About virtual Argentine Tango classes and private lessons online
Our virtual classes online work on the assumption that it is a temporary measure to keep us engaged and improving, having always in mind the ultimate goal of dancing embraced again sooner or later.
I have to admit that I did not have much confidence in this channel for Tango instruction, but online classes turned out -unexpectedly- to be a wonderful way to observe in detail our students dancing, and a powerful tool to organize the presentation of our knowledge to them.
Of course it doesn’t appeal to everyone, since many seek physical contact in Tango, and/or are more incline to learn in a rather kinesthetic manner.
However, even though these physical/in-person/kinesthetic aspects are what Tango has of unique, offering them in subtle and poetic ways, attracting and seducing us to its adoption and incorporation into the core of our lives, we will always need the aid of visual presentation, clear explanation, meticulous observation and distanced objectiveness that are a fundamental part of the Tango instruction, but which are amplified in the case of the technology that we are obliged to use now.
As your Tango teachers (and here I ask myself about the relation between teaching Tango and life coaching), we strongly advise you not to miss this opportunity.
Learning Tango is hard, frustrating some times and humbling often, and all this may become even worst learning in virtual classes… or maybe not, and perhaps you’ll find, like I did, that it is wonderful, that it is powerful, and that thanks to a certain sense of “estrangement” it helps you to understand things differently, making you pay attention to aspects often passed on at the in-person classes, and facilitating you to make your communications more clear and efficient.
All of these apply to either students and instructors.
Here we want to share with you what we consider important for you in the process of virtual Argentine Tango instruction online:
Be open minded.
Definitely the online class will be light years away from in-person classes.
However, if you come into the classes avoiding the expectation of similarity with, or make up for the in-person class, you will be much more prepared to take advantage of what only virtual classes can offer to you, and are only on-the-side aspects at the in-person classes.
For instance, since your teacher cannot dance with you or physically move you, he or she will break down the movements into its most elemental constituents, helping you to fully understand what movements and how to execute them, in a way that, being more abstract, will provide you with the opportunity to practice the move in a “timeless” and “spaceless” fashion, a more thoughtful way, and eventually a more aware way.
Let the experience teach you.
Since this is going to be a novel way to learn Argentine Tango, you will find on your path problems that will be only resolved with later corrections.
For instance, your floor may not be the best for dancing Tango, or your furniture gets in your way, or your internet connection is too slow.
All these are problems that get fixed much more easily than fixing your Tango. Go ahead and move your furniture, look at hardware stores online for plastic tiles that you can put over your carpet, call your internet provider (now they are offering discounts on upgrades).
At each class you will get a better set up for your learning environment. And since we are a community, please share your questions regarding solutions to these challenges. I like to ask my students how they are fixing their particular problems, so I may be in the possession of an answer for you already.
Avoid distractions. If you are not alone at home, let your relatives and spouses know that you’ll be “away” for one hour.
Even though you are physically at home, you are virtually at your Tango class, and let me tell you, this “virtuality” is very real. You need to be fully engaged in your class. You won’t be able to be in two places simultaneously.
Even if it is your living room or garage, it is the classroom for the duration of the lesson.
Do not hesitate. Your instructors need constant feedback to know that the communication is effective.
Let them know you did not understand something, or you could not see it, or whatever passes your mind that is related to what is worked on during the class.
Your teacher has modified his/her teaching style to the online channel, so you need to change your usual learning actitudes. Even technical questions related to the technology used for the class are admissible questions. Remember that.
Plan your class.
You will need to adapt your teaching style to the TV or computer screen’s two dimensional space.
Keep in mind that your student needs to see you all the time. That is why turns are particularly challenging to teach in the virtual class set up.
My solution to this problem is to segment the turns in its constituents, in order to keep training a fundamental element of Tango, avoiding making students having to look at the screen while they turn away.
Have the right tools.
Supply yourself with a good camera and a good microphone. Since your communications will be exclusively visual and auditory, you need the best tools that you can provide yourself.
I’ve been using a mini iPad for the camera and a wireless microphone. I like to show the moves having students behind me, so I am doing the with the camera at my back, so the microphone has been essential to make the sound clear even while I am talking looking away fro the camera.
Although I have to say the iPad and Zoom (the video conference system that we use) are very sensitive in picking up the sound waves.
Have good lighting.
I am using all the lights of my home studio pointed at me, and added an extra lamp with a styrofoam board to reflect light on my face when I get close to the camera.
Use screen sharing to play your music.
This will make your students hear to the music you choose for your class with much better sound quality than if you make it stream from your microphone.
Keeping things in order.
Use the waiting room feature and close the admission at ten minutes into the class to avoid interruptions.
You can also have an assistant to work as admin. That is my case but it may not be yours.
This is what I have to say for now. Please let me know if you have any questions. I will be happy to answer.
The pandemic has demonstrated how much we need to act as a community, and I am very happy to see that everyone in the Tango community worldwide has that attitude.
¡Viva el Tango!
Long life to Tango!
