As a follow up to last week’s article on musicality, here is a list of songs that inspire musicality on the dance floor. Each
1. Reflects the style of the genre
2. Has a clear musical structure
3. Uses a melodic progression that is easy to follow
4. Contains fun hits and pauses.
The songs below are listed by dance style. I’ve included the song title, followed by the artist’s name and, when available, the album. Many of these songs have been recorded by several artists, so go on a listening tour and find the ones that are your favorites.
Argentine Tango music includes Uruguayan, African, and European influence. Over time the music evolved and the European influence grew more dominant. There are three different types of Tango songs: (1) walking Tango done as a march, (2) Tango Vals written in 3/4 time, and (3) Milonga, a more percussive style than the other two.
— Don Juan (Juan D’Arienzo, Sus Primeros Exitos Vol 1)
— El Pescante (Francisco Canaro, Mano Brava 1924-1940)
— Esquinas Porteños (Angel D’Agostino, Angel D’Agostino 1941-1953)
— Rosamel (Carlos DiSarli, 1928-1931 Colección 78 RPM)
— Se Dice De Mi (Francisco Canaro, Milongueando Con Canaro)
— Picante (Rodolfo Biagi, Campo Afuera)
Cha cha is a Cuban form of music evolving from the Danzón and Habanera, the music of the mid 1800’s. In the Cha cha, the tumbao, a percussive rhythm played on the conga drums, marks the moments when dancers would do the Cha cha step.
— Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (Pérez Prado, Lo Mejor De Lo Mejor; Pérez Prado)
— Watermelon Man (Mongo Santamaria, Out of Sight Sountrack)
— Me Lo Dijo Adela (Tito Rodriguez, It’s Hot)
Music used for dancing the Foxtrot is often referred to as Jazz Standard. Standards have been part of any orchestra’s repertoire since the big band era of the 1940’s. Jazz Standards are usually 4-bar based, with a simple melodic progression.
— It Happened in Monterey (Frank Sinatra, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers)
— It Takes Two To Tango (Louis Armstrong, Satchmo Serenades)
— I Could Write a Book (Harry Connick Jr, When Harry Met Sally Soundtrack)
Disco music from the 1970’s (and into the early 1980’s) was a mixture of Funk, Latin, and R&B music. These songs use a mix of 4-bar and 8-bar progressions.
— Rock The Boat (Hues Corporation)
— Celebration (Kool & The Gang)
— Love Is The Message (MSFB)
The popular music of the late 1930’s and 1940’s in the US was played by small blues bands and big orchestras. These bands played either uptempo 12-bar blues music otherwise known as Roadhouse music, or 8-bar music that evolved into the Jazz and Rock & Roll that we know today.
— Shiny Stockings (Count Basie and His Orchestra, Big Band Jazz Vol III)
— Boogie Woogie Woman (B.B. King, The R&B Hits of 1952)
— I Like My Baby’s Pudding (Wynonie Harris, Risque Blues: My Ding-a-Ling)
Mambo music evolved from the Danzóns of Cuba. The use of the tumbao and the clave, an underlying base rhythm played over two bars of music, typified the Mambo sound.
— Que Bueno Baila Usted (Beny Moré)
— Acid (Ray Barretto)
— Hong Kong Mambo (Tito Puente, Lo Mejor De Lo Mejor)
The Merengue, created in the early 1900’s, is the national dance of the Dominican Republic. The music is typically uptempo and uses a 2/4 time signature.
— Suavemente (Elvis Crespo, Suavemente)
— Visa Para Un Sueno (Juan Luis Guerra, Ojalá Que Llueva Café)
— El Africano (Wilfrido Vargas, Los Años Dorados)
The term “Rumba” was originally given to a more uptempo style of music resembling the Mambo. Over time, the word “Rumba” became a reference to the dance more than the music. The music that is now used to dance the Rumba is usually a Bolero-son, a slow tempo Cuban style of music from the early 1800’s. The most prominent instruments are the conga, playing the tumbao rhythm; the bongos, a smaller set of drums; and the guiro, a dried, hollow gourd with a row of slashes that is scraped with a comb or pick.
— Dos Gardenias (Daniel Santos, Clasicas De Cuba)
— Cuando Ya No Me Quieras (Tito Rodriguez, From Tito Rodriguez With love)
— El Lado Oscuro (Jarabe De Palo, La Flaca)
The Salsa is a fusion of different styles of Latin music, but primarily the Cuban Mambo. It was created by Puerto Rican artists in NYC and in Puerto Rico during the late 1960’s. Salsa, both the music and the dance, are very strongly intertwined — a lot of Salsa music is created with dancing in mind.
— Lloraras (Oscar D’León, EL Verdadero León)
— La Calle Dolor (El Gran Combo, 30 Aniversario)
— Nada De Ti (Eddie Palmieri, Gold 1973-1976)
The origins of the Waltz date back to the late 1600’s in Vienna. The Waltz started as a very uptempo, classically based style of music, but has evolved into variations (Viennese, Hesitation, and Country) with both slow and fast tempos. The most recognizable element of Waltz music is the use of 3/4 time.
— The Blue Danube Waltz (Johann Strauss Sr.)
— Fascination (Nat King Cole)
— You Can’t Have It All (Alan Jackson)
West Coast Swing
Music used for West Coast Swing covers many genres — Blues, Hip Hop, R&B, Country, and Pop/Rock. What typically defines a good song for West Coast Swing dancing is the use of (1) 8-bar or 12-bar structure, (2) a prominent backbeat, and (3) a character that doesn’t inspire dancers to jump or bounce in their movements.
— Sweat (Popa Chubby, Booty and The Beast)
— C.C. Rider (Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee, Kings of Blues)
— Got To Give It Up (Marvin Gaye)
— It’s About That Walk (Prince)
All of these songs are fairly easy to acquire — check out online resources iTunes and Amazon.com.
Of course, this is just a small sampler of the songs for each dance style. If you have songs that are quintessential examples for your favorite partner dance, please share.