Alternative Patter Music

I organized and hosted the Alternative Patter Music sessions at Callerlab for 2001-2003. Here are the handouts.

Some callers have been using "alternative" music for patter music at square dances.

What do I mean by "alternative patter music"?

I am talking about any music which has regularly and successfully been used as patter music, and yet is not produced by one of our square dance labels. Instead it was created for other listeners, sometimes for other dance forms, and it just happens that we can use it for patter music.

Why the emphasis on patter music instead of singing calls?

Patter music can be less structured than singing call music, giving a much larger range of music from which to choose. Often our patter music is more drab and boring than our singing call music. Sometimes this is necessary so that the dancers won't get distracted by the music. However, sometimes it is nice to let accomplished dancers dance to a good piece of music. Music from outside the normal square dance arena is another way of providing variety, getting away from boom-chuck, certain instrumentation, and other constraints we impose upon ourselves.


As more and more people try using alternative music for patter, there has been a backlash. Not all music works, and some callers are not very good at using it. Perhaps it takes a skilled caller to use some of this music effectivaly. Calvin Campbell offered his perspective. He was responding to the following comment:
Recently I was calling in the L.A. an area caller complained to me, in not a nice way, of the patter music, I use alternative like many of us do now, and that we need to stick to country music to preserve the activity. NONSENSE!!!!!!!!! At the same dance a lady came up to me, she was early 50's maybe,(my age) and told me how much she loved the music I was using and she likes callers who use that type of music. I had done a few songs from the 60's -70's- Love is in the Air- Help me Rhonda-(Beach Boys)- Love is all around- Your the one that I want-Lovin Spoonfill.... She was a fairly new dancer and appreciated songs from her era. I told her this activity must evolve or we will not survive. She said thank you for saying that she had said the same thing to others. I picked songs that I thought would please that particular crowd that night.
Cal's response:

I have used many different kinds of music over the last 54 years of calling. I started out with the traditional tunes like Soldier's Joy and Cripple Creek played with a fiddle and a bass. I cheered when people like Ed Gilmore added piano, banjo and drums. Over the years, I have explored many ways to provide music that could be used for square dancing and the other dance forms that use the 4,8,16, 32, 64 beat structure of music. In my case, that also includes waltz, 80, and 96 beat tunes. These days I buy CDs with Blue Grass and Celtic music that really stir my soul.

I have explored many recommendations of alternative music. I have even spent a considerable amount of time working with waveforms of music I loved to listen too, but I could never figure any way to square dance to. Here are my conclusions.

Square dancing is built around a structure of movements that typically fit within 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 steps. The music must then conform to the same structure. The music that works the best is based on a structure of a tune that carries on for two melody lines that have 32 beats of music. The first melody is played twice and the second melody is played twice. AABB.

A lot of alternative music I review, these days, is built around loops of 2-4 beats that don't even have a theme or melody. Just a pounding repetition of sounds. I went to a state SD convention recently where many callers used alternative music. After a while, every recording sounded basically the same to me. The same 2-4 beat loops that are used in Garage Band and other computer programs. To me, it was boring, boring, boring.

Much alternative music, these days, is written to appeal to people who enjoy places where the music is extremely loud and no one expects to carry on any conversation. The dancing consists of largely primitive jerks and sways. The dance movements are choreographed by the individual and have no correlation with the action of any partner. Does this sound like anything remotely connected to square dancing?

If you want to appeal to people who want this kind of music, it's certainly your choice. However, this population of people is limited in size. Probably more limited in size than the population who like a broader range of music.

Every dance form has the music that attracts the people who enjoy that music. Square dancing has enjoyed a much wider range of music than most. Right now, I think the "alternative branch" of music some of you are trying to force on the MWSD world will only accelerate the continuing decline of interest in square dancing.

I (Clark Baker) wanted to include Cal's comments in this document as a warning and to temper the enthusiasm some may have over alternative patter music.

