Speed of Music 3
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There are Western Waltzes, Ballroom Waltzes, and Viennese Waltzes. With exception of Western music, very little popular music is written in Waltz tempo.

Everyone is always talking about Waltz dancing, but the truth is there really are not that many Waltzes out there that anyone knows. Here is a test for you :

The average person would be hard pressed to name 5 popular music Waltz tunes (non-western only). Or 5 Western Waltzes. Or 5 Movie Theme Waltzes. As a trivia question, see if you can name 10 Waltzes...any kind except for Austrian Waltzes (those are off-limits...oh, what the heck, you can include those too. It won't do you any good). At the bottom of the page, you will find a listing of some of the more famous Waltzes. 

Waltzes have only one distinct tempo to count.  A Waltz has an obvious 1 - 2 - 3 feel to it with a strong emphasis on this very first step.  Most Waltzes have a speed range of 84 - 130 bpm. Above that speed, another form of Waltz called Viennese Waltz becomes dominant from 130 - 180 bpm. The majority of Western Waltzes are recorded in the 84 - 130 range.

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WHIP MUSIC (90 - 120) and

Both Whip and West Coast Swing are dances which are used for music at speeds too slow for Jitterbug.

The history of dance shows that the music comes first, then dances are developed as people look for ways to express themselves to the music. Whip developed here in Texas when GIs brought an early form of West Coast Swing back with them from California at the end of WW II.

The ex-servicemen heard the slow, sexual black Texas Blues sound and they attempted to use the WC Swing they had learned out on the coast, but it didn’t fit the speed very well.
The West Coast Swing had been used to speeds as fast as Swing music. The Blues sound literally created a new dance. First it was slower and it was more suggestive, sometimes compared to Stripper music.

With the raw music as inspiration, our Texas girls developing an amazing hip motion. Soon a devastating off-shoot of the WC Swing emerged that is known as the Whip.

(as copied from Dancing, USA)
Argentine Tango
Viennese Waltz
Lindy Swing
West Coast Swing
Cha Cha
Paso Doble
Bossa Nova
Disco / Latin Hustle

112 - 148
084 - 132
108 - 140
140 - 180
130 - 160
100 - 140
096 - 116
080 - 100
104 - 132
112 - 136
096 - 112
116 - 128
112 - 124
130 - 150
108 - 144
104 - 128
144 - 184
096 - 120
100 - 130

When it comes to Latin and Ballroom
music, notice how many of the
speed ranges overlap.

Although much of the music is of similar speed, the feel of the music calls for
different expressions. How the music
sounds is often just as important
as how fast it is.

Many songs have a unique sound that
invites more than one dance.
"Tequila"  is a dance classic that
suggests Swing  with its Rock ‘n Roll
feel while its Latin quality invites a Mambo.

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Cha Cha is probably the most versatile dance of all. Since
Disco music bases its origins in Latin music, it is no surprise
that Cha Cha works very well to many Disco songs.

People are surprised to find Cha Cha also works well to slow
Polka music that contains a Latin feel. "Neon Moon" is the best example. For that matter, classic smooth-sounding oldies like "Johnny Angel" & "See You in September" are also fair game
for the versatile Cha Cha.

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Western music has Twostep and Polka. Swing music has Jitterbug and Swing. Salsa music has Mambo and Merengue. There is Waltz and Viennese Waltz.

Most students suspect it is a dance studio plot to milk them out of more money. Not a bad idea, actually, but the real blame goes to the music. For some reason, no one has ever put their dance foot down and insisted that musicians record their music at one specific speed. Everything would be so much easier this way, although I might have to get an honest job. Yuck.

Following the theme of this article, each type of music has two dances to handle the different tempos.  One dance usually has a SlowSlow QuickQuick cadence (e.g. Swing, Twostep, Foxtrot) or Slow QuickQuick (Mambo, Rumba).

The companion dance usually has a Triple Step cadence (Whip, Jitterbug, Polka, ChaCha). Sometimes there are speeds where nothing works, a Dead Zone. A different type of dance often flourishes at that speed.

