Modern Musical Approaches For Square Dance Callers

Modern music is an audacious move for square dance callers. I do not mean that in a bad way. What I am saying is taking a more modern musical approach is a good way to being better at what you do.  Working at being different is the essence of audacity, to be bold, daring, and to add a little creative innovation to your way of doing things in regard to square dance.

In order for modern western square dance callers to step out and make changes in their programs in a normal night’s dance many will have to change a lot of the music that they have used normally. Perhaps some of these selections date back years from today. Take a look at your catalog of songs that you regularly use and assess all of those songs. Ask yourself, “How modern are all of these songs that I use?” and then ask yourself, “How many of these old music pieces can I put to rest and how many new musical pieces can I integrate into my normal program that I call?” This is a great starting point in the process of changing your square dance calling habits.

You might be asking yourself, why bother with changing the music that I use? There are several good reasons why. One is by changing up to modern music, you project a better, more modern image of the square dance activity. Second, couple that with the positive energy that you will induce upon yourself that will result in even more enthusiasm simply because you have compelled yourself to learn something new and different. There is no better way to tackle a new task than harnessing the forward momentum of learning something new.

There still is a place in the modern square dance activity for traditional square dance music, and I strongly feel that all square dance callers should fervently include the traditional styles of music in their night’s calling, as well. This is the root of the entire square dance movement, and there is a rich history and tradition that we should always salute and, for this important reason, keep a little of this in your program always.

Using modern style music, whether it is music based on today’s top forty music or techno-pop or hip-hop or electro dance, brings on the need for establishing some guidelines you might want to follow when you are going to use this type of music.

First, avoid distracting vocal music, it can be very hard to call over and the dancers will not hear your voice commands very well.  Things that can distract such as vocals, background instruments… these parts need to be removed in order to present a piece of music that can engage the dancers more and the non-dancing people watching will love hearing the updated changes in your music from what they had perceived years ago. Just about everyone who has not heard or seen a modern day square dance, whether at a regular dance or an exhibition, will be quite surprised at the changes in today’s square dance music that is being used by more and more callers all the time.

Second, by listening to any new musical piece over and over you will get a great feel for what you want to make editing on. Make a list of sections that you want to change. Save that new song variation as a new file and set it aside for a day or two. Go back and listen and see how your changes work in terms of smoothness and overall “danceability” and “callability.”  Another neat approach to creating new and original is to mash two different songs together, and come up with something totally new and fresh!

Third, try your new music on some dancers, preferably at a square dance class where you can get some feedback on your new music. Ask if the music seemed to flow and if they could hear you well enough. Dancer feedback on your calling is always a really good thing to receive. It keeps you in touch with the dancers and you have a much better idea about what they like and do not like about your calling. The sound, the kind of square dance music called to, the speed of the songs, and your calling technique, of course. These all are things you want feedback on. Make changes if you need to, that is why you get the feedback responses from the dancers in the first place.

Obligate yourself to adding more new and exciting square dance music for your calling engagements and then you will truly make your square dance event an over the top dance to be remembered by all!

As always, you can contact me at any time you have a square dance caller question, or if you have a comment that you might like to add.

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735
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.

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The Essential List of Modern Western Square Dance Songs! (So Far)

Below is an essential list of modern square dance hoedowns and modern western style singing call recordings that are the most popular in today’s square dance music. The selections are currently called at local square dances and at festivals and even the National Square Dance Convention dances, and these are currently performed by callers worldwide.  Some of these music selections have square dance choreography that were much more simpler during the earlier years of the modern square dance craze, and as years progressed, with the establishment of standardized lists and the formation of various national organizations created an equal environment nationally that set the bar for modern square dance.

With the creation of the Advanced and Challenge levels of dance, choreography became more involved and all callers added their personal choreography touches to many of the singing call breaks and this is one of the characteristics that differ from the the traditional style of square dance. The choreography that was written and performed by the square dance caller on the flip side set became married to that particular song.

Today, however, more calls are used by callers within the song and some may change the choreography throughout the entire piece. This is a departure from the early days of modern western square dance.

New releases will continue to add to the great essential list of most popular square dance music. What is listed here is a compilation of classic and highly accessible and usable music for a caller to reference as “great square dance music” and for performing in a square dance club setting.

One thing is for certain, over the years, square dancing has become more sophisticated and modern !

 

Essential Modern Western Hoedown Square Dance for Patter Calls:

Excelerator Special Chaparral 103
D. X. Land High Hat 650
Alpine Hoedown TNT 184
Jailhouse Jump ESP 429
Hot ‘n Sassy Rhythm 303
Take One Chaparral 101
Rock Island Ride Red Boot 233
Sugarfoot Rag Grenn 12201
BLT Hoedown ESP 428
Picker Patter Ranch House 103
Golden Eagle Grand March Chaparral 110
Boogie Hoedown Royal 426
Stay A Little Longer Kalox 1178
Cindy Blue Star 2009

 

Essential Modern Western Square Dance Singing Calls:

Beautiful Noise Cross Country 509
Small World (Grand Weave the World) Wild West 42
Amarillo By Morning Rhythm 147
Tulsa Time Chaparral 305
Some Broken Hearts Never Mend Rhythm 115
Square Dance Is On Lou Mac 142
Gentle On My Mind Wagon Wheel 113
Jackson Kalox 1079
Hello Mary Lou Chaparral 3513
My Beautiful Day Royal 246
Pink Cadillac Red Boot 3017
Oh Lonesome Me Rhythm 183
Sittin’ On Top Of The World Chinook 72
Mack The Knife Grenn 12135
It’s A Sin To Tell a Lie Blue Star 1992
Summer Sounds MacGregor 2051

 

 

 

 

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 training, education, 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.

