Book Review: Hear the Beat, Feel the Music

As anyone who has spent any time reading my blog or interacting with my website should know by now, I’m very passionate about music, dance and the relationship between the two.  I’m also very analytical about those subjects.  And, yes, I believe passion and analysis can co-exist, don’t you?

The fatal flaw with my perspective for people who are learning to dance but don’t have a musical background is that I came at music first and dance much later.  So as much as I try, the way I think about the relationship between dance and music comes from a music first perspective. 

That’s why I was thrilled to happen upon the book Hear the Music, Feel the Beat by James Joseph.  This book is a well crafted dance first perspective to understanding how dance and music relates.  He does a terrific job of walking through the basics of music theory with pretty close to the minimum amount of information that a dancer needs to get by.  And he is very careful to call out the places where he goes deeper than absolutely necessary so those that aren’t interested in those details can skim past.

On the subject of going deeper, one thing that I took away from this book that I hadn’t heard before was the term mini-phrase.  This is a nice term for what I think of (and Mr. Joseph also refers to) as an eight count (or six count in Waltz).  For many dances this is the basic unit and I’ve heard dancers refer to this unit simply as a phrase, but that causes substantial cognitive dissonance with my musicians brain which insists on thinking of a phrase as the substantially longer chunk of generally 48 to 64 beats (although that varies depending type of music or even the particular song).  So mini-phrase fits perfectly, and that even lets me use the term “phrase” out loud with dancers while tagging on the “mini” part in my head.

This mini-phrase is also something that I would like to incorporate in my tempo counter tool.  When I wrote this years ago I set things up to consider tempo in beats and in measures (of different meters).  But I’m in the middle of a rewrite, so I think having a 8 count and 6 count mini-phrases would be a valuable addition.

Overall this is a great read.  And the bonus videos with practical exercises will be an immense help to anyone learning to dance that is struggling with “musicality.”

As always, I welcome feedback both on this post and the site in general.  I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the site in any of the many possible ways.  And if you enjoy the site please consider contributing in any way that makes sense to you.


Note: If you found this book through this blog, please be kind and click on the link above to purchase it. This helps support the blog. If you’re feeling especially generous (or just like the blog a lot) clicking on the Amazon links in the blog or on the music4dance site and then doing your regular, unrelated shopping which also help support the site as a very small fraction of those proceeds will be directed to musci4dance.

The music4dance Blog Just Moved

I just moved the music4dance blog and help system to a new provider.  I hate the fact that many recent posts have been about infrastructure changes that I’ve made due to one or another of my providers breaking something under me.  But such is the world of software.  I won’t bore you with the details here (you’re welcome).  At some point I may take the time to explain what happened this time on my technical blog with the hope of saving others similar pain.

What does this mean to you?  Hopefully not a whole lot.  The URL for the blog is now https://music4dance.blog rather than https://www.music4dance.net/blog.  But even if you have bookmarks to the old blog or help, they should redirect smoothly to the new site without any action on your part.  Also, I spent a decent amount of time when I first set up the site to try to make the blog and help system look like a relatively seamless part of the main site.  Not everything that I did directly translates to the new host, so the blog looks a little more like a separate site.   I think that’s all right by, I’m open to other opinions.

The other impact of this change is that I’m now paying for something that used to be free, so I will politely ask again that you consider supporting music4dance.net in one way or another.

As always, I welcome feedback.  I read every email and do my best to respond to them all.

Dance Pride

Each year Spotify does a number of fun playlists in support of Pride weekend.  With this being the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, they pulled out all the stops. 

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of overlap between these playlists and songs that are great for partner dancing.  And I’m not just talking about disco music.  I’ve been listening to several of these playlists including Pride Classics and Disco Fever.  The surprise is that it wasn’t until the end of Pride month that it occurred to me that it would be fun and possibly useful to cross reference some of the Pride playlists with the music4dance catalog.

But better late than never.  Click here to see the full list.  You can get to the pride catalog anytime by going to the “Music” menu, choosing the “Tags” option and then finding the “Pride” button.  Clicking on that will pop up a menu that will let you list all the songs tagged as “Pride.”  I’ve also added tags for the specific playlists that Spotify built, so you can use the same method to get to the Disco Fever, Pride Classics or Fierce playlists.

Remember, there is a lot of subjectivity to what someone finds to be a danceable song.  So please sign in and express your opinion by voting on that for your favorite songs and dances. 

