Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Music In Class Vol. II

Music is essential to dancing. Music inspires the dancers; Swing is the music that made and makes the dance what it is. Music is the key to our dance and, as such, should receive attention in class. We already know that music in class should swing. But what other factors related to music in class should we watch out for?


I've seen many moments where Lindy Hop was taught to 28 bpm. This is quite slow. Also when teaching beginners it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to help them by playing very slow music so they can practice "stress-free".
One defining part of lindy hop is momentum exchanged on a line. If music turns too slow, momentum dies. So we have to have a certain amount of tempo - even for beginners - else we have no way to dance lindy hop. I've set my personal lower limit to 34 bpm which I feel is more or less the slowest where you can have easily momentum. That is generally speaking of course. In a slow lindy class, I will break that limit.

Walking bass

This aspect was touched in Volume I, but should be reiterated here. Hearing the rhythm can be troublesome for people that are not used to it. That is why I sometimes revert to music with a strong walking bass. One moment is when I teach beginners. Another moment is when I teach workshops in scenes where the music played tends to be non-swing. In both cases the walking bass helps the students to hear the rhythm without losing the swing.

Pre- and "Post"paration

Prepare your music in advance! It costs time to search for music in class and that is time that your class will lack in dancing. Try to plan at least basics; When do you want to play music in class? What you want to practice during that time? It will give you clear indicators of what kind of music you will need.
Also "post"-pare your music. I keep a list of music I've compiled for teaching that I continually update. Removing songs that didn't work as expected and adding new ones. It includes music in range from 30-56 bpm and has different styles - mainly traditional swing and New Orleans Jazz.

Having your music prepared and matching your music to your exercises and students will enrich your class and guarantee you and your students a better experience.


  1. Totally agree with that, slow music tends to be too difficult for beginners, and even for intermediates like me still is, if it's too slow, that is... :)

    At first I was struggling to understand the 28bpm thing, but I guess you've just considered a different kind of measure: I'm used to call it 112bpm - it's easier for me to beat on the bass notes and check the tempo of it! :)

    A side note: a friend from the Lisbon lindy community made a nice tool to help checking the bpms:

    1. Yes I count bars, not beats :) Nice tool. I think there are a few links in the BPM article too.