Hearing Musical Phrases

West Coast Swing Online Musicality & Timing

If you’ve followed this series so far, you have spent a lot of time listening to music and counting out musical phrases. However, counting to 32 or 48 is not realistic when you’re actually dancing, and counting to 8 can even be difficult during tricky patterns. The next drill is designed to allow you to find the phrases even when you haven’t been counting the whole song.

The Drill: Pick a WCS song and hit play. In your music player, scroll to a random point in the song. You now have no idea where you are in the musical paragraph or even sentence. Your goal is simple: listen to the accents, chord changes, and other clues to find the new 1, and resume counting.

Once you’ve counted enough to be confident that you did find the 1 of the sentence, scroll to another point in the song. A good starting goal is to identify where you are in the musical sentence within 8 beats; if you can do it in 4, you are doing awesome!

Bonus Variations: When hearing sentences becomes easy, do the same drill but try to identify which set of 8 you are in within the musical paragraph. If you can get back into the count within 2 sets of 8, you are doing well; if you can do it in 1 set of 8, you are a rock star. If you can do it in 4 beats or less—hi, Robert Royston!

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