Square Dance Calling Made Easier: Six Tricks You Should Know!

Strong Focus with a Square Dance Educator and a Smart Practice Regimen Can Propel Your Square Dance Calling to New Heights

1.  Start With a Strong Mindset and a Song or Two…

A strong focus is necessary to achieving anything in life. For square dance calling a strong will to improve will carry you far. With the right frame of mind, you can corral together your mental strengths and work on removing your weaknesses.  Performance of square dance calling takes a lot of focus to become proficient. Only then can you succeed on a higher scale than you are currently at. Take your enthusiasm and energy and launch things off with the purchase of a couple of good, solid songs with a simple melody and a strong and driving back beat. As a new caller, you will have a tendency to buy more square dance music than you initially need.

Remember your repertoire needs to only be what you can physically call in an evening. For a start, music you use right now is a path to reaching a higher plateau in your abilities, so pick that enthusiasm and make some goals!

2.  Goal Setting…

Start your improvement with goals. Make time in your daily schedule that you can get focused on calling and use that practice to boost your knowledge and vocal improvement and really make it rewarding. There’s no absolutely right manner to approach many things in life, but with set goals at least you are on track  – starting with learning the proper way to deliver calls in time, writing strong choreography that the dancers will like, strengthening your vocal performance, selecting powerful songs in your program, all of these areas need to have goals in place and a schedule focused on how to reach the plateau that you are striving for.

In other words, use a structure that aims your practice with your end goal – to basically improve your calling on an attainable and effective scale. So make reasonable goals. Goals will drive your improvement.

Related:  My Time Log Calling Practice Sheets

3.  Analyze and Improve

After you have goals, you need to analyze your current abilities and your weaknesses and objectively learn how to improve from that analysis. If you can commit to a daily practice session take time to analyze your regimen and the details of what you practice.

You should make notes about what to work on to improve and strengthen your ability. Study square dance choreography and make it something that you take an analysis on in terms of dancing – good flow and mental difficulty – and spend time studying regularly. Just taking the effort to step into analyzing the things you do will provide you the stepping stones to improve and it will at the same time prevent you from making the habitual mistakes you most likely are continually falling into doing far too often (the rut trap).

Related:  Master Square Dance Calling

Analyze what you want to accomplish, practice it. Practice your program and then analyze it.  It’s one of the very best ways to reach that place of being professional and experienced and relaxed and ready!

4.  Practice Schedule

Being fluent in anything takes hard work and practice. Your performance of square dance songs on a highly proficient level will take some time. Set aside a regular time slot to work on your practice sessions. Decide on how much time you can realistically afford to invest in improvement. It is absolutely essential that you do this to reach the goals that you have set. Even without the consideration of setting goals, you need to always strive to find a new way to provide interest and pump up the energy in your performance. With goals, all that is needed is discipline to become proficient. If you falter in maintaining your practice schedule, you will sacrifice reaching any plateau that you want to accomplish. Long term gains depend upon being consistent.

For instance, if you want to become a better traditional style square dance caller, study some old choreography figures and then add those ideas to your well of your square dance calling ideas yourself. Historic and traditional square dancing makes for a strong background for all of square dancing and you can draw from that heritage for ideas that you can always use in innovative ways. Call with devotion and reap the rewards. When you’re focused on your practice and improvement the whole learning routine becomes easy and exciting on a personal level.

5.  Study the Art of Calling a Square Dance

Callers in the past have created a legacy and a creative library to draw from for new ideas. It is important to realize that you can take ideas and apply them to your style that you are working to develop. From the traditional square dance masters in the beginning of square dance to modern day square dance artists in the art of square dance calling, learn and then use those ideas to advance. In order to improve yourself as a caller you must never stop being committed. Follow through with your plan and this is how you can improve by adding new ideas and variations on the original called ideas from yesteryear and you will come closer to moving forward.

Look at other callers and what they do. Both good and bad things. You can learn from their strengths and weaknesses in their technique, program and developed abilities. Analyze them and then take a look at yourself and fill in the wholes that will make you a stronger and more effective caller.

