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Improvised dance

Club dance

Club dance music is technology-based with the DJ playing an important role in mixing and presenting tracks. It is characterised by:

  • four-on-the-floor rhythms
  • extensive use of samples and loops
  • links to the club scene
  • layered textures

The roots of club dance are in 1970s Jamaican dub, Funk, Disco and 1980s European synth-pop.

Jamaican dub is a style of reggae where new instrumental versions of songs are made by remixing. The mixing desk is used to allow different elements of the songs to be pushed backwards and forwards in the mix. Effects such as echo and reverb are added. Dub artists include Lee Scratch Perry.

Funk is jazzy, energetic, guitar driven and groove based. Funk artists include Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown.

European synth-pop uses lots of electronic instruments. Bands include Kraftwerk, the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode.

Hip-hop was another early influence on dance music. Hip-hop is a US urban black culture which features DJing, breakdancing, and 'rap'. Some hip-hop DJs, notably Kool Herc, extended the breaks of records by mixing two copies of the same record.

Dance music technology

DJ and turntable

DJ and turntable

The Technics SL1200 turntable appeared in the 1970s and had a big effect on the dance scene because it lent itself to scratching. A pitch control enabled the user to speed up or slow down records so that two records could be 'beatmatched' and songs could be mixed together

The introduction of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) in the early 1980s meant that one musician could control several different electronic instruments easily and cheaply.

The Pioneer CDJ-1000 is the standard CD deck now and is found in most nightclubs. CD decks work in similar way to vinyl decks but have better sound quality and are able to loop sections of the track.

The Roland CR and TR drum machines were the first to have programmable rhythms. Drum machines have mostly been replaced by computer-based sequencers using sampled drum sounds.

  • A synthesizer is a device which generates sounds electronically.
  • A sequencer is designed for inputting, editing, storing and playing back data from a musical performance.
  • A sampler is a device that can take any sound that is put into it, process it and play it back. A sample is a digitally recorded fragment of sound: it could be an bass guitar riff, a song chorus, the sound of breaking glass, or indeed anything.
  • Looping is where a short sample is repeated over and over again.
  • A Vocoder is a speech processor which makes a human voice sound synthetic with a robotic effect.
  • Remixing is where record producers take an original track and make a new version by changing the style and balance, adding new parts and taking away ingredients of the original. Ableton Live software has recently enabled DJs to do live remixing.
  • Chorus is an effect sounding as though there are several instruments or voices where there is really only one. It is created by taking an audio signal and mixing it with several delayed copies of itself.
  • Delay refers to any type of effect that adds a delayed version of the original signal, to create effects such as reverb or echo.
  • Reverb (short for reverberation) can be created artificially in recording and is the most commonly used studio effect.
  • Panning is the positioning of a sound in the stereo field. It may be used to give the impression that the sound is moving from side to side, or it may stay fixed.

Back to Music for dance index

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