The Difference Between Salsa and Cuban Son

As a salsa student, you’ve probably heard the terms “salsa” and “son” used when referring to Cuban music. But what exactly is the difference between them? Well, to understand that, we must first look at their histories.

Sons of Cuba

Son is a traditional Cuban style of music that dates back to the 19th century. It has African and Spanish roots, which can be heard in its rhythm, instrumentation, and vocal harmonies. Son incorporates both European instruments like the guitar and African drums like the bongos. Its roots are often traced back to the music of Eastern Cuba, where it was heavily influenced by Spanish immigrants from other countries.

The most popular form of son is known as son cubano and is characterized by an upbeat rhythm with lots of improvisation. Son cubano usually features two guitars – one playing chords, while the other plays melodies. It also often includes a tres (a three-stringed guitar) and percussion instruments such as claves or maracas.

Salsa on Fire

Salsa is a more modern style of Cuban dance music that rose to popularity in the mid-20th century.

It combines elements of many different styles including jazz and Latin American rhythms like mambo and cha-cha-cha. Salsa typically has a faster tempo than son cubano and uses electric instruments such as keyboards or synthesizers along with traditional instruments such as bongos or timbales (a type of drum).

Its instrumentation also frequently includes horns such as trumpets or trombones for added melodic expression. Additionally, salsa often features lead vocals sung in Spanish along with backing vocals for harmony parts or call-and-response sections.


So there you have it! Son cubano has its origins in Eastern Cuba while salsa comes from more modern influences throughout Latin America. Though they share some similarities in terms of instrumentation and vocal structure, they are quite distinct styles with distinct histories behind them – so make sure you know which one you’re learning before hopping onto the dance floor!

With this knowledge under your belt, now you can confidently distinguish between salsa and son so you can choose which one best suits your dancing needs!