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Lesson Plan #: AELP-MUS0211
Submitted by: David Demnitz
Email: ddemnitz@workingfamilies.com
School/University/Affiliation: Greenburgh Eleven Union Free School District, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Date: May 22, 2003

Grade Level: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


  • Arts/Music

Duration: 45 minutes

Description: An arrangement of New York Style Salsa which instrumental musicians can play and sing.

National Standards of Music Education published by the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) :

  • 1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  • 2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  • 9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

New York State Standards for the Arts :

  • Standard 1: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts (Perform music written by others. They will understand and use the basic elements of music in their performances and compositions. Students will engage in individual and group musical and music-related tasks).
  • Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources (Students will use traditional instruments, electronic instruments, and a variety of nontraditional sound sources to create and perform music. They will use various resources to expand their knowledge of listening experiences, performance opportunities, and/or information about music.)
  • Standard 4: Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts (Develop a performing and listening repertoire of music of various genres, styles, and cultures that represent the peoples of the world and their manifestations in the United States. Students will recognize the cultural features of a variety of musical compositions and performances and understand the functions of music within the culture.)

Objective: Students will sing an example of Salsa music and will play instruments to accompany their singing. Materials:

  • musical instruments (they can be diatonic, containing just the white notes of the piano, ABCDEFG)
  • percussion instruments
  • Me Gusta Salsa Teaching Guide with Score
  • Me Gusta Salsa Teaching Guide with Score in .pdf format; requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    Click the icon to obtain the free Reader.


  • Salsa – A New York style of Latin music which includes elements of African, European, Cuban and Puerto Rican music.
  • Clave – A rhythm which Latin musicians rely upon to stay together and which gives Salsa its feeling. Claves are two pieces of wood, used to play the clave rhythm.
  • Montuno – The piano part in Salsa.
  • Procedure:
    Discuss Salsa with students. It’s a New York Style which is a combination of African, European, and American elements, including traditional African rhythms as played in the Spanish Speaking Caribbean, especially Cuba and Puerto Rico. It has New York jazz, which includes European harmonies and musical ideas. It is the melting pot in sound. This is dancing music but is also very sophisticated; most of the people who play it are trained, literate musicians. Sing the song for the students while playing the piano accompaniment (see score in Materials ). Review keyboard organization with students. Have them identify middle C and then D, G, and A so they can find the notes they’ll need to play the bass part. Define and show them how to play a diatonic scale (steps going up and down on the white notes) and a chromatic scale (half steps in order, using all the notes, black and white. Teach the students to sing the song. Translate the lyrics, since they’re all in Spanish. Talk about clave, how it is a rhythm upon which the instrumentalists rely to stay together, like the back beat in popular music, and how it is also a very simple instrument made of two wooden sticks. Thus, this very humble instrument and the rhythm played with it is the most important instrument in the ensemble. Teach the class the 2/3 clave rhythm. This task is made more difficult by the fact that the clave pattern in this configuration does not begin on the downbeat. It might help to have them clap the first melodic rhythm as they sing the melody, since the rhythm is the same.

    Assign instruments to students. You play the chords, or montuno on the piano or keyboard. Have some of the percussionists play the clave and some play the quarter note cowbell part. This will provide a simple cross rhythm accompaniment. Stop each time you get to the cadence to regroup. When the ensemble is ready to play the accompaniment repeatedly without stumbling, add the singing. Add embellishing parts. Improvising on xylophones works well here. You don’t have to restrict improvisors to scale tones; it’s not uncommon for improvisors in Latin music to include notes out of the scale as part of their improvisations, and this is what makes Eddie Palmieri’s solos remarkable. Percussionists may improvise rhythms to add to the cross rhythms.

    Assessment: Teacher observation of students’ participation and involvement in singing and playing.

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * National Standards for Music Education – MENC

    * New York State Standards for the Arts