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The Structure of Argentine Tango Music

My goal here is to provide a well-rounded explanation of the structure of Argentine Tango music, with a focus on the dancer. I am dealing here with tango music that is meant for dancing, starting in the mid-1920s. This is the music that you will hear at the milongas. This does not cover early tango music, tango cancion or the more modern music of Piazzolla.

The first part of this article deals with the basic structure and a discussion of tempo. The second deals with measures and phrasing and the relationship between melody and rhythm. The third part deals with more complex variations on the basic structure. In the future, there will be articles on musicality and additional subjects on Argentine Tango music.

Why is understanding this structure important for dancers? When we dance we have a connection with our partner, the other couples on the dance floor and with the music. This connection to the music is what we will explore in these articles. Most dancer's musicality ends with being able to pause and throwing in a quick-quick-slow here and there. Understanding the structure allows us to better predict when the changes in rhythm will occur, thus when to use those pauses and rhythm changes.