Here are some examples of what we have being working lately in our virtual classes online:
Argentine Tango virtual classes and private lessons online
Learn Argentine Tango online in our virtual classes
For some time now, we have been considering ways to bring Tango to more people throughout the world, as well as to provide a more convenient option for local students.
With the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we have accelerated our plans to offer you virtual classes.
If this is your first time taking a virtual class, we want to reassure you that we’ve chosen a user-friendly platform to ease you into online learning.
If you’re wondering whether you’ll receive the full benefits of an in-person class, the feedback we receive from students is that virtual group classes and private lessons are just as impactful as in person, if not more so in some cases.
The key to a positive online learning journey is possessing the discipline to put in the necessary effort and maintain flexibility.
You will have the instant connection with your teachers or peers, and the motivation to concentrate on work and not be distracted, perhaps even more than during regular in person classes.
Online classes and private lessons can actually be an advantage.
You’ll be surprised to receive advice and observations from your teachers that can be more meaningful than what you might find in a traditional classroom.
How did the bandoneon become the instrument of Tango?
Invented in Germany, the bandoneon is an instrument from the concertina family.
Concertinas were conceived as an improvement of the accordion: the first concertina, invented in (1829 in England by Sir Charles Wheatstone/1834 in Germany by Carl Friedrich Uhlig) had five buttons on each side of the box, where each button can play two different notes when opening or closing the bellows.
The concertina’s sound was conceived to blend in with violins, to encourage its use in chamber orchestras.
The bandoneon is a musical instrument that resulted from the evolution of the concertina, invented by Carl Friedrich Uhlig (1789-1874) in 1839, inspired by the accordion, and conceived as a portable version of the harmonium (a type of pump organ).
The bandoneon is part of the hand-held bellows-driven free-reed category, sometimes called squeezeboxes.
The sound is produced as air flows past the vibrating reeds mounted in a frame.
The name comes from Heinrich Band, a musician, who in 1846 started selling an improved version of the concertina that he designed, with 28 buttons (producing 56 tones). He later added more buttons, reaching a total of 65.
It is worthy of note that Heinrich Band never patented the bandoneon, since he saw his instrument as an improvement of the concertina.
It got its name from Band’s customers calling it ‘Band-o-nion’.
Heinrich Band died at 39 in 1860, and his wife continued the production of bandoneons.
The factory where the bandoneons were produced was owned by Carl Zimmerman.
He emigrated to the US and kept producing his instrument, which became popular among Irish immigrants and also invented another stringed instrument known as the autoharp and sold his factory in Germany to Louis Arnold.
The son of Louis Arnold, Alfred Arnold, who worked in the factory since his childhood, eventually developed a bandoneon with 71 buttons with two notes each (producing 142 tones).
His version, called “AA”, became the preferred bandoneon of Argentine Tango musicians.
After the Second World War, Alfred Arnold’s factory, which was located in what became Eastern Germany, was expropriated, and ended the production of bandoneons to become a diesel engine parts factory.
Arno Arnold, Alfred’s nephew, was able to escape from Eastern Germany and opened a bandoneon production factory in Western Germany in 1950.
This factory closed after Arno’s death, in 1971.
Because the bandoneon was not patented, there was never any information recorded about the materials used to construct one, like the precise alloys of the metallic vibrating reeds that are different for every note.
Today, several individuals and companies in Germany have partnered together using the latest technology to study the historical AA bandoneons and produce them again.
From these bandoneonists, there is a primitive tango, or “proto-tango”, “El Queco”, very popular at the time.
“Unión Cívica” of Domingo Santa Cruz, by Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica, recorded in 1938.
The bandoneon was not immediately accepted by Argentine Tango musicians and dancers.
The original music band formations of flute, violin and guitar played a staccato, bright and fast rhythm.
The bandoneon, with its “legato”, with its low key notes, which were favored by its players, who would constantly insist to its German producers to add more low key notes, seemed to not belong to Tango.
But in fact, it gave Tango what Tango was missing until the integration of the bandoneon, and the bandoneon found the music it seemed to be created for.
The bandoneon, contrary to other instruments of Tango, like the violin, the flute, the guitar, the harp, and later, the piano, had no traditions to refer to.
It was a blank piece of paper on which anything could still be written.
There were neither maestros nor methods for it.
Everything had to be created from scratch.
The culture of gauchos and compadritos, of self-reliance and readiness for adventures, was apt to receive an instrument that nobody could tell you what to do with, and in which you could become a total creator.
Perhaps the similarities between its sound and the sound of the organitos that disseminated Tango everywhere, helped its acceptance.
In the earlier years of Tango music, the “organito” (barrel organ), had a major role in the initial spread of tango music throughout the city of Buenos Aires.
It was made of tubes or flutes and a keyboard which is operated by the cylinder, enabling the passage of air to produce different notes.
Air is generated by bellows which are activated simultaneously with the cylinder by rotating a handle.
The “organito,” like the organ and the bandoneón, is a wind instrument.
The sound of the “organito” prepared the ears of the Porteños for a natural transition to the bandoneon in Tango, when it finally arrived in 1880.
It is around these “organitos,” where men were seen dancing tangos in the street, practicing “cortes y quebradas.”
