The wikipedia page shows salsa notated in 4/4 time and the clave (which marks the rhythm) is written as 16th notes:

1 ee and aa 2 ee and aa 3 ee and aa 4 ee and aa

but most Salsa teachers seem to count it in 8 or two groups of 4 like this not using 16th notes at all but rather as 8th notes.

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


1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4

  • Dancers almost always count in eight beat phrases without particular regard to the notated musical meter.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 9:03

2 Answers 2


Dancers count by steps rather than by measures, and salsa typically features eight steps per phrase (two measures of 4/4 time). See this similar question on Quora for details:

[In] each 4/4 measure, a dancer steps three times, either left/right/left or right/left/right. That means you need another measure to get back to the same foot. For that reason, it makes a lot of sense to count 2 measures. Mostly salsa dance patterns span 2, sometimes 4, measures.

  • Thank you. However, It isn't only dancers. Musicians that teach salsa also divide the "clave" over 2 measures instead of over one measure. The Wikipedia page for "Salsa music" shows it in one measure only using 16th notes.
    – user35708
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 17:51

The shortest answer is: it isn't by musicians. There are 4 beats per clave. Dancers count in 8 because it's easier to count 'one two three four' than 'one and two and'.

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