Tango Argentino > Milonga Syncopation

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by AndaBien, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    You are right concerning dancing, but I meant teaching. Do you really need this imperfect sign language besides the musical notation? When it comes to teach these rhythmical pattern it can be done entirely without introducing ahs, tripled or dotted and-ahs a.s.o., I think this way, anyway.
  2. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Actually, it is fundamental to my teaching strategy for the standardised dances (BR & Latin, mainly) to expressly teach the timing and rhythm of commonly danced actions or figures. I need a system that can be called out while students practise, or while I demonstrate, with or without music.

    If you're demonstrating Jive, you can't call out the note values taken directly from musical notation: they are too long, and would mean very little to most people, anyway, even if you could gabble it out quickly enough (like at the end of radio adverts for financial services products). Using a numerical count, with consistently applied 'in-between' sounds is practical, and once you have got used to the idea, very easily understood. I can say "123a45a6" while I demonstrate, say, Jive Basic at 176bpm, but I can't think of anything else which would be as efficient. The standardised alternative (for International Latin) would be "QQQaQQaQ", but I think that the numerical count is better for developing an understanding of the figure as having a six-beat count, and where those beats fall in relation to a basic pulse felt in fours.

    In BR, the convention is to use Slows and Quicks, often written as S and Q, but always spoken in full. Where needed, & divides a Q into two halves (but you still say "Q&", not "&&" - with both sounds representing a half-beat), or & takes a quarter from a S, so S& is 3/4 + 1/4 (and you can have &S 1/4 + 3/4).

    Standardisation, in the sense of having figures or moves that have fixed or expected timings, is not appropriate for any of the tango family; but certain actions - like rock or rebound steps always use some form of quickened beat division, and there is the whole wider family of movements where the very imprecise "double time" expression might being used. In these cases, having some readily comprehended vocabulary to refer to timings (the ones that are audibly present in the musical example being worked with - not abstractly) is useful. Using European notation naming, you just can't talk along with a typical tempo milonga and say: "Dotted crochet, semi-quaver, quaver, quaver" - you just can't! "1a2&" is just fine, though, and the minute or two you spend introducing the concept of the vocabulary pays off later, because it's so efficient.
  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member


    so the Q and the & in "Q&" have the same length, or not? Speaking unbiased, if the "Q&" should represent two sexteenth notes, it should rather be &&.

  4. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Yes, they do. The sounds are used to denote both when the beat or part-beat both starts and its duration. Once the rules are understood, it's very easy.

    I might add that with a class or group of students that you have worked with from first beginnings, and see regularly, using a consistent way to talk about timings and rhythms is very useful. You start with simple movements, of course (and the way you talk about the timing of them is simple too) and then, as your students progress over time to more advanced concepts, you gently expand the vocabulary as you go. Your students become experts (well some of them do), and they know perfectly well what you mean by your chosen methodology.
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Wonder if I can remember the name of the article I found on oral vs written? traditions of teaching dance.

    Frankie Manning wrote that he "preferred to sound the rhythm out", but that "counting can be valuable because some people are just not going to pick up a step without it."
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Maybe this will help (or maybe not).
    1 2 3 1 2 3 1
    1 - - & - a 2
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "Please don't tell me how LONG to hold the beat.
    Tell me what the COUNT is, so I can place my feet
  8. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I've been thinking the same thing. I'm not sure why various beats have to have different sounds or names. Other than some people just like it that way. How is saying the beat names - 1e&a2e&a - any better than saying ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta? A teacher could clap hands, or click fingers, or use a clave to demonstrate the beat. Again, there are the engineering types who like to have full definitions and names of everything, just because they are more comfortable with having more information.

