It is easy to create a perfect tanda… of course, if you know what your end goal is. Good DJs do not think in terms of individual songs – they think in tandas. Preparing perfect tandas and playing them in the right moment is all it takes for a DJ to create a great mood in their milongas.
Of course, there are different approaches and different styles of playing music – but what I found that works best are the four points I am going to explain in this post.
– I was wrong! I was completely wrong about him – I said with disappointment asking her if she wants us to go home early, long before the milonga finished.
A few hours earlier I was enthusiastic, explaining to her how good a DJ this guy is; how big his collection is; and the good quality music he has. I met him few times and we talked a lot about tango music, tango history and the dance.
I was excited to listen to his DJing for the first time. While we were preparing for the evening milonga I explained to my girlfriend that I respect him a lot – since he has a vast knowledge of orchestras and singers.
– How come you don’t like him now? – she asked when she saw me disappointed.
– Well, the tracks he plays are good. But there is something that is not inspiring… hm, I can’t explain.
Well! I could not explain then, when I was inexperienced. In time I understood that you can respect all the principles of good playing music and still spoil the mood of the dancers if you can not read them.
So, what should the perfect tanda be? What characteristics should have that most essential unit of a tango DJing set?
1. Easy – Good tanda should be easy to dance to: not taking too much effort from the dancers. On a few occasions I have talked about danceability of the music.
Do not worry. Easy music does not means boring music. The beauty in tango is that even the easiest pieces have layers that are challenging and that give space for the dancers to express their musicality and their style. What I mean by ‘easy’ is that characteristic of the music that help dancers predict the patterns and emotions, the music that prepares them before it makes changes. Like, for example, late Di Sarlis instrumentals are great way to learn about the musical measures, because the orchestra gives a ‘warning’ that something is changing. This warning can come with few tones from the piano, or few strokes of stoccatto violins or ‘hits’ of strong bandoneon sounds.
2. Predictable – The job of the DJ is to be consistent, to allow dancers to know what to expect even when listening to just a few measures of the first song. It is very unpleasant (or even disrespectful form the DJ) when you start to dance emotional melodic tanda with a girl who is a passionate hugger and then suddenly the DJ changes the mood of the tanda to something fast and rhythmic. In a sense, the dancers are tricked.
A good DJ should always be consistent, even in the moment when he is trying to make gradation or storytelling with his tandas. Some DJs like to play tandas that contain music from four different orchestras, so called ‘four assess tandas’, but even then – a good DJ should choose songs which express similar emotion and rhythmical patterns.
3. Energizing – I have talked to many DJs and experienced dancers, but there is not a single widely accepted definition of what energizing music means. To some it means fast music; to others it represents music with strong emotional charge; there are DJs and dancers who define it as loud and dramatic music. I tried to sum up and I concluded that basically energizing music is music that makes people want to dance more. No matter what kind of music that might happen to be, the DJ should always try to play music that inspires dancers to be on the dance floor. The more, the better.
I do not agree with those DJs who try to adapt to the dancers saying things like ‘they are tired and I should play slower music’ and similar things. In fact, when people are tired or they have no energy, the job of the DJ is to pump up energy on the dance floor. I also do not like when DJs try to play too much emotional and melodic music towards the end of the milongas – it is like they are forcing the dancers to go home earlier.
4. On time – Remember my friend with the perfect collection? He spends a lot of money on completing his musical treasure – to be honest he has some rare tracks with a quality I never heard before. But, even so, many people did not liked his DJing. Why? Because he forgot to connect to the dancers and to give them what they needed at the right moment.
For the same reason I often say to my students, beginner DJs – “I can give you my computer with my complete tango music collection and let you play music – you will not play the way I do.” Why? Because having good music and a well organized collection is just a small part of what being good DJ means. In fact, I’ve seen DJs with music downloaded from Youtube and totally unorganized; and yet, they created a wonderful mood and people interrupted milongas several times to give them big sincere applause.
What approach is best for you? Do you think that different style works better? Write down your opinion in the comment section or in a private message.
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