6.  Education in Square Dance Resources

Weaknesses are usually based upon lack of skill and knowledge. Valid and reliable opinions about how to improve can be applied to how you approach your square dance calling improvement situation. Any feedback you receive needs to be smart and honestly supportive and helpful.

Opinions on this scale are constructive, and sometimes a bad opinion can adversely put down a newer caller. Getting any feedback on your calling should come from a caller coach who can direct you in the most effective areas of improving in many areas such as selecting music, writing choreography, learning to entertain, or even overcoming obstacles such as weak teaching habits with new dancers. This is when you can get focused on improvement approaches.

Keep in mind that everyone’s approach is going to be a little different, and so is their motivation. But the discipline of working in a disciplined practice regimen with the guidance of a square dance caller coach can elevate your improvement on a much higher scale! Stay focused and be committed to learning in areas that you want to advance in.

Related:  Square Dance Calling School

This article is not a “one size fits all” guideline. Every caller will need to practice in tune with their individual set of goals, and many will need to practice in vastly different ways to achieve their ultimate end-goal: mastery of calling.

Contact me for any help in square dance caller training. Smart habits, directed goals and doing the right things to get you what you want to learn will only lead to better square dance calling for the entire activity to enjoy!

Best Regards,

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 coaching 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.

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Ways to be a Showman as a Square Dance Caller

If you are looking for unique ways to be a showman square dance caller or you are looking for a different approach to entertaining when you are calling a square dance or a corporate party or function then this post is for you!  Incorporating unusual, fun and even quirky performance techniques to stage engaging live performances at events is a valuable tool for engaging a group of dancers at a club or even to captivate a crowd at an event. So many times you have to be versatile in what you offer to your audience at a square dance and bring the excitement to the dancer’s night by offering a “show.” You can read more about this in a previous post I wrote, For The Square Dance Caller: Sparkle Your Entertainment! 

Many of these ways of performing as a showman were already used quite a lot by many men in the past who called dances in the traditional square dance callers style and even the early days back in the heyday of the modern square dance revolution. These guys had it right. They KNEW they needed to engage their crowd of square dancers by entertaining and holding the interest of everyone present by being unique in their stage presence on stage. Incidentally, this is one huge advantage that the traditional square dance scene already has over modern western square dancing, and that is the live music played by a band of musicians in the dance setting at the traditional dances.

With a little work at applying yourself, you can be a specialist in unusual entertainment with audience participation. Come up with the idea of what you want to engage everyone with and work that up.  You might still see to this day at a National Convention a square dance caller who will have a unique approach to engaging the dancers by playing the guitar while they call or some other different and novel idea.   In the past this style allowed for a nationally recognized square dance caller to impress local area groups of square dance dancers with a unique and special night of entertainment. But you, as a local caller can do the same and spice up your night of square dance calling by doing the same kind of thing.

Here are some great ideas that have all been used as an entertainment platform for square dance callers in the past who either performed a short showman act between the dancing or in some cases, such as playing an instrument, they implemented different things that were entertaining while they were calling:

 

  • Ventriloquist
  • Standing on head
  • Calling blindfolded
  • Calling fast
  • Changing dynamics of the music from soft to louder
  • Original choreography
  • When singing hold a note for a long time
  • Yodeling
  • Perform magic trick
  • Telling a good joke that is not too lengthy
  • Calling with another caller in harmony
  • Involving the audience
  • Playing an instrument

 

Elegant, unusual, sophisticated, sometimes even bizarre ideas can keep everyone’s interest level at a peak. So don’t underestimate the potential this can have on your ability to take your square dance to a higher level. In order to be a unique square dance caller entertainer you need to draw from the experience of watching an unusual performance or even street entertainers to draw ideas and inspiration from. Then you will come up with new ways of engaging your audience such as they have not been engaged before.

In the end, just call the very best that you can and remember to entertain!

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.

