Discussion in 'Dance Articles' started by Sagitta, Nov 21, 2011.
While this article is about swing, specifically lindy hop, I think some of these things can be applied to other genres as well.
What I would add is that a band must be worth it for there not to be a dj. The band must be worth it for people to really listen. There are many mediocre, crappy bands out there. When people say they prefer the dj to the band then nothing in this article applies.
I have had a higher end stereo system for a few decades now, and like high fidelity music. I refuse to play the system for background music, and only use it when I am going to sit and listen. We do however use it to practice dance in the same room. In contrast, when we go out to listen to a live band or even a DJ, I find the sound system is often very poorly set up. The sound can be brutal.
We recently completed 8 weeks of dance class and went out to a dance with a live band, all anxious to try out the new learned "wheels". Guess what? It was a total bust. Neither of us could get the beat, and it was so loud that it was impossible to use a count to get in sync. The dance floor was right in front of the speakers, and we really should have worn ear protection just so we could hear ourselves think.
So we went away thinking that a DJ with a well set up sound system would have been far better than this loud live band.
Live vs Canned Music? or Something Else
Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience your first time out, Ron.
Unfortunately, this situation is much more common than it should be. We have several times departed early due to loud music.
We have danced with many different live bands over the years. You soon learn which ones are out to perform a concert (and may think that louder equals better) and which bands understand the needs of dancers and realize that the proper role of the band is to support the dancers -- not to blast them off the floor. [Here I must restrain myself from getting into a long rant on "dance" bands.]
And... don't get your hopes up for a DJ. Like bands, some are very good. But way too many DJs don't really understand what dancing is about, nor, apparently, do they have any regard for the hearing organs of the dancers.
We recently attended a very nice formal charity gala event, for which we donated a sizable three-figure amount. The dinner was great with quiet background music and we were pleased they had a good-sized dance floor. But we were not so pleased to see they had hired a "professional" DJ. What should have been about two hours of dancing lasted less than 20 minutes for us. We complained to the hotel and to the program sponsors about the loudness -- anyone who could hear us, but to no avail. I also carry a digital sound-level meter in my dance kit. On most pieces of music it was showing sound pressure levels averaging around 95db with peaks from 100 to 105db. Not healthy at all.
**** Re the article linked by Sagitta ****
Thanks for sharing this, Sagitta. A lot of food for thought here.
The blog article by "Glenn" is a good read, but I think the main issue is not so much 'live band vs. DJ' as it is the interaction between the band (or DJ) and the dancers.
The respondent named "Keith" (dated 12/1/11) best represents my point of view on the issue. Musicians (and dancers) have to understand and appreciate their proper roles at a dance event. Although the music certainly is vital to a good, enjoyable dance, the event is not a "concert." And the musicians have to remember who has hired them and for what purpose.
Unfortunately, a lot of dancers (and dance organizers) are reluctant to give direction to the band -- perhaps assuming the musicians are the "experts" and will therefore know exactly what dancers need. Also, unfortunately, bands sometimes think the same thing about themselves. What we need here is better and freer communication between the musicians and the dancers. How and where do we promote this concept?
I found some bands style is only suited to one style of dance. I get the above thought dancer and organizers need to give directions.
Staying with swing DJs can play (and usually do) play a mix of ECS, WCS ,
blues and music for other style.
"Dance band" Im older, and I well remember the term! Used to be you could go to a place that had a show or even just background music by a band and you could dance to there OR you could go to where the was a "dance band"!
How many bands bill themself as a "dance band" now !
No understanding is a frequent thing
All this is correct.
In my experience with about ten evenings with live bands, ALL BANDS WERE DISASTROUS. The dancers usually will jump out of the chairs once CD music is played while the orchestra's musicians rest. I feel pity for the older gentlemen playing music as well as for dancers trying to accomplish foxtrot at 1.2 times quicker tempo. Do the dancers want to applaud the orchestra if the tempo was 1.2 times quicker than it should be? Or they want to express some other feelings, quite opposite to the appreciation the musicians await for? I doubt that a single good (for ballroom) live band is left in America, with live music comparable to a selection of ballroom songs from CDs.
Luckily, not 100% of DJs are bad. Here are my percentages of luck.
10-20% are excellent. You recognize them by observing yourself: you don't want the music flow to finish, and you hear some melodies in your head for a few hours after leaving.
20% are good. They leave nothing to complain.
10-30% are bad. Often they will have strong preference of one type of music. They cannot manage the right sequence of songs during the evening.
