Dance Music


Dance music can be obtained from many sources. Dancer Guy has bought a lot of dance music, and from a variety of sources, inluding Amazon.com, Apple Music Store, FYE (in Fort Collins' Foothills Mall), Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Sam's, even Albertsons and Safeway. You can usually find dance music both by specific groups, and music collections of a specific style performed by a variety of groups.

Of course, there are many, many more groups and artists in all the categories listed below, but the lists include enough to get your music collection going quite nicely.



Latin Music

There are many excellent Latin artists and groups out there who perform songs appropriate for Salsa, Cha-Cha, Rueda, Merengue, Bachata, and so forth. Here are some of Dancer Guy's favorites, in no particular order:

Latin Music Tempo

Although there are various styles of Latin music, several of them are quite similar to each other, and therefore it is very common to take a song that is defined for one style of Latin dance, and use it to dance a different style of Latin dance, simply because it works. In the table below are some of the most popular styles of Latin dances, along with their approximate tempo ranges. Note that there is some overlap, so a 140BPM song could be done as either a fast Cha-Cha or a slow Salsa. Similarly, a 230BPM song could be danced either as a fast Salsa or a slow Merengue. Of course, some songs, because of their style, lend themselves especially well to one particular style of dance, and dancing a different style to such songs might feel a bit forced and unnatural.

Music Style BPM Range
Cha-Cha 80–150
Salsa 130–250
Merengue 210–300



Swing Music

Here, in no particular order, are some of Dancer Guy's favorite artists for Swing dancing music:

Swing Music Tempo

There are various styles of Swing dancing—Lindy Hop, Charleston, Jitterbug, Balboa, Shag, and so forth—and which one you decide to do is influenced by the song being played or performed. For example:

The definitions of "slow," "medium," and "fast" are deliberately omitted in the descriptions above, because there is much overlap in those labels, and what is slow for one person might be fast for another person. And technically, you can do any of the Swing styles listed above to any tempo of swing song, but if the music is too slow for the style of dance you're doing, you might almost fall asleep while dancing, and if it's too fast, you could get physically exhausted after only a few dances. So, dance the styles of dance that are compatible with the speed of the song and your skill level.

As with Latin music, there are several subsets to Swing music, and they each have their optimal tempo ranges. Below are the approximate ranges, in Dancer Guy's opinion, of these various swing styles:

Music Style BPM Range
Triple-Step Jitterbug 80–140
"Normal" Jitterbug 130–230
Lindy Hop 110–200
Balboa 150–230



Ballroom Music

There are many styles of Ballroom dances, and many of those styles are so different from one another, that it's difficult to lump them all together. There are three styles of dance that Dancer Guy teaches that are commonly categorized as Ballroom dances; below is a little commentary on them:

4/4 vs. 6/8 Music for Foxtrot and Nightclub Two-Step

Foxtrot and Nightclub Two-Step are usually danced to music that has a 4/4 time signature—a well-behaved one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four. With such music, the "slow" steps are two counts long, and the "quick" steps are one count long, as in the eight-count steps shown here (the red cells indicate downbeats of their respective measures):

Foxtrot and Nightclub Two-Step Timing to 4/4 Music
Music-Measure Beats 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
Dance-Measure Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Foxtrot Steps Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick
Nightclub 2-Step Steps Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow
Ladies: Green cells indicate your right foot, and blue cells indicate your left foot.
Gentlemen:  Green cells indicate your left foot, and blue cells indicate your right foot.

However, both Foxtrot and Nightclub Two-Step can be danced to 6/8 music. Blues music often uses a 6/8 time signature, so for the purposes of this discussion, music with such a time signature will be referred to as Blues music (of course, there is Blues music that is 4/4 and other time signatures as well).

To dance Foxtrot or Nightclub Two-Step to Blues music, you'll need to adjust the timing of your feet, since a dance measure would consist of two six-count music measures, instead of two four-count music measures. And instead of a "slow" step being two counts and a "quick" step being one, we'll need to make a "slow" step three counts long, a "medium" step two counts long, and a "quick" step one count long.