Celtic Dance Music

On 5/28/06 Andreas Hennecke (Germany) writes:

Would somebody please share some tips of CDs of instrumental, upbeat celtic style music? I have looked River Dance etc. but find the tap dancing on the soundtrack too distracting. I have been looking to add that music style to my tool box for a long time.
I have had success in using the following for contra dancing. Some of them may be suitable for MWSD patter music.
  1. 100% Dance Reels ~ Liam Bradley: 100% Pure Irish Dance: The Show (BD 02CD)
  2. A Whisky Kiss ~ Shooglenifty: A Whisky Kiss (Greentrax #106)
  3. Behind the Bush In the Garden ~ Karen Ashbrook & Paul Oorts Celtic Cafe (Maggie's Music #224)
  4. Da Eye Wifey ~ Shooglenifty: Whiskey Kiss (Greentrax #106)
  5. Dance Above the Rainbow ~ Ronan Hardiman: Feet of Flames (Philips #559562)
  6. Deep Channel ~ Afro Celt Sound System: Seed (Real World)
  7. Duelling Violins ~ Ronan Hardiman: Feet of Flames (Philips #559562)
  8. Exile of Erin / Riff efter tam Lin ~ Lift Ticket: New Balance
  9. Fairy King Skank ~ DJ Leary: Celtic Soundclash also here (Acoustic Soundclash Records #ASR001)
  10. Indian Visions ~ Power Of Movement: Power of Movement: Dynamic Dancing (Inner World Records #41014)
  11. Landlord's Walk ~ Blair Douglas: Celtic Dance [Narada] (Narada #48858)
  12. Las Temporadas ~ Big Sky: Volume 1: The Source (Edel)
  13. Lexy Macaskill ~ Peatbog Faeries Mellowosity (Greentrax #124)
  14. Maids of Mount Cisco ~ Peatbog Faeries Mellowosity (Greentrax #124)
  15. North Part 2 ~ Afro Celt Sound System: Volume 3: Further In Time (Real World #10184)
  16. Point Road ~ Shooglenifty: Venus in Tweeds (Greentrax #76)
  17. Release It ~ Afro Celt Sound System: Volume 2: Release (Real World)
  18. Shake in the Barley ~ Joe Craven: Camptown (Acorn Music #11)
  19. Soldiers of Joy ~ Joe Craven: Camptown (Acorn Music #11)
  20. Sparky ~ Sharon Shannon: Out the Gap (Green Linnet #3099)
  21. Sugarfoot Congress ~ Boiled In Lead: Antler Dance (Omnium #2007)
  22. Teuchstar ~ Peatbog Faeries: Welcome To Dun Vegas (CDBOG001)
  23. Thainig I Anall ~ Mackeel: Plaid (Tidemark Music & Distribution Ltd.)
  24. The Anthropologist ~ Peatbog Faeries: Croftwork (CDBOG002)
  25. The Great Ceilidh Swindle ~ Peatbog Faeries: Croftwork (CDBOG002)
  26. Whirl-Y-Reel 1 ~ Afro Celt Sound System: Volume 1: Sound Magic (Real World #62359)

2003 Callerlab Session: Alternative Patter Music

This year I was moderator and we had 5 panelists, three of whom were new to these presentations. The blurb said:

Several callers who use alternative music as part of their patter calling will demonstrate how they use this music and the effect it has on the dancers. We often hear that callers need to use different, and more modern music to attract younger dancers. This music has been successfully used by these callers as one tool to entertain dancers of all ages. Perhaps you will come away with a new appreciation for this different side of our music.

Tapes, CD's, and MP3's of this session are available from Convention Tapes International 1-800-747-6334.

Be aware that the master tape has some recording problems. There is a background hum and the actual music examples with calling are grossly overdriven resulting in a distorted and very bassy recording. The presenters' commentary is just fine.

Ask for Callerlab 2003, tape #30 - Alternate Music Session.

