Tango Argentino > Off beat dancing

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by LadyLeader, Apr 11, 2015.

  1. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    For all practical purposes, I agree with what tangomonkey said. The beat (generally speaking) is constant. Of course there are exceptions to any "rule".

    Occasionally, the tempo will change at the ending of the song, and even rarer, the intro might have a different tempo from the rest. Also, in some Pugliese's, there are tempo changes (which is why occasionally you'll here someone claim they are undanceable).

    Having recently watched the video in the OP, IMO they are not stepping off beat, but are simply using the "off beat" a fair amount.

    To try to explain, if you count the "quick beat" in a tango song (repeating after 4 quick beats), you mostly would be stepping on the 1 and 3 beats (or the slow beat). To do a quick-quick-slow rhythm, you could use the 1, 2 & 3 beats (and not the 4).

    However, one could use the 2 and 4 beats, which could be called the off beat. That's what I think Horacio was referring to.

    Stepping someplace, but not on any of the 1, 2, 3, or 4, would be called stepping off beat, but again, I don't think that's what Horacio was trying to teach.

    For the musicians here: I do realize that one could step on a even split of those beat (like the really quick beat found in some tangos), without being off beat, but I'm trying not to get too technical.
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  2. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I apologize, but i am going to get "too technical" - because this is one of my pet topics ;) - one can also step on uneven splits of those beats to create special effects (triplett, swing, traspie).

    I think this is one of the cores of musicality - as a tango dancer i think have essentially four ways of expressing out musicality:

    1) Our relationship with the melody/structure of the song - are we using the ABAB? when the orchestra repeats themes are we doing similar things? do we follow the phrasing?
    2) Our relationship with the "beat"/ "accents" on the beat - if we think of the basic pattern of 1-2-3-4 with the orchestra accenting 1 and 3, are we dancing 1 - 1 - 1, are we dancing 1 - 3, are we dancing 2 -4 or 1-2-3-4 or whatever pattern one could imagine.

    And now it is getting somewhat mystical - i am not sure how much of this is measurable/observable outside the couple, but these are ideas that have somewhat worked for me

    3) The beat does not actually have to be a precise point in time - yes, there is a hypothetical point where "1" is, but like every instrument dance movement has a attack sustain decay cycle - that is why a trombone sounds more languid than a woodblock. There is a distinctly different feel if we attack early, or when we attack late - if we think of our mark/impulse lasting maybe .3 it makes a huge difference if we relate it to the 1 as .7-1, .8-1.1 or 1-1.3 and the effect is different again if we sharpen up the movement, and the mark is only .2 long (the numbers are completely made up - it is much shorter). (as a side note - this is also a difficulty when switching from leading to following and vice versa - the leaders timing and the followers timing are slightly offset from each other - i can enjoyably follow open embrace because the timings are more decoupled (well, enjoyable for me ;) - i am not actually good), but in close embrace when i can feel the leaders relationship with the music in detail my sense of the music gets completely scrambled). This is actually a communication problem - if the leader is "pushing" the music to make it feel faster, or if they allows themselves to be "pulled" they need to pay attention to feel if the follower experiences the music/wants to experience the music the same way. ( And the follower needs to communicate through their following what their relationship with the music is - This is one of the reasons that i like active followers that have developed their voice - this is not something that is visible, but can make the dance either pleasant or unpleasant. To get back to vals: I tend to think of vals as a fast dance, with people swirling around the ballroom, and a lot of valses can (and should ;) ) be danced like that - but other people think of vals as a languid, romantic dance. When i lead a fast vals i don't want the follower just keeping up with me - if they afterwards looks unhappy and says "you were dancing too fast" it is somewhat too late - i spent the whole dance on beat, as did they, and it would have been more fun for both of us if i had had the chance to adjust and make different choices than them running desperately after me - if they follow "perfectly" and don't communicate their musicality to me i have no way to know what they enjoy. And this needs to be done continuously and from the beginning - it doesn't help if they accomodate my timing for a few beats because they enjoy the callenge, then give up because they feel rushed and it is unpleasant, and a bit later they make an effort to catch up again - this does not give me an understanding of what their relationship with the music is - this sequence "desperately keeping up - dropping to something comfortable - hustle unhappily for a few beats to get back " reads exactly the same as "yay! lets really dance this - oops, a stumble, we might have pushed it too far with the vocabulary here - lets get back to doing it the way that is fun." No leader wants to impose his musicality on the follower and make her unhappy :( )

