SongCrafting: Dance Music

With the increase in the number of dance songs in the four-minute range on the Pop and R&B/Hip-Hop charts, we see much more experimentation with these extended forms. Dance records are developed for pop, rock and Urban radio and singles for the dance club market. The records are usually formatted in a way that allows the record to be re-edited or re-mixed. This means that, originally, a longer version is recorded with more segments that can be removed to make a shorter version for radio or left in for the dance club market or for radio stations that like to play the long versions.

Techno, Electronica, Euro Dance, Acid Jazz, House, Big Beat, Trip Hop, Jungle, Drum & Bass, Trance are among the groove based styles that don’t necessarily use the song form conventions of pop songwriting. The styles are primarily DJ/producer originated styles that may incorporate loops (short repeated musical or lyrical phrases); ambient sounds, dialog, and a great variety of “found” sounds from radio broadcasts to phone conversations to traffic noise. The styles are used in dance clubs, at raves and on an increasing number of specialized radio shows and Web radio sites. Since they already havethe attention of their audience in those venues and media, they don’t need to follow the song-form conventions of mainstream radio.

Records earmarked specifically for the dance club and “rave” market, and not for radio, can break more rules. Since there’s a captive audience and you don’t need to get their attention and since records well over four minutes are the norm, there can be long, slow-building intros, additional sections and long instrumental breaks that would be too monotonous on radio. The records’ major appeal is based on having a relentlessly exciting dance groove. Beyond that, there are no rules and aside from a few conventional arrangement tricks like dropping out and bringing in instruments or repeating “loops,” there is a lot of room for creativity in vocal and instrumental textures particularly for songwriters with arranging and producing skills. Dance music is usually “written” with the groove first, then other instruments, loops, vocals, etc, added later.

DJ/producers have become the new stars of the dance scene by virtue of their use of digital turntable technology that allows them to seamlessly keep the music going by segueing between songs with different tempos, their choice of recordings and the creation of their own digital loops to provide transitional grooves.

Dance music is one of the most creative areas of popular music today. From the point of view of the composer/arranger/producer, it’s more like writing underscore for film than writing pop songs. There is inevitably a growing fusion between these dance styles and traditional styles of World Music: Latin, Caribbean, African, Middle Eastern and Indian featuring classical and jazz instrumentalists and vocalists from those musical cultures. To learn more about it, search the Internet under “dance music.”

For online information go to:

www.dancemusic.about.com/cs/genreguides/index.htm

To hear the music go to my favorite Web radio site, www.Live365.com and pick a genre listed above.

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