Structure of Music

Translating music into motion

Translating music into motion

There are a few methods to dance to music. One is to memorize a song and dance a choreography to it. This is comparable to giving a speech in a foreign language by learning sentences  which you don't even understand. The result can be beautiful but as soon as someone asks a question you are clueless.

Another way is to learn the structure of music. This is comparable to learning a language enabling you to have a conversation. This method takes more time but opens up a new world. You will be able to have a conversation with the music and dance to any song! You will appreciate music at a deeper level.

Typical song structure*

In general music has recognizable elements which make it understandable and predictable. Here is how a typical song is structured:

Intro: An intro is typically a multiple of 16 beats in length, and often introduces a new instrument or sound every 32 beats. Some intros open with drums and gradually add layers of instruments. A buildup or other aural cue lets you know it's over.

Verse: In songs with lyrics, each verse is usually different from the next. The verse sets up the theme of the song and builds a natural progression to the chorus.

Chorus: This contains the main message or theme of the song. It's built around a melodic "hook" and is the most catchy and energetic part of the song.

Breakdown: This is a transition from the end of the chorus to the beginning of the next part of the song. Dance tracks tend not to include percussion during the breakdown.

Verse 2: Most songs contain a second verse with different lyrics.

Chorus 2: Usually, the second chorus repeats the first chorus.

Bridge: This is an optional transitional section near the end of a song, most often in pop music. A bridge will occur only once, and musically and lyrically it's different from the rest of the song.

Chorus 3: Some tracks will repeat the chorus a third time.

Outro: This is the closing segment, where the song fades or breaks down to simple beats. It's most likely the same length as the intro.

* source:  Mixed in Key. Read on if you want more detailed info.

Learn the flow, listen to Conversations

Now you know what to look for in music. Let's listen to conversations. Here are our Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba play lists and some practical tips to get you started.

Lafrique Spotify playlists

  • Try to find the first beat of a strophe in a song. This is called count 1.
  • Count on the beat. Start on count 1 and go till 8. Repeat!
  • Try to recognise the structure of a song. What is intro, what is verse, etc.
  • Focus on separate instruments and listen to their part in the music.