    I do realize that saying QQS has the added benefit of the words giving an indication of the duration of the beat, which other naming methods don't seem to do.
  9. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    One is like the ticking of a metronome: just indicating pulse or tempo, the other has the capacity to tell you about rhythm. QQS tells you less, and only deals with two relative beat values and nothing about rhythm.
  10. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Exactly. A musician's timing must be absolutely precise. Imagine a 100 piece orchestra without every note being played EXACTLY when it is supposed to be played, not a millisecond sooner or later than it is written on the page. To get this precision requires counting the beats and subdividing them as needed. Counting subdivisions is not arbitrary. When there are two counts per beat (two 1/8 notes) the phrase 1-& is used; three counts (a triplet) 1-&-a; four counts (1/16 notes) 1-e-&-a. Each count in the individual groups has exactly the same time value as the others (when being played in strict time, that is). The advantage was shown in my first post illustrating how a musician would count the habanera rhythms. Having four equal counts in the beat makes it precise and easy to play exactly when required to do so. On the 1-a 2-& for hab.1; on the 1-e-a 2-& for hab. 2; on the 1-a (rest on 2)-&

    These are standard counting syllables, but there is nothing special about their name, sound,or pronunciation, other than they are short (mono-syllabic, making it easier to say them rapidly) and unique within the grouping. Which is quite important, actually. They serve a cause in the simplest, most precise manner.

    I'm not saying this level of precision is necessary in a social dance. In the specific case of the traspie it will certainly help...but won't replace attentively listening to the music while dancing.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Shall we add a caveat here?

    ONE of the most important ingredients in jazz music is the rhythm. Jazz music is supposed to “swing.” One essential part of this is the rhythmic pattern sometimes called “swing eighth note pattern.” It is performed by lengthening the odd eighth notes (eighth notes on the beat) and by shortening the even eighth notes (eighth notes between the beat), thus producing consecutive long-short patterns. However, the amount of lengthening and shortening is not given in the score or elsewhere, and students are often advised to learn it by listening to recordings. Gridley (1985, p. 364) notes that the pattern ‘‘falls somewhere between the tied-triplet figure and the sequence of eighth notes having identical duration.’’ This means that the ratio (henceforth swing ratio) between consecutive eighth notes would be somewhere between 2 and 1. The same long-short pattern also occurs in many other music styles, such as classical music, folk music, and popular music. It is, for example, commonly used in French Baroque music, where it is referred to as notes inégales (Ferguson, 1975; Hefling, 1993).

    Another important issue for the swing feel is the temporal relations between the different instruments in an ensemble. Improvisers often discuss the concept of playing “before the beat,” “after the beat,” or “on the beat.” Thus, these terms define the timing relation of the improviser relative to the accompaniment, an important device for varying the musical expression (LaVerne, 1993).

    The swing ratio (i.e. the ratio between two subsequent eighth notes) was found to vary substantially with tempo. The common conception among musicians that the swing ratio is close to 2 (the first note is twice as long as the second) was not confirmed. On the contrary, the duration of the second note was found to be constant at about 0.1 seconds for medium to fast tempi. This indicated that the second note had reached a limit of tone duration that corresponded to the shortest tone that can be individually perceived within a melodic line.

    Jazz Drummers' Swing Ratio in Relation to Tempo - Anders Friberg
    available from the JSTOR database

    Schuller writes about horn sections playing behind the rhythm section in some jazz bands, etc.

    I would be surprised if this kind of analysis hasn't been done on Argentine Tango. I for one don't have access to those materials, although I might be surprised if I really started looking.

    Now, you can argue that Argentine Tango is not jazz, and it's not swing, and none of this is applicable. I'd have to start taking out more books! from the library again to find it, (or hitting hard on JSTOR again) but I am positive that I have read that there is a swing like feel in at least some Argentine Tango. And I have to wonder how many musicians who play AT are told to play the music as written on the page.
    If you've ever felt yourself slowing down or speeding up in response to something in music (this happens in something as basic as Boot Scootin Boogie, the music a bit behind the beat at one point, and it's not in the sheet music), you get the idea.

    I'll end with this quote from TM's post
  12. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Sure, there are many exceptions to that EXACTLY wording. That's what I was getting at later in the parentheses "In strict time, anyway".

    Even a large orchestra will play with the beat depending on the music being performed. The conductor leads this though, not individual musicians. What you wrote about, and the quotes cited, is called "performance practice", meaning the traditions and conventions used in the playing of a particular genre/style of music. Swinging 1/8 notes is a perfect example. Playing with the beat or sub-counts is called rubato. It's done to increase tension or add some drama, or otherwise provide some special effect. It is usually subtle.

