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Structural musicality in swing dancing

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Understanding how the structure of the music helps you understand how to dance to a song

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Structural musicality in swing dancing

  1. 1. Structural Musicality in Swing Dancing Byron Alley Friday, March 28, 14
  2. 2. Swing Musicality ✤ These slides are intended to supplement dance musicality classes ✤ I’ve written them for Lindy Hoppers, WCS dancers and blues dancers ✤ Therefore some song examples may not fit your favourite style ✤ But the principles are remarkably similar across the swing family of dance styles Friday, March 28, 14
  3. 3. Swing Musicality ✤ What’s musicality? ✤ Fitting your moves to the music ✤ Not just what you do, but how you do it ✤ Originally, all swing dancing was to live music ✤ How can you be musical if you don’t know the song? ✤ Modern idea: macro-musicality vs. micro-musicality Friday, March 28, 14
  4. 4. Micro-musicality ✤ Means interpreting the music note for note ✤ Usually requires knowing that version of the song ✤ Works better for recordings than live music ✤ Therefore a modern concept in swing dancing ✤ But already existed in choreography ✤ Eg. ballet Friday, March 28, 14
  5. 5. Macro-musicality ✤ Structural musicality ✤ Uses the structures and patterns of the music itself ✤ Works even if you don’t know the song ✤ How? ✤ Dancing to mood, feel or texture of a section ✤ Using recurring musical ideas - eg. riffs, underlying rhythms ✤ Fitting changes in your dancing to changes in structure Friday, March 28, 14
  6. 6. The SongsWe DanceTo ✤ Swing music is usually a variation on one of these forms: ✤ 12-bar blues ✤ 32-bar form (aka American Songbook or AABA) ✤ Verse-Chorus ✤ Let’s look at those... Friday, March 28, 14
  7. 7. Beats and Bars ✤ Dancers talk about 8-counts and beats ✤ What we call a “beat” is a quarter-note in 4/4 music ✤ 4/4 means 4 “beats” per bar ✤ But the phrasing makes the bars go together in 8-counts Friday, March 28, 14
  8. 8. 12-Bar Blues ✤ 12-bar blues evolved so musicians could jam together ✤ 12 bars = 6 eight-counts (12 x 4 = 6 x 8) ✤ Usual structure involves call and response: ✤ 2 eights of call, eg: “Give me one reason to stay here/And I'll turn right back around” ✤ 2 eights of repeat, which may have identical lyrics to the call ✤ 2 eights of response, resolving the call: “Because I don't want leave you lonely / But you got to make me change my mind” Friday, March 28, 14
  9. 9. 12-Bar Blues Songs ✤ The 12-bar blues structure is used by many music styles ✤ Blues: Boom Boom (John Lee Hooker) ✤ Jazz: C Jam Blues (Ellington) ✤ Modern blues/rock: Give Me One Reason (Chapman) ✤ Many songs use variations on this structure: ✤ 8-bar and 16-bar blues exist ✤ Blues in the Night: ABC structure where each is 12 bars Friday, March 28, 14
  10. 10. 32 Bar AABA ✤ Aka: 32-bar form, AABA, American Songbook, ballad form ✤ The most common form for jazz standards ✤ Still found in pop music (usually modified) ✤ Each letter in AABA is 4x8 (or 8 bars) ✤ A: Main melody; 2nd A may be identical, similar, or a response ✤ B: Aka middle eight or bridge, usually contrasting sound from A Friday, March 28, 14
  11. 11. AABA Songs ✤ Corner Pocket / Until I Met You ✤ Jumpin’ at the Woodside ✤ Somewhere Over the Rainbow ✤ Fly Me to the Moon (popularized by Frank Sinatra) ✤ Blue Moon (popularized by the Marcels) ✤ Modified: ✤ I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles) Friday, March 28, 14
  12. 12. Verse-Chorus Form ✤ Popular since early rock ‘n roll ✤ Like AABA shortened to just AB ✤ Verse and Chorus usually each 4x8 (8 bars) ✤ Verse acts as a lead in to the chorus ✤ Chorus is often repetitive - containing a hook (catchy musical idea) ✤ Sometimes a bridge section is inserted for variety => ABC Friday, March 28, 14
  13. 13. Verse-Chorus Songs ✤ Most pop songs since the late 1950’s, from rock to rap ✤ “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) ✤ “Candle In The Wind” (Elton John) ✤ “Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) ✤ "Jenny From the Block" (Jennifer Lopez) ✤ “Oops" (Britney Spears) ✤ “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Gotye) Friday, March 28, 14
  14. 14. How Can I Hear the Structure? ✤ Don’t need to figure out which song structure it is ✤ Need to get good at feeling where changes happen ✤ How do you know? ✤ Chord changes (song sounds different) ✤ Pop songs sometimes change key (higher or lower) eg. Bad Romance ✤ Sense of build-up (eg. verse to chorus) or wrap-up (end of chorus) Friday, March 28, 14
  15. 15. How Do I Dance to Structure? ✤ Identify breaks - moments where most or all instruments stop ✤ Great for dramatic movements, especially with a sharp stop ✤ Identify hits - rhythmic focal points ✤ As with breaks, or just good styling opportunities ✤ Follow changes of tone & texture ✤ Harder/softer, smaller/bigger, linear/round, smooth/rhythmic ✤ Match recurring rhythmic ideas Friday, March 28, 14
  16. 16. Matching Rhythmic Structure ✤ Most songs have recurring rhythmic ideas ✤ In the form of the baseline, lyrical meter, or riffs ✤ Jazz: “Jumpin At the Woodside,” “In the Mood” ✤ Blues: JLH’s “Boom Boom,” Keb Mo’s “Am I Wrong” ✤ Pop: “Seven Nation Army” ✤ Reflect the rhythm in your footwork, body movement and/or leading ✤ Partners both matching the same rhythms puts you on the same page Friday, March 28, 14

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