This compilation of posts on band and DJ instructions has been collected by Mark Balzer From: Subject: Instructions to bands for ballroom dances Date: Tue, 7 Mar 1995 23:28:00 GMT Here, as promised, are the instructions we give to bands who play for us, to improve the danceability of the music. Of course, giving a band these instructions does not guarantee that they will be willing or able to conform, but it should be worth a try. You may want to modify them if your preferences run a little differently. Suggestions to improve these are welcomed -- send them to me at (I also have this file available in FrameMaker 4.0 format.) Shahrukh Merchant ================================================================ INSTRUCTIONS FOR ORCHESTRAS FOR THE MIT BALLROOM DANCE CLUB by Shahrukh Merchant 5 April 1990 (Revised 23 Feb 1995) The MIT Ballroom Dance Club looks forward to having you play for their formal dance. Printed below are several requirements for the music at our formal dance; these may require significant changes in the tempos, mix and duration from the ballroom music that you may have played for other organizations or events, so please examine these carefully and call the Club contact if you have any questions. Please include this sheet as an addendum to the contract. Thank you! 1. Songs should be at most 2-3 minutes long! Please do not play long medleys. There may be one or two exceptions (during the entire evening) for songs that are traditionally played with slightly longer arrangements (e.g., Sing, Sing, Sing), but these should be the rare exception. 2. The tempi below should be strictly observed--please bring a metronome to the dance to ensure this. For variety, however, the tempi should be varied within the acceptable ranges provided in the table below. 3. Important: Please do not play ``sets" of a particular dance, or type of dance. Intersperse and mix the different dances as evenly as possible throughout the evening! 4. We do not need a vocalist; if you do have a vocalist, no more than 10% of the songs should contain vocals. 5. The approximate frequencies at which dances should be played during the evening is indicated in the table above (based on approximately 15 songs per hour). 6. Since this is a formal dance, we request that all male band members wear black tuxedos and bow ties (and corresponding formal attire for female performers). Dance Tempo Num- Notes (MPM*) ber ================================================================ Waltz 28-32 5 Note that this is slower than usually played in many ballrooms. Swing 32-46 5 There is a wide range of tempi here; in most cases, you may just play them at the tempi you normally use for the song in question. Most should be near the middle of the range, with a couple of slow and fast ones. Foxtrot 28-32 5 We prefer lyrical legato foxtrots rather than the "brassy" ones that are hard to distinguish from a slow swing. Rumba 27-33 5 We dance two styles of rumbas; the "American" style, which you may be more familiar with, is at the fast end of the tempo range (30-33); the "International" style, which has some of the feel of a Bolero, is at the slow end (27-29). Please play an equal mix of these tempi. Cha Cha 30-34 5 About evenly divided between the slower (30-32) and faster (32-34) tempi. Note that even the slower tempo listed here is somewhat faster than that played in many ballrooms. Quickstep 50-52 4 While these have a "bouncier" feel than the foxtrots, they should still flow. In particular, the bounce should not be as exaggerated as it is in, for example, the Charleston. Tango 30-33 4 The "American" style is played at the slow end of the specified tempo range (30-32); the "International" style is at the high end (32-33). Please play some at each end of the range. Samba 48-52 4 Viennese 54-58 4 Waltz West Coast 26- 4 The West Coast Swing is a slow Swing with a Swing 32 particular ``rolling" feel that is smoother than the regular Lindy Swing. It is exemplified by much "soul" music, and also songs such as ``The Wanderer" by Dion and ``Kansas City" by Wilbur Harrison. Mambo 47-49 2-3 Polka 60-62 2-3 Merengue 29-32 2-3 Hustle 28-30 2-3 ("Disco") Bolero 24-26 1-2 Paso 60-62 1 Has a marching quality to it. Examples Doble** of songs are Viva Espana or Espana Cani. Charles- + 1 ton** Lambada** + 1 Tango + 1 Argentino** -------------------------------- * Tempi are stated in Measures per Minute (MPM). We are assuming 2 beats per measure for Samba, Paso