Tango Music for Dummies

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

  1. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    No, I don't. About as many there read music as do people here read music, dancer or not.
     
  2. salthepal

    salthepal New Member

    I think my dancing really became musical when I started to listen to tango often enough that I had a favorite song(s). Once you're at that level, one starts to slowly understand why they like that particular song (is it the lyrics? a certain phrase where a wailing violin overlays the strong beat of the bandoneon? etc). Pretty soon that progresses to having a favorite orchestra, where you understand how the different orchestras play music (is it the constant beat? the unexpected accents? the smoothness? extreme switches from strong to smooth?) (edit: in my case, I have a favorite song every week, and a favorite orchestra every month, and they keep rotating :) )

    And once all of that sets in, you can safely forget all about it and just dance :)
     
  3. ant

    ant Member

    That is not my understanding and then there is the question of what is more useful, if indeed either are, if you are a dancer.

    As I understand it to read all music you will need to study things like,


    scales, form, chords,standard harmonic progressions, keys, modes

    when you are learn to read the rhythm line only you cut out a lot of that.

    As a dancer that wants to be more sure about the music, to understand the start and end of phrases, it was suggested to me learning how the rhythm line works is best and I should find a good percussion teacher.

    Finally when I mentioned to teacher I had a lesson with recently that I was thinking of learning to read music her reaction was what for? When I explained it was to give me more certainty with what I was hearing she understood but felt that the benefits were very limited.

     
  4. Shandy

    Shandy Member

    I understand the concern about learning to read music - but a conscious understanding of the music we dance too isn't the same thing imo. "Reading music" is just one way of developing a deeper appreciation of this specific style of music.

    However, my goal is to be a better Argentine Tango dancer.
     
  5. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member


    There is no need to learn to read music in order to be a good dancer. There is however a need to understand some basic music terminology specific to dance (phrase, beat, cadence, syncopation, rhythm, dynamics, etc.). The ability to recognize them and dance accordingly is crucial. If someone cannot define these terms there is a fundamental lack of knowledge, IMO. I know many others will not agree...that's OK.

    Given that, if you now how to read music it would foolish not take advantage of the skill. No amount of listening can replace a careful analysis of the printed music - ever. There are levels of appreciation and understanding that are reachable only through analysis. It then becomes "soley" a matter of technique to express the music in the dance. At least that's my hope...:)
     
  6. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I agree totally, but...

    Some of us like to think that dance is based upon music, but that is clearly not so for everyone. I see many dancers who seem to dance while music is playing, but I see no relationship between the dance and the music; they are not on the beat, the musical phrase goes by un-noticed.

    Again, I completely agree. But many people do, apparently, dance merely while music is playing, and there is little-if-any relationship between the music and the dance.
     
  7. ant

    ant Member

    Thanks for the opinion. It helps.

    The key question for me is how do you develope the ability to recognize them?
     
  8. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Babies in the womb kick and move to music too, but they aren't dancers. Dancing requires musicianship - the ability to hear the emotional shifts in the music, the rhythmic changes, the phrases, etc. and physically respond to them. And that requires technique. Many people think musicianship is either within you or it isn't. I am not one of them. It might come more naturally to some than others, but I think it can be taught.
     
  9. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Keep reading "El Choclo: A Musical Analysis", of course. ;)

    Just take one term. Learn its definition. Wikipedia is a start. With luck there will be sound files too. (It would be soooooo much easier for me and those following along with El Choclo if I could include audio clips).

    There might a music appreciation class at a local music school or community center or see if there is an on-line course. I'm sure there are books with CDs. The American composer Aaron Copland wrote a great music appreciation book called "What to Listen for in Music" (1957). It was written with classical music in mind but that doesn't matter. See if it's in your local library, but unfortunately there won't be a CD of examples (unless it has been revised, don't know).
     
  10. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Technique? I'm not sure. (I do advocate it). Musical understanding? For sure.

    Yes! Understanding music at a fundamental level is not at all difficult. Anyone who wants to be a capable dancer must have a basic understanding of music, because the foundation of dance is music.
     
  11. ant

    ant Member

    Thanks for that thread and I am

    I understand the terms in my head I am just not sure my ears do.

    I have done that and the courses that seem most apt are summarised as follows:
    Jazz Ear-Training: Level 1
    This course covers aural recognition of chords, progressions,
    intervals, rhythms and scales/modes, incorporating some
    acapella singing based on jazz standards. It is suitable
    for any aspiring jazz instrumentalist and is ideally taken
    together with Jazz Harmony (see below), but can be

    taken on its own.
    Jazz Harmony: Level 1
    Develop a better understanding of scales, form, chords,
    standard harmonic progressions, keys, modes, etc including
    detailed analysis of the more popular jazz standards. Ideally
    taken, together with Jazz Ear Training, but can be taken onits own. It is open to all instrumentalists.


