Ask music4dance: Can I export music4dance playlists to play locally?

I’ve been thinking about the concept of music4dance since long before streaming services like Spotify existed, so the idea of generating playlist that could be played against files locally on my computer has certainly been on my radar.

But the quick answer to this question is, unfortunately, no.

The longer answer is (of course) that it’s complicated.  The most recent person to ask about this specifically was interested in exporting to .m3u files to be used in ballroomDJ.  So I’ll use that as an example, but the general issue that I’m about to outline applies to all of the local players and playlist formats that I’ve encountered. 

The problem is that local playlist formats generally use file paths to locate the media that they play.  Since most of the information that I’ve compiled in music4dance comes from streaming and commerce services, I have no idea what the filename might be for the songs in the catalog, much less where on disk it my be hiding.

Quite some time ago, I wrote some experimental code that will take a list of song title and artist and search through a local music library in order to attempt to match and create a usable playlist.  This worked reasonably well, and when I added possible albums and song length to do some disambiguation it worked a little better.  But it wasn’t close to 100% and I’m struggling for a way to generalize that to run on anyone’s system without writing a player of my own.

In any case, I’m not writing about this question just to say that the answer is hard.  I’m interested in your feedback in two ways. 

  1. Does anyone have any leads on a media player that does a decent job of consuming some online description of a playlist and matching it to local media?  I certainly haven’t done a full survey of the possibilities recently, so I may be missing something that could help solve this problem.
  2. How useful would this be for you?  If enough people express interest in this I’ll push it up in my queue.

As a slight aside, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to point out that I did get this working for Spotify playlists. While that doesn’t solve the exact problem for those who use local media libraries, it’s very cool for Spotify users. Read about that in this post: Create a Spotify Playlist.

As always if you have comments or suggestions please feel free to reply to this post or contact me here.  And let me know if you like the Q&A blog format.  If you do, send me more questions to answer, please!

Ask music4dance: Why don’t you have info about musical genres like you do about dance styles?

One of the main reasons that I love working on the music4dance project is that I get to hear from dancers and musicians that find the site useful. 

Here is a question that a user recently asked:

I searched on your webpage, I could not find info about genre Pop. Can you show me info about genre Pop, please? Will you update/make info about genre Pop like the genre Bolero (https://www.music4dance.net/dances/bolero)

Which is perfectly fair.  I have certainly biased towards more information about dance than about music, and have kept the music details to those that specifically apply to partner dancing.  The way the site is set up, I have a primary “index” of the various partner dances.  Then I think about refining that search on things like musical genre or tempo.

That said, it is still possible to start from musical genre and go from there.  The full list of genres that are available on music4dance can been seen on the tags page.  The genres are the green tags.  And now that I look at it from this perspective, it would be nice to be able to filter on just genre tags – I’ll see if I can get that feature implemented soon.  You can click on the Pop tag on that page and see a list of all of the pop songs in the music4dance catalog.

What I don’t give you in this context is a description of the “Pop” genre the way I do with a dance style.  While I think that’s an interesting idea, I feel like it’s been covered elsewhere in more detail than I would be able to manage.  For instance, there is a site called rateyourmusic.com that does something pretty close to what I’m doing, but specifically for musical genres rather than dance styles.  Check out their Pop page.  And of course wikipedia is always a great source for information like this.

I’m always happy to answer questions and would like to get enough questions to make this a regular part of the blog.  So please feel free to submit questions via our feedback form or by emailing directly to info@music4dance.net.

Holiday Music for Partner Dancing 2019

And yet again, it’s that time of year when dancers and DJs are looking for holiday music for routines and holiday dance parties.  In my third annual installment of holiday music posts I’d like to cover some of the new things that I’ve implemented on the music4dance website that make finding holiday music to dance to easier.  For a broader view of holiday music on music for dance please take a quick look at my 2017 and 2018 holiday music blog posts.

As before, the Holiday Dance Music page reveals a list of holiday songs that you can peruse and discover what dances others have danced to them as well as checking out the songs that are filtered by any particular dance style by clicking the dance links at the bottom of the page.

New for 2019, on the individual holiday dance pages you’ll see a Spotify player that will let you play the songs on that page directly from the page or click on the Spotify logo on the player to open up the playlist in your player.  You can also go to the music4dance profile directly in Spotify and browse our holiday playlists.  While you’re their, please take a moment to follow both the music4dance profile and the playlist.

For premium members, you can use the Bonus Content feature to find even more song ideas that I wasn’t able to match to the Spotify, Amazon or Apple Music catalog, but that someone at some time dug up and danced to at a holiday dance.

Also for premium members, you can now create your own playlists based on searches that include holiday related tags.  For instance, I created a playlist of all songs tagged Christmas Pop that had an associated dance by just creating a search for all Christmas Pop and exporting to Spotify.

I am going to continue to attempt to build the holiday catalog.  I’ve made some progress, moving from 261 songs last year to 446 songs as of this writing.  If you are interested in helping, here are some things you could do:

  • Sign up for our add song beta and add holiday songs yourself.
  • Browse our music catalog and tag songs as Holiday when you find them.
  • If you have a list of holiday songs categorized by dance style that you are willing to share, please send me an email at info@music4dance.net or contact me through the feedback form.
  • In addition, general contributions will help the holiday music catalog and other efforts.

As always if you have comments or suggestions please feel free to reply to this post or contact me here.

Create a Spotify Playlist

One of my initial goals with music4dance was to be able to create playlists to dance to.  I can finally say that I’ve got this working in a way that is close to my original vision at least for Spotify.

The idea is, for instance, that I’d like to build a playlist of Foxtrot songs that are on the faster end of the spectrum (say 132-136bpm) and further limit the list to songs that are in the pop genre.  I’ve had the system in place for a long time to generate search results for a list like this from the advanced search page

The new and exciting thing is that when you get the results of this search, there is a button at the bottom labeled “Create Spotify Playlist.” Clicking on that button will bring you to a page where you can name the playlist and choose the number of songs from the search results to include.  More help on this feature is available here.

Creating a custom playlist is a premium feature.  But you can take advantage of all of the standard playlists by checking out the music4dance profile on Spotify.

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.

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.

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