I will fill in information about their presentations ASAP after Callerlab. -- Clark

2002 Callerlab Alternative Music Dance

Tapes of this session are available from Convention Tapes International. Be aware that the master tape has a recording problem, and not all of this tape will be dancable. In particular, Clay's performance is affected. Ask for Callerlab 2002, tape #35 - Alternative Music Dance.

At this year's convention there was an after-banquet dance at which each of the following callers presented several music selections. Here are the callers, the music they presented, and a more detailed description of their music and philosophy.

2001 Callerlab session

Tapes of this session are available from Convention Tapes International. Ask for Callerlab 2001, tape #29 - Non-Standard Music. The price is $9 plus $2 S&H.

An unintended result at this session was some outstanding choreography (mostly Mainstream, some Plus) and high energy dancing resulting from the synergy of the music, the callers and a super square of dancers. I recommend getting the tape, dancing it, and researching some choreo.

There were two goals for this session:

  1. To expose you music which is not traditionally used as patter music, and let you see how the caller handles it, and how the dancers respond to it.
  2. To give you some ideas on how the callers choose and work with their music.


Ted Lizotte - Manchester, NH

The philosophy when I started using "pop-patter" was that I wanted to do something during the night that I liked. I like a lot of music that the activity offers, but let's face it, we don't listen to the singing call station on our FM dial. As I continued to increase my collection of songs, I found that my dancers responded extremely positively. While I have numerous pieces which are more borderline — the ones I list below are tried and true — and requested often at my dances. I tend not to use one of my "pop-patters" until at least tip 3 of my dance. My other patters are a split between traditional patter and singing call patter, I view these as one and the same, though others may have differing opinions. Usually, not more than 1/2 of my dance is devoted to the pop-patter.

Ted's Rules

When I utilize a "pop-patter", there's a few rules that I like to follow.
  1. Start with a Grand Square, Circle Left, or Allemande-RLG right off of the bat. This gives everyone a chance to feel the music, find the beat and get into it.

  2. Keep it simple. Over used, sure, but on the mark. For the most part, people are unaccustomed to this type of music. They now have to pick out my voice from the vocals on the record. I try to impress them with the smoothness of the dancing and go back to the choreo component with my next "traditional" piece of music. Dancers who dance to me every week have much more leeway in this area.

  3. I do this more for myself, than anything. I try and time my allemande lefts and RLGs to the chorus on the music. It forces me to pay attention and I also find that if people are going to sing and ignore me, the chorus is when they're going to do it.

  4. End with the record. I heard a famous caller once say, "only good callers end with the record", I guess I took it on as a challenge. Unlike a normal patter record which is constantly repeating itself, most people know these songs inside and out, and can sing along with the whole thing. Don't gip the dancer by going back to the beginning and then not finishing the piece as it was intended. Listen and time it. When you get it right it's impressive.

Song Selection

How do I select these songs? By ear mostly. When I'm driving home from class, I'll set the radio to SCAN and wait until something catches my attention. The thought being that if it makes me stop and take notice, it will effect my dancers the same way. Though I have a collection of songs that I've purchased and never used, my percentage here is better than with my singing call records. :-)

Overall, I look for a song with a distinct regularly occurring chorus and that isn't offensive to the general population — which in today's music can be difficult. I try to vary my selections to different decades instead of concentrating on just my own — but I have to like the piece of music. If I can't get into it, I shouldn't expect my dancers to.


  1. Bad Case of Lovin' You - Robert Palmer

    This had a driving beat that hooked me the first time I heard it. Most people know it, and if not, they all know the chorus. This is probably one of the fast moving songs I have. Played at 45, it's enough to tire the kids out, but they love this one.

  2. Believe - Cher

    Too popular to not be included. Again, a driving beat that gets everyone's toes tapping and it won a grammy. Again, this thing can move pretty quick, which is why they like it.

  3. September - Earth, Wind and Fire

    This is beautifully smooth piece of music. lots of instruments you don't normally hear. It's a great travel back to the 70's without getting to heavy into the disco. I play this right at 45 as this is at almost perfect dancing speed.

