Thursday, March 24, 2011

SmartPhones, Music and Dancing: A Winning Combo (Part 1)

One of the dirty secrets of the musical dancers is they listen to lots of music, both on and off the dance floor. Much more than you think. The song starts at the club, and they instantly recognize the tune.

They've already heard the song so many times they know the details. They sing along, play air percussion or bass, and know the words. Hitting the breaks and nailing the ending is not some chance or random event for them. They have the tunes on their iPod and have been listening in the car, while working out or even when they should be working.

These days I always have my phone with me, and it's helped me add a few hundred tunes to my collection. In this series I'm going to outline a few of my favorite apps, and give you some insights into why the "SmartPhones" are so helpful for dancers (I'm totally addicted.) I'm currently on a Motorola Droid X (Android) but unless otherwise noted, these apps are also available for the iPhones.

I used to leave my phone in the car when dancing, but now it lives in my pocket. I'm thinking of having it surgically attached, but waiting until they get a little smaller. If used correctly, they are one of the greatest learning tools of all time. (That will become clearer as you see the other articles in this series.)

Let's get this straight: If you're on the dance floor with a partner and you pull out your phone, I'll swear we don't know each other! Don't even think of it. That's not why I have it with me.

As a certified (certifiable?) music fanatic, I'm always looking to add tunes to my collection, especially the songs being played by the DJs or instructors at the places I frequent. I used to run up to the DJs after a great tune and ask them about the song's name and artist. Finding paper, and writing down the title/artist isn't always easy, especially in the loud club environment.

Today I simply pull out my phone and let it do the work. In the 9 months I've had my smartphone, I've added over 300 songs to my collection. (I had a huge collection before the SmartPhone.) I use it in restaurants, dance classes and clubs. If I hear an interesting tune playing in a YouTube clip, or on a TV commercial, I grab my phone and let it get me the name/artist.

I've also identified dozens of songs that I have heard many times before, but didn't know the name or wasn't 100% sure of the artist. I've even found a few dozen classic old school tunes that I owned in the last century, but never repurchased in digital format. (Too many to remember until I hear them again...)

Here's the first app you should consider (plenty more as the series continues.)

No smartphone should be without it! (Android and iPhone)

SoundHound is currently my favorite discovery app. When music is playing, press the big yellow button and it can often identify the song name/artist within 6 seconds of starting. Amazing how many it gets right.

It keeps a history list of the songs you've heard, and when convenient you sit at your computer, review the list and purchase the songs you liked.

Sometimes I buy them that night after I get home, sometimes weeks later. (I delete them from the history list after I buy the tune.) It even lets you hear a little clip of most songs you've identified, so you can remember what you liked about the tune before you buy.

Does it get every song? NO. Nothing does, but I'm surprised how many it can get for you. (In addition to SoundHound, I also have "Shazam" and I'll review it next article.)

If your DJ is playing very old, obscure music, it often won't be found by either app. If it's playing anything that is remotely popular, SoundHound will get it. Even if you can sing the melody it will find you the name of the song.

This was one the first apps I paid for on my phone. I started with the free version (ad supported) then gave up the big bucks for the premium version (~ $5, ONE time!!) In the beginning, the free version only allowed 5 song ID's per month, but now even the free version allows unlimited IDs!

Go download the free version now, and then when you see how useful it is for building your library, send the developer your $5 so they can continue the enhancements. (See "Related Articles and Links" below.)

The more great music in your collection, the better and SoundHound makes it easy to build your collection based on what you're hearing in your area. If your DJ is playing the song regularly, you want to hear it off the dance floor, where you can focus on the music details while not looking into your partner's dreamy eyes.

In the next article, we'll discuss Shazam, the music discovery app that runs a close second to SoundHound. You should have both on your phone. They overlap but have independent music databases, so when SoundHound can't identify a tune, Shazam will often find it for me (or vice versa).

Let me know what you think of SoundHound via the comments box below.

Related Articles and Links
Listening to Songs 100 times or more 
SoundHound site ( 


  1. We have talked about this a lot with our students. In terms of dance apps that offer salsa moves. We thought we could make a "headband" for the follows to wear that has a phone holder in the front so that the leads could watch the video and dance the moves! HA HA HA It's a funny joke... whooooo :)

  2. Jenny, Yea... Totally agree. I have seen a couple guys pull out their phone while with a partner and I wonder what is wrong with them. Hopefully their partner will slap them or walk off the floor next time. ;)

  3. Cool review, I look forward to the next one.


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero