Tango Music for Dummies

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Shandy, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. Shandy

    Shandy Member

    Love reading the music/musicality threads but within seconds I'm floundering as I don't have any musical background - I just sort of "like and dance to what I hear!". Recently, I've been sitting down and actively listening to the music and that's definitely increased my appreciation, including tunes I thought I knew really well. Mostly that's enough but I really would like to understand more (if I can).

    I've been told to listen to "phrases that are repeated", "its like sentences", "listen to phrase A, repeated, B, now A, now D". I nod wisely but I really don't have a clue what they're talking about. I feel like I'm 3 years old , just learning to read and then given War and Peace and told either a) look what you'll be able to understand one day or, worse: b) read it!

    Anyone interested in a thread that takes a step-by-step approach to analysing the structure of tango music. Or maybe somebody could give me details of earlier threads or websites that could help.

    An approach that worked in salsa was to take a well-known salsa tune with a classic/simple structure, find a good youtube clip and then discuss its structure, beat, melody, harmony and rhythms. (But I "don't know, what I don't know" :confused: so the musicians would be the best people to decide the appropriate headings). Some people posted clips of dancers, dancing to the particular piece of music to emphasis the discussion on the music.

    Over time, we could develop quite a wealth of knowledge and bank of information for tango dancers interested in developing their knowledge of tango music.
     
  2. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    First, you can.

    The explanation you received was good. For dancers that are non-musicians, that's about all you really need to know.

    Listen to this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UCIRrGpgcU

    The A part starts at the beginning :)06 seconds), then repeats at about :15.

    Then the B part starts at about :24 and repeats at about :32. It repeats again at :41 but then it has a 2nd ending that is different from the first two times.

    After that comes a C part the also repeats.

    The first time you ever hear a tune you will know, after you've heard the A part, that it will be repeated, so that give you some instant familiarity. Same goes for the B part.

    I think this is good for leaders, because they can fit their choreography to the phrases (parts).

    The most simple folk tunes are nothing more than AA, BB, AA, BB, etc. Tango music is generally more complicated than that, also having C parts, 2nd ending, codas, etc.

    I you really want a better understanding, you'll need to sit down with some one who knows music and get a fuller explanation. I really don't think it can be explained well in this forum. And, someone will, obviously, take exception to what I just said.
     
  3. Mladenac

    Mladenac Active Member



    not about tango, but it will improve the art of listening
     
  4. newbie

    newbie Active Member

    Now it is not as important as you may imagine for leaders. I candidly asked to a BsAs teacher who was explaining these B A B A things to me, "ok, so if I led a certain series of ganchos when A came the first time, then I have to lead the same series of ganchos when A comes back?" and the answer was an horrified no.
    It looks like, if you stop between A and B, if you dance slowly during the adagio part and keep your kick-and-trick steps for the fantasia part, then as a leader you're doing your job more or less ok.
     
  5. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't think so. But, if the music has a distinctive or emphatic moment in it, and most do, the leader will know that the moment will occur again and will be able to know when. Then he can choose a step to fit that music.
     
  6. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I would think that's pretty advanced leading. Most leaders I know need to be spending much more energy navigating and leading properly, and less energy figuring out where they might be able to throw in a specific move coming up in the music.

    Especially since even if they pre-plan it based on the music, floor conditions may not allow for it in the moment but they've already got it in their head to do it and are no longer ready to improvise.

    Nothing's worse than an idea when it's the only one you have.

    Familiarity with specific pieces of music through steady long term practice of tango can achieve the same ability to foresee the music and probably works out better than trying to analyze an unfamiliar piece on the fly through music theory, IMO.
     
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I have found that Argentine Tango has a lot in common with West Coast Swing. The music is different, but it is also the same in many ways.

    The information at this page applies to Argentine Tango as well as much of what you might do in WCS. http://www.eijkhout.net/lead_follow/feel_the_music.html

    Hearing the beat has interesting material, but you may want ot skip over the info on swing, although there are many references to "swing" in tango.
    http://www.eijkhout.net/lead_follow/music_and_timing.html

    Hitting the breaks http://www.eijkhout.net/lead_follow/hit_the_breaks.html

    I am also going to highly recommend that you begin to learn a bit about reading sheet music. But, that is only if you really really want to get serious about this.
    TodoTango has both mp3 and sheet music examples of many AT songs.
     
  8. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    YouTube has many videos on how to read music. I don't know of any specific ones to recommend, so just scout around until you find something that makes sense to you.
     
  9. chanchan

    chanchan Member

    The same music can be interpreted in many different ways, and, in particular, the steps are probably the least important thing. But this doesn't mean that any interpretation is good: you have to follow the music in a way or another.
    The repetition of A e B doesn't mean that you have to repeat the same sequence of steps, but they are a great help for you to predict the evolution of the melody and following it better.
    No. It is better than not listening at all, but I wouldn't say that by limiting musicality to that means you are doing your job more or less ok.
     