  4. Turn the Beat Around - Gloria Estefan

    This has a wild opening that gets people wondering what it is going to happen. As this is a remake of the original, and a better one in my mind, everyone knows the tune.

  5. Hurts So Good - John Cougar Mellencamp

    One of John's earlier works for those who remember when he started. One of his biggest and it works well. I play this slightly faster than recorded to keep up the pace.

  6. Star Wars Theme -

    Who doesn't know this? This is actually the "disco" version that was released the same year the original movie came out. I play this slightly faster than recorded. The audience always seems to love this one, plus I'm a huge Star Wars fan.

  7. Stars on 45 -

    Similar to the Star Wars piece, this is one of those compilation disco versions. Kind of like the "Hooked on..." series of music. This one centers around the Beatles and the 60's allowing us to drift back with the music while maintaining the driving bass of the 80's. This is a right at 45'er. A nice sing-along tune that I use often as the last patter of the night. In addition, it's on pink vinyl, which leads right into Pink Cadillac.

  8. Smooth - Santana

    Again, another grammy award winner. This is hugely popular and it adds a Latino flavor into the program. I have to play this at around 50 RPM, but the music holds together very well.

  9. Horse with No Name - America

    This is a REALLY laid back piece of music. This is a "gimmick" piece for me. I use with this song and get everyone to "weave to the La-La's". If you know the piece, and even if you don't, the la-la'd chorus section is always familiar. People like to sing along, and I make a game out of trying to get them into a weave the ring in time to sing.

  10. Man, I feel like a Woman - Shania Twain

    The joke here is "it's all in the punctuation." Pause and think about it. Anyway, I'll make sure I sing along with Shania, particularly during that title. The people that turn and look at me funny are the ones that are really paying attention. This is another 45'er for me.

  11. Everlasting Love - Gloria Estefan

    As popular as "Turn the Beat Around" and it's on the flip side. A two for one deal. Same drive as the other Gloria tune and it move's. Slightly slower than recorded usually helps people succeed with this piece.

  12. Don't Be Stupid - Shania Twain

    This is good, if nothing else because of the title. It's a little slower than the rest, even at 45, but it's a nice one to warm up to getting used to something other than patter, or a nice choice to wind down to something different.

John Sybalsky - San Jose, CA

Comments On Finding Music

Listen, listen, listen! I listen to hundreds of CDs, LPs, MP3 files, etc. I poke thru used record/CD stores looking for music that sounds interesting, then I listen.

If it's even-tempo, 4/4 (or 4/4-ish, as jigs are), and within about 20bpm of 128, I can probably use it.

If it's the right tempo (124-128, tending slower), I record directly to mini-disc. Otherwise, I digitize it (or rip the CD track from an audio CD directly to a file), and play it back into my MD recorder at the right tempo.

I have a lot of music that is suited only for "good" dancers—the ones who can find the beat without having it driven into them with a sledge hammer. I've a piece or two of that in here, but use it with care.


  1. Swedish Rhapsody, Chet Atkins on steel guitar ("Chet Atkins: The RCA Years" CD)

    I heard this years ago, and immediately wanted it it as a patter record. I'd prefer to have a stronger drum background, as some dancers complain that they can't find the beat in it. This is good happy-but-slowing-down-a-bit music.

  2. Hava Nagila, Folkraft 1110 (available from them)

    Found this at a CALLERLAB convention vendor. My original got stolen, but a call to Folkraft got me a replacement—it's still in print. Great lively, klezmer feel. Raises the floor's temperature noticably; some dancers get distracted by the music, or break into spontaneous hora.

    I have a bunch of other Klezmer-style music; people sometimes can't figure out what to make of it, as they aren't familiar with the idioms.

  3. La Cumparsita, Musical Varieties, Brave Combo (CD)

    Neat rendition of a tango classic by a latin group; I found this on a CD purchased for home listening (and I haven't worked up the nerve to try their version of "O Holy Night" as a cha-cha!)