    4) and this is somewhat independent of the beat, but the choice of the length of the step/vocabulary is another way to play with our relationship with the music and the orchestra. If we think of the basic pattern as 1 2 3 4, and we step on 1 and 3 we have a timespan of 2 to work with. If we step short enough that at our "normal" speed we would only need a timespan of 1 it will feel like we have lots of time, and we are dancing slowly, while if we step long enough that at our normal speed we would need a timespan of 3 it will feel like we have no time at all, and we are dancing really slowly. (It is one of the errors lots of beginning dancers make when dealing with the rhythm - they try to "catch up", and they confuse dancing with walking: "faster" in walking means covering more distance in the same time, and one of the easiest tools to achieve this is to make longer steps. "faster" in dancing means stepping more often in the same time, and is achieved exactly the opposite way - by covering less distance by taking shorter steps.).

    Playing with the timing of the attack, and the length of the step/time it takes for a piece of vocabulary can make the same piece feel either really fast or really slow.

    So i think asking "should we time on our footstep, or have an impulse before the beat, or have the impulses after the beat" is not helping - we should do all of this (and i think the milongueros did all of this - i have never danced with one of them , but i have danced with very few old milongueras (and there are much fewer of those than men, and they are much more picky in who they dance with - each one of these dances is a gift that i cherish), and while they are today slow, and sometimes frightfully frail, and don't think much of fancy vocabulary they all had a strong voice - a personal, nuanced, feelable relationship with the music, and it was knowable where they saw themselves there.
    (and it is more work - one of the funniest conversations i had was when i was seated on a table of elderly "milongueros" because i got there late, and they all agreed that they enjoyed dancing with young tourists the most because they were so light and followed everything, while portenas are thickheaded and and opinionated and more work.)

    I think what we should ask ourselves is what our relationship with the music is, where we want to push the orchestra, where we want to be pulled by it, where we are just offering a base line under the melody, where we offer a different melody line or a flashy solo. Timing is just a tool to express that.
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  3. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Yes, quite true. A better phrase than "off-beat" is out of time, failing to cleanly hit the beats on the step and weight transfer.
  4. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    If you mean beat rather than pulse, no, I don't think I do. The beat is always there, audible or not, and the tempo does not change. The beat is constant and therefore so is the tempo; the pulse not necessarily. That requires some explanation.

    Dancers perhaps understand music terms like beat, pulse, tempo differently than a musician. As I recall, you have music training, so this isn't news to you, nor will be my explanation of those terms, which I write for those unfamiliar with them.

    Beat is the regularly spaced timing of the pulse. Tempo is the rate at which one beat follows the other, and is measured in beats per minute. A tango at 100 beats per minute tempo, say, will maintain that rate of change from start to finish. Perhaps some small bits (a few bars) within a tango use accelerando (speeding up the beat) or decelerando (slowing down the beat) then return to the tempo. But other than as dchester noted - during the ending bars - no examples come to mind, and even slowing down into the final cadence is rare. (Another term, rubato, is purposely playing the notes off-beat, either stretching or quickening it. But only by a very small amount and only for a beat or two before getting back in strict time. This is primarily a melodic aspect in tango, and underneath it the accompanimnet may mark the strict regular beat. The purpose of rubato is to make the music more expressive, emphasizing a particulary sweet note or two perhaps. Tango singers use it all the time - sometimes even on purpose).

