"Do you have good musicality?"
I doubt there is only few who can say yes. It is something you do not come across in your life unless you have experience with musical instruments.
And this is the first hurdle most people give up even the possibility of dancing before trying out.
It feels scary because nobody has ever taught you. People just assume they are terrible and impossible to get better. But what if all this is preconceived self-perception based on the wrong idea?
There are 2 common traits for those without good musicality. Read along to see if your sense of rhythm is adequate and how to train it effectively.
Is musicality talent or skill?
If a sense of rhythm is an inborn talent, your ability is predetermined and it is meaningless to practice further. People widely hold that belief.
But seeing through countless dancers improving their musicality, it is certainly a skill, not a talent.
Once you assume it is nature instead of something trainable, it turns into an easy excuse never to practice. Thinking goes like this;
"These guys look so great! They must have natural talents for dancing! I have no such talent. It is meaningless even if I practice*".
To me, that is a very counterproductive mindset. It becomes tempting to slack off practicing.
You can certainly get better, and there is a proper training method.
2 patterns in those without musicality
There are 2 common patterns in people who are not strong with their musicality.
- Aware of rhythm but slips while dancing
- Unaware of rhythm inside the melody
Each has a distinct symptom and solution. Let's see if you fall into either type.
Aware of rhythm but slips while dancing
You have an understanding the ins and outs of music. Following and describing the beats are easy. It is all in your head. Not only that, you can also dance with the captured beats with confidence.
But, that musicality starts to slip out of control as your dance session progresses. Worse, you realize you have become offbeat, yet for some reasons, it is so difficult to get back on the track.
This strange phenomenon is more common than one would imagine, and only the ones who have actually danced can sympathize with you.
When showcasing or performing, there are lots of things that go on in your head. You are thinking of what to do next, trying to remember the choreography, impressing the audience, etc. Do not even mention about negative self-talk of making mistakes and being judged by others. Your brain becomes overloaded, and not enough attention will be devoted to the ears and musicality.
This one is difficult to fix since it is deeply rooted in the psychology. Everyone has different background and degree of severity. I can tell you not to worry, but the effect depends on the individual person. The sure way to improve is to get more experience. For the most part, you simply need to toughen up.
Unaware of rhythm inside the melody
Even though you are planning to move your body along with the music, you actually have no idea how the move is matching which part of the sound.
Its cause comes down to the musicality skill. You are unaware of which sound to follow. The fix is also straightforward. You should spend more time surrounded by music on a daily basis.
The advice is at a place you are not doing anything like at the bus stop, try to chase down particular base and treble instead of melody. Human ears are tuned to pick up high pitch sound. Especially Vocals can be a distraction. Being able to follow a sequence of beats will be your real dance strength.
Train your sense of rhythm
There are several practice methods. Everyone is at a different skill level, so please adjust it to your needs.
Download metronome app
Understanding the music is actually hard. It is intertwined with various instruments. To concentrate on the rhythm, good old metronomes will be your friend.
It is widely used in music class and piano lessons, but there are few dancers who are taking advantage of this. You should take this as your opportunity.
For Android, you can try Metronome Beats. This app has been around for more than 4 years and has more than 1 million. The interface is simple and easy too.
For iOS, without iPhone in my hand, I cannot actually test it unfortunately. While crawling through the Internet, I found many paid apps, but what we need is a simple ticking feature. They are not worth it. This Metronome app by Gismart is free and looks reasonable. Please let me know if you have a chance using it.
Move the body according to the ticks
Once you have set up the metronome app on your favorite tempo, it is time for practicing. With that ticking sound, move your body into various patterns. You can start off with nodding and clapping.
You might visualize musicians tapping the table with fingers, but since you cannot take an advantage of body's momentum, it is actually difficult. Assuming it is for dance practice, being able to do it with fingers is unnecessary.
Once you are confident in capture the rhythm with your neck and hands, start using your whole body with the chest and knees. There is no need to worry if you find it hard in the beginning. It takes time initially until the muscle gets used to it.
If you are advanced, you can have fun making a pose at every beat. It will be a good training to simulate your creativity and increase your dance repertoires as well. One famous dancer has said once that dancing is about connecting a collection of poses with graceful steps. The importance of poses goes without saying.
Adjust to all speeds
You should master both very fast and slow. They are both hard in their own ways.
Very fast rhythm is physically demanding because you have to keep up. But, it is quite rewarding if you succeed. It feels more athletics.
Very slow rhythm is very difficult on the contrary. It is difficult because you have to measure the timing right, to fill in the gap. You are not only hitting the ticks but are constantly moving between them. If you move too early, you are stuck at the bottom end. If you are too slow, the move never reaches the peak.
Practicing only slow or only fast feels tedious. I suggest you mix them up.
Practice your weakness
When you get a hang of rhythm timing, you want to practice differently depending on where you are at. As mentioned above, there are 2 patterns in people with weak musicality.
Pattern 1: You are aware of rhythm but slips while dancing
The biggest problem is your mental. You should be taking as many opportunities as possible to dance with the presence of the audience. But, there is still something you can do today.
It is rhythm walking. It can be either metronome sounds or dance songs. Listening to it, move up and down, left and right down the road.
The more your body takes on the music unconsciously, the more it opens space for your brain. Your body will be able to move naturally.
Pattern 2: You are unaware of rhythm inside the melody
If you have kept up with the metronome practices so far, you will have a much sharper hearing. Listening to music should give you a new sensation now.
In any song, there is a base. Search for that backbone, and follow along. Once you figure out, you can find flows of rhythm in any music.
Practice the rudimentary every day
Musicality is fundamental in dancing. As I talked about in "Reasons why your dancing looks amateur and how to fix it", isolation is what beginners need to look more like a pro. But musicality is what you need to start calling it dancing. Otherwise, you are making a random movement. You will never win a contest without adapting to the music.
Luckily, the sense of rhythm is ability anyone can train instead of talent.
Starting with rudimentary practice, it will gradually soak into your body and raise your level. You will be able to catch any music with any dance move.
As with any basic skills, this is an ongoing practice. It is not either haves or have-nots. Let's step up the game with your musicality.