Posted by: Winslie Gomez | 30/04/2009

The Missing Bar in Salsa Music.

I first encountered this phenomenon at the 5th Latin Festival at Bournemouth. They had a live band on Sunday night but as this was my first ever experience, please bear with me while I get my head round this concept. There I was focused on leading as gracefully as possible and bang, all of a sudden the music had stopped or felt that way and then they started up again.

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

Here is an explanation found on Salsaweb that may assist; courtesy of article by Andrew Singmin and would be best to read the whole article there.

1,2,3 Maria by Azuquita is a fast Salsa. Very fast – almost as fast paced as La Llorona. 1,2,3 Maria is irregular, unlike Tu Carinito, which is almost metronome precise and a breeze to dance to. This discourse is from a dancer’s viewpoint. The counts refer to the man’s step’s and uses the regular Salsa step pattern of 1,2,3..5,6,7.. (waits on 4 and 8).

Finding the 1 and 5
Salsa dancers break forward with the left foot on 1 (for the man) and back with the right foot on 5. This forward and backward motion can be seen in essentially linear Salsa styles. Most dance novices have problems in knowing the difference between 1 and 5.

To dance on beat it is essential to know where the 1 and 5 occurs in the music. You can transpose the 1 and 5 and still be on beat. But it ‘feels’ better to break forward on 1 as opposed to breaking forward on 5. Salsa is often a juxtaposition of many overlaid rhythms and trying to find the beat is not that easy.

Start with a regular non-Salsa song, that has a regular easily identifiable beat. If you can dance precisely on beat to a standard pop song, that’s a good start. If you find you cannot, then that’s where you should start.

Take any pop song, medium tempo, with regular 4 beats to the bar. Two bars can be considered as an interpretive measure of music. A measure of music can be considered as a being a ‘call’ and ‘response’ refrain that provides satisfactory auditory closure to a musical measure. With practice you can even hear this ‘call’ and ‘response’ refrain, even when there is no vocal, i.e. during and instrumental break.

1,2,3 Maria by Azuquita

1 Intro
The intro begins with an 8 measure call and response straight vocal, followed by a 2 bar (8 count) cadenza (flourish), leading into a 10 bar percussion break, ending with a 1 bar (4 count) silence.

2 Verse #1 / bar 1 starts at 0:33 minutes into the song
Verse #1 has 31 bars. Bar 32 is missing. Since this is an unequal number of measures (there are two bars to a measure), the last ‘response’ in the missing bar 32 does not exist – where you would expect it to be.

    This means you have two dance options

1. You can continue dancing as if the next occurring bar is bar 32. This means you will be breaking back on the right foot on 1. This is acceptable – there are no dance rules, but it feels odd.

2. You can switch on bar 31, so your left foot is ready to break forward for the next bar 1 in Verse #2. This is preferable and it feels better. You can do this by stepping forward on the left foot in bar 31 for count 1,2 and recovering the left foot next to your right foot for count 3,4. This means your left foot is now correctly set up to go forward on count 1 of bar 1 of Verse #2. There is a drawback. Your dance partner, unless she knows of your intent, is not expecting this, so you could bump.

However an experienced couple could anticipate and correct on the fly.

Why is bar 32 missing and how do you know it’s missing?

1. They’re missing because the musicians can choose to leave out bar 32 – there are no set rules in creating music. Music is poetry set to a beat.

2. You know it’s missing because the response to the call in bar 31 does not exist. You also know that the next bar (of Verse #2) is bar 1 and not bar 32 (of Verse #1), because the singer starts again singing ‘une, dos, tres’ on the new bar – when the vocals start, this is bar 1.



  1. […] Music is just inpirational […]

  2. […] Salsa Music has a magical quality that engages with your inner core being and you just have to move.  Even coping with the missing bar. […]

  3. […] aspiring salsa dancer, at any level. I mentioned it before ability to dance can be developed and feeling and expressing the music through movement should be the goal. That in itself is a pleasure to behold Salsa resource […]

  4. It is great to approach salsa from an almost ‘academic’ sense (with exact instructions for the steps etc) but please never forget the importance of spontaneous response to the beat and mood.
    I invite you to check out this sample video from small trio “Los Musicos”:

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