    To add to the confusion, "beat" can mean something additional in popular music forms. Any repeating rhythmic pattern can establishes itself as the pulse, and some will call the rhythmic patern the beat. That is a mistake. To say any rhythmic pattern is the beat (other than the marking of it, marcado in 2 or 4) only muddies up what is a simple, clearly defined music term. In terms of pulse, early tango and many milongas use the habanera in the accompanimnet, played over and over. While the beat is regular, the pulse is the habanera (dotted 1/8, 16th, 8th, 8th). There are other meanings for "pulse" but that should get the idea across.

    Tango, not having a percussion section marking the beat, often seems to go astray, changing the tempo - some seemingly slower or faster bit, maybe a section of something lyrical and sweeping with subdued accompaniment. And then there's syncopation, purposely accenting the weak beats (2 and 4) or playing between the 4 beats. It can be deceiving, the beat seems to have changed, or stopped even, during a rhapsodic episode in Pugliese, say. But it is always there, marching (even if silently) along in strict time.

    Regarding Pugliese, he loved sharply contrasting phrases and sections - for example, highly rhythmic, marcado in 4 pulse, large sound abruptly followed by a solo or small number of instruments playing lyrically with light or no accompaniment, and no marking of the beat. It may seem that the tempo and beat is changing, but in fact that's not so. The duration of the notes is what has changed, not the speed or regularity of the beat - the tempo.

    As an experiment listen to any Pugliese, take La Yumba, for example. Feel the beat in a 4 count and tap or clap it continuously through to the end. Or use a metronome - there of many on line. The tempo is about 104 beats per minute. Notice even during the seemingly slow and lyrical solo violin/bandoneon phrases the beat and therefore tempo is constant.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
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  5. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    And i think that is where tango becomes difficult - and interesting. As a dancer we can/should do the same thing - we are not trying to match a single instrument that exists exactly in how we relate to the music, we are doing our own thing. This is made easier by the fact that there is no percussion marking the beat, making it easier to experience how the whole orchestra at once revolves on the beat, but at the same time has different relationships with it both between instruments and within instruments over time.

    That is why i am currently thinking of musicality as _comprehensible_ relationship with the music. And that depends as much on the follower as on the music - e.g. with my practice partner i can dance portions of lyrical piece completely flat and march like, and she will think this is the funniest thing ever - she knows that i hear the phrasing, but that i activly work against it - the excitement comes from the question when i will give up fighting it and go with it. I very much doubt that this would be entertaining to anybody else. If I as a leader (or a follower) gets to abstract, too meta, there might be a lot of musicality and understanding of what is happening, but it is incomprehensible. This is similar to appreciating modern art - a lot of it is to some extent comments and elaborations by artists on other artists and themes, and if i don't share that background and understanding it becomes difficult to enjoy. Or to free jazz - i like jazz, but free jazz does not do anything for me - i don't understand what they are riffing off, how their interplay works, what is happening that is fun/interesting. So there is this narrow band where the dancer as part of the orchestra is in harmony with it, but offers something new and interesting. We don't get this by shadowing an instrument, a melody line, the implied percussion, but we also don't get it by improvising completely freely with no grounding in what happens around us in the music.
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    tangomonkey, your musicality site has SO much good information, that one time when I tried to find something one beat, etc, as you wrote above, I had to give up.

    I hate to suggest that you do even more for us, but...
    Do you have any tools at your disposal, that could be used to demonstrate any of this as you have for other subjects?

    Or, did I just miss it in the wealth of material you've already created?
  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    How about the 50's version of La Cachila.


  8. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    That clip wont play for me, but I listened to two Pugliese recordings I have and this one:

    Am I supposed to hear the beat and tempo changing? I tapped my desk to the four count and never had to adjust the beat (and therefore, neither the tempo). It is a very nice feeling tapping the beat during the rhapsodic sections and having it exactly matched on the return of the heavily accented marcado in 4 (which is marking all 4 beats with a very strong attack on the 1st and 3rd).