  4. Big Bear Stomp (Turk Murphy, Live at Bolinas CD)

    Turk was a fixture of the SF jazz community years ago; this was off one of his CDs. It's lively, up-beat crowd-lifter.

  5. Too Much Mustard (Chicago Brass CD)

    I heard Mike Jacobs use a Dick Jones S/D 45 with the tune; unable to find the 45, I went looking for CDs with this on it. Originally a piano rag, this is now a dixieland jazz standard—and a swinging dixieland version carries dancers along.

  6. Mox Nix Macsoum, SABAH!, Scabland Band (MP3 site)

    I browse all the genres of music on MP3.COM; this one show up in the Middle-Eastern/Jewish section. It's percussion only, a walking macsoum of north-African origin.

  7. Teddy Bear Picnic (Midi from net)

    I have a few songs that I classify in the "psychological warfare" category—because they're so distracting that dancers have trouble. This is one such song; the first evening I put it on, the floor dissolved because dancers were so caught up in the music that they couldn't listen to the calls.

    It's a whimsical piece, sounding kind of like "funeral March of a Marionette" at the beginning, then breaking into the familiar tune.

    It's good for the last night of a convention, when dancers need something to lift them out of exhaustion.

  8. Rhythmes Gitanes (

    From MP3.COM, this is a French-inspired piece. The rhythm is a bit odd-ball, but not bad enough to bother dancers. The strangeness DOES generate interest.

  9. Ye Jacobites By Name

    A Celtic folksong with a heavy percussion backing. I have a bunch like this, and you can't use too many in an evening or people start to wilt under the weight of the music.

    They all make a nice change from regular S/D music, being much more akin to what you'd hear at a live-band Contra dance. Some have strong percussion, so the beat is easy to find; others don't, and you have to use them with dancers who don't need the musical lead.

  10. Catlettsburg Express (Danny Harvey guitar, MP3 site)

    This is sort of a guitar version of Orange Blossom Special, though the tune isn't really the same. It has the same driving feel to it.

  11. Abruzesse Tarantella (Accordianman, MP3)

    Lisa Greenleaf claimed this was a jig, but it's a tarantella. The brightness of the music lifts dancers—but the piece is repetitive enough that I've had complaints from a few people.

  12. Col. Bogie Polka (LP of polka music)

    I got this of a used Polka LP, along with a version of Lichtensteiner Polka. I use both. The tune is familiar, so people sort of "march" along with it, then get carried into the polka rhythm. Moderately crowd lifting, I'd use this most any time.

    I have several other polkas, some from the MP3 site. They work well as mildly-uplifting music.

  13. Lambada
  14. Lambada

    I have two versions of this. One was "researched" from another caller; it's the more fully orchestrated version. While it feels like a relaxing piece of music, it has enough oomph to keep people from dragging.

    The second version has pan flutes in it; it's a softer, more down rendition, good for cooling a crowd.

  15. Pipe Dreamz

    Techno-bagpipe music by the Yakoo Boyz, a defunct Canadian group. I have two versions. The full version has a long percussion intro, and lends itself to a staccato style of calling, with lots of short calls.

    The second version is essentially the center part of version 1, and is more suited to a regular calling style.

    Both are pretty fast (128bpm), so they tire dancers out even as they drive people along.

  16. Midnight in Moscow

    This is the Temptations' version of "Moscow Nights", a Russian folk song. It was slowed from 160pbm, so everything sounds muted. I find it relaxes dancers, as it sounds slower than it is, and is in a minor key. A few folks know the words to the song!

  17. Liberty Bell March

    From a CD of Sousa Marches, speeded up from 116 to 124. People usually recognize this as the theme music from the Monty Python TV show.

    The music has repeated climaxes, when the chimes ring, and they're good points to aim for resolution (no, I can't describe how I do that; I can't do it reliably).

