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#3187521 01/22/22 08:48 AM
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I listened to a radio program on dance music. They talked a lot on minuets and how people often perform minuets in a way that is not suitable for a dance. It made me think: Do classical musicians refrain from studying how to accompany dances even if they play dance music?
I will also need to add that many non-classical pianists refrain from studying how to accompany dances.

Last edited by Dantheboogieguy; 01/22/22 08:50 AM.

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Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
...
I will also need to add that many non-classical pianists refrain from studying how to accompany dances.

What is there to study about it? If it has a steady beat, you can dance to it. Though not everything may grab you enough to put you in the mood for dancing.

My Dad had a dance band for 30 years and people danced to all sorts or stuff like Bossa's or a familiar Pop tune. You're right though, they probably would not be as likely to dance to a classical tune, even if it were a minuet or other classical work that was very dance-able. Moor River though and everyone gets up.

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Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
It made me think: Do classical musicians refrain from studying how to accompany dances even if they play dance music?
.
The accompanists for ballet schools, dance academies etc are all classical musicians.

They just make sure they play the music at the speed required for the classes and dancers, and refrain from rubato that the dancers haven't agreed to.

There is a PW member who is a professional ballet accompanist, and ex-ballet dancer. She didn't have to "study how to accompany dances". I once had a stint at accompanying a ballet dancer friend, sight-reading a piano transcription of The Nutcracker. She told me what she required of me in terms of tempo, and I did the rest.


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I think there is more to dance music than a steady tempo, or the right tempo. I've heard a few "polkas" by folks that definitely weren't, um, danceable.

At least in swing, contras/squares/English/Scottish, any kind of folk, ballroom, et al - things you actually dance to (and, I imagine ballet, tho I have no experience there) - there are subtleties of accent and beat placement, not to mention dynamics if you really want to be good at it, that are mostly learned by feel - listening to it, dancing, apprenticing I guess. Witness the posts about how to make a piece "swing" and the fact that "swing" can't actually be notated. We don't often get posts in the ABF about leading or lagging the beat, but the phenomenon exists, and it's integral to some kinds of dance music.

I've played for a lot of dances, and I've heard lots of people that play dance music that doesn't make you want to dance - altho I suppose if you wanted to walk on the beat you could, but it would be excruciating laugh

If it's just a matter of a steady beat and tempo we'd never know the difference between a waltz and a hambo, or one waltz wouldn't make us want to do ballroom style and another make us want to stigvals, or there would be no difference between different polskas.

Can *I* *explain* the difference? No. But I can dance the difference, and for some kinds of music I can play the difference smile

And yes, I know both classical and non-classical musicians that play dance music to which you can dance.


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Originally Posted by jotur
At least in swing, contras/squares/English/Scottish, any kind of folk, ballroom, et al - things you actually dance to (and, I imagine ballet, tho I have no experience there) - there are subtleties of accent and beat placement, not to mention dynamics if you really want to be good at it, that are mostly learned by feel - listening to it, dancing, apprenticing I guess. Witness the posts about how to make a piece "swing" and the fact that "swing" can't actually be notated.
Folk dances meant to be danced to are generally accompanied by folk instruments, not piano. At least, in the UK, where we have Morris dancing, Irish & Scottish Highland dancing etc. If a piano is involved, e.g. in a pub, it is just there to provide the harmony, occasionally the beat, but rarely, if ever the main instrument. I've attended quite a number of them over the years, travelling around the UK and Ireland, but the only folk instrument I can play is the tin whistle.....

But when classical composers write dances for piano - e.g. mazurkas, polonaises, waltzes by Chopin, not to mention minuets & trios in piano sonatas - they aren't generally meant to be danced to, except for a few exceptions. When playing them for entertainment, you'd place accents, rhythmic quirks etc (read up about how someone described Chopin's playing of his mazurkas) that befits those particular dance forms. But if you were using them to accompany dancers, as sometimes they are, you would dispense with many of those, because what the those dancers need is a regular beat, not your idea of an elongated second beat or fancy rubato in a Viennese waltz or mazurka. In fact, you could set a metronome to most folk dances which accompany actual dancing.




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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
It made me think: Do classical musicians refrain from studying how to accompany dances even if they play dance music?
.
The accompanists for ballet schools, dance academies etc are all classical musicians.

They just make sure they play the music at the speed required for the classes and dancers, and refrain from rubato that the dancers haven't agreed to.

There is a PW member who is a professional ballet accompanist, and ex-ballet dancer. She didn't have to "study how to accompany dances". I once had a stint at accompanying a ballet dancer friend, sight-reading a piano transcription of The Nutcracker. She told me what she required of me in terms of tempo, and I did the rest.
and they a have a specific training for this, right?