Juan Maglio “Pacho”
(1881 – 1934) was essential to the acceptance of bandoneon as a musical instrument of Tango.
He started playing as a professional at the beginning of the 1900s, first in brothels and then in cafés, until, due to his rising prestige, he was convinced to play at the very famous Café La Paloma, in Palermo, in 1910.
In 1912 he started to record for Columbia Records.
His success was so great that the word “Pacho” became synonymous with “recordings”.
“Armenonville”, recorded by Juan Maglio “Pacho” in 1912.
In 1910, Casa Tagini, managers of the branch of Columbia Records in Argentina, produced the first recordings of a musical formation dedicated exclusively to playing tangos and including the bandoneon.
In need of an appropriated label for this musical formation, the term “Orquesta Típica Criolla” was born.
(1888-1924), was the conductor and bandoneon player in this musical formation.
“Rosendo”, recorded by Vicente Greco y su Orquesta Típica Criolla in 1911.
Another advantage of the bandoneon was its portability.
(1892 – 1924) is the greatest bandoneon player in the history of this instrument in Tango music:
He created the octave phrasing, the passages harmonized in thirds played with both hands, the “rezongos” played with the bass notes (a particular effect that makes the bandoneon sound like grumbling), and with Juan Maglio Pacho, perfected the bandoneon legato technique, all elements which became essential to Tango.
“Rey de los bordoneos”, recorded by Eduardo Arolas y su Orquesta Típica in 1912.
(28 August 1899 – 16 October 1967)
He found in the bandoneon those dark sounds which separated the bandoneon from the flute forever, which in the beginning the bandoneon replaced and tried to imitate.
It is not known what secret gift made him find in the core of the bandoneon sounds that nobody had discovered before.
“Un capricho”, recorded by Pedro Maffia y su Orquesta Típica in 1929.
(5 May 1897 – 18 November 1984)
Born in Buenos Aires to a wealthy family seems to have influenced his art: his orchestra, refined and aristocratic, was the favorite of upper circles.
However, despite Osvaldo’s father was a rich businessman, at the age of ten, his family moved to La Paternal, a neighborhood somewhat away and humble, with flat houses in a popular surrounding which had its effect on his destiny.
It was there where he started playing the bandoneon.
“Arrabalero” Osvaldo Fresedo y su Sexteto Típico, 1927.
(30 October 1903 – 31 May 1957)
A bandoneon virtuoso, wrote a method to learn to play the instrument that is still in use.
He was one the precursors of the virtuoso stream in bandoneon playing.
He was a great technician but also with great gifts for interpretation. His arrangements were complex.
He wrote an outstanding variation for his tango “Mi dolor”.
He possessed a high technical command, an amazing fingering, and an overwhelming speed in his running variations performed with mathematical precision.
It was his the iniciative of systematizing the solos played with both hands.
“Mi dolor” by Carlos Marcucci y su Orquesta Típica, 1930.
(10 October 1902 – 7 July 1972)
He continued the way Arolas played by incorporating the “compadreadas” that he liked much.
He was a bandoneon player of great techniques, skilful with both hands (high and low-pitches), superb in sound, energetic in performances and vehement in phrases.
He was the founder of a performance school, composing outstanding tangos and wrote exquisite variations.
“Arrabal”, recorded by Pedro Laurenz y su Orquesta Típica in 1937.
(5 August 1905 – 9 July 1970)
He was a bandoneon player noted for his phrasing and ability to make the bandoneon sing.
It would be absolutely impossible to transcribe in a music staff what he plays in his instrument.
What he contributes is the way of phrasing, of dividing the melody, of finding nuances, of harmonizing.
“Alma de bohemio” by Ciriaco Ortiz trio with guitars, recorded in 1935.
It is a style with reminiscences of the guitar plucking of the milonguero criollo, which even though it has had no followers it may have much influenced Aníbal Troilo.
(11 July 1914 – 19 May 1975)
He was one of those few artists who made us wonder what mystery, what magic produced such a rapport with people.
He integrated all of these approaches into his way of playing the bandoneon, taking something from each of them, while being a master of personality and feeling in his expression.
In Anibal Troilo’s orchestra, his bandoneon is the instrument at the center of the musical arrangements.
“Quejas de bandoneón” by Anibal Troilo y su Orquesta Típica, 1944.
Bandoneons make the flesh of the songs in Juan D’Arienzo and Osvaldo Pugliese’s orchestras.
“El marne” by Juan D’Arienzo y su Orquesta Típica. 1938.
“La Yumba” by Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Típica, 1946.
In Carlos Di Sarli’s orchestra it blends a shade of color, perhaps realizing the intention of Ulich (the inventor of the concertina) of giving a particular nuance to a chamber orchestra.
“Y hasta el cardo tiene flor” by Carlos Di Sarli y su Orquesta Típica, 1941.
The bandoneon is an instrument of exceptional expressivity, which made it perfect for a musical genre that intends to communicate all the rainbow of possible emotions.
In addition to its great sound range -at least 142 notes (compare it with a piano which has 88), the character of its sound changes depending of the actions of opening (smooth, airy and sweet) and closing (ruff, strong and throaty).