Milonga Syncopation

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by AndaBien, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Good to see you back!
  2. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Yes. My bad.
  3. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    In which case she's out on a limb with that - I've never encountered the usage to imply respectively two & one parts of a triplet half-beat. No wonder things get confused!
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Likewise, in a WCS "triple step" you don't step on the &, you step on the "a"
    - the "1",the "a", and "2"

    This is consistent with
    "There are a few cases where syncopation steps on the "a" count in between the "AND." When this takes place, there must always be a STEP on the ACTUAL COUNT as well as the "a." Otherwise, the dancer will appear off time."
    Again, this is a more advance count than 1&2, according to Blair.
  5. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Member

    Nice to have you back tangomonkey! and thanks for organizing the expressions!
  6. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    So if you count 1&2&1&2& you attribute one meaning to &, and if you count 1&a2&a1&a2&a, you attribute a different meaning to it? That's helpful. As I said before, some standardisation of vocabulary to deal with rhythm would be very useful. FWIW, BR tango technique attributes another meaning to &, and that is to describe a quarter beat, not a half.
  7. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    No, I don't think that is correct. The problem with using "&" and "a" indications is non-musicians don't really understand what they mean. Or think they do, erroneously.

    In the two examples above the "&" count is half way between the "1" and the "2". It has the same meaning. Including an "a" count half way between the "&" count and the "1" or the "2" count doesn't change the "&' count. It is still half way between the "1" and the "2". These descriptions lack understanding of the DURATION of the counts, which is a critical component.

    We're trying to describe dance using terms that we don't really know what they mean. Fortunately there is a really good system for rhythmic notation called sheet music. Unfortunately most dancers prefer to use other, poorly defined, methods to describe rhythm.
  8. Gssh

    Gssh Active Member

    Yes, they have some nice examples for both traspies and fast double-time runs - i especially liked some of their slow passages where they show the rolling/uneven quality of milonga without being fast.

  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    It's the same disconnect between how music is written and how it is played.
    It's the count itself that is important, not an absolute value that a symbol represents.

    A "quarter note" has no absolute value, except in relation to other notes. It can have many different durations. This ambiguity reflects the fact that music is complicated, .

    Is it "helpful" that classic swing rhythm sections play in 4/4 time with a long-short, long-short "swing" over 4 quarter notes, while swung eighths have the same long-short, long-short feeling, but over 2 quarter notes? (Blair's "Units" are two beat s = 2 quarter notes)

    Is it "helpful" that the second note in a measure can be either an upbeat or a backbeat depending on how it is played?

    Blair's notation was developed out of her close and continued association with swing dancing, where "uneven," but consistent, rhythms are the norm, rather than the exception.
    The & count "&1&2" is her "second level" of counting. That's the count I use with someone new to West Coast Swing, and the count that I used for years myself. And really, when the music is fast enough, it's pretty hard to get that &a1&a2 count in there. And if there is no "swing" in the music, it's not all that useful. But, if you ARE dancing "swing," and are getting the swing in the motion, it is helpful to have a verbal way to describe that matches the music.

    I can accept that there can be different levels of understanding about ANYTHING. Blair's count works for swing, and I think it's helped me understand better about how movement works in dance, and how THAT is related to music. Is it the perfect way to describe "milonga syncopation?" Is a straight 1&2 count good enough? Dividing "quarter notes" that last less than 0.5 seconds at 120 bp minute is a challenge, not matter how you slice it.

