Don’t expect to dominate the music on the dance floor!
(Sorry – don’t shoot the messenger.)
To be clear: for me, dancing is not the same as concentrated listening time. It’s hard to have a great relationship with music without private time. You can do it with your “significant other” (SO) around, but I don’t recommend it if you are the jealous type.
When you hear a melody enough on the floor you may remember some elements of the melody, like a few breaks and the melody, but I think that’s a bonus. Experienced ears can also predict many of the pauses and will hear the section changes since music is not random.
When dancing, your focus is on the music, but your partner comes first, then the music, and then your own movements and patterns. Don’t expect to have enough attention to dominate the music when you have an attractive partner in front of you, especially if you are new to the relationship game.
If you’re a newer dancer too, you’re already making a rush at multitasking. Critical listening is extremely difficult when your plate is already full with a partner, lights, and a multitude of variables on the dance floor. Just too much at once.
Focused listening requires repeating sections, and yelling at the DJ, repeating the introduction, or repeating the percussion solo is impractical in most clubs. Live bands like that even less.
If you are new to focused listening, you might want to spend some time alone with the music and you with the rewind / repeat buttons. By growing your “ears” you can do 60 to 80% of your listening while doing things that don’t require your full attention. For most, this includes driving a car, eating, showering, exercising, and other repetitive tasks that you do on a regular basis.
Some focused listening takes time to yourself, with few distractions. You can do these sessions in five- and ten-minute blocks (quickies) for the rest of your life, with occasional extended periods of listening.
Whenever I drive to a club for 30 to 60 minutes, I have my iPod set to repeat a song all the time, while I sometimes use the backward button to repeat a clip 20 or more times. Maybe I hear the vocals, a horn part, one or more percussionists, or something else that I find interesting.
Sometimes I might jump between instruments and sections and / or count parts of the melody to clarify the structure of the song. On the way home I would listen to the same song many times but focus on different sections. It’s amazing what you hear after extensive reviews.
The more mature your ears get, the more you’ll hear while multitasking, including on the dance floor. That is ultimately the payoff.
You are not allowed to tell your SO about your musical relationships and we keep that to ourselves. When they dance with you, they will quickly realize that you have an intimate relationship with music and they will love you for it.
When I choose between two evils, I always like to take what I have never tried before.
Dance books by Don Baarns:
Listen to music 100 times or more
The irony of teaching music
Music4Dancers: Free YouTube Series
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This article was originally published November 2008. I made some minor tweaks before this re-release.