Beat-Train Your Brain

by Ana Gherasim

“Feel” the music, they say. “Just let it move you”, they say.

Musicians, or those with musical training, have a great advantage when starting to learn salsa (or any other dance, really): their brains have been trained to understand, hear and follow the beat structure of a song.

Before I started dancing, my musical training consisted mainly of failed attempts, so at first, that damn “one” beat was the bane of my existence. It took over a year (and much patience from Jeff and his 22 years of music education) for me to start “hearing” the beat, and even longer before I started “feeling” it.

But it did come, in time. Listening to loads of salsa music does help, but there are also some great beat-training tools to help speed up your learning process. So, for those who neither are musically trained, nor have a built-in metronome in their brain, here are some great tools to give you a beat-training boost:

Understanding the Salsa Rhythm
I was doing a bit of light research for this article, thinking I knew all the best resources to recommend, and came across a YouTube video that changed my world. It’s the perfect explanation of how salsa music is constructed, why it sounds so different from the (pop) music we’re used to hearing, and how to go about looking for the salsa beat. If “Getting on Beat” were a course, this would be mandatory reading viewing.

 

Salsa Beat Machine
This great little tool comes as a web app and a mobile app (so you can jam to this on the bus on your way to class!). You can find it at www.salsabeatmachine.org and it lets you manipulate the most commonly-used instruments in a salsa band, slow down and speed up the tempo, change the melody and key of the music. It even includes an “instructor” who can count out the beat for you – in 5 languages! This is by far the most interactive tool on this list, and I encourage you to play with it – single out each instrument, get used to how it relates to the instructor’s count; then see how it combines with a second instrument. Turn off the instructor’s count, and count the beat for yourself. The listen to a salsa song and listen for the one or two instruments you were just playing with – does the beat make more sense now? Rinse and repeat!

Salsa Timing Exercises
If you take to the Internet, you can also find CDs of salsa timing practice. There are the ones that break down the beat structure of each instrument, then put them together (much like you can do yourself with the Salsa Beat Machine). There are also salsa practice music CDs consisting of simple melodies at various speeds, which can be looped easily for simplified practice (because switching songs is *such* a hassle). Have a browse, and see what you like and find useful. My favourite in this category is Alex Wilson’s Salsa con Soul Timing Workout – just one 5-minute track that breaks down the beat of each instrument within an overall melody:


(I have no idea what Luigi is doing here, but I guess it beats putting up a blank video for the sake of the audio track?)

Listen to Salsa Music
As awesome as these tools are, they by no means replace listening and dancing to lots of salsa music. The variety of salsa music alone is more than can be explained by any single tool. So once you’ve bookmarked your favourite resources, go back to your music library and play a few salsa songs!

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Check out our Winter 2014 schedule, and more upcoming events!

Azucar! News – Week of December 16

Today is the start of our final week of classes before the end of the year. We’re excited to review all we’ve done over the last 14 weeks, but we’ll miss you over the holidays! Our Winter 2014 class schedule is now on our web site, so be sure to check out www.azucarottawa.com/schedule to see when your classes are taking place, then email us at info@azucarottawa.com to register for a class.

salsaglam

Join us for SalsaGlam in Montreal!
SalsaGlam is Montreal’s New Year’s Eve salsa celebration, including a workshop, shows, a midnight toast, and of course lots of social dancing! We’re making it an Azucar! party – join us here, and don’t forget to get your tickets here.


Staying in town for New Year’s Eve?

If you’re not coming to Montreal with us, but would still like to salsa your way into 2014, Rahim (of Rahim’s Latin Fridays) and Salsa Ole are throwing their annual New Year’s Eve salsa celebration at the beautiful Glebe Community Centre! Check out the details here.


Let’s go to Rahim’s on January 10th!

We’re taking all of you out dancing again! Meet us at Sir John A pub at 6:30pm for a drink and a chat, then come support us as we give our first workshop of 2014 at Rahims Salsa FridayJoin our Facebook event and let us know if you’re coming!


Azucar! Winter 2014 Open House

We’re starting off our Winter 2014 class session with our traditional Open House! Come by for 5 FREE workshops and get a taste of what you could learn! For all the details, check out our Facebook event page!

MSC

We’re organizing a school trip to next year’s Montreal congress! If you haven’t checked out a salsa congress before, we highly encourage you to go. Get your tickets, and email us at info@azucarottawa.com to let us know, so we can include you in our Montreal Salsa Convention mailing list!

Connect with us!
On Twitter: @AzucarOttawa
On Instagram: @AzucarOttawa
On Facebook: /AzucarOttawa

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.ca!
Give your loved ones the gift of dance – send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.ca. Click, order, and have the card send directly to them, electronically or by mail!

