"Just FEEL the music"

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by RugKutta, Nov 5, 2008.

  1. RugKutta

    RugKutta Tumbao

    I've been meaning to post about this for a while now, but have been procrastinating as usual. Ee98iae's recent post "Obsessed with time" inspired me to go ahead and put my 10 cents down about this topic.

    We've all heard the phrase "just feel the music" in regards to dancing salsa. But what does this phrase really mean? If I'm a beginner in a salsa class and someone tells me to "feel the music," how exactly do I put this into practice? How can I tell when I'm doing it? I think that such a thing as "feeling the music" is alot easier said than done.

    I believe that, while there are some people who say this and know exactly what it means, there are too many more people who say this to others without totally understanding all that it entails. At the risk of over-complicating things, I think that "feeling the music" is not nearly as simple as those who haphazardly use this phrase make it seem. Telling someone to "just feel the music" is about as problematic as telling a beginner salsera to "just follow."

    What do you guys think about this? I don't think I have the complete answer to this, but I do think it goes alot deeper than it seems. I think it has alot to do w/ musicality, and that it's a skill that has to be learned. Some may have more of a knack for it than others or may be able to pick it up faster than others, but I don't think anyone just naturally feels the music. On that note, what also helps is what Magna Gopal calls “actively” listening to the music as you dance. What this means, in a nutshell, is paying attention to the patterns of the music so that you get a feel for what will come next. This way, you are better able to react to and “play” with the song. During the same styling class that she mentioned this, she also gave this awesome analogy: when you dance, you should pretend that the composer of the song approached you, saying something like “Hey, I’m missing an instrument. I need you to be that instrument. Interpret your part as you see fit.”

    I think body movement can also help in one's ability to feel the music as well. Having an understanding of it in your head is one thing, but it's a whole 'nother story trying to move your body to what has been processed in your head. Understanding the music without having control of your body is almost like having a story to tell but not having the vocabulary to vividly illustrate your vision to someone else.

    Those are my thoughts on the subject. As I said, in no way do I have the complete answer to this, but I’m convinced that this concept is not as simple as it sounds. Any thoughts?
  2. Hunntyr

    Hunntyr Changui

    Nicely put....
  3. antigone

    antigone Pattern Police

    I guess I represent those obnoxious people who have always been able to "feel" the music (and follow, actually), with very little conscious effort. I realized that this is a pretty uncommon ability when I was still a kid studying piano, so I've had a long time to adjust my perception of people who can't do it so easily, and to adjust my terminology when explaining it to others. So, yes, I agree that saying "just feel the music" or "just follow" is, to most people, unhelpful, misleading, and kind of inconsiderate. Analogies do help, but are again too open to interpretation. I expect that those who arrive at being able to "feel the music" by their own efforts rather than natural ability do so from _a lot_ of exposure to music, practical experience with movement to music, and just plain trial and error. I can't imagine being able to pick this up from a "musicality" DVD, for example. Regarding communicating music through body movement - I don't completely agree. This assumes that your audience has the innate ability to interpet your body movement and relate it to their own movement, which, again, is not a common ability.
  4. Melvin

    Melvin Tumbao

    I have to agree with OP, and add that even if you feel that you "feel" the music it doesn't mean that you're able express it very well with your body.

    I recently experimented a little, my father filmed me while I did some simple shines to music I liked. I was comitted to go for it, move with passion and get into the music fully and without inhibitions.

    I do have musicality, I have played several instrument, has an excellent sense of rythm etc. Playing with the music felt just great. I was quite confident it would look at least decent, probably even pretty good.

    Well it didn't, not at all. I looked like an overly confident idiot. My proud father thought it looked great, but he's my dad so let's just ignore his opinion.

    For the most part I can't put the finger on what was wrong, but the lack of control, exaggerated motions, lack of balance and coordination was obvious. It clearly looks better when I focus on doing the moves as "correctly" as I can instead of letting go with the feeling I get from the music.

