As I travel around the place teaching workshops and choreography I often get asked about my choice in music. Questions like – where do you find such great music? Or – what do you think is appropriate for younger students? Or the inevitable frustration – “It is so hard to find music these days that does not have offensive lyrics – where can I find interesting tracks that are suitable?”

Well today – as those of us in the Southern Hemisphere contemplate the tapping year ahead, I thought I would answer those questions.

Firstly I think it is very important to choose age appropriate music in all forms of dance, but in tap dancing this not only means looking at not only the lyrics that may accompany the music, but also the musical style and genre. Younger tappers – say under the age of 10, will generally learn the basic rhythms of tap a lot more solidly when dancing to a traditional style of music. The reason for this is that a nice swing track, boogie woogie or ragtime feel has that nice shuffle rhythm that matches the fundamentals or basics that children are learning at a young age. Steps like shuffle step, shuffle ball change, slap ball change. So the rhythm of the music mirrors the rhythm of the steps!

Also, these traditional tracks tend to have a much lighter percussive element to the music, so the children are able to place their beats easily over the top of their music for a nice, well balanced and blended result! If you use funky, rock tracks at this young age, the base or drum element can often overpower the beats and the tapping is lost. It is important to choose a musical accompaniment that matches the power and style of your tappers when they are so young as they do not have the experience, power or strength in their ankles and tapping to match these “bigger” pieces of music!

This can also happen with older tappers who do not have the maturity or skill to match their music!

I always like to think of the music and the tapping as being one – the rhythms of the footwork complimenting the rhythms and background beat of the music. So no matter what the age group you are working with or choreographing for, you must make sure that they are not overpowered by your choice of music – it is TAP after all and the sound is of maximum importance. If you can’t hear the beats ,then you may as well be performing your tap routine in jazz sneakers!

So now I hear you all crying out – but we don’t want to tap to boring old fashioned music!! Well rest assured that you do not have to. There are many great Swing, Big Band and Blues bands who have come out in the last couple of years and put a great modern twist into the old classics! Just go into a good music store where the staff have a passion for music and ask them to help you out. They will often point you in the direction of some great musicians and tracks!

If you prefer not to have lyrics – then just let them know. I often use funky, modern music for my Senior tappers and finding appropriate music in this genre can be time consuming – but like all things in life – the more time you put into looking and investigating what is out there, the better music you will find!

You may say – “ Heh – I am looking for some music for tap dancing. I am wanting a funky, soul type feel and preferably something without lyrics”….if you are in the right shop, the assistant will LOVE that you are looking for something special and will love that you are interested in their opinion.

You can also just go into a store and spend a few hours listening to different artists and tracks till you find what you are looking for. Listening to a cool radio station can also be a good tip as often times you hear things that you would never think of using yourself – and once you find a band you like – you often find they have oodles of tracks that you can see as accompaniment for your classes or choreography!

So – don’t be afraid to look outside the box and get advice from people who know music and have a passion for it!

Like I said before – make sure you know the standard, level and capability of the students/ dancers who will be dancing to this music. If it is a really stylish, funky piece of music, then you are going to need a group of mature, stylish and funky tappers – if your group do not match up to this description then save this music for another occasion and keep looking. I once had a piece of music cut and edited for 5 years before I came across the right group of students. Their personalities, technique and style complimented the music perfectly and so the whole piece just really worked! And I was glad that I had saved the music till they came across my path!

In this same way, the right piece of music, that matches your dancers both in style, tempo and strength can really bring out the best in them. They will look and sound 100 times better when dancing to a track that matches their rhythmic and stylistic capabilities. My music tips are:

1. The level in the music – the bass and percussive elements match the strength in their beats and tapping
2. The style of the music reflects their style ( if the students are better suited to a more traditional style then it is best to go with that, rather than force a funky rock number in which they look awkward, over powered weak or mismatched)
3. The dynamics of the music match the dynamics they are able to create both visually and rhythmically
4. The music is of a style and genre that is age appropriate (6 year olds tapping to Michael Jackson or Bon Jovi would just not work. They would be overpowered).

And remember – to create versatile tappers it is imperative to expose them to a variety of tempos and genres in class. They will then learn to develop the different styles and dynamics required to match these different types of music. This was a key element I thought about when I developing all the music for the TAPATAK OZ SYLLABUS! Traditional, modern, funky, blues, rock,slow, speed, variety and age appropriate! I wanted it all to be there!

So – I hope this has been of assistance to all you aspiring choreographers and teachers out there. I suggest you find your nearest specialist music store and start listening to what is out there.

Check out music that is reviving the classics for the younger kids ( and the older ones too) and then for a more modern and funky approach, check out the Acid Jazz, Jazz and Soul Sections. Many DJS put out amazing remixes these days too – so there is heaps of music to choose from. And for those who are more current ( unlike myself who still uses CDs hah ha ha) – get into i-tunes and the music world is your oyster!

Till next time. HAPPY TAPPING!

Christine –