    Perhaps the clip you embedded if different, but I suspect not.
  9. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks! Tango Time Signatures and the Beat discusses some aspects of beat and pulse. And Beat is the working definition I use on the site.

    I'd like to be able to play some Pugliese and have a beet track running along with it. If I can figure out how to do that I'll post it on my site and link it.
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    That's a different version. There are several versions of it they recorded.
  11. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Does it still play for you - or anyone else? The message I get just says "This video is not available". I have a VPN and switching to various countries didn't make a difference. I'd really like to hear it but haven't been able to find it on youtube or anywhere else, so far.

    I've listened to a 1945 and 1989 version and the beat is constant. I'm doubtful the 1952 version is different in terms of beat and tempo - why would it be? - but since you posted it I'd really like to hear it!

    How is it different than the one I embedded? Maybe you could describe it for me (us). Thanks.
  12. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    In a post above I described accelerando and decelerando and said no examples in the tango repertoire came to mind. One has, far from being a Golden Age tango, though. Yet one I should have instantly recalled.

    I posted a very rough analysis of A Evaristo Carriego, here, at the request of bordertangoman, almost exactly fours years ago. I haven’t heard the music since then and it slipped my (obviously aging) mind. (And in re-reading what I wrote, I’d change a few things).

    Pugliese made the (first) recording in 1969. Here it is:

    A Evaristo Carriego has a two beautiful decelerandos (Italian for, yes, deceleration) sections, at :39 and 1:38. Think of driving a car at a constant rate of speed then taking your foot off the accelerator and you’ll get the sensation: the car, the music, gets slower and slower, the beats become gradually more spaced out. Other than during the decelerandos the tempo is 103 bpm. (Actually, between 103 and 104)

    Both decelerandos occur as the preceding section concludes and leads to somewhat rhapsodic, fantasy-like solo instrumental episodes; either a solo instrument or a few instruments exchanging the melody between them. (The second episode is much more intense and longer than the first).

    The fantasy-like sections have barely a whisper of accompaniment (sometimes it is more present) and no marking of the beat. It may not seem like it, but the tempo returns to 103 bpm (In music terminology that’s called a tempo) right at the start of the lighter, more restrained, sections. Specifically, after the first decelerando, as soon as the bass enters at :50; after the second one, at 1:47, when the solo bandoneon plays.

    I most enjoy the second decelerando and the music following it, so I’ll provide some details. Beginning at 1:38 with the bandoneons on the melody, through to 1:47. The tempo is 103 bpm at the start. The decelerando slows to 70 bpm, a 30% gradual slowing of tempo over 9 seconds. From here the tempo may seem to remain at 70 bpm, or be slower than the preceding music – and if that’s how you hear and feel it, fine – but tapping along at 103 bpm works perfectly throughout the rhapsodic phrase, from 1:47-2:37. If the a tempo was not obvious before, it is once the solo violin enters, at 2:03, with the beat being marked in the accompaniment, in marcado in 2. (In this case, using the syncopa rhythm. On beat 1: a 16th then an 8th. Then silence (a rest) on beat 2 then playing on beat 3 and silence on beat 4. Marcado in 2 is marking the first and third beats, with rests on beats 2 and 4). From 2:03 the beat continues to be marked, subtlety and not in 4, and the texture thickens. Then at 2:37 it’s back to Section A, with the expansive, fairly wide ranging melody heard at the start of the piece.

    I never make all-encompassing statements regarding musical aspects…um, usually never. In my post a little earlier in this thread I did: “Take any Pugliese”. Amend that to “Take just about any Pugliese”, please. And again, I should have known better, having written specifically there are tempo changes in A Evaristo Carriego. But other than the decelerandos the tempo is 103 bpm, even during the fantasy-like solo sections. In my defense the decelerandos are very short and done for a very specific effect: halting the driving, aggressive character little by little, preparing for the sublime bit to come, especially the second time. But one can’t continue tapping at 103 bpm from start to end and be in time with the music, so I was wrong about taking any Pugliese. (Note to self: always leave some wiggle room).