Originally Posted by jotur
I think there is more to dance music than a steady tempo, or the right tempo. I've heard a few "polkas" by folks that definitely weren't, um, danceable.

At least in swing, contras/squares/English/Scottish, any kind of folk, ballroom, et al - things you actually dance to (and, I imagine ballet, tho I have no experience there) - there are subtleties of accent and beat placement, not to mention dynamics if you really want to be good at it, that are mostly learned by feel - listening to it, dancing, apprenticing I guess. Witness the posts about how to make a piece "swing" and the fact that "swing" can't actually be notated. We don't often get posts in the ABF about leading or lagging the beat, but the phenomenon exists, and it's integral to some kinds of dance music.

I've played for a lot of dances, and I've heard lots of people that play dance music that doesn't make you want to dance - altho I suppose if you wanted to walk on the beat you could, but it would be excruciating laugh

If it's just a matter of a steady beat and tempo we'd never know the difference between a waltz and a hambo, or one waltz wouldn't make us want to do ballroom style and another make us want to stigvals, or there would be no difference between different polskas.

Can *I* *explain* the difference? No. But I can dance the difference, and for some kinds of music I can play the difference smile

And yes, I know both classical and non-classical musicians that play dance music to which you can dance.
as a person who played dance music, eg polka or some contra dances, I can tell you that must practice to get the specific polka feel.
It's not always important to play at dances in order to learn it, I think. Some people learn to play music for dances if you are told to the right thing needed for it. With minuets I was told that many orchestras play it a bit slow (if I remember correctly) but then again they are not playing for people dancing.
Also, I think at a dance you are not always following the sheet music and some people instructing you on what to play use dance terms that you must know, right?
A hambo is a lot about how you accent the first and third beat. I really like playing a hambo. They are really nice on the accordion.

Last edited by Dantheboogieguy; 01/22/22 12:47 PM.

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Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
and they a have a specific training for this, right?
Nope.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
and they a have a specific training for this, right?
Nope.
why not? So for folk dances you need to specific training in order to become a dance musician but for ballet you only need piano lessons?
Is this really true? When I played at dances I had to learn how to get that dance feeling and just playing at home wasn't enough. I had to go out there and play with other people at dances. I can tell you one thing for sure, most people think getting a dance feeling is the same as getting a solo feeling.
Perhaps playing a piece as solo number and as a ballet number is the same thing? I know very little about ballet.

Last edited by Dantheboogieguy; 01/22/22 12:53 PM.

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Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
and they a have a specific training for this, right?
Nope.
why not? So for folk dances you need to specific training in order to become a dance musician but for ballet you only need piano lessons?


Classical musicians have generally played classical pieces that were written for ballet or classical pieces that are often used in ballet classes. Our forum member, referenced by Bennevis, already had that background. I believe there was support to have questions answered.

Ballet music uses typical meter and accents. Folk music may vary the accent based on the type of dance. (See post by Jotur)


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bennevis - I didn't say that a steady beat wasn't important - a metronome is a big help smile - but it's not the *only* thing that dancers need. As for folk music with piano - well, some does, some doesn't. Piano has been a big part of contra/Scottish/Cape Breton for a long time (I know, I know - In England you think 100 miles is a long ways and in the States we think 100 years is a long time laugh ) But, and you can not believe it if you don't want to - mox nix to me -, even as the "oom pah" there is a dance feel beyond just being right on the beat.

I'm with Dantheboggieguy, too - playing with others for dances is a hoot and one picks up a lot of the feel then. And, hurray for accordions and hambos! I'm always amazed at the energy and enthusiasm - and the dance feel that gets me going laugh


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Playing music for listening is 1 thing, playing to accompany dances is another. In the early days, a minuet, saraband, gavotte, gigue, etc. were pieces composed for dancing. Composers like Bach & Handel incorporated them into suites for orchestra or solo keyboard for listening pleasure than dancing. Up to the end of the 18th century, the minuet was incorporated into the 3rd movement of a symphony such as ones by Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven. These are pieces for listening than dancing.

In the 19th century we have waltzes by Johann Strauss which were composed as dance pieces and Chopin piano waltzes which are in the style of a waltz for listening.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
and they a have a specific training for this, right?
Nope.
why not? So for folk dances you need to specific training in order to become a dance musician but for ballet you only need piano lessons?


Classical musicians have generally played classical pieces that were written for ballet or classical pieces that are often used in ballet classes. Our forum member, referenced by Bennevis, already had that background. I believe there was support to have questions answered.

