Rhythmically Challenged? It’s All in Your Head!

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“This is my husband.  Good luck with him.  He has no rhythm.”

Ask any ballroom dance instructor if they’ve ever heard that before.  You’ll get a good laugh, ’cause we hear it every day!

Let’s start with a clarification.  What most new dancers, who are sure that they or their loved one have ‘no rhythm’, really mean is they don’t know how to find the beat.

The beat is the pulse of the music.  It has nothing to do with the tempo (the speed of the music) or the rhythm (how the music is accented).

There are some people who appear to have an easier time finding the beat, but guess what?  Even they had to be taught what to listen for.

The best dance educators know that, regardless of how many steps or patterns you know, it’ll never feel right if you’re not dancing on time with the music. 

Expressing how the music makes you feel is lovely, but not so much if you struggle with finding the beat.  Look for the instructor who will work with you on developing your focus and will give you the tools you need to practice your search for beat recognition.

Embrace the teacher who has the knowledge and courage to keep working until he or she finds the exact words and actions that will send you to beat heaven.  And moving with a partner in time to the music is just that – heavenly.

In my opinion, songs are created with three layers; top, middle, and bottom.

They are:

  • TOP:  Vocals (or lead instrumentalist)
  • MIDDLE:  Melody (band, orchestra, or chorus)
  • BOTTOM:  Beat (drums, percussion, bass, or guitar)

The first thing to do is concentrate on identifying each layer.  Most of the time finding the top layer is easy, just listen for the words.  The middle will be the music.  And finally, the bottom layer, the beat.

To find the beat, as I have explained to many of my students, the first thing to do is identify the tick-tock in the music.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, like a clock or a metronome.

Sometimes it will be fast, sometimes slow.  Swaying your body, tapping your feet, or clapping your hands are the easiest ways to practice.

Experts recommend that you spend 5 or 10 minutes a day with the different beat patterns.  Here’s a metronome you can practice with.

You can really hear the tick-tock when you choose Two or Simple on this metronome.  I recommend that you begin with those two settings.

To make your dance sweet, ya gotta get that beat!

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