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We propose an approach for extracting automatically time indexes of occurrences of percussive sounds in an audio signal taken from the popular music repertoire. The scheme is able to detect percussive sounds unknown a priori in a selective fashion. It is based on an analysis by synthesis technique, whereby the sound searched for is gradually synthesized from the signal itself. The possibility to extract different types of percussive sounds and their occurrences in the audio signal makes it possible to build a drum track representing the essential rhythmic component of a music piece. We present a systematic evaluation of the performance of our algorithm on a database of popular music titles. The system performs well on most of the cases (over 75%). We analyze the reasons for failure on the remaining cases, and propose solutions for yet improving the algorithm. The extracted percussive sounds and drum track serves as a basis for search by rhythmic similarity in the context of the European project Cuidado.