Tango Argentino > Teaching Musicality to tango dancers

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by bordertangoman, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I would like others views on what has helped them; what they think would be helpful.

    Do Tango dancers need to be taught musicality? I dont think blues dancers do. Once they understand the basic pulse they move to what they hear; so is the requirement for tango dancers a requirement because the music is culturally alien and unfamiliar. (Discuss)

    Does having a music education a help or hindrance.

    And on DB's favourite subject "jargon"; should we be learning music terminology or using an experiential approach; (eg "this bit of music sounds flowing to me")
  2. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I believe they should.

    Maybe not at beginners level, but later when they are free from movement constraints yes.

    When people dance to completely new songs, or when they dance to live orchestra musicality (listening) becomes very important.

    Technical terms are always beneficial cause they ease the teaching.

    Music education is helpful when it is adjusted to tango songs.
    I started reading a book and listening examples:
    All You Have to Do Is Listen:
    Music from the Inside Out
    By Rob Kapilow

    September, 2008
    ISBN: 978-0-470-38544-9

    It is about classical music, but a lot can be related with tango.

    nice yt clip about musicality:
  3. shrek

    shrek New Member

    For me, I think there are many aspects of musicality, not limited to 1) Understanding the structure of the music and predicting what is coming up, 2) translating that into movement, 3) understanding the composers, the history, the orchestras.

    Playing various instruments from an early age means that I find (1) easy although still always lots to learn. (2) harder and something I work at and hope I'm getting better at and (3) also harder.

    I think most people have some inherent musicality, but I think it should also be taught from the start, even if at the earliest stages it is just familiarising beginners with different tango music.
  4. spectator

    spectator Member

    I find it absoloutely excruciating when none musicians attempt to teach "musicality".
    I have walked outside, screamed in the car park and reentered the class. A classic example was "the double time step is like the upstroke in guitar" shows ignorance of everything in that sentence. I just hope they don't sometimes play flamenco at that place.

    If people are that worried about it, perhaps the tango community could start up recorder lessons. Even learning to play three blind mice would explain: time signatures, rhythm, phrasing, and if played in a round, canon.

    I'm being serious here, recorders are a. very very cheap and b. very very easy.
  5. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    It'd be great if musicality was taught, but I'm not convinced as to how much good it would do. So much of it seems to go in one ear and out the other, once people get to the point of being able to hear the beat. Musicality so often seems to translate to the idea of dancing to a beat other than the 1. I could scream. Especially when it's excused with the explanation of "dancing simply."

    Aside from even the music, there's so much more that can be done with things. Changing the feel of your body, for a start.
  6. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Re: how to learn musicality

    Neither nor: brain and soul are (for me) different chanels. You have this musicality or you dont. But you can easily learn the structure, syntax, and the composition of a piece of music. Any learning is helpful, but the outcome for dancing is rather poor.

  7. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    I think trying to do this for beginners is a mistake - at most, say "walk to the beat" or similar.

    It's just another thing to learn and worry about, and frankly, I think it's not as important to keep to the beat in AT as it is in other dances such as WCS or salsa.

    I reckon musicality is probably something to learn and develop at improvers or even intermediate level.

    A hindrance if you can't communicate your knowledge to others without using jargon. Talking about "beats", "notes", "phrases" etc. is very much not helpful to non-musicians.

    Talking of jargon:
    Well, I'm not convinced "musicality" itself is a helpful term. I'd say "dancing to the music" is a better description.
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    disagree. Plenty of people feel emotionally moved by music, which is IMO the start of musicality. It's learning ways to translate that emotion into expressive movement which people can struggle with. Learning can increase either the range of expressive movement, and/or can increase what people can hear in the music (and therefore increase what aspects they can be moved by).

    It could be that AT music is not at first all that moving to people; it can be an acquired taste. But learning to feel, and to move to that feeling, is something that can be learned with any genre.
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I agree. It is to some extent an acquired taste. Of course there were many tango songs I loved the first time I heard them, but at first, a lot of them did not move me. The more I listen to it, the more songs that I like (I'm still somewhat selective though). There are even some neo-tango songs I like (just not a lot of them).

