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Potato chips, Sneezes and Tangy Tangos

Similarities Between Music within a Metered Family

Have you ever considered the differences and similarities between different music styles? For example, the 4/4 and the 2/4 are both part of the duple meter family, meaning you, as a dance teacher, can count both of them by simply saying 1 & 2 & along with the music; they are divisible by 2. 

Another similarity is the 3/4 adagio and 6/8 adagio, they are both slow triple meter music, meaning you, as a dance  teacher, count them the same, 1 & a, 2 & a, etc.

There are many more similarities of note (pun intended), but today, I wanted to explore the commonalities between the polka, the mazurka and the tango.

First, the similarity between them that I wanted to talk about today is not related to the meter, since the polka and the tango are part of the duple meter family and the mazurka is part of the triple meter family. 

It's not related to the tempo since the polka is faster, the mazurka is a little slower and the tango is slower yet!

What is the connection between the 3 totally different styles of music?

The main similarity between these 3 types of music is the dotted rhythm. This is what it looks like.

Do you see how the first note has a dot on it? That means musicians will play it an extra half of that note's value, longer. That first note is in fact worth 3/4s of the beat, and the note with the extra little line is the remaining 1/4 of time to complete the beat 1! 

Then, on beat 2, it's really simple, equal notes both worth 1/2 of a beat, or, eighth notes. 

Reading this rhythm, you could say, Looooonnng-short quick  quick. That dotted note followed by a note with an extra line on it, is called a dotted rhythm.

If you had multiple dotted rhythms in a row without the 'quick quick', it could feel like the swinging march "Can You Hear the People Sing" from Les Mis. (Looooonnng-short,Looooonnng-short,Looooonnng-short,Looooonnng-short,Looooonnng-short.)

This dotted rhythm is what our polka, our mazurka and our tango all have in common!

Dotted Rhythm Family Gathering!

The Polka

The polka rhythm; a po|TA-toe-chip a po|TA-toe-chip a po|TA-toe-chip  OR,  &a|1 & 2 &a|3 & 4 &a|5 & 6 &a|7 & 8 . The dotted rhythm is often present on the pick up (or anacrusis) to beat 1 of each bar. 

In our potato chip rhythm, it's on the 'a po' of 'a po|TA-toe-chip' 'lonnng short|quick quick quick'. If the second version of the rhythm made more sense to you, then the dotted rhythm is on the '&a' before the barline!  You could say, 'lonnng short|1 &  2 lonng short|3  &  4  etc. Do you hear the dotted rhythm?

The Mazurka

The mazurka rhythm; 1 a-choo 3| 2 a-choo 3| 3 a-choo 3 | 4 a-choo 3, etc. Can you hear where the LONG note is? If you're not sure, consider it from another angle, where is the short note? That should give you a clue for where your dotted rhythm is! 

If you guessed on beat 1, you're right! 1 a2 3.. The note on beat one is actually cut short and made less than 1 beat to accommodate that little 'a' before beat 2 or, before the 'choo' which happens to be beat 2!  It's like a waltz with a dotted rhythm in it!

The Tango

Finally, the tango rhythm; 1   &2  & |3   &4  &  |5   &6  & |7   &8  &  . Can you find the dotted rhythm here?  Where is the long note, where is the short note? 

If you guessed on beat 1 again, just like the mazurka, you are right!  Interesting right?

The mazurka is a 3, the tango is a 2 and the polka is a 2 and they all use the dotted rhythm to become something special and significant compared to the many other kinds of music out there.  

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