Tango Argentino > How to improve musicality

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by JTh, Jan 17, 2017.

  1. JTh

    JTh Member

    I understand there are many aspects that go into a great tango dance; one of them being in synch yo thr rhythm and beats of the music.
    I don't have much experience with tango music amd am finding it hard to synch with the music.
    Any tips to improve my musicality?
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Try to recognize the following rhythmic patters, shown in a musicality workshop with Gustavo Casenave.
  3. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    We all have the musicality. Bar the other issues, we all would be synch-ed all the time with the music. If our navigation, and lead, and follower, and knowledge of the song being played were not issues, then musicality would be there.
  4. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    I don't think that's at all helpful!!

    When they talk and play Sincopa, Gustavo states an
    emphatic instruction "you have to change how you dance".
    Not so at all, you should dance what you feel, if you can
    absorb it, feel it and respond to it. It also depends on your
    partner's ability, your connection and how you both move.

    But if you can't mark the basic rhythm in the first place,
    such instruction as mine is also pointless.

    So the question was this:
    Yes, first listen to the music often, outside the dance,
    at home, in the car, on the bus, the plane and the train!
    Make it familiar, it is not easy for most of us when we start.

    At home, alone with no-one watching, try stepping to the
    strong beat (one) and you can eventually try to collect
    or centre on the light beat (two). If you're brave and foolish
    like me, try it using the balls of your bare feet, you'll find
    a connection with the rhythm more obvious.

    If you want to improve your balance and stability, eventually
    close your eyes, but be careful as that is difficult to begin with.
    And please, don't close your eyes when you dance with a partner.
    jantango likes this.
  5. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    In 2016 we took a Tango musicality workshop with Gustavo Rios in NY. His lesson were based on Ignacio Varchausky's course - a musician from Buenos Aires. If you understand Spanish check his site, where you can download and listen to the whole course -

  6. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    Watch performances. A few every day. Watch them more than once.

    I attribute rapid progression in my own musicality to this. If you watch musical dancers interpret the music, it can passively but strongly start to affect the way you dance. You'll just start to understand music better, on a more instinctual level.

    The couples whose musicality I admire most are Noelia and Carlitos, and Maja and Marko. Just go to youtube and search their names and add "tango" to the end to find many videos.

    There are more intellectual analysis of their dancing out there, if that's your thing. I thought this one was neat:
    opendoor likes this.
  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Listen to tango music (a lot), and watch videos of people dancing tango, (both performances as well as videos of milongas, like the ones Jantango posts).
  8. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    A few thoughts (all imho, and so on. others will probably have different experiences):

    Tango does not have percussion. We as dancers have the role of percussion in the tango orchestra - and like a good rhythm section we are both tied to the main pulse of the band, and required to play around it and improvise and provide countermelodies and solos when the rest of the band gives us the space.

    Musicality is not about our own experience of the music, but about communication with our partner. It an often overlooked and underappreciated channel of leading/following. If i as a leader have an understandable, relatable relationship with the music i become predictable to the follower, and the follower can follow me before and while i lead, and has space for their own expression of the dance, and is not behind the lead. A lot of play with musicality is based on supporting (and also breaking) followers expectations. If we are not predicatable the follower can't dance, they can just follow.

    It is important to know the rules of tango, because the fun is in recognizing not when the orchestras follow them, but when they violate them.

    The relationship between the leader and the music is the same as the relationship between the follower and the leader. Everything the leader does has to acknowledge the boundaries the music sets us, and we have to find the freedom within these boundaries, and when it is ok to push and resist these boundaries without breaking them.

    There is basic psychological rule about predicatableness and surprise: humans enjoy things most that are mostly predictable, with some surprise thrown in. if things are too predicatble they are boring, if things are too surprising they are chaotic. That is why things like free jazz require experience to enjoy - if we don't understand the underlying structure it is too chaotic. or similarly why tango requires experience to enjoy - if we don't see how the patterns are subtly played with by the orchestra it feels too predicatble and boring. A orchestra has to be mostly follow the rules of the form, and break them a little bit. A leader has to mostly reflect the orchestra, and throw in a few surpises. A follower has to mostly reflect the follower, and play a little bit. In general being too boring is safer than being too original - it is easier to make your own fun in a righid framework than when lost in chaos.
    Mladenac likes this.
  9. koinzell

    koinzell Active Member

    Tango music is 8-count. Develop your musicality by starting on the phrase. The great thing is you do not have to step on every beat :)
  10. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Tango music is 8-count.

    This means nothing to a non-musician or a new dancer who hasn't learned to hear the beat. There are 8 counts in a PHRASE. Tango is notated in 2/4 which means there are two beats per measure, the quarter note gets one beat. That said, musicians feel tango in 4/4 - counting it with four beats per measure.

    Develop your musicality by starting on the phrase.

    First one has to HEAR the beat. Finding the beginning of a phrase may take someone longer. This isn't a help to a beginner who hasn't listened to tango music for years. The best way to develop musicality is listening to tango music all the time. When you know the music, you can dance it.