Foxtrot and Nightclub Two-Step Timing to 6/8 (“Blues”) Music
Music-Measure Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
Dance-Measure Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Foxtrot Steps Slow Medium Quick Slow Medium Quick
Nightclub 2-Step Steps Medium Quick Slow Medium Quick Slow
Ladies: Green cells indicate your right foot, and blue cells indicate your left foot.
Gentlemen:  Green cells indicate your left foot, and blue cells indicate your right foot.

But perhaps a simpler way to think about it is to coerce the 12 counts into 8 counts, by making all the odd-numbered "pseudo-beats" two counts long (two twelfths of a measure long), while leaving the even-numbered beats one count long; see the "Pseudo-Beats" line in the table below for how this looks. Thus, counting one through eight would then take all twelve counts that the 6/8 music requires, but there would now be the eight "compartments" required to define your foot movements. A "slow" would still be two pseudo-beats in length, while a "quick" would remain one pseudo-beat in length, never mind that each pseudo-beat could be either one or two twelfths of the measure long:

Foxtrot and Nightclub Two-Step Timing to Blues Music, Using "Pseudo-Beats"
Music-Measure Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
Dance-Measure Beats 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
"Pseudo-Beats" 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Foxtrot Steps Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick
Nightclub 2-Step Steps Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow
Ladies: Green cells indicate your right foot, and blue cells indicate your left foot.
Gentlemen:  Green cells indicate your left foot, and blue cells indicate your right foot.



Determining Tempo

If you want to figure out the tempo of a song—that is, how many Beats Per Minute it is—simply follow this procedure:

  1. Locate the downbeats in the song and, using a stopwatch, count how many seconds it takes for 64 beats to elapse. A simple way to do this is to count them as follows:

    Start, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Two, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Three, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Four, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Five, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Six, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Seven, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Eight, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
    Stop.

    Start your stopwatch on the word "Start" (Count 1, or the downbeat, of the first measure), and stop the stopwatch on the word "Stop" (Count 1 of the ninth measure). You stop timing on the first count of the ninth measure to make sure you don't leave out the last count of the eighth measure. Note that if you don't know how to locate Count 1 (the downbeat), Dave would be happy to do some private lessons with you, where we concentrate on understanding rhythm and locating downbeats.

    Note that you are counting eight dance measures (which are eight counts long), and not eight music measures (which are four counts long). The reason you're counting eights instead of fours is because the rhythm pattern of your feet is eight counts long, not four.

  2. Divide the number of seconds found in Step 1 by 60, to calculate the number of minutes it took for 64 beats.

  3. Divide the number of minutes found in Step 2 by 64, to calculate the number of minutes per beat.

  4. Take the reciprocal of the number found in Step 3, to calculate beats per minute.

For example, suppose you count eight measures (64 beats) and it takes 25 seconds. Applying the steps above:

  1. Time required for 64 beats: 25 seconds.
  2. Time required for 64 beats: 0.4167 minutes.
  3. Time required for 1 beat: 0.0065 minutes.
  4. Beats per minute: 1 / 0.0065 = 153.6.

So the song is about 154 BPM.

In other words:

BPM = 1 / (n / 60 / 64)

where n is the number of seconds it took for 64 counts to elapse. Simplifying the above formula:

BPM = 3840 / n
where 3840 is 60 x 64.


Determining the Tempo of 3/4 Songs (Waltzes)

If you want to figure out the tempo of a song that has a 3/4 time signature, such as a Waltz, the above procedure is slightly modified:

  1. Locate the downbeats in the song and, using a stopwatch, count how many seconds it takes for 48 beats to elapse. A simple way to do this is to count them as follows:

    Start, two, three, four, five, six,
    Two, two, three, four, five, six,
    Three, two, three, four, five, six,
    Four, two, three, four, five, six,
    Five, two, three, four, five, six,
    Six, two, three, four, five, six,
    Seven, two, three, four, five, six,
    Eight, two, three, four, five, six,
    Stop.

  2. Divide the number of seconds found in Step 1 by 60, to calculate the number of minutes it took for 48 beats.

  3. Divide the number of minutes found in Step 2 by 48, to calculate the number of minutes per beat.

  4. Take the reciprocal of the number found in Step 3, to calculate beats per minute.

In other words:

BPM = 1 / (n / 60 / 48)
or
BPM = 2880 / n
where 2880 is 60 x 48.



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