Phrasing with Two Beat Extensions

West Coast Swing Online Musicality & Timing

In last week’s post, we practiced using two-beat extensions within basic patterns. Now it’s time to apply that technique in order to phrase the music.

The Drill: First, listen to Sweet Sixteen by Junior Wells:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phf40x5XiSc

In the last four beats of each major phrase (musical paragraph), there is a clear bass drum on the beat, but little else happening in the song. Our goal is to hit each of those four beats with our extensions.

With a partner, begin dancing basic patterns to the song. Every time the bass drum rhythm occurs, extend the pattern by four beats by using two two-beat extensions. Leaders: your goal is to smoothly insert the extensions into the pattern between the rhythm units of the basic. Followers: concentrate on feeling the difference between a lead that continues the pattern into the next rhythm unit versus a lead to extend the pattern. The extension should feel distinct because the leader is maintaining the relative body positions of both partners.

Bonus Variations: Try the drill with other songs. Many WCS songs have regular accents, and contemporary music in particular features accents on the beat, each beat, more often than not. By practicing inserting the extensions in appropriate spots, leaders can easily fix their patterns to the music.

Followers: You have less control of when to extend the pattern, but you can do a lot to stylize your footwork on the extensions. Experiment with different ways to step for your walk walk in the extension; you can make your steps staccato, you can swivel your feet, or you can add double rhythm syncopations such as a kick- or point-ball change.

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