Swing Discussion Boards > 6 counts to 8-beat music (2 bars)?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by MICKEY-JAZZ, Feb 2, 2007.


    MICKEY-JAZZ New Member

    I have just had my first dance lesson, East Coast Swing, and there is something I just don't understand: why do we do a 6-beat dance pattern (Tri-ple-Step Tri-ple-Step Rock Step) to 4/4 music that has 4 counts-to-the-bar? I can't get my head around why that is as it feels weird to me to not follow the music.
  2. Indiana_Jay

    Indiana_Jay Active Member

    You can always tell when a musician takes his first dance lesson!

    Welcome, Mickey-Jazz. My LW and I are also musicians and had the same confusion. To us, starting a pattern in the middle of a measure just didn't make any sense at all. Musically, it still makes no sense, but we've gotten used to it.

    I don't have a educated answer to the question, "why is it like that," but I suspect the answer has something to do with the dance having been invented by social dancers who weren't musicians.

  3. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    You play the music -- we invent the dance ! .

    All dance would be very boring if everything were structured in the same manner . Other dances have this one and a half bar makeup, within its framework. Its how we "join" sequences together . Think outside the box .

    The differences are more obvious to the trained ear, but the majority of students, are more concerned with other matters in the early stages of learning .
  4. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Ultimately, you can string together a series of patterns that end up spanning several bars (i.e, 2 patterns over 3 bars, and so on) and your dancing will have a variable relationship to the structure of the beat. Makes life interesting.
  5. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Why, or how?

    How: "C'est n'est-ce pas une pipe"; "The map is not the territory"; the basic footwork is not the dance. The dance gets tied to the music not by the feet, but by the body - musical dancers express the patterns differently depending on where they are in the music (not only with regards to where they are in the measure, but also where they are in the phrase, etc.)

    Why: you'll need to listen more carefully to the dance historians than to the amateurs on this one. Somewhere in the evolution Charleston->Lindy->East Coast a couple steps were dropped; I assume because somebody found teaching was easier that way.

    Swing isn't the only dance form with a footwork/music mismatch. Bronze foxtrot, when I first picked it up, was being taught as a 6 beat basic danced to 4 beat bars. Country two step has the same structure (inherited, I believe). The hustle basic is 3 beats of footwork set to 4/4 music, although some will suggest that it is really another 6 beat basic.

    Westies tend to worry more about 8s than 4s anyway (we just don't listen to a lot of music with an odd number of bars in the phrase) - we'll accent beat one of an odd measure in a phrase but only pay lip service to beat one of an even measure. (West Coast Swing is weird, among other reasons, because it interchanges six beat basics and eight beat basics pretty much at the leader's whim)

    As you would expect, there are versions of swing that are danced with a four beat basic (walk-walk-rock-step, all evenly spaced in time). So it's not like you are completely in left field expecting the footwork and the measure to match.
  6. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    All swing music is not written in 4/4 time; much of it is written in 2/2 time, sometimes 6/8 or 12/8. Sometimes a particular song, especially faster ones, can be found in 4/4 time in one book and 2/2 time in another. But let's ignore that for now. To make things ever fuzzier to the casual observer, most swing sheet music is notated as straight eighths with the instruction "with a swing feel" over the first measure of music. This was originally done to make the music copyist's job easier in the days when all music was hand written, and the tradition follows today even though music is usually typeset. A good musician turns that notation into the swing feel without thinking too much about it. Musicians do not learn to swing as beginners. Swing is an interpretation of music. It is the accents/legatos and staccatos/stringendos as well as how you slur and tie the notes that makes a particular tune swing the way it does.

    Many instructors teach all the "basic" rhythms (in WCS) as:
    1 2 3 & 4 5 & 61 2 3 & 4 5 6 7 & 8When learning how to Swing, dance students are busy counting to themselves to stay on time, trying to remember the foot positions, working very hard to hear the downbeats, etc., etc.,... and to count it any other way would only confuse them unnecessarily. While this is great for learning the figures and the foot placements, if you're very literal in following these instructions, you will look wooden or mechanical; when you are out dancing, you need to dance *to the music*!

    The importance of being aware of the difference between divisions into sixteenth notes, eighth note triplets or straight eighth notes is to be able to dance differently when you hear the difference. As a dancer, once you get comfortable enough with Swing so that you can actually LISTEN to the music while dancing, as opposed to just trying to stay close to the beat, you don't need to worry about the numerical division, because you can just listen to the music and use the beat wherever it is.

    When the music is a hard swing, dance to match that division. The dance usually feels and looks more staccato, sharp, punchy, (you hear a lot of brass or cymbal accents).

    When the music is an easy swing, dance to match that division too. The dance then becomes more smooth, sometimes more elegant (you hear a lot of strings), sometimes more sexy (you hear a lot of saxes). It's more lazy, it may even be a slower tempo.

