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.
As of this writing
the publicly visible music4dance
catalog contains just over twenty seven thousand songs. But the underlying index contains well over
forty six thousand songs. So what’s the
deal with the missing twenty thousand songs?
These are song listings that I’ve pulled in one way or another but
aren’t complete in some way.
All of the songs must have been matched to an entry in one of the publisher catalogs that we search.
I believe that these
are perfectly reasonable constraints and help to reduce confusion for a novice
user. However, there is a whole lot of information indexed in our catalog that
people aren’t seeing and could be of some use.
One of the things that people often do on the site is to search for ideas for songs to dance to. They will search for an artist name or a fragment of the title of a song and see what comes up. This works great, but of course, the more songs that can be searched the more likely that you’ll get a useful idea. The songs that are in the bonus section have had less scrutiny, many of them probably have small typos or other inaccuracies in the title or artist that prevented them from being matched to a publisher’s catalog. Or they might be obscure songs that just aren’t as easily available on Spotify or Amazon. In either case, I think getting to these additional songs is useful to the expert user sleuthing for the interesting or obscure song to choreograph to or surprise their dancers with.
Another case is
where someone is looking for a song of a particular tempo but doesn’t
necessarily need it to be specifically for one of the dance styles that we
currently catalog. This might be because
they’re looking for something to dance to in a different style that might have
a specific tempo requirement but doesn’t
necessarily have some of the other requirements for partner dancing. One case that comes to mind is tap dance
music, but I’m sure there are others.
One could potentially use this for finding running or exercise music of
a specific tempo.
If you’re interested
in exploring this, here’s how:
As always, I’m interested in your feedback. Please let me know if this feature seems useful to you. Or even better, let me know how you use this feature so that I can add that to common use cases and blog about it in the future.
The Meaning of TANGO: The Story of the Argentinian Dance by Christine Dennison
This is a fun book for Tango dancers of all types. The book is very centered around traditional Argentine Tango and does an excellent job of conveying that perspective. It’s also somewhat unusual in that it is predominantly about the history and philosophy of the dance but contains a section that is straight up technique with diagrams.
The book is a quick read and full of wonderful tidbits about the dance and its history. Rather than a full-fledged review, I would like to highlight a few points that I feel gave me some useful insight into Argentine Tango. I am someone with a ballroom background and I believe this book helped me understand the dance in a way that I didn’t have even after taking a number of beginning Argentine Tango lessons.
Dance to the Melody
There is a section called “One Name, Many Dances” where the author talks about the relationship between Argentine Tango and ballroom dances. In particular this quote from Freddie Camp, an early German Ballroom dancer:
In Argentina dancers prided themselves on their ability to dance the melody rather than the rhythm. Indeed, Tango orchestras almost never have a drum section. While most other dance music around the world is based on a strong, clear rhythm, generally emphasised by drums, newcomers to Tango music often complain that they find the rhythm of the music difficult to hear. This is one of the qualities that makes Argentinian Tango unique.
The idea of dancing to the melody rather than the rhythm goes a long way to explaining the thing that puzzled me about the practice music that was used in the beginning Argentine Tango lessons that I’ve taken. I felt that the teachers were choosing music where the beat was hard to find, which I would not expect of a beginning class. So I’m going to spend some time listening to the melody of Argentine Tango music and see if I can find myself moving to the melody.
Learning to Lead by Following
I found the description of how Argentine Tango was taught traditionally particularly enlightening. The men would learn in prácticas which were all male and composed predominantly of expert dancers. When learning to follow a young man would spend his formative years being led by experienced dancers. Then he would spend additional years within the práctica leading other men before he ever went to a mix sexed milonga and lead a woman. The fallout of this is that in the context of learning the dance, one was surrounded by experts. Contrast this with the current practice of dance classes where there are one or two teachers and a crowd of inexperienced dancers.
In addition, from a lead’s perspective, learning to follow is invaluable. I didn’t do this until I had years of lead experience and when I finally did spend some time learning to follow it fundamentally changed the way I lead.
The Tango Trinity
Finally, the author talks about the “Tango Trinity”: Tango, Milonga, and Vals. From some other research and some discussion with Argentine Tango dancers, this appears to be the purist’s set of Tango dances. I had originally categorized Neo Tango into the set of Argentine Tango dances, but that appears not to be the case. Based on this, I almost went down the path of pulling Neo Tango from the catalog as a distinct dance and reworked it so that Neo Tango (or Tango Nuevo) would just be a style tag on top of the Tango Trinity dances. But I’m glad I did some further research. It looks like Neo Tango is a distinct style of dance and related to traditional Argentine tango about as closely as Ballroom Tango is.
The main thing that I got from that set of discussions is that Argentine Tango dancers are even more concerned with the tradition of the music that other styles that I’ve studied. I got the impression that some would only consider “true tango music” to be that recorded by a specific set of artists from the golden age. Someday, I’d like to see if I can get things sorted out so that it’s easy to distinguish these from others.
