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How To Find "The Right" Beats In Ballroom & Latin Music?

Maggiore Fotografico

How many times did your teacher have to count you in because you didn't know when to start dancing? You're on a competition floor, they play a Foxtrot and you can't find a beat one. Sounds familiar?

Many dancers struggle to hear beats in music and recognize when to dance. Here I'd like to give you some ideas how to listen to music.

First of all, let's clear up the meaning of a beat and a bar of music

Imagine a ticking clock. One arm of the clock ticks 60 times in 60 seconds, right? The loud pulsating sounds (ticks) are the beats.

The beats are grouped into bars of music. You can have a different number of beats in a bar depending on the dance (for example 3 beats in a bar in Slow Waltz or 4 beats in a bar in Rumba). Does it make sense?

Here are four exercises to help you with your musical ear.

1. Listen, Listen, Listen

Listen to the songs below, close your eyes and just tap your finger to the pulse you can hear. Then play different songs and do the same.

One of the best things you can do is just listen to Ballroom and Latin music over and over again. In the car, on your way to school or when you're just lying down in bed. The trick is to listen to them "actively" and tap or count the beats. There is a high chance the songs you listen to will be played at competitions or social events.

2. Find your beat buddy

Sometimes when you listen to a song or when you practice you may think that you got the right beat. Then when you come your lessons, somehow you lose it. To make sure that you hit the right beats in music, get your partner or a friend to tap the pulse together. Hopefully, one of you will be right :-)

3. Turn the volume down

Sometimes when you dance, a song may not have a very clear rhythm and the beats can fade. What do you do then? Well, you need to learn to keep counting like a metronome whether there's a beat or not. The best way to do it, is by turning the volume right down.

Play a song, close your eyes and count the beats. Then turn the volume down so you can't hear the music anymore (but it's still playing) and keep counting the beats in your head. After a few seconds turn the volume up and see if you're still counting the right beats. This exercise is tricky, but it will teach how to count the music like a metronome so no more speeding up or slowing down when you can't hear a beat.

4. Choose specific beats to tap

Once you can easily find the beats, take it to the next level and focus only on specific ones. This time, when you listen to a song, tap only beats 2 and 4 or 1 and 3 or just beat 3, make it different each time. This will teach you control of your movement whilst keeping the count. It's quite fun actually and easy to practice. Also, a good way to learn and multitask.

I hope you find these tips useful. If you liked it, please share this post on Facebook so others can learn something from it too.


Photo Credits: Maggiore Fotografico


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