    TM's "count" for habanera makes sense, as does
    Swing = Instead of 1-e-and-a (or 1-and) it becomes 1-and-a. which sounds familiar.
    Gssh likes this.
  10. Gssh

    Gssh Active Member

    Sheetmusic is great, but the problem is that dance does not lend itself to read sheets while practicing or teaching. I actually think that there is (used to be?) a better defined method to describe rhythm - i have expereinced a few times when i took lessons with really old school teachers that they tended to sing rhythm using specific words (don't ask me what they were - i just remember that when i heard someone do it the second time i remebered the first time and thought "hey, this sounds really similar") - btw - is that something other people have experienced?.
    I know that african drummers (and dancers?) have a specific vocabulary to sing complex rhythms, and i have experienced the same in classes teaching indian dance - the teacher would sing the rhythm, and there was a specific "song" for everything. OTOH i have seen teachers of central european folk dances do clapping+singing+stomping simultaneously when explaining their (insanely complex) rhythms. And none of these approaches strike me as "poorly defined".
    I think in general getting more on the same page of how to "talk" a complex rhythm is more useful for a dancer, as it is something we can do while practicing/dancing- though i have to agree that it is not the best for discussions here, in writing.

    Also there is the question of musicality - a lot of teachers in milonga workshops that talk about QQS/doubletime as a traspie actually dance traspies when doing demonstrations - it is in the music, and when we dance to the music we will use it, no matter what we call it. When we practice with music the same thing happens. I pretty much suspect that if we were in the same room dancing to the same music there would be less difference between the "a traspie is just a doubletime" and the "a traspie is something completely different from a doubletime" people than what it looks like in this discussion - the "milonga as a fast tango" is in my experience at least somewhat a question of experience, and dancers who listen to the music and work on their dance end up at the "milonga feel" basically no matter how they started.

  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    May I suggest that folks try out swing "triple steps" using the different counts: "1&2" vs 1&a2.
    I think it leads to "understanding" in the sense that you will "feel" the difference in the counts.
    Note that "sheet music" differs for drummers, guitarists, etc.

    Amen to this.
    I DO wish that Skippy would address AT, but that isn't going to happen, I don't think.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Yup, yup.
  13. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Disagree. We could all dance it just fine, and dance it wih each other just fine, but there is a very significant difference in feel in 1&2&3&4& and 1ah2&3ah4$.

    And for all this, we DO have standardized ways to talk about this; the fact that some people don't understand the standard ways of talking about musical timing don't make them any less real.
  14. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Yes, duration is what matters. Using QQS, SQS... isn't generaly helpful because there is no definable, consistently applied duration to the Qs and Ss. The steps need to be referenced to the beat. In the case of double-time QQS works because beat one is evenly subdivided into two Qs. The S is beat two. But no QQS, SQS... is able to acurately define a traspie - the habanera 1 dotted 1/8-1/16, or 1/16-1/8-1/16 of habanera 2, let alone the more complicated 3-3-2.

    Musicians use patterns (letters, words, symbols...1-e-&-a, 1-&-a), which have become standardized, to accurately divide the beats. They will count habanera 1 as 1-e-&-a 2-& and play on the 1-a 2-&. It doesn't take long before there is no need to count - it just comes without thought, it is felt.

    Gssh wrote: Sheetmusic is great, but the problem is that dance does not lend itself to read sheets while practicing or teaching. I actually think that there is (used to be?) a better defined method to describe rhythm - i have expereinced a few times when i took lessons with really old school teachers that they tended to sing rhythm using specific words (don't ask me what they were - i just remember that when i heard someone do it the second time i remebered the first time and thought "hey, this sounds really similar") - btw - is that something other people have experienced?

