Tag Archives: Wedding

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 if I just want to search for songs on music4dance like I do on Google?

One of the things that I’ve had a lot of fun with is building a sophisticated search engine where I (and you) can do things like find songs that someone has tagged as Waltz and someone else has tagged as Foxtrot.  Or find all swing songs that are in a particular tempo range.  There are lots of neat things that you can do with the Advanced Search system if you’ve got some knowledge of dance and music and want to dig deep into these corners of the music4dance catalog.

But what if you just want to search through the catalog the same way you would on Google or Bing?   For instance, what if you’re looking for a song that has been tagged as Wedding and has the words “Love” and “Time” in it?  With simple search you can just type Wedding Love Time into the search box and you’ll get some useful results.  You can further refine the search by using some of the standard search modifiers like + and – and putting quotes (“) around phrases to be more precise about your searches (for instance try “First Dance” +Foxtrot +Rock).  But if you’re the type that doesn’t bother with that on Google you should be fine not worrying about it here as well.

More information is available on the help page but you should be able to go to Simple Search from the “Music” menu on the music4dance home page and dive right in.

This is a BETA feature because I haven’t fully integrated this search with the basic and advanced search features, so let me know what you’re missing the most in this simple search method and I’ll get those pulled back in first.  As always, please send me feedback or just respond to this post with any issues or ideas.

I am learning the Foxtrot, where can I find some music?

The quick answer is to just click this link where you will find a list of over a thousand songs that have been labeled as Foxtrot.

But that’s definitely not the full answer.  In that list you will find songs that are too fast or too slow for you to dance to because the Foxtrot is not just one dance style but a family of dances each of which can be danced to a different range of tempos.

When I first started dancing  my teachers were from a background that was influenced by American Smooth style of Ballroom dance.  So there was a very specific dance that I first learned as “The Foxtrot”.   This is what is more precisely known as American Style Foxtrot and the was danced in the range of 30 measures per minute plus or minus a bit depending on competition rules.

In order to answer the more precise question of what kind of music will work for the dance that you are learning, it helps to get a bit of a historical perspective.  The Foxtrot follows a pretty common pattern in how partner dances evolve.  A style is first danced socially and pulls in moves from multiple traditions.  Often something resembling the social dance is performed on stage by exhibition dancers as well.  As the style becomes established, teachers take it and formalize it and possibly simplify it for their students. Then social dancers start pulling in things from different traditions and the dance evolves.  Sometimes it gets renamed, and sometimes the dance with the same name is just danced differently depending on where and when a dancer learned the style.   And never forget the influence of the music that is evolving alongside the dances, perhaps speeding up or slowing down or changing in character in a way that influences how dancers dance to it.

In the case of the Foxtrot, two of the early influences were Peabody and the Tango.  The Peabody was a very fast “one step” dance, and the Tango was imported from Argentina via Paris.  Harry Fox is the exhibition dancer who lent the Foxtrot his name.  Vernon and Irene Castle are the teachers who first formalized the Foxtrot as well as using it in their performances.

Arthur Murray standardized the particular version of the Foxtrot that I learned.  He also revived the Peabody as a competition dance to occupy the fast end of the Foxtrot style dances, as he felt that it was more reasonable for students to learn than the slightly slower but more complicated Quickstep.

At some point Charleston influences crept in as a style dance-able to faster music developed, called appropriately, the Quickstep.

To round out this family of dance styles I’ve adopted the name Castle Foxtrot to represent the slowest variations.   Much of the music that I’ve cataloged as Castle Foxtrot has been labeled by others as Slow Dance, especially when it relates to Wedding Dances.  Many of the moves that are used in Foxtrot can be slowed down and made to stay in place  (or on spot) to create something that is much more elegant than the side to side swaying that I first “learned” as a slow dance.

Here is a snapshot of the Foxtrot filter of the music4dance Tempi Tool, as a jumping off point to help you find music in an appropriate tempo for your style of Foxtrot.  Just click on any of the tempo ranges to get Foxtrot music in that range.

Name Meter MPM BPM Type Style(s)
Castle Foxtrot 4/4 15-25 60-100 Foxtrot Social
Slow Foxtrot 4/4 28-34 112-136 Foxtrot American Smooth, International Standard
QuickStep 4/4 48-52 192-208 Foxtrot International Standard
Peabody 4/4 60-62 240-248 Foxtrot American Smooth

With the full tool on the music4dance site you can dig further into the relationship between dances and tempos.