  18. My Three Sons

    This is a pop 45 of the TV-show theme song, speeded up from 108pbm. Dancers find it funny, but tend to get sugar poisoning if it is overused.

  19. Chicken Reel

    A fine fiddle rendition of the stereotypic chicken music. If you get dancers in the right mood, they'll start doing wing-flapping as they promenade home.

  20. Flowers of Edinburgh

    A Celtic standard, the percussion in this version is provided only by hand claps and the foot-stamping of step dancers. This works well with dancers who don't need a strong beat.

  21. Malaguen~a

    Starts out with a seemingly-beatless Flamenco feel, then the beat cuts in. Dancers sway with the music.

  22. Howg Wobbler

    Another MP3 find. This music is even-tempo, but is syncopated and has the pitch slide up and down so it SOUNDS like the tempo is varying. This is another in the novelty category of "psych warfare tools".

  23. Under the Double Eagle

    MP3 again, from a Texas dance band. This moves from a fine 4/4 piece of dance music into Wildwood Flower, which is in 10/4, and back again. People don't seem bothered by the oddball rhythm.

    It's a good starter for an evening, as it's upbeat without overheating.

  24. Medal - Kurt Angle

    from WWF: The Music Vol. 5. This is the entrance music for Kurt Angle, who won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling before turning pro.

Jerry Jestin - Yuma, AZ

New Visions in Square Dance Music

  1. You Keep Me Hangin' On

    Extended play on vinyl by Reba McIntire, MCA 12-55795 and the cut is the Classic Paradise Instrumental.

  2. Fairy King Shank

    By D.J.Leary, on MPS,

  3. G Bop

    by Kenny G, Breathless, Arista 18646-2, needs to be speeded up from original.

  4. Animal Life

    By Outback on the album Dance The Devil Away—.(C)1991 Rykomusic/Rykodisc —..basically done by digeridoo and other instruments..on Amazon

    This same music is now available on a square dance label. Check out Right (RR 309)

  5. Blue Spanish Eyes

    By Engelbert Humperdinck, on CD Line Dance Fever #8, label Curb Entertainment International Corp.

  6. Sha La La La

    By the Vengaboys on the CD single Shalala Lala, label Breakin' Records.

  7. Tarzile Hievia

    The Other Side, EMI 7243 5 29407 2 1, available only in Europe, Recorded in Spain.

  8. Who Let The Dogs Out

    By the Bahama Mama's, Single CD with 5 variations of the mix, Truly Hip Recordings 59057-1211-2, by National Music Distributors P.O.Box 1217 Ft. Lee, NJ 07024 — this is the instrumental cut.

  9. Jerusalem Ridge

    By Kenny Baker & Bill Monroe from New Country #1194D (hard to find) but new version by Mark O'Connor, Heroes on Warner Bros. 9 45257-2 is very similar.

  10. Sunchymes

    By Dario G , Sunmachine, on Kinetic/Reprise 9 47019-2, there is also a single available sometimes but must be ordered also.

  11. Two Times

    By Ann Lee; on the CD single named 2 Times, label SWEMIX Records.

  12. Never Let You Go

    By Jakaranda; on the CD Parent Trap (Soundtrack)

  13. I Will Survive

    By Gloria Gaynor; Karaoke version (more information needed here).

  14. Blue (Da Ba Dee)

    By Eiffel 65. The original version is on Europop, but I used an instrumental version and don't remember from where it came. John Knight uses the version from a Karaoke disk ( March 2001 Chartbuster Male Pop, disk number CBCDG40085).

Clay Goss - Newark, DE

Many of the selections I use I've modified using CoolEdit 2000 to:

What are my favorites out of this list for general hash for the typical S/D club group? Glad you asked!


  1. Another Way; (3:33) @ 130.4 BPM; Another Way, Paul Van Dyk; The Best Dance Album in the World...Ever! 2000

    This number has strong beat, lots of energy, interesting breaks, a key change and a dramatic ending. All of it is usable. The driving beat makes energetic dancers step lively while providing all dancers with a consistent and strong rhythm to dance to. Like "Children", a little planning and good familiarization with the piece can allow one to use it in a dramatic fashion.

