This post is a compilation of great songs for practicing specific swing skills. The focus is on practice songs, not social dancing music. (For a discussion of the differences, see the bottom of this post.) Next to each song, I’ve noted some of the concepts that the music emphasizes.
Please feel free to contribute your own song recommendations in the comments. I will periodically update this list with great suggestions from the readers.
Recommended WCS Practice Music
|Billie Jean||Michael Jackson||Identifying musical layers
|Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)||Us3||Identifying musical layers
|Don't Know Why||Norah Jones||Lyrical/legato texturing|
|Fallin' for You||Heather Headley||32-beat major phrases|
|Fill Me In, Pt. 2||Craig David||Accenting the 1 of each 8|
|Freedom Train Blues||Brother Yusef||Filling the beat
|Hush Hush||Etta James||Swung count|
|I Got the Blues||Brother Yusef||Perfectly phrased
48-beat major phrases
|Juke Joint||Johnnie Taylor||Pulsing on upbeats
|Low Down (with Coolio)||Jimmy Sommers||Staccato texturing
|Q's Blues||Roomful of Blues||Straight count
|Wade in the Water||Eva Cassidy||Hitting breaks|
|You're All I Need to Get By||Aretha Franklin||Speed changes|
|Down in the Valley||Otis Redding||Perfectly phrased
32-beat major phrases
|The Way You Make Me Feel||Michael Jackson||Rolling count|
Practice Music vs. Social Music
Obviously, there will be a lot of overlap between good practice music and good social music—after all, good practice music should encourage you to dance your best! But, there are some important differences. The following list outlines some of the key differences (although of course there are more than just this list):
- Good social music changes much quicker. Last month’s favorite late-night song may be passé now. By contrast, good practice music will stay around longer because it highlights specific technical elements, rather than the pop sound of the week.
- Good practice music is more predictable than some good social songs. On the social floor, having variety is important, so it’s ok to mix in a tango-WCS crossover or a song with irregular phrasing. Good practice music shouldn’t throw those kinds of curve balls, unless that’s what you specifically want to work on.
- Good social music can include complicating elements that may frustrate beginners. A great example is music that doesn’t have an instrument keeping time. This kind of song can be fun for advanced dancers who can keep time in their heads, but beginners may struggle to find and hold the beat without the song’s assistance. It’s okay for a DJ to mix in these complications every now and then; when practicing, though, you don’t want to add any unnecessary challenges.
If you’re a new WCS dancer, you should check out the Music for Beginners page, which lists songs that demonstrate the variety of WCS music while being accessible to dancers with less WCS experience.