    I'm not sure what to do with this knowledge. Trying to get into the music more and just letting go more often, with the risk of developing bad habits, or trying to get it all right first.

    I'm leaning towards leaving the "feeling" aside for a while, and focus on moving correctly and slowly, until my body knows how to express all these feelings.
  5. smiling28

    smiling28 Moderator

    Ok, as always RugKutta, great post and I feel I completely understand what you are saying.

    Like anything though it is a balance. I see 'feel the music' as an excellent tool just like an analogy to convey a concept.

    Example: The analogy that dancing is a conversation is great to explain the interaction between partners, call/response and dynamic nature of a dance. But taken literally it would mean no clear roles are defined as lead/follow as anyone is free to 'lead' a conversation.

    However it is still a useful tool.

    So is 'feel the music'. EVERYTHING You have said is correct though. I do feel 'feel the music' is helpful though as is the 'just follow, or just dance'. Frustrating for thinkers/technical understanding persons like myself ABSOLUTELY. But it does get people actively involved.

    Eg. A beginner told to feel the music. They may not feel what they are 'supposed to' but they start the journey at least then can get guidance/shaping. Whereas if you had to have a PHD in musicality/understanding before you danced then clubs would be empty :)

    Thus a balance is struck, I believe that 'feel the music' is great for getting people actively involved and out of their head but is not a panacea for musical/timing woes :)
  6. Flujo

    Flujo Sabor Ambassador

    @melvin: I can so relate to that situation. It was shocking seeing what I thought was creative and emotive dancing revealed on camera. "Bl**dy heck, is this what I look like". :lol:. I don't play an instrument (in the trained sense) like you but have been dabbling in music production for years. I found that it really helps you to discover what is supposed to happen in music at certain points, like how things build up, break down, turnaround, that sort of thing.

    To me the 'feeling' is about having your emotions stirred up. It might be a nervous excitement or it might be a deep and reflective mood that you can loose yourself in. It's also how certain elements of the sound/music seem to tickle your senses. A run down the piano could give you a sense of falling or sustained bass notes, they might leave you with a sense of being suspended. Certain chords will have a tension to them so when they're played you might do something to reflect that tension. You visualise the sound.

    The idea that feeling the music doesn't automatically give you the ability to express that feeling is one that I'd subscribe to for sure. You can always do something to react to what you hear but the feeling imho will probably be lost in translation. I think the training gives you that 'mind over matter' control that allows you to communicate more effectively.

    Back to what melvin said. I still let go when dancing - even after that shock horror camera experience - and kind of accept that really enjoying myself and letting the music move me will come at the expense of looking like an idiot. At least for a while and hopefully not 'all' the time. There was a thread about this, relating to the stages of learning we go through. This must be the the 'conscious incompetence' phase. It's funny how the musicality vs moves development is out of sync. I suppose you have to learn the what & how before the when & why can come into play.
  7. MacMoto

    MacMoto Administrator Staff Member


    I think when people say "just feel the music", often what they really mean is "move with the music/express what you feel from the music". This is *entirely* different from "just feeling the music" in my view.

    I've always thought that musicality is made up of two aspects: feeling the music and acting out that feeling. I'm yet another one with some musical training and have always found the "feeling the music" part easy, but even without training, a lot of us "feel the music" quite naturally - everyone who likes listening to music likes it because they feel something from the music. Most of us understand the simple rhythmical pattern of pop music and respond to the way music builds up to create a sense of emotion. But that's not the only thing that's needed here when people say "just feel the music". Listening and feeling the music is an essential part of musicality, but never enough to achieve the sort of musicality where *others* can watch you and see that you feel the music. That is not about feeling; it's about your movement.