If you have thoughts on the Argentine Tango, the music4dance website or corrections to anything I’ve said about Tango and Tango music, please feel free to comment here or send me feedback.
Also, if this post sparked your interest enough to buy the book, please follow one of the affiliate links below. And as a small aside, any of the Amazon and ITunes links on the site and blog help support the site, so if you find things of interest here, please use the links to make purchases.
There are enough people that visit music4dance regularly that I thought it would be worth revisiting how to make it easy to find the most recently added and changed music on the site. I did one pass at this back in November of 2016 when I had to change the default away from listing songs in order of most recently changed.
But that involved adding a link the home page and some options in the Advanced Search page and didn’t do a great job of leading people to that option if they didn’t know it was already there.
So I’ve added a “New Music” option in the “Music” menu. This will take you directly to a page showing the songs with the most recently added first as well as an easy link to switch over to the most recently changed songs. I hope this is a bit more discoverable than previous methods.
Once you’re on the New Music page you can use all of the usual methods of tag filtering to narrow down your search and we’ll preserve the sort order that you started with.
You can still use Advanced Search to do things like finding the most recently added Rumbas or Tangos.
We’re adding new music as we find it. You can help in a couple of different ways. Sign up for beta feature to add your own songs, mark exiting songs as danceable to a particular style, or send me lists of your favorite songs and what you dance to them – I can import any reasonably formatted list and will be happy to associate those songs with your account and set up a back-link to your site.
It’s great to see so many people use the site. Please let me know how you use the site, I’m always delighted to hear your feedback both positive and not so positive (the latter is often what leads me down the path of new and revised features).
One of the things I enjoy most about the musci4dance project is when I get feedback from people who have found the site useful. I’m especially happy when it comes from a direction that I don’t expect. It’s exactly that kind of feedback that I received from Mister “D” (David Simmerly) – a musician who performs for Ballroom clubs and weddings and was looking to expand his repertoire with music that would be well received in those contexts.
I asked Dave to expand a little on how he used music4dance and (paraphrasing) here are a few of the things that he came back with:
I search for songs that I already have to see what kind of dance music4dance says it is
I listen to your snippets of songs to see if it is something I might want to add to my repertoire.
The first and second points led to an extended discussion about songs that are listed as Waltzes but are not in 3/4 time – check out my blog post on “Fake” Waltzes for more on that.
But there is a more general point that I would like to make here with respect to “correctness” of music for dance. I’ve compiled this catalog with an eye for finding music that inspires dancers to dance. This makes for a very loose definition of what songs “work” to dance a particular dance to. In a setting where a dancer is choreographing to a specific piece of music, even when that choreography is a traditional ballroom dance like in Dancing With the Stars, there is quite a bit of latitude in what music will “work”. Whereas in a social situation the dancers are more dependent on the beat and feel of the music to enjoy the experience of partnering in a specific dance style. And then of course when one is dancing competition rounds, there are even stricter rules about tempo.
In any case, I hope that many of the songs in the music4dance catalog fall into the category (as Mr. “D” says) of “making your pants want to get up and dance.” In the future, I hope to do a better job of tagging dances in a way that separates the strictly ballroom from the fun to choreograph to from the great songs for social dancing. The system is at least theoretically set up to do this since I’ve enabled arbitrary tagging of songs. It’s a big project to go through each song in an 11,000+ song catalog and make the kind of distinction I’m talking about here. On the other hand, it is exactly the kind of thing that works well when others jump in to add their own ideas to the mix.
As always, I welcome your feedback and participation. Thanks to David Simmerly for permission to use his name and information in this post. If you’re in the midwest and are looking for a great solo entertainer for your Ballroom Club, Wedding Reception or another occasion, you can find him on gigsalad.com.
I was recently asked why there are songs tagged as Waltz in the music4dance catalog that are in 4/4 time. This seems almost like the dance version of an oxymoron. In my brief description of the Waltz on the website I start with “Waltzes are dances that are danced to music in 3/4 time…”
To be honest, the main reason that there are “Waltzes” that aren’t Waltzes in the catalog is that I pull from lots of different sources and even with something this fundamental there are different schools of thought. I intentionally error towards the inclusive in these decisions since I think that dance should be as inclusive as possible.
A substantial number of these songs come from sources that cater to people looking for wedding dances. But there are definitely “Waltzes” in 4/4 coming from other sources as well, I’ve certainly seen some exhibition Waltzes performed to music that has almost no discernable beat, much less a strong 3/4.
I’m not sure where I picked up this term, but these songs are what I have been calling “Fake” waltzes. If anyone has a better term for this, I would love to hear it.
In any case, a “Fake” waltz is generally a song that is in 4/4 but has a strong downbeat and very weak rhythm otherwise, so that one can dance three steps to a measure without being too distracted by the actual rhythm of the song. You can find all of the songs that I’ve tagged as “Fake” waltzes by following these steps:
And while I’m on the subject of unusual waltzes, there is another variation on this theme. It is a song with an extremely slow primary tempo where you can fit a very fast waltz half basic (three steps) on each beat. I’ve been labeling these as “triple-time” and the list can be found here. Although that’s an exaggeration, there is only one song on that list as of this writing – Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful Life”. Perhaps I’ll find more by the time you read this.
