February 2014 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Notation Basics

46 2 Tips MusicBy Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1
In written music each tone is written as a symbol called a note, which indicates the pitch (how high or low) and duration. Notes are written on a staff consisting of five lines and four spaces.

A G (treble) clef on the left side of the staff indicates that the notes appearing there are higher in pitch. On the piano these notes are usually played by the right hand. An F (bass) clef is used for the notes that are lower in pitch. On the piano these notes are played by the left hand.

Different physical appearances tell the musician the duration of the tone: a quarter note equals one beat, an eighth note equals half a beat, etc.



Tip 2
Your students should know the most common time signatures used in dance music so that they can count musical phrases when learning choreography or class exercises. Time signatures organize the musical notes into regular units (called measures or bars) that have a specific number of beats. Often each measure has a repetitive pattern of strong and weak beats. The most important time signatures to introduce to your students are the simple ones: 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4.

The 2/4 time signature is most commonly represented by a polka, which has two beats per bar, with the first beat accented. The waltz, polonaise, mazurka, and minuet have 3/4 time signatures, with three beats per bar. The march is the dominant example of 4/4 time, with four beats per bar.

To listen to different dance rhythms and time signatures go to YouTube and search for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing the “Blue Danube” waltz (On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314) and the Pizzicato Polka, Op. 234 by Johann Strauss II; and the Radetzky March, Op. 228, by Johann Strauss I.