Foxtrot was further complicated by the fact that it co-evolved very closely with swing and was often danced to the same music, or at least music played by the same bands.   I’ll take at look at what I’ve been categorizing as the Swing family of dances next.

Does this categorization help you at all in how you think about dancing and how it relates to music.  Is there a different way that you would slice and dice these dances?

One thing that I completely over-simplified in my description was the influence of regional traditions.  Would anyone from around the world care to shed some light on your regional influences to the Foxtrot?

Useful Links:

Wedding Music Part II: We’re learning to Rumba, help us find a good song for our first dance

In my last post I showed you how to use the music4dance website if you already had a song in mind that you wanted to use for your first dance, and wanted to figure out which dance style(s) would work with the song. But what if you are particularly in love with one dance style or are just learning to dance one particular style and are looking for an inspiring first dance song in that style?

Let’s take a concrete example. Assume for a moment that you are learning to Rumba, so you’re looking for songs that will work for rumba but are also good songs for a first dance.

  1. Go to the music4dance web site (https://www.music4dance.net).tag-menu-annotated
  2. Choose Music->Tags from the menu at the top of the site by first clicking on Music (A) then on Tags (B).
  3. Click on the “Wedding” tag (C).wedding-tag-page
  4. A menu will pop up, choose the option “List all songs tagged as Wedding.”
    A list of all of the songs in our catalog that have been tagged “Wedding” appears.wedding-dances Since this list includes not only songs tagged as “First dance” but also “Father Daughter” and “Mother Son” tagged songs, let’s further refine our list to just “First Dance” songs.
  5. Click on any “First Dance” tag (D) in the tags column, a small menu will pop up.  Choose “Filter the list to include only songs tagged as First Dance.”  You will now have a list of songs that have been tagged both as “First Dance” and “Wedding.”first-dances
  6. But you are looking specifically for songs that you can dance the Rumba to.  So click on the dance selector button (E) (All Dances) and choose Rumba (F).
  7. You will now have songs that you can dance the rumba to that have been tagged as “Wedding” and “First Dance.”first-rumba
  8. The play button (G) on any song  will give you a list of music streaming and purchase options, which at minimum will let you listen to 30 seconds for free to make sure this is the song you were thinking of at if you’re subscribed to one of the services like Spotify or Groove you can listen to the entire song.
  9. You can click on the title link of any song (H) to get even more details including albums that contain this song.
  10. Or click on the Tempo column header (I) to sort the songs by tempo.

Is the style of dance you’re interested in not included please leave a comment or take a few minutes to go through my dance classification survey and help me generalize this system to the style of dance that you know.

Wedding Music Part I: Can we dance the Foxtrot to our song?

When did you first learn to dance?

For many people it was so that they could dance at their wedding.  Most especially so that they could enjoy the first dance but also perhaps for the Father/Daughter or Mother/Son dance.  If you’re just starting to learn to partner dance it can be pretty intimidating to both learn to dance and try to figure out what the possible dances are for your favorite song(s) and to dig through lists of suggested wedding songs to find the ‘right’ one for the dance style that you’re learning.

How can music4dance.net help?

Let’s assume for a moment that your special song is “Fever” by Ray Charles.  Here’s what you do:
song-menu-annotated

  1. Go to the music4dance web site (https://www.music4dance.net).
  2. Choose Music->Songs from the menu at the top of the site by first clicking on Music (A) then on Songs (B).
  3. Type “Fever” (without the quotes) into the search box (C).
  4. Click on the search button (D).
  5. The Ray Charles and Natalie Cole version of “Fever” should show up near the top of the list (E), if not try sorting by Artist by clicking on the Artist column header (F).
  6. The row already shows you some suggested dance styles in the dance column (G) including Foxtrot and Swing.  And you can see that others have tagged (H) this as a good Wedding and First Dance song.
  7. The play button (I)  will give you a list of music streaming and purchase options, which at minimum will let you listen to 30 seconds for free to make sure this is the song you were thinking of at if you’re subscribed to one of the services like Spotify or Groove, you can listen to the entire song.
  8. You can click on the title link (J) to get even more details including albums that contain this song.

fever-annotated
Hope that helps.  If you can’t find your song in our catalog, let me know what it is by commenting on this thread and I’ll see if I can add it.

Next time I’ll walk you through the other direction – starting with a dance that you know and finding music that others have identified as good First Dance songs for that style of dance.