Modern Square Dance Calling: How to Practice Efficiently

How to Practice Modern Western Square Dance Calling

Just a few posts ago, I put together an article entitled, Methods to Advance Your Square Dance Calling Ability to give the most effective list of items that a new caller would need to follow in order to learn how to become a square dance caller. Expanding upon those ideas a bit, practice time is an important component in the calling “machine.” Below is a set of tips to aid in becoming more efficient in your practicing of your craft. Applying this best set of directions will help you to  improve faster and with less stress.

Start Your Practice Session With a Set Goal

Practicing is much more effective if you have a set plan of what you want to accomplish. Write your set goals, at least one long term and one short term and decide what you need to do to improve and approach those goals. Do not just practice the songs the same way every time without direction for improvement, have this focused approach to help you optimize your practice time.

Think of Your Practice Time As a Workout

You should warm up your voice with some sigh-hums and then work on counting to a metronome or drum machine. You are stretching and warming your vocal chords and tightening up your timing and you should think of this as warming up as if you were about to exercise. Work on some simple phrases that you might use when you call and put these to some patter music. Next, work on some memorized material that you know well. After you work through some of these pieces, both hoedowns and singing calls, you are ready to move on to  improvising and working on new ideas. Finish with your newest ideas and this will round things out.

Keep All Your Square Dance Calling Tools Handy

Type out your Choreography and keep it in a practice notebook. Always keep a nice sharp pencil with an eraser with this so that you can edit or make notes next to your ideas. Use a highlighter to underline a specific idea that you want to remember within a particular sequence of figures and you will improve your memory retention of of the idea. Keep a set of choreography checkers nearby in case you have a new idea while you are practicing. This sounds simple, and it is. But if these tools are not nearby, you will waste more time trying to locate them.

Record Your Practice Session and Review It

You will need to make sure that you are in a quiet and private area to record yourself. Personally, I do not like to have anyone else hear me when I practice. Some singing calls I might be learning the words to, the timing, the phrasing of the music, they are things that I do not want anyone else to hear because this is an unpolished performance. So make sure that you have a work space that does not disrupt others and allows you to be most effective in your practice time. Never record a practice take of a song more than twice in a practice session. You will start losing energy and if you are just learning the piece, let it go until your next practice session. Training and developing your skills takes time. Have patience and gradually you will learn the singing call. Review your recording and see what you need to improve upon.

Remind Yourself About What You Need To Work On Next Time

After you review your recording, make a list of things that you will want to work on the next time. If you have a song that you are having trouble with, try to figure out exactly which part is giving you problems and work on that part only, first with music, then without music, then with music and you will work through improving that trouble spot for yourself. The next time you practice, the song should be much easier to call the next time around.

Overall, just focus on beginning your square dance calling practice with an end in mind and log what you want to work on next. Spend a few minutes a day mentally practicing calling modern western square dance choreography and actually visualize the dancers dancing it in your mind. Bring your choreography notebook with you and when you have some down time in your day to review silently. This is practice! Having the figures you want to call in your head so you can use them when you need to is a huge part of calling well!


Shaun Werkele


Please do not hesitate to call me if you have a square dance caller training question or any other question regarding square dance that you might have!

Have a great day!

Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller education, training, and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.


9 thoughts on “Modern Square Dance Calling: How to Practice Efficiently

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