Salsa a la carte Banner
This week’s events
For a list of other socials happening this week, check out Salsa à la carte.

Buying dance shoes online

Let’s be honest: we don’t just buy dance shoes for their function – the more you dance, the more you want your shoes to show off both your skill and your style. And in a city with a somewhat limited dance shoe supply, online shopping provides the variety – and, often, affordability – that we’re missing.

Here are a few tips for making the most out online dance shoe purchases:

Quality check
Buying dance shoes online can be a great bargain, but make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for a low price tag. Make sure the shoes have suede (or chrome leather) soles, and have a steel shank up the heel and through the centre of the sole, up to the ball of the foot. Reputable online retailers will list these features in the product description.

Sizing chart
You want your dance shoes to fit like a glove. Nothing can replace actually trying the shoes on before you buy them, but a good size chart will help ensure you get the proper size. Different brands use different sizing methods, so rather than relying on your street shoe size, make sure you find their sizing chart and measure your foot according to their instructions.

Customization
Some sites will have endless customization options, from heel height and the material and pattern of the shoes, to fit options like “narrow” and “wide” widths. In some cases, they also offer a “street sole” option in addition to a suede sole. Make sure to check out all these options and select the ones you want. Also make sure these customization options don’t affect the return policy (see below).

Shipping costs
It’s all too common to get seduced by a low price tag, then be hit with high shipping and handling fees, taxes, customs duties and other hidden costs. Make sure you get a complete price breakdown (including all taxes as well as shipping and handling fees) before ordering your shoes, and shop around for web stores with lower shipping costs.

Return policy
Even with a good sizing chart, you might get shoes that don’t fit quite right, or looked better online than on your feet. Since nothing can really replace trying a shoe on in person, make sure the site you’re buying from has a good return/exchange policy. Things to look for in a return policy are:

  • time limits – will they take the shoes back at any time or do you have a limited number of days to make a return?
  • fees associated with returns – many sites will charge you a postage fee for any returns; make sure they are reasonable.
  • do they offer refunds, or only exchange/credit? And if it is exchange only, is there something else on the site that you’d be happy with, if the shoes you want don’t work out?

Payment options
Any time you make an online purchase, you want to make sure your payment is secure, and your personal details will remain private. Check out PC Mag’s 11 Tips for Safe Online Shopping for some practical advice on keeping your purchases secure.

Have you bought dance shoes online? Do you have a go-to dance shoe site? Tell us about your experience below!

Holiday parties, dance shows, and our Winter 2014 schedule!

Azucar! News – Week of December 9

We’re coming close to the end of this year – two weeks of classes left until we take a break to celebrate, regroup and, of course, get ready for next year! Our Winter 2014 class schedule is now on our web site, so be sure to check out www.azucarottawa.com/schedule to see when your classes are taking place, then email us at info@azucarottawa.com to register for a class.

Dance Performance by Emilie Phaneuf and her students
Each year, Emilie puts on a big dance show at the Glebe Community Centre, featuring all of her students! The evening will start off with performances by the Beginner Reggaeton, Intermediate Reggaeton, Hip Hop, Dancehall Funk and Burlesque classes. Also featuring performances from 2 brand new classes Salsaton and Dancehall Funk level 2. Come share in the fun by joining the Facebook event!

Rahim’s Latin Fridays Christmas Party
Rahim always throws a great party, but you don’t want to miss this week’s special event! This Friday will feature dance shows by Salsa Ole and 2Lyve dance group, DJ Chris Feist’s always lively music selection, and more fun surprises! Join the Facebook event for all the details.

salsaglam
Join us for SalsaGlam in Montreal!
SalsaGlam is Montreal’s New Year’s Eve salsa celebration, including a workshop, shows, a midnight toast, and of course lots of social dancing! We’re making it an Azucar! party – join us here, and don’t forget to get your tickets here.


Staying in town for New Year’s Eve?

If you’re not coming to Montreal with us, but would still like to salsa your way into 2014, Rahim (of Rahim’s Latin Fridays) and Salsa Ole are throwing their annual New Year’s Eve salsa celebration at the beautiful Glebe Community Centre! Check out the details here.

MSC

We’re organizing a school trip to next year’s Montreal congress! If you haven’t checked out a salsa congress before, we highly encourage you to go. Get your tickets, and email us at info@azucarottawa.com to let us know, so we can include you in our Montreal Salsa Convention mailing list!

Connect with us!
On Twitter: @AzucarOttawa
On Instagram: @AzucarOttawa
On Facebook: /AzucarOttawa

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.ca!
Give your loved ones the gift of dance – send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.ca. Click, order, and have the card send directly to them, electronically or by mail!

Salsa a la carte Banner
This week’s events
For a list of other socials happening this week, check out Salsa à la carte.