Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Music in Class, Vol I: Or Why It Should Swing

Playing swing music in a Lindy hop class is very natural and important, since music and dance are so strongly connected.  Yet despite what might seem like an obvious choice, it is not always the case that swing music is chosen for Lindy classes.

This post looks at the arguments some people offer for using non-swing music in class and provides counter-arguments. 

The reasons that teachers use non-swing music are usually one or a combination of the following:

  1. There is no (good) slow swing music
  2. It's difficult for a beginner to hear the beat (in comparison to pop music)
  3. Real swing music might not attract people

Let's start at the end and move up.  Regarding Argument Number 3, in my experience patronizing people has almost never been a good idea.  Even more importantly, I've had many students in my classes who first appreciated the music and then started dancing.  Also, if someone doesn't like swing music, maybe Ð just maybe Ð Lindy hop is just not for him or her. 
Moving on to Argument Number 2.  First of all, it's true that hearing the beat is not always easy.  Hearing the beat tends to be more tricky on late 20s Jazz and New Orleans Jazz.  But with a good music selection, you'll find swing music, that has a nice and easy-to-hear walking bass.  Secondly, avoiding swing music ignores the main problem.  We don't avoid teaching swing outs just because they are tricky.  If students have trouble hearing the beat, come up with exercises to help them develop that skill.
And arriving at the Number 1 Argument against using swing music in class, good, slow swing music absolutely _does_ exist.  It's just about getting up and doing some research and finding it. It's not as easy as finding good fast swing music, but definitely still doable :)

In conclusion, it is my firm belief that it is crucial to play swing music in swing dance classes.  I do it, advocate it, and enjoy it! :)

Now read Music In Class Vol. II


  1. Great start for this blog my friend! It is indeed a challenge to find good swing music that is suitable for a beginners ears, but it's also worth it.

    It's also about "filtering" if your students initially were attracted to the "non-swing music" this is what your local dancers will ask for also at the parties and make it difficult for you as an organizer creating the culture that you want.

    Looking forward to read more stuff here.
    Share to grow!

    Ps. thanks for the quote: "one article, one message" ;)

    1. thanks for the encouragement, I really appreciate it!

      There'll be two related articles coming up some time, one about how to find music, and the educational aspects of dj-ing. They'll then be linked in, but this way I can stick to "one article, one message" :)

  2. I think finding "good" music is allways a challenge :) If we are not using swing music in class (and parties), we are certainly not swing dancing. There is nothing wrong with non-swing-dancing, but then the moves and dynamics of Lindy Hop (which are hopefully taught in a Lindy class :)) are unappropriate.

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  4. Rhythm is every dancer's business.
    I fell that if we do not use music with a strong foundation on the original swing music characteristics in classes, we are impregnating our students with a sense of rhythm/feeling/mood that might not match that of the dance... And this imho will not be good for the students, the community and the dance itself.

    Great article again Dr. Jazz