I am often asked by my students about tools to help them understand the salsa instruments and rhythms. This topic in itself is HUGE.. I could spend the next 6 months writing post after post to explain the origins of salsa music and it's development over the last 70 years or so.. however.. others have gone before me and have developed some excellent material regarding salsa music so I am going to point you in their direction.
1) Salsa music on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salsa_music
2) Music4Dancers is a Youtube channel where Don Baarns presents a methodology for understanding the technical make up of Salsa, how to find the '1' beat.. take a look at his videos.. search for his 'Finding 1' series here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Music4Dancers
3) Salsa Beat Machine is a great online tool (that can also be downloaded to a PC / Iphone / Android phone) that breaks down each musical instrument in a salsa band. You can change the volume of the instruments individually so that you can hear the essential instruments separately. An absolute must for all Salsa students.: http://www.salsabeatmachine.org/
Understanding the structure of the music in Salsa is important for all budding Salseros, especially the leaders... Being able to find the '1' is important for all styles of dance, no matter what beat you actually intend starting on.. if you can't find it and keep it you lose the fluidity of the dance.. your partner will also find it very difficult to follow your lead.
Dancing is about movement to music.. yes to the music.. that means finding particular beats and the reasons for why we move to those beats, and it differs for every style of dance.. spending time listening to many different tracks will help to 'tune' your ears over time. You can ask your instructor for a detailed workshop to break the music and instruments down for you.
See you on the dancefloor...