    Try telling that to the milongueros -- start on the phrase. They don't. They'd say, what's a phrase?
    It's done in performing tango, not in social tango.

    You don't have to step on every beat.

    This is true in any dance. There are three rhythms that exist in every dance -- SINGLE, DOUBLE, and TRIPLE. A single is one step in two beats of music; a double is two steps in two beats of music; and a single is three steps in two beats of music. Tango dancing is a mixture of those three rhythms inspired by the music in the moment.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    jan, I'm sure you meant to write that a triple is three steps in two beats of music, yes?
  12. Oliver

    Oliver Member

    Piano is a percussive chordaphone. Violins and bass have a long history of percussive use in tango (chicharra, tambor, latigo, strapata, arrastre, for a few examples). Mariano Mores used drums in tango back in 1960.
  13. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    First, a note about notes. A whole note is 4 beats and is counted 1-2-3-4. A half note is 2 beats and is counted 1-2. A quarter note is 1 beat and is counted 1. An eighth note is 1/2 of a quarter beat and is counted as "and."

    The next thing you have to know is a measure. A measure contains beats. But how many beats? It's based on the musical signature. Tango is 4/4, Vals is 3/4 and Milonga is 2/4.

    4/4 means 4 beats to the measure with the basic unit a quarter note. 3/4 means 3 beats to the measure with the basic unit a quarter note. 2/4 means 2 beats to the measure with the basic unit a quarter note.

    Let's stick to tango, 4 beats to the measure. A measure can be 1 whole note; two half notes; four quarter notes; or any combination totaling 4.
    Other examples are a half note and two quarter notes (3 notes), 3 quarter notes and two eighth notes (5 notes.) Regardless of the number of notes in the measure, there are 4 beats in a tango measure, 3 beats in a vals measure and two beats in a milonga measure.

    Listen to Pugliese's orchestra playing La Yumba.

    I don't have the score. Listen to the downbeat at :02. Begin counting 1-2-3-4 at :02. Don't stop. Each time you count 1, you should hear the downbeat which is stronger than the other beats. At 1:07, the music sounds like eighth notes. Eighth notes are counted 1&-2&-3&-4&. 1& takes the same amount of time as 1 but there are 2 notes which are twice as fast as 1 quarter note.

    About the ending. You hear 1 and silence. Music also has rests which is the equivalence of silence. It sounds like 1 quarter note and 3 notes of rest for a total of 4 beats. It's always 4 beats in tango even if the number of notes doesn't total 4.

    This is the best explanation I can give through writing. I accept that something could be lost in the translation.

    opendoor likes this.
  14. rain_dog

    rain_dog Active Member

    That's the simple version, but tango music doesn't always follow those rules. La Yumba is actually in 4/8 time - you can see the score here: http://www.todotango.com/english/music/song/1517/La-yumba/

    Is it 2 beats per measure, or 4? That only matters to the musicians reading the score - to dancers the phrasing is the same, and it doesn't matter one whit.

    I've never counted beats in tango - it's not necessary, and as you become familiar with the music, you'll know where
    the phrases begin and end. On this point I disagree with Jan - the milongueros absolutely knew about musical phrases - they probably just didn't call them as such.
    JohnEm likes this.
  15. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    I wrote this article a while back that you might find helpful: Why Grooving Solo Is Essential for Partner Dancers (with practice exercises). The "Fundamentals" section would be a good place to start, and once you feel comfortable with that you can move on to some of the other exercises. I recommend doing this to both tango and non-tango music.

    I think the biggest things are 1) internalizing the beat so that it is second nature, both in listening and moving, and 2) feeling the different qualities of the beat (for example, what makes D'Arienzo feel different from Pugliese; even if you can't identify the orchestras your dancing will benefit greatly if you develop the ability to feel the difference as you move from one beat to the next in these different styles).
  16. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I'm curious, is much music from the 1960's played at milongas where you are? There are no drums in the overwhelming majority of tango music that is played where I am, with the exception of alternative music.
  17. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    I'm not a musician and only know the simple version.

    If 4/4 time means 4 beats to the measure with the quarter note as the unit, 4/8 time should mean 4 beats to the measure with the eighth note as the unit. Since an eighth note is twice as fast as a quarter note, I expect a measure of 4/8 to be faster than a measure of 4/4.

    Thanks for the score. I'm going to print it and try to follow it. I did get the rest at the end correct. That's the symbol that looks like a Z.
  18. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    How would you phrase this? The idea that i am trying to express is something like: The idea that it is about "stepping on the beat" to describe the relationship between dancers and the pulse of the orchestra is incomplete, just like even the most basic rhythm guitar is more than a metronome, and as dancers we need to be paradoxically both more aware of the rest of the band, and care less about the beat than is commonly assumed.
    opendoor likes this.
  19. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Jan 21, 2017
  20. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    I do agree, because as dancers we are interpreting the music: we can walk on the beat, or image the melody with our dynamics, or even invent a backing. There is a great quote of Gerado Portalea (a VU saint): Dance the violins, even they are not there!

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