    Don't know if I've every really heard or thought of tango as swinging...and no instrumental tango piece comes to mind where there is lots of rubato. Some tango singers will use it, but to my ears it sounds like they lost the beat; they over-do it.

    Nice quotes. Very much agree with the content, for the genres discussed. I don't hear it in tango though...
  13. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I played in a jazz band for 8 years. Swing is noted as a feeling at the top of the music, sometimes, or just implied. It is the job of the rhythm section (particularly the drummer) to establish the swing feel.

    I don't feel that in milonga or tango.
  14. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    In relation to milonga syncopation, I don't think it has anything to add. Like others, I can't think of an instance of swing in tango/vals/milonga music - at least not in the form of the triplet-like basis for the rhythm you have identified. There's a paradox though, because the period of the peak of the Golden Age exactly corresponds with the Big Band (swing) era, and musically, the influences are easy enough to hear if you listen for them. Go back a decade, and listen carefully to the music-making of Carabelli: most of his players, like himself, were jazz musicians - which means, of course, that the OTV was a jazz band (!)

    On the subject of notating rhythms, there's a second paradox, but I'll only mention it: in standard musical notation, the swung 8s are not usually written as anything but straight 8s. It is the character of the music being notated, and the performance practice, that makes them swing. As soon as we adopt a numeric system (1&a2&a), we feel the need to add three sounds to represent two notes. I don't really see that it is helpful: it would be better (in my view, but I'm not seeking further debate on it) to just count 1&2&. The count matches the musical notation, and if the context suggests swinging the rhythm, we do it when we say/play/dance it.

    As for milonga syncopation, I think it is worth coming back to the basic question: are we reflecting, directly, an element of the habanera rhythm in our steps, or are we adding steps between beats (double-time) that are just QQSs somewhere else within the musical phrase? Both are perfectly legitimate, but I often see doublings based on eighth notes, when the musical texture is very clearly based on accenting sixteenth notes. Several people have commented (it was a while ago - this discussion has drifted way off topic) that such syncopations are difficult. I'm not convinced. The whole point of rhythm (almost a textbook definition of it) is that it is a recurring pattern of accented beats. There's no reason why they should surprise anyone: they keep coming around.

    Apart from anything else, the milonga repertoire is very, very much smaller than the tango repertoire, and over time, we can become very familiar indeed with most of the songs played for dancing. I frequently crave some live music so that I can be challenged and taken by surprise. I may like to think that my dance is free and improvisatory. but when I'm dancing, for the hundredth time, to the same version of El Choclo, its not always possible to keep it fresh. I have my own repertoire of traspies, and the music presents opportunities to dance them in places that I know like the back of my hand. That's not improvisation, although it is frequently great fun.
  15. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Not always, as discussed above:
  16. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    ... to be pedantic (me?), context is everything, because in this system it is what comes after (and sometimes before) that determines the meaning. QQS can only mean one thing: beats (relative to a basic pulse) of 1/2 1/2 1, and Q&QS would always mean 1/4 1/4 1/2 1. &&QS is not a valid series, although you might guess that Q&QS was intended.
    opendoor likes this.
  17. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    I remembered a tango that struck me as "swing-like" when I first heard it:Yo No Se Porque Te Quiero (Canaro, Fama). Not a blatant swing that you get with some jazz and swing music, but it's there. The second half of the beat is dragged, it comes slightly later than it should. Not always but it is quite noticeable when it does. Section B (instrumental) at :35 drags the second 1/8 in both melody and the piano fills. Not in the accompaniment; that is straight 1/8s (as best I can tell from the recording). But when Fama sings the section, at 1:56, it does not. He uses rubato now and then but he does not "swing" the 1/8s like the instrumental section. The bandoneon fills do somewhat.

  18. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    For the habanera rhythm, I say "Taa-pe, ta-te". It's easier than counting "1-a 2 &."

    Taaa = 1/4 note
    Ta-te = two 1/8th notes
    Tapa-tepe = four 16th notes
  19. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    sounds a bit hawaiian ;)
  20. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Why is that easier?

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