    As for the "move with the music/express what you feel from the music" part, I've always done that since childhood - by juming around, wiggling and bopping, singing along, 'playing the conductor'... but again, that's not what we are asked to do here either. We are talking here about enacting the feeling of the music through a *specific* dance form, not through random movment. And that requires
    (1) Knowledge of the vocabulary of that dance form (steps, moves, styling, footwork, etc.),
    (2) Body control to use that vocabulary correctly and to maximum effect, and
    (3) Ability to respond to the feeling of the music with that vocabulary to fit the music.
    All these require physical training, and (1) and (2) are actually *nothing* to do with feeling the music. (3) is the point where the two aspects come together.

    My 2 cents...
  8. devane

    devane Son Montuno

    I agree with the statement "just feel it" but the person saying it needs to be able to qualify what they mean by saying it. Sometimes it is a "get out of jail card". Using an abstract phrase and making the student believe it is something that cannot be explained. I know a few teachers who have said “you’ll just pick it up as you go”. Considering these teachers themselves can’t dance themselves on time and over the years I can only remember 3 or 4 male students who danced on time “picking it up” doesn’t happen spontaneously. I have even seen a few guys in an advanced class unable to follow a timing cd. Girls are light-years ahead at dancing on time. Every time I see 2 girls dancing together they’re on time. Guys! what music did you grow up with?

    Paraphrasing Prof Robert Greenberg , "If a waltz comes on and people starting dancing to it did they need to know what 3/4 meant. Of course not, they just felt the accent". He also recommends moving a part of your body preferably your feet when learning to find the accent/work out the time signature.

    He also states this is a primal instinct, moving to a pulse. It is indeed a natural function but remember this has also been back engineered into Music Theory so it can be taught.
    I have seen people dancing who have never had lessons dance to salsa music on time or maybe on a different beat like on 4 but are clearly connected to what they have focused on. This skill is within the domain of the listener/dancer, this isn’t a skill exclusive to musicians.

    But what happens when someone who has never even tapped their fingers or a pen along to a song or sang along with their favourite singer. Then when they're trying to learn the basic step plus trying to lead plus trying to "feel" something that is apparently natural doesn't work well for the confidence. Trying to dance on time when you’re still learning the basic steps doesn’t help too.

    It is very interesting when you ask someone who wants to learn how to dance on time "what do you think do you need to listen for?” Some hear just one note after the other, not hearing the structure in the music that implies where you fit in. A lot think there is a "1,2,3.,5,6,7" rhythm to be heard in the music but don't know why they can't hear it. The teacher is saying "listen,1,2,3.4,5,6,7.....can you not hear it?" I can do only hear "1,2,3" when you're saying it.:tongue:

    It has to clear that they understand what dancing on time is and what is and isn’t in the music.

    I don't teach but whenever someone asks me about this I use R&B/Hip Hop instrumentals because the repeated phrases and the snare (on 3) gives a more grounded connection to the music.
    Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" even marks out the beats with the bell.

    In Salsa the connection is looser. When you have a percussion pattern I sychronise (subconcously) once every 2 bars but with an R&B track I feel the 1,3,5,7.

    I have a friend who is a musician who used the phrase “just follow the rhythm” concerning learning the basic steps. It basically stood still and shuffled refusing to learn the basics insisting he could rely on “I just follow the rhythm”. He could not explain what he meant. You can’t hind behind abstract phrases.

    Magna’s analogy is correct. If you just dance on time even without reacting to the overall structure of the song, it is still like you’re playing with the band like a repeating percussion pattern. You create a repeating rhythm in all you basic steps. 1,2,3.5,6,7. isn’t implied in the music, you have added this pattern into the ensemble. You are indeed playing with the music.
  9. AguaDulce

    AguaDulce Pattern Police

    To me, when I think of myself as feeling the music, I think of myself interpreting the music through my dance. As far as salsa, the first dancer that illustrated this to me was Juan Matos. To a certain extent, this was also the case when I saw Juan's group perform a routine blindfolded. As someone said b4, how you feel the music is subjective. This can work in partnerwork, but you have to dial into how your partner is interpreting the music as well.
  10. Jag75

    Jag75 Shine Officer

    I've always been good with rhythm (yep, I'm a guy!), dance on2 and always dance on time - and my experience has been the opposite. I find a LOT of girls, in fact possibly the majority, in my scene don't really know how to find the 1 in salsa or rush their steps, especially in a slow song or cha cha.

