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Monday, August 12, 2013

Musical phrasing and Vals

Last night in the vals class we danced to used Edgardo Donato's "Estrellita Mia" and worked on Musical phrasing and here's some ideas that came up which we can incorporate into all our tango dancing.

  • We likened Musical phrasing to talking.  
  • We pause to inhale.  
  • We pause to add a structure to what we are saying otherwise we would just be talking non stop.  
  • We talked about commas and fullstops and maybe even exclamation marks or questions marks at the end of a phrase that incite an answer, or move the conversation forward.
  • We thought about how Musical phrasing helps the follower to understand how the lead proposes the story s/he is dancing.
  • We thought about how if the leaders dances (or talks) non stop then it is difficult for the follower to process the information.
  • We talked about how exhausting it can be for the lead to not pause.
  • A pause gives us the opportunity to relax, regroup, close and collect our feet quietly.
  • A pause occurs at the end of a musical phrase.


In music and music theoryphrase and phrasing are concepts and practices related to grouping consecutive melodic notes, both in their composition and performance. A musical work is typically made up of a melody that consists of numerous consecutive phrases. The notation used is similar to a tie and a slur.
When I read further on this I found this discussion on the Intuitive vs Analytical approach to phrasing.
There are two ways/manners in which phrase/phrasing can be approached: intuitive, or analytical.
There are two schools of thought on phrasing, one more intuitive, the other more analytical. The intuitive school uses a verbal model, equating the function of phrasing with that of punctuation in language. Thus, said Chopin to a student, "he who phrases incorrectly is like a man who does not understand the language he speaks."
—Nancy Toff[15]

For the purpose of our lessons I suggest you use an Intuitive approach by doing a little homework!

  • When you are driving the car or listening to tango music at home see if you can discover the musical phrases.
  • When you have listened a few times to one piece of music walk around the house with your tango attitude and stop when the musical phrase ends and put your hands on your hips like we did in class. (doing something different with your body is a good way to process information)
  • When the song changes from smooth to choppy or vice versa dance differently.  
  • Phrasing that is Smooth or melodic requests circular movements (e.g giros, ochos, medialunas)
  • Phrasing that is Choppy or rhythmic requests double time steps, staccato movements (e.g rebounds, ocho cortado)

Try not to over think this!   Move to the beat of the music (rhythm) or move to the flow of the music (melody).  Keep it simple :-)

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