Square Dance Callers: Using Your Microphone Effectively

When a square dance caller is calling a dance, there are an awful lot of things to remember to do while they are calling. The best advice given is to work out many of the difficulties such that they are not something that you would need to focus on while trying to think about what choreography to use, what lyrics of the songs to sing and the performance of those songs. Training your voice and practicing so that you sound as good as possible is similar to learning to play an instrument. Developing your range and learning to control your voice’s tone and learning breath control are all components of learning your vocal instrument, your singing voice and your vocal performance. But at the end of the day, these efforts to develop good vocal technique can be eclipsed by poor microphone technique. Both the traditional and modern square dance caller need to learn how to use a microphone most effectively or they will lose out on sounding the best that they can.

First, learn to hold the mic properly. Do not hold the microphone at a vertical up-and-down just below the lips. By doing this, you will lose tons of tonal quality from your voice by singing over the top of the microphone head, or sometimes called a grill, and it will sound thin. By holding the mic at an angle of approximately 45 degrees from the floor toward your mouth, you will capture all of the tonal quality that comes from your mouth and nose. This is by far the most important thing you can do to improve your vocal sound. Always call and sing into the top of the grill and keep the mic angled for optimal vocal tone.

Make sure that you hold your microphone by the shaft and not up by the grill. This will create feedback from the speakers and you will lose tonal quality. Additionally, you will create extraneous noises with your fingers that will carry through the speakers out to the dance floor. Try recording this sometime and you will hear a great difference between where you hold your hand on the shaft of the microphone. Avoid this bad habit as well as letting your mic hand drop to an up-and-down vertical position when you are calling. Occasionally practice in front of a mirror so that you will be able to see how well you hold the angle of the mic.

Use a specialized diction that emphasizes the consonants but at the same time brings them out to the same level of importance as the vowel sounds in your calls. Diction requires clarity, but if you are too articulate, it will sound unnatural and you will actually be harder to understand. Another thing, if you hold the microphone too close to your mouth this is emphasized even more and the undesired result will be what is referred to as “popping.”

Popping is distracting and you can also pass on hissing sounds from your voice when it is too close to the mic. The ideal distance you want to hold the microphone from your mouth is somewhere between a half inch and an inch away. Do not let the microphone touch your lips, this too, will lead to dancers having trouble understanding your square dance calls because the lips are being blocked from moving freely. And since you are holding the microphone too close to your mouth, you will not get the top quality tone from your mic.

Depending upon the sensitivity of your microphone, if you vary your volume when you are singing, you want to work on using the “proximity effect” when you are performing. This is accomplished by pulling the mic slightly farther away and then closer again when you decrease your singing volume. Be careful not to pull away the microphone too far or too fast, the dancers want to understand what you are saying and you will need to move the mic closer as soon as you drop your vocal volume. This takes a lot of practice to be effective at, but it is worth it once you master this technique.

Particular styles and brands of microphones will pick up the tonal qualities of your voice best, so spend some time shopping for a suitable mic that enhances your vocal range and the sound of your voice.
No two microphone brands or styles are identical, and you need to find one that suits your own unique voice. If your voice is low, you need to find a microphone that adds high end , upper middle tones, and is not too boomy on the bottom end. If your voice is on the high end, then you need a microphone that has upper presence in line with a lower mid range and low end boost.

Additionally, experiment with the tone controls on your amplifier so that you can dial in more or less tone when you need to adjust it. More tone will allow your voice to cut through a more muddy and acoustically challenged hall, and when you have a hall where there is a lot of echo from the walls, then you will want to focus on finding the perfect blend between a nice balanced sound and a clear and bright sound, too.

Finally, think of the microphone as part of your voice and an extension of it. And think of the amplifier pushing out to the speakers as an extension of your voice, a louder and more beautiful sounding “you.” Don’t overdrive your voice, but rather, think of the microphone as receiving, projecting and amplifying your voice!

As always, feel free to call me at any time if you have a square dance calling question!

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.