For example, in the Western Dead Zone (135-150), Jitterbug works perfectly while Twostep and Polka don’t. For every type of music, if it makes people feel like dancing, someone is bound to find a dance that will work to it ! The history of dance shows that when a form of music becomes popular, if it has any energy to it at all, soon afterwards a dance will appear.  And will dance studios be far behind ?  No, of course not.


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Having just finished college, I took a Ballroom dance class in 1974 as a way to meet the fair sex. Sound familiar ?

The course taught 6 dances and we met 6 Tuesdays for an hour. I paid close attention, I tried hard, and I was pleased to receive several compliments. I was excited when the instructor invited the class to go Ballroom Dancing with him the coming Friday for "Graduation".  I even remember going over my notes thinking what a great time I was going to have that night !

Talk about a set up ! I never had a chance. First I found I couldn’t tell a Tango from a Waltz from a Swing to save my life. To my inexperienced ear, they all sounded the same. Then once the instructor told me what dance it was, I realized I could not remember the steps. The poor women in the class, bless their hearts, encouraged me to try and reminded me of some of the steps. Then I found out I didn’t know how to lead the steps ! In class we had memorized the patterns. I started to seethe. Next I found I couldn’t hear the beat and think of the steps at the same time. Now I was angry ! The ladies tried to cheer me up. They said none of the other guys were doing very well either. Oh, great. That makes me feel much better.

But nothing prepared for the final acid pill. There was a girl in the class I had a hopeless crush on. I had tired unsuccessfully to dance with her three times that night. As she sat there twiddling her thumbs at the table, the instructor came over and asked her to dance.

She couldn’t remember a thing either, but once he put his big arms around her she started to Waltz like Cinderella. She smiled and laughed and forgot about me. Hmmm, so this is what leading is all about. I just crossed my arms and steamed. It was obvious in the game of leading and following, the guy got the short end of the stick. I contemplated the cosmic joke that the sex that needs the easier part somehow got stuck with the harder part. No Fair ! Where do I go to report this injustice ?  No, I was not the winner. I soon left.

Despite my total humiliation, afterwards I decided not to quit.  I sure am glad I didn't.  Nor should you.

So, what about that Waltz Trivia Question ? Well, see how many of these songs you recognize. If you can think of some more that I forgot, I would be grateful if you email the names to me at dance@ssqq.com  Thanks ! Rick Archer

Popular Music Waltzes

Piano Man - Billy Joel
Scarborough Fair - Simon and Garfunkel
Open Arms - Journey (remake Colin Raye)
Could I Have this Dance ? - Anne Murray
Kiss From a Rose - Seal
Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
Take it to the Limit - Eagles

Movie Theme Waltzes

Godfather Waltz -
Theme from Moulin Rouge
A Time for Us
Edelweiss (Sound of Music)
Lara's Theme
Moon River
Born Free

Western Waltzes
(15 of the Most Famous)

You Look So Good in Love - George Strait
Last Cheater's Waltz - TG Shepard
Same Old Star - McBride and the Ride
Saturday Night - Billy Dean (Eagles remake)
Their Hearts are Dancing - Forester Sisters
Never Gonna Let You Go - George Strait
Life After Love - Shania Twain
Heart - Reba McEntire
My Hat's Off - Doug Stone
She Waits - Kenny Rogers
Famous Last Words of a Fool - George Strait
Slow Country Dance - Mary Chapin Carpenter
Waltz in Love Tonight - Reba McEntire
Dreaming My Dreams with You - Colin Raye
Something in Red - Lorrie Morgan


Greatest Source for Waltzes
that no one knows about :

Celtic and Irish Waltzes
(e.g., Auld Lang Syne, Greensleeves)
Christmas Waltzes
(e.g., What Child is This ?)
Ballroom CD Collections

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Well, that concludes our Speed of Music Writeup. We hope it wasn't too confusing.  Thanks for reading!
Rick Archer

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