Doble, Polka and Merengue, 3 beats per measure for Waltz and Viennese Waltz, and 4 beats per measure for all other dances. ** These are optional, i.e., we do not expect that the band will necessarily have these songs in their repetoire, or the appropriate combinations of instruments. They are being listed for completeness only. + Where tempi are not specified, you may use your discretion in selecting the tempi with which the corresponding dances are usually done. Here is a suggestion for dealing with bands. When you call them up ask them whether they are a big band or a dance band. When they ask what the difference is give the example A dance band plays what dancers want to hear a big band plays charts at predesigned tempos the way the arranger wants to hear it. See how they answer that one. Enio From: (Mark E. J. Newman) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Guidelines for Bands Date: 20 May 1995 03:38:44 GMT wrote: >I am looking for resources/references to use in developing ballroom >dance club guidelines for bands/musicians. >We are fortunate to be working with musicians who, for the most >part, know what a foxtrot, swing, samba, etc. is. However, we still have >trouble getting the varitey we want. I'm thinking that our guidelines need >to say something like: In an hour, play 3 foxtrots, 2 swings, 1 cha-cha... >or like: In a three hour evening, play 2 tangos, 1 mambo, 2 quicksteps... This is thorny problem. How much detail do you want to give the band about what you want? As someone who has played in a lot of dance bands over the years, I'd just like to throw in a word of warning. If you give most bands a list like the one above, all you'll do is annoy them. The fact is that when a musician has spent decades of his or her life learning to play an instrument, and then you (who they will regard as a non-musician, and therefore ignorant, even though that's not the case) come along and tell them what to play on it, the most common first reaction is annoyance. It's one of the things that marks a good dance band that they are anxious to accomodate their audiences preferences, but unfortunately, it's rare. My advice is to tread very carefully around musicians' egos. Some of them are real large. (On the other hand, you may be able to get what you want by flattering their egos. It's an approach that often works!) From: (Icono Clast) Newsgroups: Subject: Guidelines for Bands Date: Tue, 23 May 1995 09:06:00 GMT Here's something I wrote several years ago for the leader of my favorite Blues group before their first appearance at a Swing dance: Working a Swing dance gig is not just a dance gig, but a Swing dance gig. That means there are some special requirements that you'll have no trouble meeting and some things you ought not do in order to keep the dancers happy and possibly be considered for future gigs. I hope that the people who hire you will also give you some suggestions. But because I've found that they often don't, am I writing this. MUSIC: WC Swing is done to Swing music, of course, but mostly to Blues, R&B, and R'n'R. TEMPI: WC Swing is not done to very fast music. Most of your numbers should be between 120 and 150 Beats Per Minute with an average of about 130-136BPM. But, during each set, you should also play something slower, about 110BPM suitable for FoxTrot and something faster, 160+BPM suitable for Shag and other fast dances. LENGTH: Most numbers should last about three minutes. The best way to accomplish this is to either avoid solos or to have no more than one solo during a number. The faster the number, the shorter it should be. The very fastest should be no longer than two minutes. Length is very important to dancers for several reasons: 1. We're engaged in a somewhat strenuous physical activity and we get tired. The reason is usually a combination of the tempo and length of the number; 2. The levels of dancing skill vary widely. If we're stuck with a partner who can't dance well, we don't want to be in that uncomfortable position for a long time. Sometimes I am the bad partner with whom much better good dancers don't want to get stuck for a long number and, of course, I'm sometimes stuck with a bad partner from whom I can't wait to get away; 3. No matter how much we know how to do, we will eventually run out of things to do and have to repeat what we've already done. Repeating each step two, even three, times is OK but when it gets to more than that, resentment of the musicians and boredom set in. We silently plea to the musicians "Quit already!" 