Holiday Music for Partner Dancing 2020

On a normal year, this would be a bit late for my normal Holiday Music blog post.  But if you’re like me, you’re not planning to participate in a holiday dance party in the middle of a pandemic.  So it’s more of a case of thinking about past and future years.  There is no need to find a specific song for a routine or build a set list for a dance. But I would still like to listen to holiday music at home and maybe play with a few dance moves.

In any case, I’m continually working to improve the music4dance experience and this time of year concentrating a bit on holiday themes seems appropriate.  The main thing I’ve done with the holiday music pages is to update them to the new system.  Hopefully they are easier to read and work with in general.  I’ve also explicitly excluded “Halloween” music, since one tends to want to separate out that from the Christmas and other winter holiday music.  I’ve also updated the music4dance playlists on Spotify to reflect the larger catalog.

As of this writing there are 517 songs in the holiday catalog, up from 446 songs last year. If you are interested in helping build the catalog further, here are some things you could do:

  • 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.

How do you like to see lists of music to dance to?

One of the core features of music4dance is to be able to list songs for dancing in a bunch of different ways.  As I noted a little while ago, I’m at the point in the process of the site upgrade where I’m reworking that core functionality.  In a world of infinite (or even abundant) resources , I’d get the new functionality up and running and give you the opportunity to switch back and forth between the new and the old for some period of time and give me your feedback.  While that’s a bit out of my reach, it occurred to me that it’s pretty easy to just roll out what I’ve got on some of the pages and leave the old stuff in place on others. That will give you the opportunity to see them both and compare and give feedback.

As of this writing (November 15th, 2020) I’ve got an initial version working and rolled out to some of the pages.  You can see the new song lists on  the Holiday Music page including the specific holiday dance variants like Holiday Cha Cha and Holiday Foxtrot, the New Music page and the dance pages including both the dance group pages like the Swing page and specific dance pages like the Rumba page.  The old version is still live in the basic song library and as the results of advanced searches as well as any of the links from other places on the site that bring up a song list.

Please take a look and let me know what you think.  I’m particularly interested in anything that I left out in the new version that you used in the old version.  But I’m also always open to feedback and ideas for what I could do to make this content more helpful for you.

As always, thank you for supporting music4dance and please feel to provide feedback on the subject of this post or anything else relating to music4dance.

Are you looking for Halloween Music to dance to?

Halloween is almost here and yet again I am late setting up something for Halloween related playlists.  In past years, I’ve just let this go since it feels like it’s too late to get something together when I start thinking about it in mid-October.  But this year I decided to just do it. After all, we may be thinking about what we’re going to do for next Halloween, in which case we’ve got plenty of time to plan.

A few years ago I set up a holiday music page to do my best to collect the songs that are tagged in different ways but that all generally mean they might be useful to use in a holiday playlist or be fun to choreograph a dance to for a holiday party.  But this was specifically aimed at the Christmas/Winter holiday tradition.  And it was made more difficult because I was gathering together a whole bunch of different tags.

For Halloween things are much easier.  All I needed to do was pull in some Halloween playlists and match them with the existing music4dance catalog.  I’ve got a good start on this, which you can see here.  If you want to navigate to this yourself, just go to the tag cloud page (available from the music menu) and click on the “Halloween” tag. Then choose “List all songs tagged as Halloween.”  If you want to filter by dance style, you can click on advanced search and choose the style.

As of this writing, I’ve got about 80 songs cataloged as Halloween that are also cross referenced by dance.  If you have lists of danceable Halloween music, I’d be happy to include them on the site.  For this or any other questions or suggestions, feel free to reply to this post or send feedback.  You can also tag songs yourself.

As always, thank you for supporting music4dance.

Quick Tip:

When you have a list of songs (such as the Halloween list) you can refine the list by clicking on the advanced search link or by clicking on any of the dances or tags listed on the page.

What is Your Favorite music4dance Feature?

I’m in the middle of doing a substantial rewrite of music4dance to modernize it and, hopefully, clean up the code enough that I can start adding new features without breaking things.  I had originally intended to keep all of the functionality of the site as I moved forward.  But this has been a bigger undertaking than I anticipated.  In additional, the original site grew somewhat organically, so there are multiple ways of doing things that weren’t so much designed as grown. I’m not sure that it makes sense to preserve all of the different ways of doing the same thing.

Right now I am rewriting the core song list functionality that is used on all or the pages that (surprise) list songs.  This includes the main song library, all of the dance pages, and the holiday music pages.  In addition the results of advanced search and the pages that you navigate to from many of the other pages like the wedding music, tags, and the ballroom dance pages will be affected by this round of changes.  And I’m finding it difficult to reproduce all of the existing functionality while keeping the code clean enough to feel like I can move forward.  Not to mention that I’m itching to get through this to start writing new features.

So, before I arbitrarily start cutting things, I thought I’d ask:  How do you use music4dance?  What are your favorite features?  Please let me know, so I don’t go and remove something that I don’t think is essential, but that is the reason that you love the site.

Please reply to this post or send feedback with your favorite features or a description of how you use the site.

Quick Tip: You can share your searches.  Any time you create a list of songs, whether that is through using advanced search, or by refining a search in other ways, you can copy the URL out of the browsers address bar and share it with friends and fellow dancers.

Is Simple Better?

