In Part I of this article, we looked at the basic structure of tango which consists of 5 distinct parts: A (verse) -- B (chorus) -- A (verse) -- B (chorus) -- A (versue. It was mentioned that not all tangos, fit neatly into this structure, but that this simple structure is usually present.
Let's start with an older tango "Caminito" performed by Francisco Canaro from 1926. This song has several variations to the basic structure, but as you will see, that basic structure is still there. This song structure goes:
intro -- verse -- pre-chorus -- chorus -- verse -- pre-chorus -- chorus -- verse
Caminito (The Whole Song)
Caminito (Verse 1)
Caminito (Pre-Chorus and Chorus 1)
Caminito (Verse 2)
Caminito (Pre-Chorus and Chorus 2)
Caminito (Verse 3)
"Caminito" has a cute little 8 second introduction, before the first verse begins. This is very common and happens often in tangos. Dancer's Note: This introduction actually does have a strong beat, but usually they will not, so we rarely dance to an introduction. In fact, we usually don't start dancing until the first beat of the second phrase of a typical tango song, so if the song has an introduction, we might begin dancing on the first beat of the first verse.
After before each chorus in "Caminito," there is a pre-chorus that lasts for about 8 seconds which consists of a bandoneón solo and then a piano solo. Sometimes you can also have pre-versus which work the same way, but before the each verse. Dancer's note: This is a good time to execute a corté (break) or parada (stop) and for women to embellish. It might also be a good time for a calesita. Basically, something which keeps us from progressing.
Humming and Whistling
One other interesting note about this song, is that during the first chorus you can hear the band members humming or moaning the chorus and during the second chorus someone is whistling the chorus. This song was recorded in 1926 and singers were not added to dance orchestras until 1927, when Canaro recorded "Así es el Mundo," featuring Roberto Díaz, as a chorus singer. See my article on "The Role of the Orchestra Singer" for more information on this subject.
"Poema" is a very popular tango which was recorded in 1935 by Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida singing. It has a very distinct variation on the basic structure, while still keeping the verse -- chorus -- verse -- chorus -- verse structure. Listen to the song and then see if you can hear what it is.
Poema (The Whole Song)
Poema (Verse 1)
Poema (Chorus 1)
Poema (Verse 2)
Poema (Chorus 2)
Poema (Verse 3)
The first verse is 32 single-time beats, as we would expect, but then the chorus is only 16. Then the second verse is a whole 64, instead of the usual 32. Then the chorus is only 16 again and the final verse is 64.
Also, listen to verse 1 and then verse 2, there is no better example of a singer performing as an instrument of the orchestra. In the 2nd verse, notice that Maida imitates the violin of the 1st verse. The singer and the violin accent almost the same notes.
Dancer's note: "Poema" is also a great example of the choruses being more rhythmic than the verses. The tempo is the same, but notice how the energy goes up. There is actually a strong beat during the verses, but the melodic rhythm is equal if not dominant. During the verses, you have an option to dance to the beat or to the melody or switch between phrases. There is less option during the chorus, there is little melody and the beat is very dominant. Below is a performance of "Poema" by Murat and Michelle Erdemsel. It includes a painting of his which visually represents the different sections of "Poema." You will see the melodic sections represented as blue circles and the more ryhtmic sections represented by a rectangle with sharper lines and deeper colors.
Below are two great performances to "Poema" by Pablo Rodriguez and Noelia Hurtado and Javier Rodriguez and Geraldine Rojas. See you can see how they shift in energy between the choruses and verses. Also, notice that they both begin with a step on the fist beat of the 2nd phrase, this is not at all necessary, but is very common.