If you’re a premium member you can see the full Spotify lists, even the ones that we didn’t already have cross-referenced, by clicking the “Change Search” button on the results and then choosing “Not categorized by dance” and then “Search.”  Then you could go and add what you would dance to any of the songs that are uncategorized.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Beautiful Dance

music4dance, as the name implies, is all about the relationship between music and dance.  And naturally, on the website and the blog, I tend to concentrate on the musical aspect of dance. In addition, I tend to focus in on the kind of partner dances that I’m most familiar with.

But every once in a while it’s nice to step back and remember that dance is visually beautiful.  And witnessing the joy of people dancing is one of the things that make life worth living.  Misty Copeland’s recent New York Times piece “Past Tense: Perpetual Motion, A Journey Through Dance Photography” is a striking example of the range of dance and the beauty and expression of dance.  And of course her commentary enhances the experience.

If you like that piece, the coffee table style book A Century of Dance has many more wonderful dance images along with some great historical tidbits.

And finally, please remember that if you find books or music through this site that you would like to purchase, clicking on the links and purchasing during that session on Amazon or Apple Music will help support the site.

Announcing a music4dance Bug Bounty

Software bugs are miserable things in any context.  But when you have a small project like music4dance where there are so many external dependencies, bugs can creep in even when nothing has changed in the project.  Add that to all of the normal avenues of bug creation and things can turn into a mess very rapidly.  I have to balance very limited amount of time on music4dance between creating content (like this blog post), curating content on the site, adding new features, testing and fixing bugs.  Not to mention adding automated testing and production logging.

Needless to say, this gets very complicated very fast and things slip through the cracks.  And then you end up with anywhere between a slightly annoying to a completely unusable experience.  This obviously not good for anybody and frustrating for all.

But there are thousands of you out there that visit music4dance regularly.  So if you report bugs as you see them, hopefully we can nip them in the bud and make the experience better for everyone.  I can’t promise to fix every bug that comes through but I’ll do my best to keep up so that everyone’s experience is improved.

And to sweeten the pot I’d like to offer a bug bounty for each unique bug reported.  Check out our Bug Report page for details.

As always, I’m interested in feedback beyond bug reports so feel free to respond to this post or use our feedback page.

Farewell to the “Sign in with Microsoft” option on music4dance

Microsoft has moved to a new sign-in protocol and our current system for signing in with a Microsoft account started failing.  I looked into switching over to the new protocol and it seems like a few hours of work.  But given that I only have a few hours a week to devote to music4dance that’s really a week’s worth of work.  Since I have very few customers that use this login method and the main reason for supporting this method was for Xbox Music AKA Groove Music integration which has already been deprecated, I’ve notified those individuals with a work-around and am turning off this feature.

If you believe that this is an indispensable feature, please provide feedback and I’ll consider re-implementing it.  If you have issues logging in with any other method please file a bug and I will do my best to address it.

Music for Dance Through the Decades

One of the ways that I like to search for music is by era.  At least as far as twentieth century American music goes, this tends to be categorized by decade.

Early on, I tried some experiments around pulling publication date for a song to help with this kind of search.  But the sources I had generally listed release date as whatever the most recent release of the song was, which was often on a compilation album and had nothing to do with when the song was first published.  Even more importantly, when we think of music associated with a particular decade it’s a very loose definition and involves a judgement call about style as much as any technicality around original the release date.

But since I’ve been grabbing information from a bunch of different places and a few of them have been tagging music by decade, I’ve got a decent catalog of songs that have decade tags.  You can take a look by going to the tags page and clicking on any of the decades like the 1970s  or 2000s

If you’re interested in finding songs for a particular dance style from a specific decade, that’s exactly what the Advanced Search functionality is for.  You can go to the form, choose Rumba from the “dance style” chooser and go to the “Other” tags under “Include Tags”  (the brown pencil).  Choose 1980s from the list of tags and click include.  Then click search, and you will get a list of songs from the 80’s that you should be able to dance a Rumba to.  If you’ve got particular tempo needs, for instance, if you’re looking for a slower or faster Rumba, you can always restrict the tempo in the advanced search form as well. If you don’t have a good handle on dance tempi for dances, check out our tempi tool.

Speaking of searching for specific tempos.  One of the features that we’ve recently added is the ability to find songs by tempo even if we haven’t identified a specific partner dance for the song.  As of this writing, we are trying this out as a premium feature.  If you have purchased a premium subscription, you can check the box on the Advanced Search page to include the “Not categorized by dance” bonus content, specify your tempo range and get a larger list of songs that meet those criteria.  (Check out more details on my bonus content blog post.) This should be useful for people that are looking for music of a specific tempo for dances that we haven’t categorized yet or for exercise that isn’t dancing.

As always, I’m interested in your feedback. Let me know how you use this feature, or what would make it better.

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