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Improvised dance

Dance music structure

Many dance tracks could be described as collages where a series of different layers (often samples and loops) are put together over a foundation of drums and bass using a cut and paste technique. A common structure is as follows:

  • Mix in
  • Main section
  • Breakdown
  • Mix out

The different sections tend to grow out of each other rather than be clearly divided.

  • Mix in: the opening section where the DJ mixes the previous track into the new one - usually drums or percussion.
  • Breakdown: the sounds drop out so as to create tension when they build up again.
  • Mix out: the closing section where the DJ starts to mix in the next track.

The DJ

dj's hands operating the turntable

DJ mixing music

Dance music DJs manipulate the sound in different ways, adding their own creative element to the music they play. Originally they used vinyl records, but today many use CD decks, laptops and software packages to cut up tracks, loop sections and add new parts as part of a live performance. DJ techniques include:

  • scratching: moving a disc back and forth as it is playing
  • mixing: mixing two discs together through beatmatching and sometimes pitch control (pitch shifting)
  • beatmatching: a mixing technique that involves changing the speed at which a record is played so that its tempo matches that of the song currently playing
  • cueing: finding a suitable point on a record for the DJ to mix a new track in

Back to Music for dance index

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