    There are several aspects to musicality. Of course the beat (or rhythm) is one aspect, but another is the mood, feeling, or the emotion that one gets from the song. This often dictates for me, the style of how I will dance, or at least how I will do do certain steps. I find that some followers like how I dance to one type of song, but might not like how I dance to a different type (or mood) of song.
  10. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    I think it has to be taught but not everything at the same time. Learning to hear where the damn main beat is, before they learn to walk. Learning the syncopation not before they're ready to dance the syncopations. That is, way after they're comfortable with double-times. Learning the themes (adagio, fantasy) only when they have enough vocabulary to dance differently on an adagio and on a fantasy. And so on.
  11. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    LOL. I HATED AT music when I was first learning. I mean, it was OK for about an hour, but after that I just wanted to listen to anything else. (And then I came home, and as a way of making the experience last longer I listened to almost nothing but the two tango CD's my teacher had made for me. And I got to like it, albeit I also got tired of those particular songs.)

    In addition to the beats and rhythm, etc., and the emotions, there's also the sounds of the instruments to pay attention to. (And of course that feeds into the emotion of it.) This is where I become a fan of how my mom taught me to listen to (classical) music--with programmatic stuff. Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals are fantastic starting points. Start with Carnival...pick one of the pieces...and pay attention to what instruments the composer used, and how he used them, and why he used them. Listen to "Acquarium," and think about how the music is like standing and watching fish swimming smoothly and gracefully through water. Listen to "Kangourous," and think about how the composer used the instruments to paint a picture of how a kangaroo moves. It's all right there. Think about how you would move to music like that.

    Move to Peter and the Wolf. Read the story of it, and read about the leitmotifs used and how each instrument represents a character. Then listen to the music, and try to pick out the instruments, and try to identify each leitmotif. Listen for the bassoon (the grandfather) and try to understand why that instrument would be associated with that character...or the bird with the flute...or the hunters with the percussion. Learn to hear all of those various instruments, and how they interact, and why they were chosen.

    Then...go back and listen to AT music. Think about how you could move differently when the music is legato versus staccato. Think about the rhythms and counter-rhythms. Feel the shifts in energy, and the ebbs and flows. Feel how some pieces sound wistful, or angry, or romantic...and think about how you can move your body differently. This is all musicality--beyond beats and emotion--and it can all be taught.

    (Other good programmatic pieces are The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Rodeo (by Copeland), and Pictures at an Exhibition.)
  12. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Oh, aye. Start with the beat. Please please please start with being able to find the beat. If nothing else, be able to find the beat! ;)

    Just don't let people stop with that. :)
  13. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I like your thinking......and I would add the Evelyn Glennie lecture on feeling the music with your body.
  14. ant

    ant Member

    I think that some explanation of the structure of Tango music the very first time you are taught Tango is important. When I started learning I was never told that the bass (possibally the piano or bandonion) would make the beat. I was always wondering where the percussion was.

    Some idea idea of what the main instruments in an orchestra would normally be expected to do would have been helpful to. And to stress everything that was taught should be done with the music I think is an absolute must. IMO the biggest difference between a proper Tango teacher and a pretend one is the way they introduce the music to their pupils.

    It can be helpful if the person is able to apply that education to their dancing but in my experience that knowledge quite often gets in the way of their dancing.

    IMO opinion a mixture of the two is helpful. Some jargon I think is essentual. Understanding some basic terms such as beat/ rhythm, phrase, and some sort of basic count of the beat would be useful.
    But as regards the mood of the music, is it happy/sad, summy/raining fast/slow, smooth,stuttered would be a good way of expressing this and over time where a person is interested they can then build up their own jargon vocabulary.
  15. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    I'd disagree. Beginners have so much to learn already, that throwing a set of rules about musical structure at them right at the start is just going to ask too much of them.

    None of the beginner classes I've done have done this - OK, with the exception of Clive & Chris's, but I don't class them as beginner classes, they're "musicality" classes to me...

    Not for beginners; it'd freak them out.


    Caught out! :)
  16. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I can't take credit. My mommy taught me! :D

    Completely off-topic, I'm listening to Carnival now, since I got to thinking about it. Specifically, I'm listening to "Pianistes" which is meant to sound like two piano students practicing scales. I'm remembering DH performing Carnival with his teacher, and how much fun they had with the beginning part of this movement. It's amusing watching and listening to two accomplished piano players deliberately flub things...while not really flubbing them. Very much fun.
  17. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I had just been considering posting on this very subject, as it is dear to my heart...so unfortunately, begin rant...

    I believe musical appreciation can be taught, or at least attempted, though you can't make the horse drink. And I have always thought that people I've personally seen using the "you can only feel the music" approach as just using it an excuse or cover-up for not understanding/teaching musicality.

