Holiday Music for Partner Dancing

It is that time of year when dancers are looking for holiday music for dancing.  That seems like a pretty good thing to be able to search for on the music4dance site.  So I thought I’d give it try.  The easy thing to do would be to just type Holiday into the search bar in the song library.  Which certainly shows a bunch of holiday music.  But some of the top results are songs by Billy Holiday or songs with Holiday in the title like “Holiday” by Madonna or “Holiday” by Green Day.  All great songs, and even great songs to dance to, but not really what we think of as songs for the holiday season.

So then I went to the tags page and looked for Holiday.   This was a little better, I can click on the musical genre tagHoliday tag and get a list of nearly two hundred holiday songs.  But then there are over a hundred songs tagged with the other tagHoliday tag.  There is a bunch of overlap between these two lists, but not 100%.  Then there are the 30ish songs that are tagged as tagChristmas music which also overlap with the other lists, but not 100%.  This is one of the wonderful but somewhat chaotic aspects of crowdsourcing content – everyone has a bit different way of looking at things.

Since none of the above were quite right, I created a Holiday Music page that pulls together all of the music tagged with any of the tags above into a single list, which is really what I want when looking for holiday music to dance to.  Take a look and see if it helps you as well.  As always, feel free to tag any of the songs in the catalog however you like, including adding a Holiday tag to any songs that are missing it (your choice as to whether you make that a Musical Genre tag or an Other tag).  Also if you have any lists of holiday songs cataloged by dance style that you would like to share, please send them to me and I’d be happy to load them up.  Finally, if you are interested in adding your own songs to the music4dance catalog please contact me, I am looking for beta testers for the add song functionality.

 

P.S. I intended to get this up earlier but ran into a bit of a snag when the site went down for almost a day last weekend.  If you’re technical and have any interest in what happened I wrote a description of the event on my technical blog.

Farewell to Groove Music

Microsoft is “retiring” its Groove Music Service (aka Xbox Music aka Zune).  Why am I blogging about this?  Partly it is because I just removed support from Groove from music4dance. Partly because that service was part of the reason that music4dance evolved the way that it did.  But mostly it is because there is some overlap between music4dance users and Groove subscribers.  Approximately 15% of users that expressed a music service preference checked the Groove Music box as one of the options.  So for those of you that are Groove Music subscribers, please make sure to check out the Spotify migration option before the January 31st, 2018.

In any case, you’ll no longer see the Groove Music symbol in the play or purchase song options on the site.  Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Music are still fully supported though, so most songs can be located in at least one of those catalogs.

The other statistic I noticed while checking on Groove usage is that only about 25% of registered music4dance users have expressed a preference for any music service.  So if you’ve got a minute please head to your profile page and let me know which music services you use.  This helps me prioritize features.  And if you use a service that I’m not currently listing, please send me feedback directly and I’ll add it to the list of choices.

Tango, Argentine Tango, Ballroom Tango, Oh My!

I just took a beginning Argentine Tango class and really enjoyed the experience.  I’ve had some experience with Ballroom Tango (American Style) and even taken a little Argentine Tango before, but this particular class really underlined the difference in the actually dance style.  Searching the web, I find plenty of evidence for this.

From the musical perspective, I found that I would be comfortable dancing Ballroom Tango to most of what the instructors played for Argentine Tango.  The character of the music seems very much the same.  The tempo was definitely slower than I would choose, but it was a beginner’s class after all.  The beat was less clear in many of the songs than I would expect in a Ballroom tango played at a school, club or competition, which was surprising.  This was a beginner’s class after all.

Now that I think about it, the Spotify EchoNest integration in music4dance could shed some light on the subject of strength of beat.  You can do an informal analysis yourself:

  1. Go to the songs library page.
  2. Choose Argentine Tango.
  3. Click on the strength of beat sort (the header icon that looks like a drum) once for ascending and twice for descending order.
  4. This will get you a list of the (currently) 578 songs that have been classified specifically as Argentine Tango sorted by the strength of beat.
  5. Or just click here to see the list.
  6. In a separate window repeat step’s 1-4 substituting Ballroom Tango for step 2 to get the 438 Ballroom Tango songs that have “strength of beat” information.
  7. Or just click here.