Ballet music uses typical meter and accents. Folk music may vary the accent based on the type of dance. (See post by Jotur)
I will have to say this: there was a specific situation mentioned in which a pianist accompanied ballet dancer(s). It is difficult me to understand it as I wasn't there!
What I can say is that ballet is very different from folk dances, traditional dances or whatever you call it. You also say it yourself.
For folk dances you do not really need play at dances in order to get that dance feeling as you would play a waltz as a waltz even if it was played as a solo piece. I mean, you can learn the feel at a music lesson (although dancing or watching dancers are helpful). But when you play for dances you have to learn how to follow the dances which can be a bit tricky at first. I think even a ballet pianist have to deal with that.
That is the thing that I was asking about.


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Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
But when you play for dances you have to learn how to follow the dances which can be a bit tricky at first. I think even a ballet pianist have to deal with that.
That is the thing that I was asking about.
I think you're confusing ballet with opera.

With ballet, what dancers need is a clear regular beat that they can dance to. They have to make sure the accompanist(s) - whether a solo pianist or (during performance) conductor & his orchestra - is on board with what they need for each number, whether an ensemble scene or pas de deux - in terms of tempo etc. Any rubato needs to be agreed upon and rehearsed with the dancers - there is no room for flights of fancy on the accompanist's part. Listen to any ballet by Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev or Stravinsky in the concert hall sans dancers, then watch the same ballet live, and you'll hear the difference. What is possible in a concert hall (very fast tempi, all manner of rubato etc) is largely absent when dancers are involved. The accompaniment has to be subservient to the dancers' requirements.

See how metronomic - and clear the beats - the piano playing is when there is dancing:


....compared to when the same music is played as a virtuosic concert arrangement (with a lot more notes):



With opera, the conductor has to watch his singers like a hawk - are they running out of breath in a long phrase? Then hold on that chord or make an agogic hesitation or ritardando while they take a quick breath. Does the diva want to hold that high C for x seconds to milk the applause? whistle Obviously, most of that would have been agreed upon during the piano rehearsal beforehand (where the piano accompanist is often the conductor himself).


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There is a pianist based in Austin US (Joshua Piper aka heavypiano) who works as a ballet accompanist and has a youtube video talking through how he plays for ballet.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
But when you play for dances you have to learn how to follow the dances which can be a bit tricky at first. I think even a ballet pianist have to deal with that.
That is the thing that I was asking about.
I think you're confusing ballet with opera.

With ballet, what dancers need is a clear regular beat that they can dance to. They have to make sure the accompanist(s) - whether a solo pianist or (during performance) conductor & his orchestra - is on board with what they need for each number, whether an ensemble scene or pas de deux - in terms of tempo etc. Any rubato needs to be agreed upon and rehearsed with the dancers - there is no room for flights of fancy on the accompanist's part. Listen to any ballet by Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev or Stravinsky in the concert hall sans dancers, then watch the same ballet live, and you'll hear the difference. What is possible in a concert hall (very fast tempi, all manner of rubato etc) is largely absent when dancers are involved. The accompaniment has to be subservient to the dancers' requirements.

See how metronomic - and clear the beats - the piano playing is when there is dancing:


....compared to when the same music is played as a virtuosic concert arrangement (with a lot more notes):



With opera, the conductor has to watch his singers like a hawk - are they running out of breath in a long phrase? Then hold on that chord or make an agogic hesitation or ritardando while they take a quick breath. Does the diva want to hold that high C for x seconds to milk the applause? whistle Obviously, most of that would have been agreed upon during the piano rehearsal beforehand (where the piano accompanist is often the conductor himself).
You actually said that a solo piece and a piece for dancers sounds different. That is what I am referring to. Sure, you can talk about it before you play but you still have to be trained in playing a piece in different ways and have a teacher who taught you the correct way of playing the nutrcaker or whatever the piece is.


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Originally Posted by Dantheboogieguy
You actually said that a solo piece and a piece for dancers sounds different. That is what I am referring to. Sure, you can talk about it before you play but you still have to be trained in playing a piece in different ways and have a teacher who taught you the correct way of playing the nutrcaker or whatever the piece is.
Nope, no specific training required whatsoever for ballet accompanying. All you need is a good sense of rhythm (and the ability to keep precise time), and - if you're sight-reading - of course, good sight-reading skills. All that is part and parcel of being a decent classical pianist.

And follow any specific instructions from the dancers and/or their teacher. For instance, they might want you to play something at half-speed for their warm-up, or accent the first beats, or whatever.


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