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




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>