    In fast tempo music, the divisions often approach straight eighths out of necessity. Listen to some famous fast jazz tunes, like Miles playing "Tune Up", or Coltrane playing "Giant Steps".

    The point is that you should dance differently depending on the musical subdivision, and not that these subdivisions are meant to be mathematically precise. However, occasionally delaying to create one of theother rhythms adds rhythmic variety. Dancing one of the other rhythms all the time, though, usually looks contrived and, frankly, like your not dancing to the song being played.
    (Ref: "Victor")
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Vince knows a lot more about music than I do, but consider this.

    Unless I'm totally wrong, when music is in 4/4 time, every instrument doesn't play quarter notes all the time. Certainly, a vocalist isn't limited to singing 4 notes per bar. I'm certain of that.
    Think of you and your partner as another instrument playing along with the music. If you are doing a quick quick, you are "playing" two eighth notes instead of one quarter note.

    If you keep pursuing knowledge of dance, at some point you'll begin to feel the limitations of doing the same slow slow quick quick all the time (just like you have to get by the "limitation" of wanting to step 4 times each bar).
    Then you'll maybe check out the dances that encourage what Vince mentions with West Coast Swing. I think Lindy Hop has more freedom than ECS, too. And of course there is what some of us think of as the ultimate in mixing things up as far as responding to the music in partner dancing - Argentine Tango.
  8. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    BASIC TIMING: Feeling the music at a basic level involves listening to the sets of 8 beats of music that exist in all swing music. You will start to hear 2 beat increments of one Down-Beat, followed by one Up-Beat. Being able to connect your center (CPB) to the beat of the music, puts you ON-TIME.

    PHRASING: Listen to the number of sets of 8, you are soon able to identify the end of the Phrases, the same way that you identify the end of a paragraph when you are reading. The next step is being able to start a NEW PATTERN at the beginning of the next phrase. This is a stage of development and is understood in it's own time. Don't push the development.

    At this stage, one learns to extend a 6 beat pattern to 8 when the need arises. One learns to syncopate the anchor steps in a way that does not interfere with the partnership.

    Music and dancing have both count and rhythm. Some dances have mostly rhythm, some have mostly count. WCS seems to be mostly a rhythm dance. However, to dance it very well, you must know both count _and_ rhythm. Beginners should always learn count first. As they progress in the dance and learn how to start 'PLAYING' with the music, they must then learn rhythm as well. People who only learn the rhythm, are only half as good as what they could be and visa versa. So, we must learn both to do any dance well.
    (Ref: "Victor")
  9. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member

    :lol: That really bugged me for the few months I did East Coast Swing, 3 years ago. It had a little to do with my dropping it. I seem to recall reading about another DFer who also dropped or almost dropped it for the same reason.

    Back when I was dabbling in swing, I remember watching one beginner couple in which the guy seemed absolutely hopeless - he just couldn't get the basic. Initially, I wrote him off as euterpean-challenged. Then I looked closer and realized that he was unconsciously adding 2 extra steps to fill the rest of the measure! :shock: Must've been another musician. :lol:
  10. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Well I think that this is how it went...first came lindy which was an 8 count dance...then as time came along with the rock a billy era and simplification of the dance a cvouple beats were dropped. Or maybe people improvised and did a few 6 count moves and some found it easier to do or teach...or someone was watching and found the same...
  11. I am Mickey-Jazz's dancing partner, and I want to thank all of you who responded to him! Hopefully your responses have sorted him out! I am a beginner, too....but because I'm not a 'technical musician' (I'm a singer, so it's 'different'), I haven't become bogged down in the 'how-many-beats-to-the-bar versus the-six-step-sequence'.

    I just DANCE!

    I told Mickey-Jazz that 'people don't dance to numbers...they dance to MUSIC!', and when we're dancing to a song he's really into, he's TERRIFIC and forgets all about beats-to-the-bar versus steps-to-the-dance. He just dances, and it all comes together and he's really, really good. But then he gets bogged down in all this, and turns it into some kind of math problem...and suddenly, Fred Astaire becomes Stephen Hawking, and we're grappling with the math!

    Mickey-Jazz has natural rhythm, is a great musician, and when the 'music overtakes him', he's turning into a pretty nifty dancer.

    Do you think that - with beginners like us - we sometimes psychologically 'block' ourselves (through fear) by getting bogged down in stuff (like the math of it...or wondering if we've got the right shoes?)

    For beginners like us, this whole dance scene is pretty new and pretty scary!

    *But hell...it's SOOOO much FUN!

    MICKEY-JAZZ New Member

    I’d like to thank all of the above for responding to my question… I found all of the responses highly interesting and I’m reassured that I am not the only person to have been confused by this.

    While dancing Swing, I will try to get used to hearing the music as a kind of ‘aural wallpaper’ and not get distracted by the fact that I can’t sing along to the music I’m dancing to!