Methods to Advance Your Square Dance Calling Ability

Since it is National Square Dance Month, I thought it seemed like a great idea to make a list of ideas that might inspire you and would improve your calling skills and allow you to sharpen your axe and head for the square dancing woodshed. The following square dance caller education tips are some great ways to implement various methods and practice habits to make your square dance calling more proficient. As with most things that require practice, a “little at a time a lot of the time” is the best recommended approach:

  • Create a schedule for practice time
  • Create a structured dance program that you can call anywhere
  • Follow that program in practice sessions daily
  • Practice in front of a mirror
  • Practice without any music
  • Practice with music
  • Practice with a metronome or drum machine
  • Practice with another caller
  • Read caller articles and ideas and choreography from local and national resources
  • Take an oral “recitation test” of your memorized choreography as quickly as you can and record it
  • Meet with a local state and national square dance caller’s association
  • Take a voice lesson or two with a vocal coach
  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Participate in local state, regional and national square dance conventions for callers
  • Set a few minutes a day for moving checkers
  • Practice square dancing in your head
  • Go to a square dance
  • Take lessons from another square dance caller to advance yourself a dance level
  • Learn a new singing call each week and tape record it
  • Practice one patter tip 3 times with 3 different hoedowns that vary musically
  • Practice sight calling “mental image”
  • Combine memorized modules and then force yourself to change the setups and get outs 3 different times
  • Attend a caller’s school or seminar
  • Have a dancer evaluate your calling
  • Try calling a tip without any music, record it and critique it (without any music)
  • Record a practice tip and critique it
  • Have a square dance caller evaluate your calling
  • Purchase a few new square dance calling releases
  • Attend a class for beginners in music at your local community college
  • Enlist a “mentor” or square dance caller coach to help you who is experienced and knowledgeable
  • Listen to other callers and take 2 important ideas/approaches and apply that to your calling
  • Recruit a square of friendly and enthusiastic dancers to allow you to practice your calling upon from time to time

I believe that anyone can learn to square dance call if they work at it. There are so many different niches in the activity, whether you are looking to call square dance parties locally, the Advanced and Challenge square dance levels, or perform on a national scale.

Call Shaun Werkele at 303-250-4735 if you have any questions, or if you need any suggestions on how to get started in learning to square dance call!

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 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.

Square Dance Calling: Providing Musical Variety

As our world continues to advance, the changes that occur in the musical realm also continue to evolve. Technology is one aspect that will always progress, and this has a huge impact on a traditionally based activity such as square dancing. Many sources for a modern western square dance caller are available today, and with the advent of the internet and smartphones, Ipods, laptop computers, and hololens, the possibilities for a creative person have expanded a lot. The bottom line is, there are many more resources for musical choices than yesteryear. Additionally, there are much more choices and styles of dance music that can be used and not just the music that is specially made for square dance calling .

For example, today anyone can download a huge variety of music from a variety of websites. This availability allows for you, as  a caller, to easily offer different musical genres to your square dance audience. This is a great thing, however, there are cautionary guidelines that must be kept in mind so that your offering of different music is effective.

As you select music, keep in mind that the songs that you present need to be suitable and appropriate for the audience. If you use music that is rock driven, do not use too much. On the other hand, given the roots of country and bluegrass music in square dancing, an entire night of the “two-beat” genre of music is a great way to fail in offering musical variety to your dancers. The same with fast and slow songs. Too many slow songs on singing calls is not good, and an entire night of fast square dance singing calls is not good either. Pay attention to how professional entertainers put together their song lists in their performances. The variety they offer in a set is a good model to set your dance program to. Pace your dance and spend some time thinking about what you want to present musically, and in what order will be best for the night of dance.

Stay in a modern and fresh musical styling in your program, make sure that you use new square dance music releases, but also put a little traditional and older songs in your night of dance. I recommend at least one tune for a singing call that is a either a “square dance classic” or an old vinyl record that you have recorded that you put in your set of songs for the dance. I am a huge fan of the old 1950’s, 1960’s square dance records . Many of these were recorded with a live band with little or no overdubs, and many times the level of the musician’s performances on these recordings were top-notch when they were pressed on vinyl.

One thing to be careful about is using music that has background vocals in the mix of the song. While the beat might be great, if the vocals in the background are too loud and distracting, then the music should not be used as a square dance music choice. The dancers hearing the calls is the MOST IMPORTANT thing when you call a dance. Remember, this is a square dance. Great choreography and the dancers actually making it through those sequences of calls that you give them is the number one concern you need to have.

So, use a modern approach to square dance calling and pay attention to market trends in both the square dance music industry, and the normal, everyday musical alternatives that are out there!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

Disclaimer:The purpose of this site 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 calling education 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.<\small>