    The music is like a forest, with things in it you want to see. It's much better to at least have a map to help you than to wander around at random trying to find the things you enjoy in the forest.

    For those who have been told that learning structure is cold or impersonal (IMO an excuse for the teachers own lack of ability to explain the music for whatever reason), learning structure does not preclude enjoyment. For me it actually improved enjoyment because it freed up my thinking for other things. This may not be the case for everyone. But I have never met a true professional tango dancer who was also considered extremely musical who did not understand and teach musical structure in their musicality.

    I think everyone should at least be able to find the beat, and understand what a phrase is, even if they have trouble getting to it. Anyone who can do that is probably doing better than at least half the people out there dancing. You don't have to be a musician to explain or understand that.

    More complicated ideas should wait til later, but I also agree with whomever it was that was saying you should also give people ideas how to match what they do (carry out) the the vocabulary you are teaching to fit the musical concept.

    There is nothing that makes me more annoyed than a teacher whose only approach to musciality is "feel the music" or "do it like I do" and can't verbalize what they mean. it just makes for a bunch of parroting students who actually DON'T understand the music, and seems to make them worse off musically (though they seem to like to think they are the living end of musicality).

    As someone else said, Tango music generally doesn't have percussion, and it's one of the first things I ask people ot notice about it. There's any number of things like this you can tell people to actually get them listening and understand what they are hearing. Whether it actually gets in the brain and body is another problem all together.

    ok...end rant.
  18. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I make the assumption that people who want to dance tango realise can hear the music and dont need at the outset a musical history or structure, and that if they can find the basic beat in the music this is enough to get them working on their bodies.

    Musicality : i offer some definitions: Musicality refers to fitting a dance to the music being played, with the goal of relating the dance to the music's rhythm, melody, and mood.

    Musicality: is an interpretation of the music selecting which parts of the music heard are useful/salient to suggest movement.
  19. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    There are plenty of aspects of musicality (at least what I call musical interpretation) that don't require knowing lots of vocabulary. Vocabulary, in fact, tends to hamper them.

    But finding the beat, understanding that the percussion is coming from somewhere besides where you'd expect in modern culture, and learning how to use basic musical phrasing can and should be told to people of any level, IMO. You can express it with walking and weight changes at first, then add on the same concept to other vocabulary as you learn it.

    No, a beginner doesn't need to know about rhythm versus melody, the violin and the follower's voice, syncopas and other alterations...but learning the basic ideas can help them learn how to better express what they are hearing rather than just wandering around aimlessly dancing steps, as is what seems to happenmost of the time. What I've found is that people who have no trouble hearing and keeping the beat at the outset are already "hearing' things in the music and they are generally relieved when you talk about it and give them some ideas how they and their partner can express it better than "oops...I heard something there...maybe I'll hear it again...oops...missed it again..."

    Anther thing I've noticed is people talk about "feeling" music and wanting to dance, but you just can't forget this is a partner dance, and it takes tecnique and understanding to be able to also get your partner to do what you are hearing if you are a leader and understnanding and reaction if you are a follower...if you want to just go and express on a personal level by yourself...that's something else entirely since you aren't having to actually interact with a partner to music.
  20. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    "Super performers understand musicality – The concept of musicality can be quite elusive, everyone has a different way of thinking about musicality and there is great discussion on this topic elsewhere online. I will offer my thoughts but perhaps others will contribute as well: While counting can be important sometimes for finding moments of precision in a dance, musicality in performance is expressed through more than just counting beats. In fact, while counting, it is easy to forget that a beat includes not only the sharp “tap” of a particular rhythm but also the space between those taps, just as all movements include transitions and shifts of weight between desired “shapes” of the body. Exciting and musical performers fill these spaces in the music and movement, not letting the energy or intent drop between shapes or between counts. Enjoyable performers also utilize dynamics in their performance. Resisting “sameness,” as they dance, they incorporate crescendo and decrescendo, sudden or gradual changes in the quality of the movement, that often reflect or work within the accompanying music or score. Choreographers utilize music in different ways and a good performer will seek to understand what part of the music (rhythm, melody, counterpoint, etc.) the dance-maker is using as inspiration in the movement. To do so, it is always helpful to have at least a basic understanding of music composition or theory but THINKING about what you FEEL and HEAR in music and applying these to your dance practice is the first step in bringing musicality to your performance. In fact, a performer can be musical even without dancing to music!"


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