February 2017 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Choosing Music for Class and Performance

Photo by Robert Rosen

Choosing Music for Class and Performance

by Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Choosing music for tap class doesn’t have to be a constant chore. For a well-organized class that moves smoothly from one activity to another, create a set playlist that complements your lesson plan. For example, I have 10 youth playlists and three adult playlists. Each level’s playlist is different, so my students hear new music each year as they move up, and I only add new tunes if I find better options.

A set playlist benefits both students and teachers. When students know what to expect, they are prepared to dance and connect quickly to the music’s timing, phrasing, and genre. You don’t waste time searching for the right tune or tempo, because the playlist guides the class through each skill series. And when you always have the right tune for the right exercise, you can transition smoothly from teaching one level to another, and from teaching children to teens to adults.

Tip 2
Choosing appropriate music for tap performances can be challenging. Crucial factors to consider are tempo, age appropriateness, genre, instrumental vs vocals, even vs uneven meter, and swinging vs straight rhythm. A long tune can be edited, and occasionally a fast tune can be slowed down—although this can affect sound quality, an important consideration for performance.

To find good tap performance tunes, try categories such as big band, Broadway, children’s dance music, and jazz standards on iTunes or other online music sites. It’s not uncommon for tap to be performed to Top 40 songs, but be careful—the beat and vocals should not drown out the tap sounds. Performance music needs to support and accompany the dancers. Your students’ tap sounds and rhythms are the most important part of the listening experience for your audience.


Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.