Swing Discussion Boards > Beats in Swing music

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Outsider80, May 17, 2017.

  1. Outsider80

    Outsider80 New Member

    My wife and I recently started East Coast Swing lessons with hopes of learning Lindy Hop down the road. I have absolutely no prior dance experience and an driving myself nuts trying to dance on the downbeat. A lot of times I can't even hear it much less dance on it. I've watched YouTube videos and read articles trying to get a definitive feeling of what the upbeat vs downbeat is. I can hear it in obvious examples,such as a slower song with a loud bass on the downbeat and a snare on the upbeat, but have trouble hearing it in most Swing music. Are there any resources or tips that you can recommend. I'm obsessing over it to the point where I fear I'll stop enjoying dance practice.
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    It´s simply a question of time Outsider, don´t give up too soon. It takes some time that your brain will find some suitable filters for music. Two possible options
  3. flying_backwards

    flying_backwards Active Member

    Please do not stop enjoying your practice!

    I love swing music. Some songs are easier to hear the simpler parts of the rhythm versus the more jazzy extra parts. It helped me to actively listen a lot while not trying to also dance. By "active" I mean count to yourself or even out loud.

    I googled
    swing dance music for beginners
    and saw some good playlists. That also reminded me how giving the swing community is with their knowledge.

    To practice hearing the beat I play the song while having tempotap.com open to tap out the tempo and compare bpm to what is listed on the CD. I count 12345678 at the same time to hear the phrases.

    As a follower, I can also learn to hear more in the music by dancing with the musically skilled leaders and feel from them how they're hearing more nuance. But when I lead, I only attempt the beginner-level definite-beat songs. So I would advise go easy on yourself, allow it is going to take awhile, and accept with a smile all the mistakes. It is ok to "reboot" to get back on count during a song. Stop, pulse, then resume when you find a solid 1.

    I know beginning swing is taught as the 6-count like ECS but I do wonder sometimes if starting with 8-count patterns might be easier to hear.
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Can we assume, then, that you can already dance in time to the music without any problems?
    If this is not the case, then you should concentrate on THAT before worrying about the downbeat.

    Are you learning your East Coast with single, double, or triple rhythm (since in my opinion triple is not the way to go with newbies), but then I'm just kinda curious and the triple takes away from brain power that could be used otherwise IMO.

    Remember, too, that downbeats alternate with upbeats throughout a song. With six beat patterns you will only be starting your patterns on the FIRST downbeat in a measure every other time.

    Frankie Manning wrote about using "freezes" during his Lindy Hop. I think working with Posin' by Jimmie Lunceford would be helpful for you to get a feel for when to "start up again" which for our purposes would be "on the downbeat."

    Here's Lunceford's recording

    Watch this group's routine if you aren't getting a feel for when to start / stop.

    Lunceford was know for a "two beat" swing, but this might be a good thing to help you get started.

    Maybe throw out some songs they use where you are taking lessons and we can point out some "beginnings of phrases," which are almost always on a downbeat, that could help you learn to hear them.
    opendoor likes this.
  5. Outsider80

    Outsider80 New Member

    Thanks for the help! I know I need to discuss this further with my instructor but sometimes these questions don't pop up in my mind when I'm at class. I try and listen for the snare or cymbal which I always assume is the upbeat so I can start dancing on the alternate beat. I'll keep practicing listening for the beat! My instructor rarely scolds me for not dancing on the beat but he often stops me for dancing on the upbeat...

    One more question for now:
    I'm doing single time 6 count right now and sometimes feel as though an 8 count swing would be easier for me to keep dance on the beat. In an 8 count you do a step on every beat (both downbeats and upbeats) right? Sometimes I feel like the "holds" on the 6 count are helping to mess up my timing.
  6. ralf

    ralf Active Member

    It would depend on which style you mean by "8-count". However, none of the Swing styles I'm familiar with have eight steps per eight beats of music as basic footwork. Lindy Hop and WCS have ten (one two three-and-four five six seven-and-eight), Balboa has six plus holds (either step-step-hold-step * 2 or step-step-step-hold * 2, and you can mix-and-match within eight counts). Lindy Charleston is step-step-kick-step-kick-retract-kick-step.

    That said, an eight-count style could well help you keep the beat by staying synchronized with the phrasing of the music, rather than cycling through 1/7/5/3.
  7. flying_backwards

    flying_backwards Active Member

    Thank you ralf. I should have been more clear.

    The reference to "8-count swing" meant the basic rhythm of Lindy which spans 8 counts (beats) of music with 10 weight transfers. I agree with ralf that this might appeal to those learning to hear the music, phrased so the start of each 8-beats sounds distinct. It is not easier in terms of movements or patterns and certainly not as simple a movement as single-time.

    rock step (or swish swish for follower)
    step step


    1 2
    5 6

    Where the numbers and the & are all weight transfers ("steps").

    Compared to 6-count patterns with the basic rhythm of

    rock step


    5 6

    Are there any swing teachers out there on DF who introduce new-to-dance students to 8-count Charleston, Balboa, or Lindy before 6-count swing for this reason, to allow them to stay on phrase? I am curious if it would help students hear the beat.
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    One variant of "single rhythm," which means you do one weight change for every two beats of music, is to step (a weight change) then follow that with a tap with the other foot, usually beside your weighted foot.

    So it would be step tap step tap rock step.

    When you do this, or some variation of it, you are marking every beat.

    When people say 8 count usually they are referring to the number of beats that it takes to complete a pattern. There are various numbers of steps you can take over the course of those 8 beats.

    “I’d never even thought about whether Lindy is made up of eight-count and six-count steps, which it is. It’s not that you decide how many counts a step should be. Some steps are just naturally one or the other.” - Frankie Manning”…

    Keep in mind, too, that you can "start" a 6 beat pattern on the rock step, or the side step.
    flying_backwards likes this.

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