Having a hard time counting music.

#1
I've been too reliant on the instructors counting me into starting the dance. Now that I have a competition coming up in 2 months (my first one) I can't neglect this problem any longer.

I can't seem to do it even with a simple count like waltz. It's even harder for me with Rumba and especially the faster ones like Jive.

I understand I have to time it with the beats of the song and try to find a strong emphasized boom beat to start things off.

Some songs are easier than others. I'm afraid that in a competition they'll play a song where it's hard to find the beat.

NAT KING COLE - FASCINATION
Very clear for me.

Journey - Open Arms
Even this I can hear the boom tic tic.

The music being played at the studio seems harder to find the beat though. Maybe it's just not loud enough for me to hear? Maybe I just need to listen to more waltz music to practice counting the beats?

Any advice would be very welcome on this.
 
#2
Maybe I just need to listen to more waltz music to practice counting the beats?
This is 100% the way to go about it. The only way you'll get better at counting is to listen to more music and count to it. Start with easier songs you can hear the beat to then move on to harder ones. I'd also ask your instructor send you the names of some songs that are difficult to suss out and then practice with those once you get a bit more comfortable.

Edit: Also, while this isn't helpful with Waltz, for pretty much any Latin dance try focusing on the drums. They're setting the tempo and your body will naturally want to start moving with them and, generally speaking.

Also, also, think less about numbers to start and more about just clapping or tapping along.
 
Last edited:

SwingingAlong

Well-Known Member
#3
Who are you dancing with in the comp? My partner isn't musical and sometimes has trouble finding the beat, but I can, so my teacher has suggested a subtle cue, like a slight backward movement that stretches his RH in waltz, or a sideways movement into Rumba, or a squuze on his hand to signal the start.
The thing is, learning to find the beat isn't something you will sort in 2 months, because you won't know what music they will play. Finding a way for your partner to quietly signal the start is something you can control and might ease the worry until you gain more experience with music.
 
#4
The best thing I've found for improving hearing rhythm is to listen to the music a lot. I make playlists for my iphone and listen while driving to work. The worst for me was salsa music. I had a terrible time. After a long time of listening to it, it has improved greatly and I rarely have a problem hearing the timing.

The Nat King Cole song you give above is a great example of songs I hate for ballroom. During that time, the singing style was "with feeling" which for them meant singing without much of any rhythm and they usually mixed the vocals to be much louder than the solidly rhythmic backing musicians. For me at least, I have a hard time not listening to the singers. The Journey song you give has a much clearer timing to me.
 
#5
Thanks for the great advice everyone. I'll make a habit out of listening to specific music and count them.

My partner is also a newcomer like me. So we're going to have to figure things out together.
 

MaggieMoves

Well-Known Member
#6
See I always have trouble with "Open Arms" because the beat doesn't really go continuously throughout the song, but when it's there it's pretty easy to tell.

The best way to understand beat and rhythm counts are to just keep listening to music and try to identify which dance would go the best with it. I remember going through almost every radio station, from classic rock, to pop, and country to try to determine which dance would go to what.
 
#7
There are some really atrocious waltzes out there, but if you're having problems counting in general, you need to re-think whether you're ready for competition.
 

opendoor

Well-Known Member
#8
...try to find a strong emphasized boom beat to start..
Drums also are an instrument and drummers like to play extra beats. Beat is not the hitting of the drumhead, it´s a time frame in the head. When they match you can start. The rhythm in "Open Arms" is highly regular, but there are a lot of extra beats and so called appoggiaturas (beats earlier than expected). The brain must learn to filter them out.
Sometimes it helps to play around with a real drum kit, or with the rhythm engine of garage band on the

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_(music)#On-beat_and_off-beat

Pads may also help train rhythm

https://alexnld.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/7f116a83-a121-490d-8a9b-52c24127b48a.jpg
 
Last edited:

bia

Well-Known Member
#9
This series of videos might be useful for you: Music for Dancers. He's a musician who took up salsa, and I think he breaks the concepts down well.

Otherwise, yes, lots of listening, with tapping/clapping/marching along, trying to ignore the singer. One potential comfort for competition is that good music directors try to choose music for the lower divisions that has clear beats. (Of course, not all music directors are good, and people with lots of experience may have trouble judging what's clear to people with less experience. But still.)
 

FancyFeet

Well-Known Member
#10
I agree with bia. For newcomer and pre-bronze events, the music is generally simple - meaning less going on, a clear defined beat that is throughout the whole song, etc. These divisions exist to get you into competing, so they're not going to try and make your experience miserable! I've even a comp where the MC noticed people were struggling, and counted them in.

The suggestion to listen to music and count/tap it out is a good one. Try just tapping out the beat, and once you've found that, try identifying the "1". (You may find it easier to find the "2" in chacha and rumba, and start counting in the middle of a bar - I do!)

I'd also suggest speaking with your instructor and making sure that they know you are struggling with this. Sometimes those of us who dance a lot deliberately pick different music at practice, because hearing the same thing day in and day out for years is rough... but that variety or the slightly offbeat choices may not be what's best for you right now. It sounds like you need the classic/traditional. There are songs/albums that are classics for a reason, and it's very likely that you'll hear them at comp. You can even download some of the more common ones - ask your instructor for recommendations - so you get more repetition of them.