    Is this the sort of thing you had in mind? I can't find the equivalent for AT music. There are other courses that bring in musical appreciation by tracing the history of Classical or jazz or some other styles. If not can you give me a clue. There are so many great music colleges in London and some very highly acclaimed music day schools for children on my door step, I am sure I will be able to find the right type learning.

    The one most peple tend to recommend is Joaquin Amenabar's Tango Lets dance to the music.

    I have now ordered a copy on Amazon. You can buy a used one for under £5.
     
  12. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member



    No, those courses are for musicians specifically wanting to learn jazz. Not the kind of thing I had in mind. Much more detailed than needed too.

    If you know the definitions you need to find a source with audio samples. There must be something on-line.

    I'm not sure what specifically you are having trouble with. Hearing the phrases is important, so try this (if you can hear the phrases and the Q&As no need to):

    Listen to one of El Choclo samples (recommend the Garden Quartet for this exercise). You know there are 16 bars in Section A and there are 2 beats per bar. Don't look at the music, just listen. So after the opening 3 quick pickup notes start counting on beat 1 of bar 1.
    Count the beats: 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2...16-2 that will be the end of Section A

    Each phrase is 4 bars - 8 beats
    Count the beats for each phrase: 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2...

    Each Q&A, the smaller phrase within the 4 bar phrase is 2 bars - 4 beats
    Count the beats for each sub-phrase (the Q&As): 1-2, 2-2, 1-2, 2-2...

    Once you can do all that you will know the phrasing inside out. The then stop counting and listen to the melody flow.

    Give me something specific you're having trouble hearing and I'll try to help out.
     
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    A simple thing, is to just listen to tango music when doing other things, (like in the car driving to work, or when at home just relaxing). Knowing the music well, helps in many ways (and IMO is more important than whether you can verbally articulate the various entities in the music).
     
  14. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    You mean "more important" not "less important", no?
     
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, I just fixed my prior post. Thanks.
     
  16. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    All of the tango orchestras of the Golden Age arranged and performed music for dancing. They existed for no other purpose, and their only means of communicating with the dancers was aurally, through live music (mostly) and later, through recordings; the dancers heard the musicians play, and they danced.

    There is a stubborn streak in me that says that this was always the best (and original) model, and that while musical awareness can take many forms, and operate at many levels (I am an amateur musician myself, proficient to a reasonable standard on several instruments, and I read music) the need to do more than to listen carefully to what you hear is to persue the interest beyond that required to be a good social dancer.
     
  17. newbie

    newbie Active Member

    I remember a teacher saying (about A.T but also more generally, by cavemen times and so on) that music was there first. And then someone heared the music and started to dance. Not the other way round with someone starting to dance silently and some musician noticing him and playing music according to the moves.
     
  18. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Milonguero 1: The speed of Firpo's El Choclo makes me want to get up and dance. The melody is so crisp I can't help but make my steps move that way too. I feel so alive.

    Milonguero 2: I'm getting too old to move that fast for three minutes. I much prefer Di Sarli. The way his melodies float on the air, and the way those violins come in during that intense bit is wonderfull. I feel like soaring along with them.

    Milonguero 3: D'Arienzo's lush sound gives me goosebumpbs. The way he brings the full orchestra in an out, and that solo violin, and those punchy off-beat accents!! I just have to dance!

    Milonguero 4: Let's stop talking and cabaceo a partner.


    When someone can participate in a conversation like this (tongue-in-cheek) one they have "arrived". In terms of knowing the music. Move and respond however you feel. Dance like a caveman as long as you and your partner enjoy the dance.

    There is no right or wrong aproach for everyone. We can chase our tails around this circle forever...:wink:
     
  19. ant

    ant Member

    According to people I dance with that know about music (for instance one is a symphony standard French Horn player) I don't have any problems with the music.

    I don't have to much trouble understanding the musical structure you have outlined. They go over things like that at the Tango Mango which I attend 4 times a year and they have a musical secrets lecture every morning.

    However I have had no formal music training (even when I was at school) and so I have very little confidence in my own ability and it is this that I wish to tackle.
     
  20. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Well, you are a musician, so you what you hear is not the same as a non-musician - you hear more.

    I agree listening (actively and thoughtfully) is needed, but telling a non-musician to listen carefully without specifying how to do that and what to listen for is probably not going to help them much.
     

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