    My apologies to LadyLeader for hihjacking her thread, but maybe there's some things in the couple of posts I made which on on topic.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
  13. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    This is your interpretation, not necessarily mine.
    I land a weighted (ball of the) foot and my weight transfer
    is fast because my weight is already arriving over the foot
    just as the foot is arriving under my weight. Rick McGarrey
    describes it as falling onto the foot but isn't that at all.

    Well you are a musical technician and I am a dancer who doesn't
    have to do anything. In any case your technical hair splitting
    is not what I was talking about but the perceived sound.
    Tango has no precise audible beat played by percussion
    but most often a "pulse" sound from the bandoneon - not
    a sharp impactful attack but a more gradual one which itself
    varies from orchestra to orchestra and tune to tune.

    Interestingly you do have a different perception of the timing
    (of the foot fall) than I do because for me the weight transfer
    and the foot landing are closer to simultaneous than with
    other styles of tango movement. And of course, the bigger
    the steps the less the simultaneity and also results in change
    and reduction of feeling.

    I have no interest in the technical niceties nor musical analysis,
    I simply dance what I hear according to how I and my partner feel.
  14. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    No, I am a musicologist and classically trained musician. And I do have an interest in the technical niceties and musical analysis, and when someone makes claims, using musical terminology, which are out-right wrong, I feel the need to correct them - there's a teachable moment, so to speak. Words – musical terms - have specific meaning, and it does no one any good to misuse them or think however one chooses to define and use them is as valid as anyone else’s. Unlike aspects of the dance, where there can be valid different opinions and points of view, the beat has one and only one definition and you spoke incorrectly.

    Sorry, can’t agree that the bandoneon most often creates a “pulse”. Sometimes, yes, but I’m not so sure about “most often”. The bass and piano and strings may do as well. And the “pulse” is sometimes the beat, played sometimes by the accompanying instrumental section(s) alone and sometimes those and the melody too. The “pulse” is sometimes created using the types of marcado articulation, and/or the various syncopations – habanera, syncopa, 3-3-2, et. al. Regardless, the beat moves constantly along underneath everything, and is the very basis for the music moving through time. As for the pulse not having a sharp impactful attack, can't agree. Tango is full of sharp attacks, especially by bandoneons, underlying and supporting the melody, creating and moving us along with the "pulse".

    We are in agreement about stepping and weight transfer. I said “very slightly” before my weight is fully transferred, and said “often”. Don’t take that to mean more than what is implied. I step as you describe your own step and weight transfer. My step/weight transfer is also close to simultaneous. (Most of the time). But I do see, now, my explanation lacked precision.

    Regarding not being interested in music technicalities and simply dancing what you hear...Non sequitur. I have an interest in the technical niceties and musical analysis and "I dance what I hear according to how I and my partner feel" also. Who, after a certain amount of time spent on the dance floor, doesn’t? One can study the music, even if that is simply listening carefully off the dance floor, and learn a great deal, which is then transferred to the dance floor subconsciously and intuitively. Part of the enjoyment for me is the study off the dance floor, and I'll never stop. But of course I completely understand others could not care less to learn about the music in depth and detail through purposeful study.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
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  15. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well, I stand corrected!

    But it is a well-known point that dancers talk about music and dance
    using terms that musicians don't agree with. Musicians have their jargon
    just as other fields of endeavour have theirs.

    I had an awful feeling you would pick me up on that. But the perception remains
    because the bandoneon is the emblematic instrument of tango. I accept the other points
    to a degree although your "sharp attack" is not as sharp as a stick on a drum.