  13. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    In another discussion it became clear that, when it comes to dancing, people get hung up on something a simple as walking. And I am not making this up.

    I love this - "But then he gets bogged down in all this, and turns it into some kind of math problem...and suddenly, Fred Astaire becomes Stephen Hawking"!

    Learning new things is hard for adults. To learn something new you have first have to admit that you don't already know it. And then you have to deal with feeling like a klutz until you do get it. I think that's why so many people stop learning. It's just so much easier to do what you already know.

    And, Mickey, it'll take a while, and you have to stick with it, but one day you will catch yourself "singing" along with the music with the way you move.
    "Sing Sing Sing" - might be a good name for a swing tune?
  14. delamusica

    delamusica Active Member

    As a fellow musician, let me just say this:

    Hang in there, try to relax, and trust that it will start to feel right eventually - it will! :)
  15. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    And even sometimes as a musician, you can have timing issues . . .

    I've been playing guitar/lead guitar for a long time with no issues, and just this year, I took up learning to play bass. Totally different animal . . . all new things to learn, and talk about timing issues!!!

    Hey, it's something we have to learn . . . "quit?" No way! Just get on with it!
  16. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Most Swing music is written in 4/4 time with a lot of earlier stuff in 2/4. Now there is a lot of music that swing dances are done to (most definiteley not the same thing) that is not in these two time signatures... most notably the Blues.

    I have only ever seen one Swing dance based on four counts, Texas Hop.

    As to the why sixs and not fours... is actually pretty easy and is based on two things, swinging and improvisation.

    As a musician you know that Swing music plays with the timing. The dotted 16th... which is suppossed to float in time. It is what makes one band Glenn Miller and the other Benny Goodman. A Swing song has anywhere from four to 22 musicians (including vocalist) to layer it and provide depth and expression. Dancers have two.

    Swing music uses polyrhythms, inherited from Africa. We create rhythmic complexity by dancing on an dinbetween the beats and on and inbetween the phrases. Mixing sixes and eights puts us in different places in the phrasing and the relatively static nature of the moves allows us to emphasize different things with our movement in the music.

    The improvisation aspect comes from dancing a six count move to an eight count double bar (or dancers bar if you prefer) and then having two extra counts you can play with to just improvise. Our four or even six counts to improvise until the one rolls back around.

    Don't get to caught up in the sixes. As you progress you'll get introduced to the eight count moves and you'll start to see how the whole thing comes together...

    and this by the way is why I never seperate sixes and eight when I teach Swing. If they are introduced together it all makes more sense... especially if the teacher explains what is going on.

    Knowledge is freedom.
  17. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Cool descriptions in the two posts ... I have been trying to learn more about music. I didn't start dance with any music background. So I really appreciate these hints.
  18. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    So if you were doing a basic sugar push and wanted it to fit 8 counts, what options could you do? How do you know when you can mix your 6s and 8s and you not care which beat each starts on vs when you would really want to start on 1?
  19. huey

    huey New Member

    I'm not sure if this is relevant to your questions ...

    4 x 8 count = 32

    4 x 6 count = 24
    1 x 8 count = 8
    Total = 32
  20. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    In westie, your basic sugar push / push break has walk-walk triple triple footwork, neh? So what happens if you drop two extra walking steps into the pattern? You get something like

    walk-walk (walk-walk) triple triple
    walk-walk triple (walk-walk) triple
    walk-walk triple triple (walk-walk)

    Now, part of the magic of double rhythm (walk-walk) is that it has an even number of weight changes - you can use it to interrupt anything, because it always leaves you on the proper foot to resume the movement ("I was about to step with my left, but instead I added an extra left-right, and now I'm about to step with my left again").

    Second part of the magic - any even number of weight changes does this. So if you are really feeling it you can crank all the way up to hex rhythm, or if you are a lazier sort (like me) you won't bother with any weight changes at all. Just find an interesting groove for two beats before resuming where you were.

    The compressed position in a sugar push makes for a nice place to drop a two beat fake. Or bring yourself from open position to closed, and us the two beats to body groove before leading the compression in closed position.

    This same two beat increment, when tacked onto the end of the pattern, only gives you a brazillion synchopated footwork extensions for your anchor.

    The second question: "how do you know...?" There are a lot of different pieces to this puzzle

    learning how to create an accent on each beat of a pattern (how do I change my sugar push to express that the music is doing something cool on beat 4),

    learning how to recognize where you are in the music (aha, that was beat 6, the next bar starts in three beats, and that will be the 5th measure of the current phrase, which is the second verse),

    learning how to select patterns appropriate to where you are in the music (Oh, the song is about to hit that funky 1-4-5-8 accent, my double super plexor is perfect for that, I better get ready).

    Summarized, its the combination of learning how to recognize where the music is about to go based on the sounds you are hearing now, and having a practiced vocabularly with which to match the music you are anticipating.

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