4. We're reluctant to stop dancing before the music ends for fear of offending either the musicians or our partner. And pride makes us reluctant to admit being tired even though our partner always knows when we are. MIXERS: A Mixer (aka Whistle Dance or Bell Dance) is when people change partners at a signal such a blowing a whistle, ringing a bell, or stopping the music. The last change of partners is usually indicated by the person calling the changes. A mixer should be about 130-136BPM and can last as long as you wish. It's a good time for solos and carrying-on. Drum solos, unless the beat is clearly maintained, are not welcome. VOLUME: Swing dances are very social events with much conversing when sitting or dancing. High volume is unwelcome. Of course we have to hear you. JAMS: Jams are rare but, when they happen, they're a lot of fun for the musicians as well as the dancers. What happens is a circle forms and individual couples jump in to the circle to do their thing. Jams usually happen at the faster tempi (140-166BPM) and are accompanied by much shouting, laughter, and hand clapping. If you find one going down, whatever you do, don't stop playing until the Jam dies down. An impromptu Jam is a compliment to the musicians and the music. Take advantage of it, wail and enjoy it. They're fun for everyone. DANCES: In addition to Swing, you should play one ChaCha each set. And you should have at the ready, in case of a request, a Mambo ("Tequila" is always a welcome number), a Rhumba, and a Tango. The next to the last number of the night should be a moderate-tempo Waltz. "Kansas City", the Swing Dancer's Anthem, would be a good last number. If you have your own closing number, "Kansas City is a good choice for the close of the next to last set. CAVEAT: Dancers don't applaud much. Please don't let that bother you. Dancers consider the music, whether recorded or on stage, to be a tool little different from dance shoes, an outfit into which to change when the first one gets soaked with sweat, dance floor wax, deodorant, mouthwash, or fans. You might not get much applause. It means nothing ENDINGS: When you get to the end of a number STOP PLAYING! A dance gig is not a concert gig. We don't want to hear someone's solo after the obvious end of a number. End the numbers on beat. Please do not fade away or have great variance in the timing of the ending. Many dancers like to end a dance with a dip or some sort of special step. If your ending isn't where the logic of the music says it should be, they look ridiculous, or, at the very least, wrong. From: (Icono Clast) Newsgroups: Subject: Guidelines for Bands Date: Fri, 26 May 1995 09:58:00 GMT Icono Clast: IC>TEMPI: Swing is not done to very fast music. Most of your numbers should >be between 120 and 150 Beats Per Minute with an average of about >130-136BPM. Mark E. J. Newman: MEJN}Really, Ike, given that this group is a world-wide one (and I know }that you realize that it is) one might have imagined that you'd have }at least developed a national perspective by now, if not an }international one. When everyone else here is so careful to be clear }what they're talking about, you alone go on saying "swing", when you }mean West Coast. One might almost think that you had a personal axe }to grind here. Like you feel that "swing" has always meant WCS in }your little neck of the woods, and why should you change just to suit }the rest of the world? Or is it just absent-mindedness? Yes. MEJN}For anyone else out there, who may be less well acquainted with }musical nomenclature, if you give these instructions to a band, you'll }get a WCS dance, not a swing dance! Lindy and its close relatives }(which is most of the swing dancing in the world) is of course done to }swing music, at significantly higher tempos than those mentioned here. I don't remember whether I included the full text of my original. Here's what I might have excluded because of its specificity: Late 1992 Dear Leader, Only because you've been hired to play for . . . am I writing this. As you know, I regard [your group] as my favorite not only for dancing, but also for listening. I want you to have as much work as you can get. As you also know, your usual gigs are concert/dances rather than just dances. But at [the gig], you'll be working not just a dance, but a Swing dance. That means there are some special requirements that you'll have no trouble meeting and some things you ought not do in order to keep the dancers happy. I hope that the people who hired you will also give you some suggestions. Because I've found that they often don't, am I writing this. TEMPI: Swing is not done to very fast music . . . . . . 