One of the most common things we get asked in our beginner classes is "Where do I find music to practice to at home?" When I started dancing the best way to find swing dancing music was to trawl through CDs at second hand sales or music stores. Luckily we now live in a time when music can be accessed instantly in so many new ways! It doesn’t matter if you like using the iTunes store, eMusic, Google Music, Spotify, Bandcamp or Amazon, they all have great music for dancing! This post is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but just a guide to where to start looking for the music you love. There will be many more posts in the future about specific artists and music styles.
There is a whole lot of music that falls into the umbrella of swing, but not all of it is terrific for dancing and some music that is great for dancing wouldn't traditionally be classified as swing. I think the best place to start collecting music for swing dancing is in some terrific compilation albums that have been released over the years.
The first is Really Swingin’ – Frankie Manning’s Favorites. Frankie Manning was an amazing man and a talented dancer who danced not only back in the swing era, but also during the recent swing dancing revival that started in the 1990’s. This collection of Frankie’s favourite songs is a great place to find a bunch of different beginner friendly tunes.
Another good swing dancing compilation is For Dancers Only: A Lindy Hop Compilation. This collection covers a wide variety of swing styles and artists and is all dance friendly.
Once you have sampled these compilations you can start further exploring artists that you like and enjoy dancing to. Some artists that I would recommend from the Big Band Era would be Count Basie (link includes our namesake song) , Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford and Ella Fitzgerald. Modern Bands producing great swing music now include Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five, Gordon Webster, Glenn Crytzer and Casey MacGill. Closer to home in Brisbane we are lucky to have the Rhythm Society Dance Orchestra and the Caxton St Jazz Band playing in our home town.
These are some links and names that should help you to start finding music for dancing, but there is one very important thing to remember: swing dancing is about expressing yourself and the joy you feel when listening to the music. Swing dancing is always better when the music you are dancing to makes you want to dance, so find that music. It doesn't matter if it wasn't recorded in the 1930's, it doesn't matter who it is by and it doesn't matter what other people think about it. If the music makes you (and your partner) want to dance, if the music brings out that joy in you, then that is the perfect music for you to dance to.
What is your favourite song / album / artist to dance to? Comment below, I am looking forward to hearing from you.