Posted by: Winslie Gomez | 22/04/2009

Salsa Musicality. The Heartbeat

A class by Angus Peters of ABANICO SALSA.

At the 5th Latin Festival, hosted by Latinobeat at the Carrington Hotel, Bournemouth 3-5th April 2009. The same place that inspired me to write poetry.

On the Saturday I went to eight classes and loved every minute of it. The seven classes “I chose” to attend were from 10 am – 5.30 pm with a small break for lunch.

One of the classes I wish I’d recorded and has created a hunger to know more, was the Salsa Musicality class led by Angus Peters.

I suppose the fact I am a newbie to the Salsa scene, meant that, what he had to say was entirely new to me and I was so busy soaking it all up that I forgot to take notes.

Maybe I’ll just have to get Angus to go over it all again for me. It’s a journey I suppose and it feels like standing on a hilltop and looking at the scene through the fog.

Here is Angus Peters at play.

Here is a good quote about the Salsa Heartbeat that I came across. Ideally you should read the whole article. Thanks!

Why does salsa have a 3/2 and a 2/3 clave?

To understand clave, one must understand that music is made up of 8-beat phrases (call it a sentence if you like.) In salsa, Clave is another kind of structural foundation that makes up a musical building. You will hear a 3/2 clave in relation to the first beat of the 8-beat phrase, called forwad clave. You will hear a 2/3 clave in relation to the second beat of the 8-beat phrase, called reverse clave.

3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 etc

3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 etc

Let’s make a diagram instead of explaining it:

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 (musical phrase=8 beats)
5 6 7 8
x x x x x (clave hits)

This is how you hear 3/2 clave in relation to the counts:

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 5 6 7 8
x x x x x x x x x x

This is how you hear 2/3 clave in relation to the counts:

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 5 6 7 8
x x x x x x x x x

The phrase can change the direction at any point in the song. However, even though the phrasing of the music may change, the clave always starts and continuously plays 3/2. It’s like an illusion in how you hear .

An orchestra is seen as being ‘off clave’ (cruzado) if they play the clave so it goes: 3 2 2 3 (it should be 3/2: 3/2) I only know of one song, by Gilberto Santa Rosa, who does this out of experimentation. Nothing is ever really wrong. When you know the rules, you can break them, I suppose.



  1. Thanks for the heads up Winslie…

    I’m very glad to hear that you enjoyed the workshop – I hope that you have caught a bit of my Salsa bug – if you need any music recommendations just drop me a line… there are some on the website that are worth checking out as well…

    Grab me anytime if you need a recap… I’m always happy to ‘bore’ anyone who will listen!!

  2. Wow Angus, Pleased to hear from you!

    Would really appreciate any sites that offer the type of meaningful information as you gave in that little session.

    Incidentally, the book you were holding; is it purely about percussion or would you recommend it for understanding the Salsa song structure?

    As for the bug it’s more an addiction ..”I don’t want to go rehab, I said no, no, no”

    Cheers and thanks for dropping by!

  3. Angus,
    Forgot to mention. I’m desperately trying to write an article about your explanation for “I don’t like carrots, I like potatoes” so any info would be extremely useful. email me, but don’t let it interfere with your day job.

    I thought it was brilliant and would love to see the faces of folk across the pond, trying to figure it out!

  4. […] Angus Peters did mention something about it in the Musicality class but like all things new you only absorb 10% of what you hear. […]

  5. […] musicality is certainly intriguing and therefore enjoyable, exciting and […]

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  7. […] Favourite Salsa Music […]

  8. […] Musicality:  Thirdly, to understand the different sections of a song i.e. when the different instruments begin to express themselves and the feel of the song changes. Some call it Musicality or expressing your body to music. […]

  9. […] I call it Musicality and even described it as the Heartbeat […]

  10. […] who may be attempting to do the hook turn for the first time, because if they lose the count, then timing goes out the window and incurs the displeasure of the follow (the gorgeous creature in your arms).  Once the man […]

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