'Twould be nice if [this] became a regular gig for you. Newsgroups: From: Subject: Re: How much does a ECS band cost? Date: Mon, 18 Sep 1995 02:54:00 GMT George Ryan <gryan@MAIL.BCPL.LIB.MD.US> asks: >I'm looking for a East Coast Swing Band for New Year's Eve. One band >wants $3000. That seems like three times too much to me. Should I >expect to pay more for New Year's Eve? What is a typical price range? Well, you've left too many undefined variables to get a simple answer, so here's a complicated one. As a rough starting point, figure $200 per performer for a 4-hour performance for a typical weekend night. Yes, New Year's Eve would command a premium over that--I don't know how much, but I can't imagine that it would be more than 50% over. If this is a locally famous band, then none of the above applies, and demand and supply laws take over--you should certainly expect to pay more, especially for New Year's Eve. Conversely, if it's a student band, or one that's just starting out, etc., you should be able to negotiate a lower price. I've listened and danced to great Swing bands and some lousy ones, and it's hard to predict without having heard them. So by all means try to attend one of their events before-hand (listening to one of their tapes is better than nothing, I suppose, but it's not a substitute). A tip: If you want anything different than what seems to be their "standard" format, make sure it is spelt out in the contract! Shahrukh Merchant Newsgroups: From: Norman <DAOUST@CISVX2.DFCI.HARVARD.EDU> Subject: Re: How much does a ECS band cost? Date: Mon, 18 Sep 1995 15:29:34 GMT >From: George Ryan <gryan@MAIL.BCPL.LIB.MD.US> >I'm looking for a East Coast Swing Band for New Year's Eve. One band >wants $3000. That seems like three times too much to me. Should I >expect to pay more for New Year's Eve? What is a typical price range? Here's a some additional points to add to Shahrukh's comments: One of the major items that determines price is the number of musicians in the band. Another is length of time you've asked them to play. Four hours is a standard length. Expect to pay a premium if you want a band for longer than that. Another is location. Prices are higher in large metropolitan areas that in less urban areas. Is the location in a facility where each band member will have to pay $25 for parking? (This was the case for my engagement last Friday afternoon in Boston!) Is the location in a facility where the band will have to unload several hundred pounds of equipment in a loading dock, wait for a security guard to unlock a freight elevator, take a 5 minute elevator ride up 20 floors, make five 200 yard trips from the elevator to move equipment to the location, then go back down the same way to move the car to an appropriate parking lot? (I've experienced that scenario also!) Have you made any additional requests of the band? Did you require them to bring cassette decks or CD players to play taped music in? Any special dress requirements? Any special songs you've requested? Are you dealing directly with the band, or through a booking agency? Often (but not always) prices will be higher dealing through a booking agency. New Year's Eve commands a premium. It's related to supply and demand. And it's often the case that the union scale for New Year's Eve is higher that that for the rest of the year. The rule of thumb is you can expect to pay from 50% to 100% more for a band on New Year's Eve than you would for the same group on a Saturday night the rest of the year. $3000 is not out of the standard price range for a popular, top-quality 8-piece swing band in a metropolitan area on New Year's eve. You can find out for yourself if this is a standard fee just by calling other groups of the same size, calibre, reputation, etc. and asking for a price quote. Or call a booking agency in your area. Norman Daoust Eastwood Swing Orchestra Cambridge, MA (USA) (617) 491-7424 NORMAN_DAOUST@DFCI.HARVARD.EDU (e-mail) From: (Carlie Coats) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Musicians who don't like dancers Date: 3 Oct 1995 12:30:53 GMT In article <44jn68$>, Smcnyb <> wrote: >As dancers, I think we