Now you can see the lists of Argentine Tango and Ballroom Tango both sorted by strength of beat.  At a quick glance the distribution seems pretty similar, but if anyone is at all interested let me know via a comment to this blog and I will be happy to do a slightly more formal analysis.

The other aspect of Tango music for dancers that this brought up was where to draw the line on calling something generically Tango vs. Ballroom Tango vs. Argentine Tango, etc.  I am currently calling anything a Tango that someone has tagged as any kind of Tango, which I think is fair.  Often people will just call something just Tango if they are from a particular community and I think that’s fair too.

If you are interested in stretching your reach and finding all Tangoes of whatever classification that fit a specific tempo criteria, you can use advanced search to choose generic Tango as the dance and choose a tempo range you’re interested in.  Or if you’re a Ballroom dancer you can go to the Competition Ballroom Dancing page and just click on the tempo range for the category of Ballroom Tango that you’re interested in.  I’ve set things up with the current official tempos for DanceSport and NDCA competition classes.

Speaking of official tempos.  Although I’ve found quite a number of sites that advertise and even provide rules for Argentine Tango competitions, I have yet to find anything that defines any kind of official tempo ranges for the music played at the competitions.  I suspect this is something fundamentally different about those competitions.  However, if I’m missing something and there are such official ranges, please let me know and I’ll incorporate them into the site.

And as always, please let me know what I’ve missed.  This is a very nuanced subject and I would love to hear other perspectives.  Feel free to comment on this post or send feedback directly.

crowdnote.org

Another programmer and amateur ballroom dancer created a site called crowdnote.org that solves some of the same problems that I’ve attacked in the music4dance project.  He has done an extremely good job of streamlining the process of browsing through music and finding songs to dance a particular style to.  He has also done a great job of making the voting process very easy.

Check it out here:  crowdnote.org.

We would both be very interested to hear your thoughts on what you like/dislike about each of the sites and we’re both open to suggestions for improvements.  Feel provide feedback by commenting on this post or via the music4dance feedback form.

World of Dance

Have you seen the new TV series World of Dance?  If you have any appreciation of dance you should really run – not walk – to your nearest available device and watch it.  Even if you don’t have any interest in the competitive/reality show aspect of this kind of programming it is 100% worth it to just see the amazing performances.  I had to scrape my jaw off the floor after watching the first episode.

They also have a whole lot of online content and an extensive blog, so I’ll definitely lose some hours immersed in that.  But before diving in, I decided to look up how the WOD judges are represented in the music4dance catalog.  They all are.  Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo because their music has inspired many to dance and Derek Hough because I’ve been cataloging DWTS choreography over the last several seasons.  Click on the links above to see which of their songs are in the catalog or just type their names into the search box on the song page (for Derek you’ll have to use just his first name since that’s how I cataloged the DWTS choreographers).

Are there J-Lo or Ne-Yo song that you love to dance to that I haven’t identified yet?  Let me know by commenting on this post or sending private feedback and I’d be happy to add them.  If you would prefer to add them yourself, let me know that too – I’m working on a feature for that and it won’t take that much of a nudge for me to give you access to that as a beta tester.

Musicians for Dancers

One of the things I enjoy most about the musci4dance project is when I get feedback from people who have found the site useful.  I’m especially happy when it comes from a direction that I don’t expect.  It’s exactly that kind of feedback that I received from Mister “D” (David Simmerly) – a musician who performs for Ballroom clubs and weddings and was looking to expand his repertoire with music that would be well received in those contexts.