    I think the reality here is that most people have difficulty dancing on time to salsa music - it takes some people years to really "get it" and some people never do.

    On topic - the phrase "just feel the music" is all well and good if you're listening to it and tapping your foot - however when someone looks good whilst dancing and seem to move in a fluid, flowing, controlled manner all that really is is years of practising the right way to move - for many that will require structured training in body movement technique and there really is a lot to it. I've seen people from South America who claim that dancing is "in their blood" and really don't dance well at all, and have very average body movement.
  11. chrisk

    chrisk Super Moderator Staff Member

    I know that I'm a bit late with my response to this thread, but on the one hand I first wanted to have enough time to read all the responses and on the other hand I wanted to think a bit about this subject before writing any reply.

    I think that 'Just feel the music' or similiar phrases are in my opinion nice catchy phrases to hide a complicated process that involves learning to feel the music as well as learning to express those feelings.

    In my understanding of this process, the first step is that you become aware that the music you are listening to is creating some feelings in you. I'm not sure if as Mac mentioned "everybody who likes listening to music" is feeling something from it. So I think that to feel the music, you'll first need to become aware that the music is creating feelings in you. And especially that different music is creating different feelings in you that can and might be influenced by your own situation as well. So at this point, I think, it makes sense to listen to a large variety of salsa (your own collection, internet radio, both, etc.) and learn to differentiate the feelings that every song creates in you.

    The next step in the process of "feeling the music" then involves the process of learning to express those feelings. My understanding of this part of the process is quite in some agreement with Mac's point of view, but not completely. I think the first step to learn to express those feelings is to know some of the dance movement (partnerwork, shines/footwork, some styling) as well as the timing. The later is becoming more important as you don't want to always limit yourself in expressing the feelings with those moves that you already know, but with moves that you create on your own. Additionally as Mac already wrote, you want to learn how to use your body to express those feelings. But I would add that you also want to learn about the limits of your own bodymovement and the look that it creates towards other. While you might think that a certain bodymovement is great and matching the feeling of the music fine, it can look awful for others or simply not fit your style/personality. So, you want to find your own personal balance on which bodymovement is a good choice to express the feelings and which not. This brings me to the next step in the process of "feeling the music" is in my opinion that you learn to match the feelings of the music with dance movements. I'm not here talking about taking music pattern A and matching it with movement Z and always doing that. I rather mean this in the sense of taking a music pattern A And trying various movements J,M,R,S,W and Z and see how they fit the feelings of the music as well as the music and your style/personality.

    While it might now look as the end of the process of learning to "feel the music" has been reached, I don't think the process completely stops. I think that rather the process is changing as you've now learned the basic of "feeling the music". But now the process is in my opinion starting to focus on two aspects to enhance your feeling of the music and it's expression. One aspect is that you want to listen to an even larger variety and amount of salsa to enhance your ability to feel the music. And the other aspect is in my opinion that you want to learn new dance movement as well as improving your body movement to be able to better express your feelings of the music, ie. more matching, more differentiate.
  12. Flujo

    Flujo Sabor Ambassador

    I like the idea of becoming aware of how the music makes you feel first. It's easy to get caught up in just the movement if you don't do that first don't you think? It's like you said, you're not matching music pattern A with movement Z. I think you'd have to ignore the music itself and only focus on the rhythm to do it that way.

    Given the same music pattern, in different songs there will (almost) always be a different context surrounding that pattern so I think you'd need adapt the movement to suit anyway. Even if you do use the same movement pattern there could be different intentions; tension, apprehension, smoothness & flow etc.

    I also like that you suggested that learning these new movements and relating them to the music is another beginning. It certainly feels like it sometimes. :)

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