have to be sensitive to clubs and musicians who >prefer that we don't dance to their music (at least when they're >performing it live). Very true. But... What about problems when bands are specifically hired to play for dancing events. I recently had a problem at a dance in Greensboro, NC, as part of National Ballroom Dance Week. At this dance, the band played much too loudly -- loudly enough to damage hearing, as a matter of fact. (Since my two recreations are dancing and singing--much of it a capella-- I notice damage to my hearing quite distinctly :-(8 It took about a week for my hearing to recover to some semblance of normalcy.) In my twenty-plus years of ballroom dancing, I can only recall a handful of occasions on which I had this problem -- and in those cases, the bands were willing to tone it down when asked politely. In this case, however, the band -- "The Emeralds", in the NC Triad area -- just played even louder. And continued to do so when asked again by the organizers. If you are organizing an event, I ask you to avoid bands which display the sort of willful arrogance displayed by "The Emeralds. Furthermore, please write controls on the loudness into your band contracts. Be willing to penalize the bands which violate the contracted standards. Music so loud that it damages the ears is neither necessary nor appropriate at ballroom dancing events. Carlie J. Coats, Jr. *or* From: (Icono Clast) Newsgroups: Subject: Musicians who don't like dancers Date: Wed, 4 Oct 1995 08:03:00 GMT CC}What about problems when bands are specifically hired to play for }dancing events . . . Music so loud that it damages the ears is }neither necessary nor appropriate at ballroom dancing events. Nor anywhere else! Although I carry ear plugs, I shouldn't have to nor should anyone else. One Berkeley establishment I frequent, run by one of the world's true Good Guys, has some sort of circuitry that limits db. One of my most phrequently frazed complaints is: This is a dance, not a concert! when the numbers run five minutes and longer. From: (Jamie Hanrahan, Kernel Mode Systems) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Top ten Swing, Shag, and C & W songs ???? Date: 9 Oct 95 11:52:32 PDT (PROSHAGGER) writes: > I really need to get more input on compiling a top ten songs list for > swing, shag, and c & w. This project really requires a lot of input. My > time to complete this is limited. If you have any input on this, please > pass it along to me. I do appreciate everyone's cooperation in this. several folks' song lists are on the dancer's archive at . I posted my list to r.a.d sometime ago, I don't know if Ellen picked it up or not. My list is a little different from other folks'. They're trying to be exhaustive. My goal is to have a BRIEF list (fits on one sheet of paper, without unreasonably small type) that you can hand to a dj, with a few songs in each dance category. I figure, you don't want to hand the dj a book or even several pages to look at -- the shorter it is, the greater chance she or he will use it. So there's no point in wasting space with stuff that isn't likely to be in the bin. All of these songs are selected so that djs would be likely to have them. In fact, suitability for a particular dance ALMOST takes a back seat to the chances that any random dj might have the song. So you're not going to find much obscure stuff here! In fact, if you do, it's probably a mistake... I'd hoped to develop several shorter lists, one for oldies djs, one for classic rock djs, etc., but never got enough input to go that far. Anyway, I'm appending the current version of my list, fwiw. --- Jamie Hanrahan, Kernel Mode Systems, San Diego CA Internet: (JH645) CompuServe: 74140,2055 Hustle ====== Steam Peter Gabriel I Can Dream About You Don Simpson - Streets of Fire The Power of Love Huey Lewis - Back to the Future Cream Prince I Wanna Dance With Somebody Whitney Houston Deeper and Deeper Madonna Vogue Madonna Get Into The Groove Madonna Spice of Life Manhattan Transfer Holding On Steve Winwood Dancin' in the Sheets Shalamar Tell It To My Heart Taylor Dayne World in my Eyes Depeche Mode What You Need INXS Suicide Blonde INXS Jitterbug ========= (please, NO swing or oldies medleys) What You Want Richard Marx - Paid Vacation Heaven Is Waiting Richard Marx - Paid Vacation Hanky-Panky Madonna Rock This Town Stray Cats My Music Loggins and Messina Footloose Loggins and Messina Only the Good Die Young Billy Joel