I’m looking into ways to make the fact that a waltz is “Fake” more obvious. Currently, it’s a tag on the dance which can only be seen when you click on the dance tag in a song list or by going to the song details page.
In the meantime, if you have a strong objection to songs in 4/4 being labeled as Waltz, you’re welcome to sign up and start voting them down or tagging them as “Fake.”
Even more than usual, I’m interested in how other people view this, so please feel free to comment on this post or send feedback directly to me.
Give both a try and let me know what you think. I’ll leave both the beta and the legacy search capabilities up on the site for a bit so that you can compare and contrast. Bug reports are welcome here. And as always please submit any general feedback or suggestions here.
I am continuing to rebuild the music4dance database capabilities in the more intuitive style of current search engines like Google and Bing – the initial attempt at this is documented in this post.
Auto-complete is something everyone expects when searching these days. So if you were to type “Peab” into the search box on the simple search page you should see suggestions like the following pop-up:
Tonight, I Celebrate My Love (feat. Peabo Bryson)
Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle
Peabo Bryson And Roberta Flack
Love and Rapture: The Best of Peabo Bryson
And just like Bing or Google, clicking on the selection will take you to a list of songs that contain the selected text.
The thing that is a little different for music4dance than a generic search is that one might want to do combinations of things like a fragment of a title and a dance style name. I haven’t figured out an easy way to do that, but as always I’m open to suggestions.
Filter by Dance Style
But I can fall back to the original way that I landed on for just searching within a single dance style. So now on the Simple Search page, you can select a dance style from the drop down to the left of the search box and we’ll just show you results for that dance style. So if you select Cha Cha and then type “tea” into the search box you should get only songs that have the word tea somewhere in the description that have also been tagged as Cha Cha.
One of the first things that I wanted to do with the music4dance project was to build a system where dancers could vote on whether a song worked for a particular dance style. That morphed into something more like “do you like to dance style x to song y.” Which still seemed like a pretty reasonable system. And I started using heart symbols to show like/indifferent/don’t like for the dance style entries on each song.
But then Amanda (the music4dance intern) pointed out that there wasn’t any way to actually say that you liked or disliked a song. So we implemented a top-level like/indifferent/don’t like for each song and I used the same heart symbols. But then things got confusing, since you could vote to like to dance a particular style to a song as well as make a song as something that you like.
I still think that there is a value in both of these attributes. For me the overriding value of the like/dislike a song is to be able to dislike a song and not have to see it again. Especially for a song that I may have particular bad associations with – a song that was massively overplayed in a dance studio, for instance. These are particularly troublesome as they are probably overplayed because they are well suited to a particular dance style, so I certainly don’t want to exclude them from other people’s searches by voting them down for matching that dance style.
In any case, this came to a head while I was implementing the quick voting mechanisms where you can like/dislike a song anytime you see it in a list – any kind of search results or dance style details pages. Once I got that feature in, I saw that it was so much easier to like/dislike a song than it was to vote on whether you find a song dance-able to a particular style. And that made me sad, since I think the dance-able vote is much more interesting (and also why you would be looking at a site like this rather than a purely music rating/referral site).
So I added in the voting link to the songs in any list where there is a single dance being listed. This includes the dance style pages as well as any searches where you choose just one dance to search on (like for instance, this list of all of our East Coast Swing songs). And while I was doing that, I started using the shoe symbol rather than the heart symbol for voting which helps with the ambiguity.
Well this all works, and I’m reasonably happy with the results. But I’m not sure I’ve minimized the number of clicks that you would use on average. Should I assume that you like a song if you vote it up as a good Cha-Cha – you could still explicitly dislike it for those cases where you actually don’t like the song even if you agree that it’s a particularly good song to dance the Cha-Cha to.
Why don’t you give it a try and let me know what you think. Go to your favorite dance page (find them here) and try both voting on the songs as dance-able to that dance (by clicking the shoe icon) and liking/disliking them as songs (by clicking the heart icon) and let me know what you think. Feedback is always welcome via the music4dance feedback form or our company email firstname.lastname@example.org.
After several rounds of closed beta, I’m ready to open up the account management and tag editing features as public betas.
The tag editor is the first of a number of features that I’m planning that will enable you to customize your music4dance experience. With the tag editor you can tag songs and the relationships between songs and dance styles based on your own tastes and then use the tag filtering tools to create song lists based on your own tags as all the tags already in the system. In addition, just the act of tagging a song adds it to your master list of songs.
Get started by registering. Then take a quick look at the documentation and get started. Or for the more daring among you, just start tagging songs and see what happens.
Thanks for trying this feature. Please submit bugs and feature requests with our bug report form.