    As you say the beat moves along constantly (even when it is silent) but in the main
    dancers with untrained ears, untrained in the technicalities and dancing in the moment
    with a partner, dance what they hear regardless of what you (and I might) say is
    an ongoing underlying beat. Don't insist on making social partner dancing complicated.

    Regrettably, very, very many do not.
    When I decided that rather than discard two years of tango learning
    and that I would conduct my own research and make much positive
    control over what I wanted to learn and do, one decision was that
    it was necessary to listen to this unfamiliar music and if it couldn't move
    me then I wouldn't dance it or to it. I have listened to it as a porteno
    would - continuously for years and now I know it aurally and intuitively
    hear the clues to dancing it without actually knowing or analysing what
    they are. It's in the moment. Many are the portenas who have expressed
    with surprise; "You listen to the music!".

    You can study it of course but I stand by my observations that technical
    study is unnecessary, is no substitute for simply listening and that usually
    musicians hear/perceive music differently to dancers. Dancers are
    accompanists to the sounds, musicians are the creators of it.

    And that's the end of that, now I must go back to my study . . . of Castellano!
    One day I will be able to speak this language.
  16. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Yes, that is true. (And don't get me started on syncopation). But core music terms which are also core to dancers should mean the same thing. Beat is one of these. Pulse – which by the way is not used that much by (classical) musicians – means more to dancers than to musicians. Pulse is one of those nefarious, difficult to pin down concepts, in words if not in actions on the dance floor.

    Yes, I agree about the bandoneon’s importance. It is a major element in the tango sound and soul. I rarely consider any music to be tango if there isn’t at least one bandoneon – and please do not substitute with an accordion!

    Agreed, except the making it complicated bit. This thread was started by someone who said she could not hear the beat, yet seems, from her own words, to have good dance skills. That is incomprehensible to me, but I have no ill opinion of anyone in the same predicament. I think I made some effort to describe beat, pulse, tempo, and how they may be heard and felt. Hopefully I don’t insist on anything - I seek clarity and mutual understanding, which we are achieving in this discussion.

    The importance of a steady beat is drilled into musicians from the start, and although none of us musicians enjoy working with a metronome - it being an unmerciful and relentless judge of our temporal ability - we use it to hone that very skill. And that is my bias when writing about the beat, pulse, tempo….

    Listening is a form of study. And I like the last sentence – nicely said.

    Why study? Can’t you learn by simply listening to the language then make attempts to speak it to your Argentine friends, absorbing their corrections and progressing on? :)
  17. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Oh - touché!
    If only language was that easy, but a balance between the two extremes
    can be struck. First I had to overcome a real refusal (inability?) of my head
    to even listen and hear the words. It was a complete blank.
    Anyway, enough about that, this thread is about beat and dancing,
    not about how I've had to beat acceptance of castellano into my head!
  18. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    In the very beginning this thread was about how the old milongueros did express the beat in their body/feet.

    One dancer I have had really problem with is Tete. For me his musicality is different in the upper body compared with the musicality created with the feet. I do not know what is different but the upper body and lower body gives me quite different feeling.

    Here a tango vals and a tango

    (If you find some other milonguero more interesting please )
  19. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Err . . it's your thread but err . . . no . . . it was not.
    It was more about whether 60% of milongueros danced
    on the off-beat, which I think really means on the up-beat.

    For me Tete was a bit of a ham showman. A bit larger than life too.
    Nor am I sure he qualifies as a milonguero although it is his own style.
    But it is a style open to extensive criticism and one I don't like much at all,
    however superficially impressive it looks. I am always more impressed by Silvia.
    Some milongueros are reputed to have dismissed him as a rock'n'roller.
    A little unfair perhaps but his extrovert performances are no guide.

    I have already posted one, probably the best one showing how
    Ricardo Vidort marked the compas. But (without sexism) I guess to do it,
    you may have to have the strong physicality and core of a man.
  20. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Last edited: Apr 20, 2015

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