Dance Articles > Musicality: Selecting the Music For Learning

Discussion in 'Dance Articles' started by Don Silver, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Check out the latest article:

    I get this question so often I finally wrote an article (and recorded a video) about learning more about the music. So many people want to only listen to "their" style but that isn't always the best choice for a growing dancer.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts!

    And for some bragging: This blog just won the "#1 Dance Blog" from
    basicarita and manteca like this.
  2. ajiboyet

    ajiboyet Well-Known Member

  3. artofdance

    artofdance New Member

    Yet so many dance students can't "hear" the beats of a cha cha, samba, etc...
  4. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    You are totally right. There are a set of people who don't hear the pulse in a wide range of music. Some don't know they are not hearing, many know it's an area they need to improve.

    Cha cha cha & Samba are easier than most, but it depends on the specific tune and how dense the overall song is.

    With some grounding in the music, they would be fine, but most just want to start with the music they like, so it takes longer.
  5. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    As a pianist, I've been in a similar situation where I wanted to play something that was well beyond my ability. Every teacher I had would say that it was not something I should play and would urge me to do something simpler. But I didn't want to play the easier pieces because I didn't want to waste my time on something I didn't care for.

    Why did these teachers just not teach me how to play what I wanted? I didn't know then but I now know the answer: they didn't know how to teach someone who didn't already have the necessary prerequisite skills. By saying that it was too difficult, they were making an excuse for not knowing how to break it down into its simplest elements and teach it.

    Most teachers are accustomed to having students learn step by step. As they acquire new skills, new challenges are presented; it's a gradual incline of the learning curve. But a relatively new student may not know how difficult something is. They don't think of the minute details or the skills that are required to be able to do it. They only see the big picture. Telling them that it is too hard will be met with deaf ears because it contradicts their perceptions: the big picture is easy.

    Now, as a teacher, I've taught many students things that other teachers would have said were "too difficult" or "above your level". What I do is break things down into the smallest elements and teach it. Once they grasp most of the small elements, they simply put it together. No sweat on their part since they already understood the big picture in the first place.

    For these reason, I don't agree that new learners should be given easier learning material. If they already have a preference for the music, then they already have the intrinsic motivation to learn it.
  6. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Well, you can certainly do it that way, but I respectfully disagree that most don't teach something because they can't. Many have some experience doing things both ways, and they see what works for the majority.

    Some instructors will tell you the truth (the good ones) and will explain WHY some things get you there faster.

    It's primarily a matter of if they give you the building blocks to get you where you want to go, we totally agree on that one.

    If you want to learn to do quad spins, but you can't do a single or double reasonably well today, most instructors are not going to say OK, lets just work on quads until you get it.

    The good ones provide you a foundation so you can do the quads you want later, plus have the control to do singles, doubles, triples or quints if you will put in the effort.

    It also depends on the students, many students think doing foundational work is a waste of time (I was that way as a young guy.) If someone is dedicated enough, virtually anything can work for a few people.

    Eat grapefruit, lose weight. Eat all protein loss weight, eat XXXX and it will work for some people. Not all of them will be healthy or keep the weight off for a few years.

    Similar with learning new skills. There are some best practices that have evolved over the years. Some things work better across a broad population AND work better over a medium/longer time frame.

    I've had a fairly varied experience in this area. I get pros taking private lessons with me, since they don't want anybody to know what they don't know in public. They know plenty but have holes in their knowledge. They fill in some foundational stuff, they soar quickly.

    I also get other pros sending me students who they give up on, who they say are "beat deaf" or otherwise incapable of learning to hear the music.

    Most who start with simpler music will get further in 9-12 months (and beyond) if they approach it right. Others will succeed using other methods, most taking more overall time, a few less.

    For example: I can teach anybody to get the time in a single song, that's pretty easy. But it's not generalized. If they have a show coming up, we target a tune, and don't worry about details.

    My goal is they can do it in nearly any music, when I'm not around. In my mind that is success. I want them to get it in the music they want AND have the concepts generalized so they just "get it" in a range of music.

    You can take shortcuts in almost any activity. Some "work" but most have plenty of downsides over the longer term.
  7. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    I'm not saying that these teachers can't teach. But what I am saying is that the teachers' goals are more general (skills that can be generally applied) than the students' goals which can be highly specific (which can only be applied to one thing.) That specificity is where the conflict occurs. Teachers don't always know how to be so precisely specific when they usually teach generally.

    As a teacher, I align my instruction to their immediate goals. Once they get the hang of it and feel successful, they will usually come back for more. This is when they start to notice their ignorance, whereas before, they were too ignorant to know it. (Dunning-Kreuger effect.)

    By teaching general stuff such as specific timing or "basic steps", students will think that it applies to everything even when the music says something different. They practice and become so certain of their righteousness that they insist that they are doing it right even when they're wrong. (A person who holds a hammer thinks everything needs pounding. And there is way too much pounding at a salsa club.)

    But by teaching specifically, students will learn that certain things are done to specific songs. (Cut bread with a bread knife, butter bread with a butter knife, and eat steak with a steak knife.) Dancers should look like the music they are dancing to and that requires specificity.
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Well, yeah, Totally agree, But...

    There are a number of ways to dance to "swing rhythms." And, waltz can be danced with canter rhythm. Based on what I see on the floor, the now ubiquitous triple steps in West Coast Swing don't help people learn to dance in time to the music.
    Watched a total beginner class the other day, and as usual "musicality" content was zero. And the song used to practice at the end of the lesson had a pretty difficult rhythm to work with.

    So, I have to agree that simple is good when starting out.
  9. Hadi Katebi

    Hadi Katebi New Member

    I agree with the article. When I started Tango, I was not enjoying Tango music at all. After a while, I understood why that type of music was perfect for Tango. I have seen Tango dancers who only dance to alternative music and do not grow as fast as they should...

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