I asked Dave to expand a little on how he used music4dance and (paraphrasing) here are a few of the things that he came back with:

The first and second points led to an extended discussion about songs that are listed as Waltzes but are not in 3/4 time – check out my blog post on “Fake” Waltzes for more on that.

But there is a more general point that I would like to make here with respect to “correctness” of music for dance.  I’ve compiled this catalog with an eye for finding music that inspires dancers to dance.  This makes for a very loose definition of what songs “work” to dance a particular dance to.  In a setting where a dancer is choreographing to a specific piece of music, even when that choreography is a traditional ballroom dance like in Dancing With the Stars, there is quite a bit of latitude in what music will “work”.  Whereas in a social situation the dancers are more dependent on the beat and feel of the music to enjoy the experience of partnering in a specific dance style.  And then of course when one is dancing competition rounds, there are even stricter rules about tempo.

In any case, I hope that many of the songs in the music4dance catalog fall into the category (as Mr. “D” says) of “making your pants want to get up and dance.”  In the future, I hope to do a better job of tagging dances in a way that separates the strictly ballroom from the fun to choreograph to from the great songs for social dancing.  The system is at least theoretically set up to do this since I’ve enabled arbitrary tagging of songs.  It’s a big project to go through each song in an 11,000+ song catalog and make the kind of distinction I’m talking about here.  On the other hand, it is exactly the kind of thing that works well when others jump in to add their own ideas to the mix.

As always, I welcome your feedback and participation.  Thanks to David Simmerly for permission to use his name and information in this post.  If you’re in the midwest and are looking for a great solo entertainer for your Ballroom Club, Wedding Reception or another occasion, you can find him on gigsalad.com.

What is a fake Waltz?

I was recently asked why there are songs tagged as Waltz in the music4dance catalog that are in 4/4 time.  This seems almost like the dance version of an oxymoron.   In my brief description of the Waltz on the website I start with “Waltzes are dances that are danced to music in 3/4 time…”

To be honest, the main reason that there are “Waltzes” that aren’t Waltzes in the catalog is that I pull from lots of different sources and even with something this fundamental there are different schools of thought.  I intentionally error towards the inclusive in these decisions since I think that dance should be as inclusive as possible.

A substantial number of these songs come from sources that cater to people looking for wedding dances.  But there are definitely “Waltzes” in 4/4 coming from other sources as well, I’ve certainly seen some exhibition Waltzes performed to music that has almost no discernable beat,  much less a strong 3/4.

I’m not sure where I picked up this term, but these songs are what I have been calling “Fake” waltzes.  If anyone has a better term for this, I would love to hear it.

In any case, a “Fake” waltz is generally a song that is in 4/4 but has a strong downbeat and very weak rhythm otherwise, so that one can dance three steps to a measure without being too distracted by the actual rhythm of the song.   You can find all of the songs that I’ve tagged as “Fake” waltzes by following these steps:

  1. Go to the Advanced search page
  2. Under “Dance styles”, choose Waltz
  3. Under “Include tags” click on the blue drum (tempo tags)
  4. Choose “Fake” and click Include
  5. Click the Search button

Or just click here for the pre-built search.

You can use the same process, but replace step (4) with choosing “4/4” and you can find all the songs that are cataloged as both waltz and 4/4.

The more interesting variations are to use the same process to find all waltzes that are not tagged “Fake” and not tagged “4/4”.  You can do this by using “Exclude Tags” in step 3 above.  And you can do one or more tags at the same time.

And while I’m on the subject of unusual waltzes, there is another variation on this theme. It is a song with an extremely slow primary tempo where you can fit a very fast waltz half basic (three steps) on each beat. I’ve been labeling these as “triple-time” and the list can be found here.  Although that’s an exaggeration, there is only one song on that list as of this writing – Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful Life”.  Perhaps I’ll find more by the time you read this.

I’m looking into ways to make the fact that a waltz is “Fake” more obvious.  Currently, it’s a tag on the dance which can only be seen when you click on the dance tag in a song list or by going to the song details page.

