Dancemax Letter #9, Thursday July 27, 2000
Play "Good Music"
I had several comments on my last letter. It was wild; It was harsh, Improve your diction and spelling etc. One subscriber even asked to be deleted. I agree. But tell me this! I came to this country 30+ years ago. I did not know what "heck" meant, nor I spelled cool as "kool". I learned it all walking the streets of Chicago, Flint and Detroit. Remember what they say, "You reap what you sow". So why am I getting this flack? Ok! Forget it…Let's move on!
In the last letter we talked about the Chief Complaint, Signs and Symptoms and Diagnosis of a disease called "Bad Music' (medically speaking). Many a times I think DJs are like doctors, no matter what you say, they have already made up their mind. I must clarify that I am not a professional DJ or Musician. Assume! I am a layperson going to the doctor for help, but I have studied, experimented and suffered a great deal, so Doctor, you better listen to me carefully.
Equipments and Acoustics: We will assume that we have a reasonably good acoustics and equipment. We are talking about playing good music so we can satisfy most of our guests.
What is Good Music? My common sense dictates that it should be exciting, invigorating and it should make you feel like getting up and dance. Besides of course the character, whether it's a rumba or waltz, the crispness and clarity, composition and so on, TEMPO is the main culprit.
What is Tempo? We all know that tempo is the speed of music. Music is measured in Bars or Measures per Minute like we measure weight in grams. Thus how many bars in one minute will decide the tempo for that particular music? I want to interject here and say that I will be using the term "Bar" which is the same thing as "Measure". International terminology uses the term "bar" more often, such as "8 bars in 1 Phrase" etc. Confusion comes when we start counting in Beats per minute. This then becomes BPM (beats pert minute). We just have to use logic. If it is 120 BPM, I think we are talking about beats per minute. In 4/4 timing (4 beats to a bar or measure) we shall divide 120 by 4 and we have 30 bpm (bars per minute) or 30 mpm (measures per minute). Don't be kidding, so many students will be wishy washy between beats and bars. So if the number is high usually in hundreds, it is beats per minute. International CD labels use lower case "bpm" indicating bars per minute such as 30 bpm for foxtrot etc. American CD labels use upper case "BPM" for beats per mt. This is just my observation, not a rule.
Where was I? Let's talk about 4/4, 3/4 or 2/4 business. Please don't think I am giving you a music lesson. I am just refreshing a little bit; so correct me if I am wrong. Mr. Helmut Licht writes a lot about Dance Music. He writes a regular column in USABDA Magazine. He is full of knowledge and ready to take your questions. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Time Signature: It is that tall S with a slash which is written on the music sheet at the beginning of first phrase usually. This stands for "Signature" and then there are some numbers such as 2/4, 3/4 etc. What do these numbers mean? Let's study the following examples:
4/4: The first 4 is, four beats in 1 bar, the second 4 means that each beat is a 1/4 note. Foxtrot, Jive, Cha Cha, Quickstep, Rumba are written in 4/4 time.
3/4: We have 3 beats to a bar of music and each beat is a 1/4 note. Only Waltz (never mind polka and Paso doble) seems to be written in this time.
2/4: obviously 2 beats in each bar and each beat is 1/4 note. Samba and Paso Doble are good examples. What is Tango? 2/4 or 4/4? Good question. I don't know, you tell me.
What is Cut time? Anybody explain what is Cut Time? and how we use it in Ballroom or Latin Music. I am confused about that.
So much for now. You do your homework and we will talk about tempo for each dance in the coming weeks. I guarantee that if we play proper tempo, we can satisfy most dancers. What is Strict Tempo?..my views in the next letter.
Remember this information is very basic and is meant for people like me who are, or were slow learners. Input from musicians, champions and coaches will be appreciated.
Trivia Question: WHO is INGA HAAS: Here is the announcement from Ms. Allen, Reporter and Columnist, London, UK.
Inga Haas, former Amateur Latin American World Champion has just launched a brand new web site on the net (in English and German). You are cordially invited to visit www.ingahaas.com
Her achievements and her credentials are listed on her website. She teaches out of Semley Studio in London. This, I think is the same Studio where Mr. Peter Maxwell, the great English Choreographer and Coach conducts his business. She is available for coaching. She seems to be a very down to earth person. She even answers her e-mail. In next letter: WHO is RUUD VERMEI. Keep dancing merrily, even if the tempo is not right. Best Wishes, Max
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.