    Yes. Suzuki creatd a methodolgy in Japan about 80 years ago to teach young children of only 3 years of age to play an instrument. His approach is basically the same as how we aquire language: by listening, verbalizing and being corrected. And being incouraged too! The teacher plays, claps, or sings a rhythm using some rhyme or easily remembered sounds and the student repeats it back. These are easily remembered by the child. It is impressive to see, after only a short time, 3 year olds play rhythms on their violins, cellos, pianos. I remember my children practicing the 1-e-&-a 2-& rhythm saying and moving their bows to "ta-ka-ta-ka ti-ti" over and over again. Beat one of Habanera 2 (1-e-(&)-a and repeated on beat 2) was "li-ons and ti-gers and li-ons and ti-gers". Eventualy, after a year or so, they begin to learn how to read music. By that time the basics of playing music have been learned internally.
  15. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    No. The & and the a are the same. 1&2& is four half-beats. 1e&a2e&a is eight quarter-beats. Until you start accenting them, they are identical, they are evenly spaced and the have the same duration. Subdividing a half-beat, by adding a quarter-beat doesn't leave the half-beat untouched - it has given up half of its own time value, it leaves you with two quarter-beats. We use different names for them to identify where they are in any possible sequence. As you say, it is the duration that is critical, but for a rhythm, stress is equally important.
  16. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I was trying to add this to my earlier post, but ran out of editing time....

    The usage referred to by Steve citing Blair is different: it references a swung rhythm, based on a triplet pattern. 1&2& would always be four half-beats, but the addition of an a in 1&a2 changes every duration value, for now, the numbered beat 1, the & and the a are all one-third beats. The 1& are blended into one sound or duration (or the & is silent - we can't tell) and the a stands as a syncopated off-beat, the durations being 2/3 1/3 1. I have never encounted the & symbol being used in this ambiguous way before. I understand it to operate to divide into two equal parts the numbered beat preceding the symbol. In the same way, e or a (or eh and ah) divide the preceding half-beat (&) into two quarters. So, to take the comparison made earlier, a swung triplet rhythm (given as 1&a2), isn't the same as the not-swung rhythm of the International Jive Chasse 1e&a2, although the convention is not to give the symbols for silent or blended sub-counts, so actually written as 1a2 (3/4 1/4 1).

    Tangomonkey linked to an explanatory text that addressed the swung rhythm variant, but there, the & symbol is not used, but the word and is given instead: 1 and ah 2 - that makes sense to me, and solves the problem of & meaning different things depending on context. The difference doesn't survive saying the pattern, but that is also true of Robert Farris Thompson's citation of da, ka ka kan, for the habanera rhythm, where the italics are necessary to attribute different durations to the two ka sounds. A different sound would have been better, and what is the comma after da meant to signify? Musical notation, for those that can read it, is indeed, rather easier to comprehend, but all of these alternative counting systems are meant to be usable verbally, and by anyone. Some standardisation, therefore, in usage, across dance genres, would be helpful. Most teachers resort to double-time, and leave it at that, although in relation to the habanera variants, that is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
  17. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    There are three possibilities:

    1. 1/2, 1/2, 1 or QQS or 1&2
    2. 3/4, 1/4, 1 or 1a2 (not swung)
    3. 2/3, 1/3, 1 or 1 and a2 (swung)
  18. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi UKD, don´t mean to criticize, if it works for you. But now the ah stands for two different things: a dotted or triplified rhythm respectively. And speaking frankly, I never made use of the ah, or the and-ah in my teaching, only of the & (Q or eights). Everything beyond the & falls into phrasing and styling and therefore does not need any precise transcription (for me anyway). And when playing an instrument, the plain notes will do.

    Don´t know if already someone posted the link to wiki (tresillo) here

    I also like this dance lesson
  19. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Each to their own, but there is no consistency of the usage of & or a - plainly they can represent different note values, and, of course, the triplet idea of a swung rhythm has no obvious direct application to any member of the tango family. But if your smallest beat division is an eighth-note (or a quick), then you can't be dancing milonga con traspie, as I have come to understand it, because all the syncopations in the habanera rhythm (found abundantly in tango too) use sixteenth notes. That's not phrasing or styling: it is in the notes written on the page. What frequently isn't (but can be, of course) is the swung triplet rhythm: there it is very common for the two sounded notes to be written as beamed quavers (eighth notes), but understood to be played with swing.
    opendoor likes this.
  20. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    agree with this for most people (eventually) some get it quicker than others..maybe we need Konnakol* adapted for milonga

    *Indian vocal expression of rhythms

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