  10. ant

    ant Member

    Would you suggest both the rhythm and melody sections or just the rhythm section to begin with?
     
  11. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I would suggest starting with musical notation, measures/bars, 8-bar phrases, repeated sections, 2nd endings, for a general structure of music.
     
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Hey, I'm taking an African dance class and feeling the same way. Cool.
     
  13. Shandy

    Shandy Member

    Thanks, Just home from work (no forums) and off out to tango tonight - but I'll be back soon to try and get my head around all this later.
     
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Take a look at El Choclo http://www.todotango.com/english/las_obras/partitura.aspx?id=24

    This is third of currently listed "most requested".
    I think it has the benifit of a fairly simple represenation of what we are hearing, although make note of the fact that I am not a real musician!

    The bass clef (lower of the two) follows a pretty simple looking pattern. If you cross reference with habanera (music) in wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habanera_(music) you can get an idea of how one of the basic elements of tango is used. It's a straighforward rhythm.

    Note that the variations in this bass line, or rhythm, includes pauses of different durations. And they usually come at the end of every other line.

    So, I guess in answer to one question, I would start with rhythm, because it is often simplier.
     
  15. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    El Choclo is a very good piece to study. As Steve said the rhythms are very characteristic of tango and milonga, and the way they are used helps define the sections.

    It is difficult to do as you ask, Shandy. Tango music is relatively simple and not difficult to analyze – provided you have basic musical (specifically theory) training. Without that, how you approached salsa is a good way to get to know tango too.

    IMHO you do not need to know the structure of the music (form, phrases, melodies, rhythms) to be a good tango dancer, but it helps if you do. I enjoy knowing this info but don't consciously think about it when I dance. You said you “like to dance to what I hear” – that’s all you need. Just keep listening to a wide range of “orchestras” and pieces of music. Think about the character, notice how the mood changes. You will begin to hear the form (structure), phrasing and the themes (melodies) and rhythms. You will also begin to notice when and how the themes and rhythms are varied. Think about the many ways you could respond if you were dancing.

    A suggestion: Pick a favourite tango piece and listen to the phrases. (El Choclo is a good choice). Then try to identify the different sections, how they differ in mood from each other, and when they are repeated. Listen for the phrasing (the melodies) and their rhythms. And how they are accompanied by the other instruments. And how rhythm is used there too. Then listen to as many different versions of the piece you can get your hands on. Every “orchestra” plays the standards differently. El Choclo, composed by Angel Villoldo, is different when played by De Angelis, Canaro (Vocal), Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, and so on. I could tell you in specific musical terms why and how they differ, but that is not important. This approach will also help you identify one “orchestra” from another. Each one has a style and sound of their own. When dancing, react to the music as you hear it. Let the time spent actively listening and thinking work for you. Let your sub-conscious react.

    You said something about a step by step approach to analyzing the music. What I do now and again (being the overly analytical type I am) is the following. I get the score (actually a piano reduction) from todotango.com and mark the main sections (A, B, C…). They are usually visually obvious. Then I identify the phrases by looking at the themes (melodies). Usually there is a call-and-response character to them. (Hard to explain, has to do with the character of the themes and the harmonies…) I look at how rhythms are used. I identify what distinguishes one section from another in terms of themes, rhythms, key signatures, harmonies. If the harmonies sound interesting I’ll do a full harmonic analysis too, identifying each harmony (chord) used and how the harmonic changes help define the phrasing and sections. Then I listen to all the recordings I have of the piece, following along with the printed music, and note how each “orchestra” adapts it to their unique style.

    Overkill? Sure. Necessary? No. Worthwhile? Yes. Enjoyable? Very.
     
  16. ant

    ant Member

    That gels with my understanding. Although there are repeats within a track, between one half of the track and and the next half it is the relationship between each pair of phrases and that pair to the next when they form an overarching phrase that is just as important and probabally easier for us to use as dancers. Whereby if you think of the first phrase (or pair) as asking a question or setting a scene, the second phrase answers the question or provides the contrast to the scene. So the first phrase will help formulate the feeling you may wish to include when dancing the second phrase.
     
  17. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I would recommend Una Emocion Tanturi/campos

    there is two 30s instrumental movements before the singing begins and the singing is very lyrical. I think as far as listenablity goes this has it all.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz8R_bM5Z4w
     
  18. newbie

    newbie Active Member

    Structure-wise you'll be doing ok. Better than most of the leaders whom I can see in the weekly practica/milonga we have in our neck of the woods.. Musicality is still something else, you can wish to lead the follower on the violin while stepping on the cello and being inspired by the band, but that is being Gavito, I mean however high your musicality is (or you think is) there will always be a higher level. But I think the OP was just asking about what to do with the B A B A things.
     
  19. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Now thats what I would call, a clean and clear, precise demo. beautifully executed .
     
  20. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    you can also three different interpretations..
     

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