habit of remembering a handful of long, unwieldy choreographies (my patterns generally come from youtube) is the source of many of my problems, least of which is their unsuitability to some songs. I spent hours trying to break down long patterns into components of smaller (mostly 2/4/8 ) measures and grouping them in a way I can mix-and-match to create my own choreography on the fly. It was a lot more fun dancing yesterday after that -- at least I could focus on the song and the follower instead of allocating my mind-share to recalling sequences of a hard-to-remember choreography. Can't wait to go dancing again!
  10. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    There is hope according to 'Musicophilia' by Oliver Sacks.
  11. opm1s6

    opm1s6 Sabor Ambassador

    I'm working on increasing the percentage of times I successfully hit a break. As an inexperienced salsero, although a more experienced ear, being on the music is easy enough, hitting a few breaks is easier or harder depending on the song, but I don't feel I have as much command as I want and as much precision. Mostly I feel that comes from experience, and for me, confidence. I sometimes hold back when I think something is coming on, but I'm not a hundred percent sure and so I commit later than I should, only to find out that I was right. Part of being experienced is building the confidence in your ear and that's what I'm working on. Whether you're there or are just trying to react to the breaks, take sweavo's advice and make sure you confidently execute. The options are either do it or don't; not do it half assed. At least that's what I'm working on.

    Thanks for the links everyone else.
  12. AguaDulce

    AguaDulce Pattern Police

    I don't think not knowing Spanish hinders you from hiting breaks in the music. We're talking breaks in the music, not in the words. There are many songs that don't even have vocals. As you become more familiar with the music, you will develop an ear for what you are trying to do.
  13. t0mt0m

    t0mt0m Sonero

    OK - a thought - would anyone be up for picking a fun decent track that you'd easily encounter on a night out salsa dancing, and going over it? Kind of a collective deconstruction, to show people the various parts of the song by pointing it out on the track? Anyone up for this? I'm interested in musicality, but i'm having trouble trying to get the concepts firm in my mind, and thought there might be a few more in my position.
    Maybe it's already done well elsewhere - any ideas?
  14. SalsaManiac

    SalsaManiac Son Montuno

    Whatever happened to that thread where we were discussing if Peter Fige knew that the breaks were coming in his Musicality DVD when he was dancing with Edie. I think Brownskin started that one....
  15. AguaDulce

    AguaDulce Pattern Police

  16. opm1s6

    opm1s6 Sabor Ambassador

    yeah azzey broke down the song completely. I saw it recently it is

    umm I actually would like to do it with some other songs...just for shits and giggles

    I think I might grab Eddie Lebron track Pena or maybe Ray Barretto's Arrepientete and break it down a bit. I'll be back ;)
  17. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    I'd be totally up for that game! Could be the thing that finally gets me using the iTunes store!
  18. t0mt0m

    t0mt0m Sonero

    tinyurl dot com/5s3lzm - Just a visual reworking of Azzey's post. This is just the structure given, in another format - i'd imagine there are clues within the music to indicate upcoming accents, breaks etc also.

    I was just curious as to see if there was any underlining pattern that wasn't coming out (i'm a total beginner with musicality and music patterns within salsa, so am reading with interest all the threads). This is just for this song, but it'd be interesting to see / hear if there are any common themes you can see amongsts lots of different tunes.
    Just as a thought - lowest common denominator being 2 bars (e.g end with 6 bars), then much 4 bar segments, then the music fitting with 4, 6 or even 12 bar patterns. (Though as a beginner, and just wondering - is there only 1 clave change? I haven't seen the DVD/heard the song yet to check).

    Edit: Sorted out live link. Is that an automatic thing?

    I'd been thinking about how MooCowBand of Band application on iTunes Store fame could be a great starter to do a salsa/other dance version. Beatmaker would be an alternative, but i'm not sure which instruments they can load.
  19. Flujo

    Flujo Sabor Ambassador

    Is this a chance to geek out over some music? I'd be up for that. :D
  20. opm1s6

    opm1s6 Sabor Ambassador

    Flujo,yeah timing geekery begins now.

    Alright so I have a problem that might actually embarrass me completely but there is something I'm not getting. I was arguing this with a friend and at this point I just want a resolution. Keeping time to through this section is easy, it's the prep and spin section that doesn't fit, and I want to make sure it's not just me.

    I was dancing to marc anthony's contra la corriente and noticed that the first break into the chorus doesn’t give you a 567 (to prep for a triple turn) but since the chorus repeats, the second time around it fits perfectly. I’m referring to the “yo trato, trato, trato” part of the song. Is it just me being retarded or do other people have the same awkwardness with the breaks in this song if they were to try to place a prep before the first break. I feel like a triple spin would really fit, but it doesn't fit it into that space on the first break for the chorus, because I can't prep. Instead I just do something else with the first break and I usually triple spin on the choruses repeat.

    It's like you go through four (salsa dance) measures of the initial guitar intro, then 8 measures of vocals, and then they add a 1234, then break and go into the chorus on what WOULD HAVE BEEN 5678, but when they repeat the chorus it's on 1234. Thus you can prep her and triple spin on the repeat, but you can't on the first time through. This really is because the choruses break is on 5, but that's just me noticing that the same words are handled differently in time.

    Can someone correct me please?

Share This Page