I’m making a good deal of progress on updating the music4dance site to more modern technologies.  The main reason for doing this, as I’ve noted before, is to make it easier to add new functionality.

While I’m still in transition, it seems like a good time to get feedback on the new look.  I’m going for the simpler is better concept.  Where the old site had a different color for each section, the new pages are all themed in the same way.  I’ve also dropped back to using standard fonts and styles.  Among other things, it’s faster to do it this way (which will let me get to new features more quickly), it’s more accessible, and it is generally the direction I’m trying to go with things like simplifying search.

As of now (August of 2020), I’m about halfway through the transition.  Pretty much all of the pages except for the core pages that include song lists and the home page are converted.  So you can compare a page like the song library page (old style) to one like the ballroom page.  Or you can compare the dance style page to the help for the dances style page (which still contains an image of the old page).

So what do you think?  Old or new?  It’s not too late for me to add back in some of the customization if you think that’s a key part of what makes music4dance a place you spend time.

Oh, and while I’m at it – can I get feedback on how useful the help pages are?  I’ve not written help for all of the functionality and I haven’t bothered to convert help pages where the functionality is close to the original even if the look is different.  But if I get feedback that they are particularly useful, I’ll prioritize help higher.

As always, feedback is always welcome on any part of the site.

Quick Tip: If you’re looking for music that is within the specific tempo guidelines for NDCA or DanceSport guidelines, you can find links on the ballroom page.  Each of the tables on that page links to lists of songs listed at the correct tempo for that dance.

Playing with Dance Tempos

I just rewrote the Tempo tool for the music4dance site as part of the current effort to update the site.  In the process I went back and revisited the reasons for writing the tool in the first place. 

The main reason for this tool is to have a single place to do a bit of slicing and dicing of the relationship between the tempo of different partner dances.  It allows one to filter on the dances that you’re interested in (all Swing dances, or American Style dances) and sort by tempo to see the relationships.    This could, for instance, help find dances that one might mash up into an exhibition routine.

Another reason is just because I could.  The Tempo tool is really just a thin layer on top of the data that I use to drive the Counter tool and many other parts of the site.  I almost didn’t rewrite the tool because since I originally wrote it I added slightly less interactive but possibly more directly useful pages that lay out the different competition dances and their tempos in what I hope is an easily digestible way.

This is part of a larger rewrite of the site that I’ve been working on to get the code to a place where I can comfortably start adding more requested features.  The Counter and Tempo tools are a couple of the most isolated pages, but I’ll start digging into more core functionality soon.

As always, please send me feedback if you have ideas about the site, dancing, music, or how any or all of those subjects relate. And please consider supporting the music4dance project by sharing with your friends or any of the other ways listed here.

Quick Tip:  Many pages (like the ones mentioned above) have documentation pages that are easily accessible from the page.  Just go to the “Info” menu and choose “Help”, this will generally take you to a documentation page specifically about the feature that you were using.

Tempo Counter (Revisited)

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things that I find helpful is to have access to a tempo counter that allows me to tap a beat and both measure the tempo and show me the dance styles that fall into that range.  I wrote a version of that for Windows Phone way back in the day.  I’ve had a web version up on the musci4dance site almost since it’s inception.  It seemed like time to do a quick revisit and freshen it up a bit.  I decided to use this as a quick test of the newer technologies I’m starting to incorporate in the site.

So check it out and let me know what you think (here’s some updated documentation as well).  If you were a regular user of the old tempo counter, please let me know if there is anything that you depended on that the new one doesn’t do as well.  And of course, I’m happy to hear about what you think has improved as well as any features neither of them has that you would like to see.

Stay Safe. Stay Sane!

Where is that feature I asked about?

There are a bunch of features that folks have requested that I am really interested in working on.  These are basic features like adding your own songs, community features like being able to ask what to dance to a song or seeing all of a specific dancer’s recommendations, and practical features like more versatility in exporting search results.

But you may have noticed that I released the last significant new feature last year and overall the evolution of the site has been pretty slow recently.  This is partly because music4dance is a passion project that I manage in my spare time and partly because it’s a big and complex enough project that something breaks for one reason or another and I lose days or weeks of project time just maintaining the status quo.

All this to say that for the past six months, I’ve been spending the bulk of my available music4dance time upgrading the infrastructure so that I can more easily add features moving forward.  I’ve just completed the first (and largest) of several pieces of that upgrade.  This should be nearly invisible to you.  The main change that you should see is to the account administration pages.  Any other changes you see are most likely bugs. 

Which brings me to the main reason for this post.  Even though the site looks the same, a large part of the infrastructure has been updated.  This involved a whole bunch of small changes each of which potentially introduced bugs.  So the site will probably be a bit buggier than usual for a bit while I continue to hunt the bugs down and deal with them.  This process will go a lot faster if all of you help out and let me know when you see bugs on the site.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve established a bug bounty to reward you for reporting bugs.  And now, it should be that much easier to find them.

I’ve still got a decent amount of infrastructure work to do to get to the point where I’m churning out new features as the main part of my music4dance time.  But in the meantime, please keep the feature requests coming in as well as the bug reports.  And thanks again everyone for all of the ways you support the music4dance effort.

One final thought: Dancing is such a community based activity that these times are particularly hard for those whose lives and livelihoods are dependent on being in the same room with others.  Everyone please stay safe and sane in these crazy times and hold tight until we can all return to our respective dance floors.

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.

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