The first article I wrote on Salsa timing was based on hours of research I did on the Internet. When I found information that seemed logical and reasonable and could be verified from another source, I added it to the article and tried to put all of the information in a logical order. The following article is based on first hand experience from both dancing and teaching Salsa. Please take into consideration that the following information comes from a "gringo ballroom dance instructor".
First of all I listened to a lot of Salsa music. Most of the songs were four to eight minutes long and started with a mellow melodic intro of up to one minute before the salsa rhythm started. The speed of the songs was from 33 mpm (measures per minute) up to 55 mpm. We have software that can edit the songs (shorten the intros, change the length and speed them up or slow them down). Now we have some various speed Salsa's with five to 10 second intros, a solid Salsa rhythm throughout the whole song and are around three minutes long.
I decided to teach L.A. Style Salsa (breaking on "1") and since it is not a standardized dance and there are variations of it, I called my version "Mile High L. A. Style Salsa". Unfortunately most of the information in the first article was of little use.
I had a real hard time hearing and understanding the Salsa rhythm. After listening to more Salsa music, I discovered that the cowbell was played on counts 1, 3, 5, 7. I didn't hear a Salsa that the cowbell was on 1,2,3, 5,6,7. It seems that the cowbell is only played in every other verse of the song. I also couldn't hear the Clave instrument. If it was there I couldn't hear it because of the other instruments. So in my mind, there goes the possibility of dancing to the cowbell or to the Clave instrument, but at least I could find the "1" beat in the verse of the song that the cowbell was playing.
Finally I decided to take an entirely different approach. I said to myself, "What is the Salsa rhythm saying to me?" What I heard was: "chi-ca , chi-ca, change-a" (quick, quick, slow). When I keep saying "chi-ca, chi-ca, change-a" softly under my breath over and over again, it will start matching the Salsa rhythm. When the cowbell verse started the bell occurred on the 1st chi and the change ( 1, 3, 5, 7). After a while you can stop saying it under your breath and you will hear the music saying "chi-ca, chi-ca, change-a". In all of the Salsa music I listened to, I could hear the "chi-ca, chi-ca, change-a". I have had great success with students hearing the complex Salsa rhythm using this method.