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Medleys and tune changes

September 1st, 2012
contra, music

Whenever callers ask us to play a medley, they want to coordinate so that we change tunes when they change dances. As a caller, I've also been told that while you can just be sloppy and change whenever, it's much more polished if you start the new dance with a new tune. I don't think this is right.

A dance change is a time when the focus of the hall needs to shift to the caller for a bit while the dancers listen closely. The caller starts their calls early to give the dancers more time to react to the new sequence, and because dancers know to start the figure when the call ends this requires longer calls and hence more calling total. It's a tense time but it's full of on-your-toes excitement. A tune change, on the other hand, draws the focus to the band and adds excitement and variety of its own. To best support the caller and the dancers in a simultaneous tune-dance change the band actually needs to downplay the change and slip it past the dancers attention.

I think the best time to change tunes is after about three times through the new dance: the caller has dropped out, people have it, and they're ready for something new.

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