40-60% are terrible. They play at very loud levels and wrong tempos. Sometimes they badly modify songs on computer. They will dig out obscure and unsuitable artists and music. They will often announce "Cha-cha! But you can also dance hustle or West coast swing." (And they will be right.)
So, this has me curious; of those who carry a dB meter, how loud is too loud? I know there has been a problem at church dances where they're set up on the basketball court floor with the DJ and all his speakers pretty much right under one net, and at the opposite free-throw line (beyond the dance floor area and all the tables that are set out, and yes, this room does have carpet on the walls and acoustic tiles on the ceiling) I'm seeing 105+dB peaks, yet some are complaining that it's still not loud enough for them to "feel the beat." I get tired of it because my ears are ringing for an hour after and I'm hoarse from trying to talk over it.
If you're hoarse and your ears are ringing, I'd say that qualifies as too loud. I've never known anyone who carries a sound level meter.
Maybe they could relo the speakers and lower the volume.
Side note: attended a live band social at a usually DJ-ed studio. Volume was fine but every song was at VW or QS tempo. That was a waste.
I think too many bands just don't understand what dancers need and that's partly the dancers' fault. There needs to be communication. Usually for concert bands, longer equals better, with lots of sections for solo performances, etc. Especially for ballroom, once most songs pass 3-4 minutes, they're getting to be too long (most especially for VW and QS).
We have one regular who's a retired movie sound engineer. The DJ keeps telling him he just doesn't understand the "artistic aspect" of being a human shuffle button.
I'd much prefer to relocate the DJ to the WalMart parking lot where his "talent" can get the carts back in in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, there's one very vocal and very...uh...distracting woman that the main organizer is always trying to impress. Hasn't worked yet, but you know how some guys just can't see the obvious. (It's been three years that I know of and she still won't even go out with him but he's still dismissing dozens of complaints to do what she wants.)
This guy has a tendency to claim he's wonderful based on 3-4 songs that get a decent crowd out on the floor in a three hour set. Usually goes something like this:
Sound check: slow dance. Six people in the room, five are men and most are snacking. This is his excuse to say slow dances aren't popular
Salsa: empty floor
Salsa: one couple
Salsa: People get tired of waiting for something else - three couples
Line dance: maybe a dozen women, spread out all over the place
Line dance: eight of the women stay, the rest give up
Salsa: one couple again
Slow dance: 6-8 couples
Line dance: the same dozen women from last time
Lather, rinse, repeat for three hours. People try to two step to a salsa or a line dance because, dangit, it's Texas, and he still won't throw in a good two step song. Maybe something around 120BPM so he can say that nobody is interested and go back to what he wants to play.
In all seriousness, if you have no reputable studios nearby, I'd say it's time to relocate, plan on traveling for occasional dance weekends, or put your own dance on.
Relocating isn't an option, (part of my custody arrangement was her agreeing to a local pick up point in exchange for not putting geographic restrictions on her - it's her responsibility to get them there and pick them up there regardless of where she decides to live) I already travel two hours to get to those dances, and I'm working on the last option.
Currently trying to open a dialog with a few area churches to see who could host, teach, etc. The basic idea is to make it essentially an interfaith activity with no specific church having primary control, (Hopefully that will avoid the "we're not going to a Mormon/Lutheran/Methodist/Episcopal/Catholic/whatever dance because they're just using it as bait to try to convert us" issue.) open to all adults, (We've been discussing it as under-50 singles, but my search for folks to teach has turned up several married couples of all ages who want a "date night" activity that doesn't involve a bar and don't care if there's "modern" music mixed in as long as they can have a couple of Sinatra/Elvis/whatever tunes thrown in every now and then.) with a dress and behavior code agreed on by all hosting and coordinating parties. I know at least a few churches already have their own singles dances, so they should have some good input on logistics, and it also opens up some larger venues (at least two have basketball court or larger gyms with hardwood, and one of those has a nice sound system in there already) than we're likely to find available elsewhere on a Friday or Saturday night without an insane fee.
this was build over ten years of volunteer work in church and community center:
That looks great. Ideally, we'd want to keep the typical admission charge down around $5, with a potluck dinner if there's interest in doing that, but for what you've got there the $10-15 isn't half bad; I just don't see it being an every weekend thing for broke college students unless we can keep it as cheap as McDonald's.
I'd love to hear more about the history of that event, though. It sounds like our ideal result was probably one of the steps along its way.
Went to the Saturday night dance, (because it was free and there was food) and mentioned my script to the folks at my table. This much held exactly to the script except that there were only two couples for the third salsa.
He did eventually play a two step; I heard it start just as I stepped up to the urinal, and every woman there who knew how to two step was already on the floor by the time I got back.
Separate names with a comma.