Last, I suggest picking one dance to focus on for the counting exercises. Learn to do it for, say, waltz... get that down and working reasonably well, then move on to another dance. This should make it easier than trying to learn them all at once.

Last resort coping tricks, in case you get a song that's hard for you: Have your partner count you in, if she can hear the music. She can also tap the rhythm on your arm/squeeze your hand. Set up near the edge of the floor and shoot a look at someone you trust so they know they need to count you in. Watch the other couples start to help you find the beat.

In short, don't feel like you have to be absolutely perfect at your first comp. Yes, this is something you need to work on and eventually master, but learning new skills takes time.

(Edited to add: I'm still a terrible counter. I feel music, and am not great at logic-ing it. I can tap the beat no problem, but asking me to count and dance at the same time is a recipe for disaster. I can count while other people dance, or scat my own dancing (ba-ba-da, etc.)... and while this approach is not generally recommended, it's about finding the way to make it work on the floor, and this works for me.)
 

danceronice

Well-Known Member
#11
In general I'm okay with counting (years and years of playing an instrument in ensembles before I started dancing, and ice dance between) but I had a hard time with samba and mambo. I asked my pro to burn me a CD of some sambas and mambos that were fairly straightforward and I listened. I can now find the beat in most. It's really just a matter of listening a lot. Don't expect to get it right away, just keep listening and it will happen.
 
#13
You're all awesome and very helpful. Just like everyone I've met in the studio.

I've been at it for 3 months so far. My love for it keeps growing.

There's always something new to learn and a way for me to grow. Always interesting and challenging.

Thanks again everyone!
 

cornutt

Well-Known Member
#15
When DW and I were competing, my "cheat" when I couldn't find the beat in a song was to watch a pro and then get on the beat they were on. One day at a comp, they play what is supposed to be a cha-cha and I can't find the 1. So I look at our studio male pro, Tom -- and he's looking back at me. He can't find it either. And neither can anyone else! After about 20 seconds, the DJ gives up and plays a different song.
 

dlliba10

Well-Known Member
#16
When DW and I were competing, my "cheat" when I couldn't find the beat in a song was to watch a pro and then get on the beat they were on. One day at a comp, they play what is supposed to be a cha-cha and I can't find the 1. So I look at our studio male pro, Tom -- and he's looking back at me. He can't find it either. And neither can anyone else! After about 20 seconds, the DJ gives up and plays a different song.
Ugh, that happened to me once in a champ-level rhythm competition. It was impossible to find the beat, but the DJ didn't change the song. It was so bad that to this day I can't watch the video from that comp because it makes me cringe so bad. But fun fact, I didn't become good friends with my competitors on the floor from that comp until way after, and one of our bonding moments was remembering how impossible that song was to count and how everyone was off time to it.
 
#18
The advice you got to listen for a strong beat is a good one, as is the one about the drums, but I would take it one step further.

I am a trained music teacher and working with dancers I have discovered something interesting. For those trained in music, we have a tendency to automatically listen to the base line and disregard the melody--because that is how a lot of us are trained.

For those not trained in music, I have noticed they tend to focus on the melody or top line (such as the vocal or vocal line). This can be confusing because it is not as defined and rarely keeps a steady rhythm.

My advice is to focus on the base line. Try to ignore the melody and find the deepest instrument and focus on it. Chances are once you zero in on it you will find it easier to hear the beat. Drums are also helpful, but as pointed out can go off on different rhythms. 9 times out of 10 the bass line is the driver behind the rhythm and beat. When listening to different songs, focus on trying to find that bass line and sticking with it without letting yourself get distracted by the melody.
 

Mengu

Well-Known Member
#19
I recently got a ballroom CD, Ultimate Ballroom 20. I have trouble with track 25 Lament for a frozen flower - they have put it under waltz. While the tempo is waltz speed, I keep hearing 4 beats..... has anyone else had trouble with this one?
http://www.danceshopper.com/ballroo...-Ballroom-Album-20---Dreams-Are-More-Precious
Listened to the clip from the link. Sounds like it's written in 6/8. What you're doing is counting it 123, 223, 323, 423, and that's the slow 4 count you're hearing. Instead, count it as 1&2&3&, 1&2&3&. This should help you find the slow waltz beat in this piece of music. Start counting with the first crash.

This can happen even with slow waltz music you might hear at comps, so if you find yourself hearing 4 beats, or a Viennese waltz, immediately switch to listening for 1&2&3&.
 

SwingingAlong

Well-Known Member
#20
Listened to the clip from the link. Sounds like it's written in 6/8. What you're doing is counting it 123, 223, 323, 423, and that's the slow 4 count you're hearing. Instead, count it as 1&2&3&, 1&2&3&. This should help you find the slow waltz beat in this piece of music. Start counting with the first crash.

This can happen even with slow waltz music you might hear at comps, so if you find yourself hearing 4 beats, or a Viennese waltz, immediately switch to listening for 1&2&3&.
Awesome. I knew I was hearing it as 6/8 but couldn't switch it off! Now I have a new cool strategy...thanks!!
 

Dance Ads

Top