Tell Her About It Billy Joel Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go) The Wham Walk of Life Dire Straits Don't Be Cruel Elvis (or Cheap Trick) At The Hop Danny and the Jrs. Rockin' Robin Bobby Day (please, not Michael Jackson) Johnny B. Goode Chuck Berry In The Mood Glenn Miller Bandstand Boogie various West Coast Swing ================ If You Wanna Leave Me Bryan Adams - Waking Up the Neighbors Can't Stop This Thing We Started Bryan Adams - Waking Up the Neighbors Black Velvet Alannah Myles Roll With It Steve Winwood Cherish Madonna True Blue Madonna The Way She Loves Me Richard Marx - Paid Vacation Pink Cadillac Natalie Cole Everlasting Natalie Cole When the Going Gets Tough Billy Ocean Ruby, Ruby Donald Fagen Credit Card Baby The Wham Sweet Home Chicago The Blues Brothers I'm Your Baby Tonight Whitney Houston If This Is It Huey Lewis and the News Best of Me Huey Lewis and the News 634-5789 Sam and Dave, many others Credence Clearwater Revival Proud Mary ("...Rollin' on the River") The Way You Make Me Feel Michael Jackson Sweet Sensation Levert Murphy's Law Al Jarreau Danny's All-Star Joint Rickie Lee Jones Love is a Loser Erasure Stray Cat Strut Stray Cats Mystify INYX Every Heartbeat Amy Grant The Motown Song Rod Stewart Selfish One Diana Ross Some Kind of Wonderful ?? (recently covered by Huey Lewis) Boy From New York City various (covered by Manhattan Transfer) Shake, Rattle & Roll various (recently covered by Huey Lewis) Old Time Rock 'n Roll Bob Seeger You Shook Me All Night Long AC/DC Kiss Prince Brown Sugar The Rolling Stones Truckin' Grateful Dead The Wanderer Dion Kansas City Dion Little Deuce Coupe The Beach Boys Night Club Two Step =================== Do I Have To Say The Words? Bryan Adams Everything I Do Bryan Adams Almost Paradise Ann Wilson - Footloose The Lady in Red Chris de Burgh - Into The Light I'll Always Love You Taylor Dayne Crazy for You Madonna Just The Way You Are Billy Joel Baby I Love Your Way Peter Frampton Completely Michael Bolton Vision of Love Mariah Carey Endless Summer Nights Richard Marx Earth Angel The Penguins Cha Cha ======= Love Potion Number 9 (recent cover from movie soundtrack) Kokomo The Beach Boys Cantalope US3 Caribbean Queen Billy Ocean GENERAL INFO FOR DJS WHEN "COUPLES DANCERS" ARE DANCING We realize that you have to cater to everyone, we're usually in the minority, and we can't have it all our way! The above describes an ideal world for us. 1. This dancing is far more energetic than "freestyle" dancing, so we need to be able to take a break and/or ask a different person to dance every few minutes. So we tend not to like very long songs; in fact, the old-style radio limit of three-and-a-half minutes is a good rule of thumb. There are exceptions for truly great songs ("Sweet Home Chicago" for WCS, "Vogue" for hustle) but that's what they are -- exceptions. 2. This also means, please don't cross-fade from one song to the next. Look: I know you've spent a long time learning the skill of beat-matching, but it just doesn't work for us. Besides liking songs to be reasonably short, we like songs to have a definite beginning, middle, and end. A lot of us play off of the changes that occur within a song, especially at the beginning and end, and we miss this if it isn't there. 3. Since you're no longer beat-matching you can leave the pitch controls on the CD players and turntables at "normal". We don't want all the songs to hae the exact same tempo; variety is good! 4. PLEASE LOSE the pre-mixed medleys. I'm thinking especially of the ones of 50s rock and roll by "Jive Bunny" but this really applies to all such medleys. These things bury all of the individual character of the original songs under a pounding synth beat; some of us think that we might as well be dancing to a metronome. We'd much rather hear a few of the original songs, or at worst, modern covers like Cheap Trick's "Don't Be Cruel" or Billy Joel's "All Shook Up" -- but no medleys, please. (end) --========================_7711408==_-- <!--Date Stamp--> <p><i><font size=-2>Last modified on: 2000, Wednesday April 12.</font></i></p> <!--End of Date Stamp--> <!--rad_faq_footer--> <hr> <p>This file is part of the FAQ list for the newsgroup The FAQ list is being maintained by Victor Eijkhout (victor at eijkhout dot net, talk about vanity), who appreciates being sent additions or corrections on the material in this collection. 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