In the meantime, if you have a strong objection to songs in 4/4 being labeled as Waltz, you’re welcome to sign up and start voting them down or tagging them as “Fake.”

Even more than usual, I’m interested in how other people view this, so please feel free to comment on this post or send feedback directly to me.

Where did all the Collegiate Shag music go?

When I first started publishing lists of swing music on the music4dance site, I grouped all of the swing style dances together and then used tempo ranges to guess at specific dance styles.  This method works reasonably well for some of the core swing dances such as Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, and Jive.

But a helpful Carolina Shag DJ contacted me to let me know that this method did not work at all for Carolina Shag since the dance ancestor might be swing, but the music that one typically dances to doesn’t even have a swing rhythm.  And of course, both Hustle and West Coast Swing are very much part of the swing family of dances but don’t require a swing rhythm to dance to.  So I went back and made the default searches only return songs that someone had explicitly tagged as a type of swing rather than inferring anything from general category and tempo.

Since the only exposure I had to Collegiate Shag was a reference that it was a swing style dance to music between 180-200 beats per minute when I turned off the “infer by tempo” feature,  I stopped listing any Collegiate Shag songs.  Well, that seemed wrong, so I did some digging around the web and found a few lists of Collegiate Shag songs and incorporated them into the music4dance catalog.

Do you dance or DJ Collegiate Shag?  Please, let me know if there are other songs that I should add to this list.

Share Your Favorite Searches

Have you found a particularly useful or exciting way to search for music on the music4dance site?  Just for instance, were you choreographing a swing-cha combo and constructed a search for songs that can be danced to both East Coast Swing and Cha Cha and that are not categorized as Latin Music?  Or did you perhaps want to see a list of songs that could be danced to Cha Cha, Bachata, or Rumba but that are specifically 120 beats per minute?

You can do both of those pretty easily by using the Advanced Search page.  And then you can get back to your own searches by using the My Searches page.  But what if you want to share that cool list of songs with someone else?  You can do exactly what I’ve been doing here – do the search and then copy the link from the address bar in your browser.  That is a perma-link to the search that you just did and can be shared with anyone, anywhere.

As a bonus, if you’ve created an account, the searches that you share with your friends can include your likes and dislikes.  For instance, you can share a list of all Cha Cha songs that you have “liked”.  Or if you have a search you are particularly fond of but one of the songs just doesn’t work for you, you can unlike that song and then when you or your friends look at the list using the link you built you won’t see that song, and neither will your friends.

Feel free to share your favorite or most interesting searches here.  If enough people do that, we can add a new section for interesting searches to the site.

How do I find the latest music added to music4dance?

I’m adding new music just about every week, so if you’re a frequent visitor to music4dance how can you see what is new?

I used to show you music sorted by most recent by default.  But as I noted in this blog post, that’s no longer feasible, when balanced against the ability to do google-like searches.

Don’t panic – it’s still easy to do.  Whenever you’re looking at a list of songs in the song library, you will see that the last column is a single letter and the header for the column is a pencil icon.  Clicking on that icon once will show you the most recently modified songs first, clicking a second time will show the oldest songs first.

If you want to get even fancier, you can go to the advanced search page  and choose either “Last Modified” or “When Added” and a direction.  “Last Modified” is exactly what you get with the pencil icon, “When Added” sorts by when the song was first added rather than when it was last changed.

Are there songs that you love to dance to that you don’t see here?  I’d be delighted to add them, just send me a list include title, artist, album and what kind of dance and I’ll add them to the catalog.  Or would you prefer to add them yourself?

 

P.S. For those that may be wondering, here is what the letters in the date column mean:

  • s = seconds
  • m = minutes
  • h = hours
  • D = days
  • W = weeks
  • M = months
  • Y = years

You can see the actual date and time that a song has been modified by hovering over the letter.

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