    An added bonus is the tune comes on the CD as needed. No assembly required!

  2. Children; (5:10) @ 128.6 BPM (edited version); Robert Miles; Dance Mix USA Volume 6

    This is a smooth and haunting tune that builds from a mellow beginning. I trimmed the ending and then repeated a portion using CoolEdit 2000. Groups that dance well otherwise will dance very fluidly to this. The build from beginning to end can create a great amount of excitement, especially if the caller goes with it. Various points of dramatic change in the music can be used to begin sequences and figures like Grand Square and using the ending (as I've edited it) can put the icing on the cake!

  3. Cotton Eyed Joe, Rednex, Sex & Violins

    Lots of callers using this one. Lots of energy, great fiddle work, strong vocals, nice ending, great fun

  4. Old Pop In An Oak, Rednex, Sex & Violins

    Very like Cotton Eyed Joe, lots of energy, great fiddle work, strong vocals, nice ending, great fun

  5. Rasputin, Preformed by the Countdown Mix Masters, Non-Stop Disco Dance Mix, Disk 2

    Strong Beat, High energy. I removed the vocal sections.

  6. Who Let The Dogs Out

    Busy, Young. Great for younger groups, dance parties or just something different.

  7. Move On Up/Up Up Up, Destination, 1979 Billboard Top Dance Hits

    Lots of energy, strong beat. I removed the vocals, and since it was so long, what was left was plenty.

  8. C vs. I, Cuban Boys, The Best Dance Album in the World...Ever! 2000

    Very Busy, strange distracting vocals, young. I have used this for the first tip of a dance party (one nighter).

  9. Nightmare, Brainbug, Dance Mix USA Volume 7

    Very strange arrangement (Hey! What do you expect for a Nightmare!). Syncopated rhythms. No recommended for typical "hash" use.

  10. Adelante, Sash!, The Best Dance Album in the World...Ever! 2000

    Strong beat. Good energy. Latin vocals. A talking vocal break I've removed.

  11. Hear You Calling; (3:53) @ 129.2 BPM (edited version); Sash!; The Best Dance Album in the World...Ever! 2000

    Good beat and upbeat feel. Lilting vocals, that (IMHO) don't get in the way - So, I left them. A little experience with this piece finds one using the pauses between vocals to do calls, allowing the dancer to dance through the vocals. Nice ending. Like "Another Way", no editing was required.

    I would not recommend this tune for a "let's get deeper" tip. I like using it for flowing, standard application choreography and keeping everyone moving.

  12. Yackety Axe, Jerry Read, The Hurshel Wiginton Singers, Popular Music Hit Parade (110 All-Time Favorites), Disk 5, Side 2

    A guitar variation of the classic "Yackety Sax". Dated but timeless.

  13. Music to Watch Girls By, Marty Paich and His Orchestra, , Popular Music Hit Parade (110 All-Time Favorites), Disk 1, Side 2

    Mellow and smooth. I use this with my exhibition group, wouldn't use it as a general hash.

  14. The Mexican Shuffle, The Tijuana Brass, Popular Music Hit Parade (110 All-Time Favorites), Disk 6, Side 2

    Mellow but good beat. I've used it for a hash with certain groups. Not for everyone.

  15. Tangerine, Salsoul Orchestra, K-tel's Mind Menders 22 Original Hits, 22 Original Stars

    A disco/R&B kind of sound. Good beat, vocals - not distracting. Interesting transitions.

  16. Intimidation, Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg, Twin Sons of Different Mothers

    A good tune to use if you want to do a bunch of longer calls in a tip and let them listen to the music. Good beat, a bit mellow in an energetic way.

  17. The House of the Rising Sun, Preformed by the Countdown Mix Masters, Non-Stop Disco Dance Mix, Disk 2

    A modern dance version of the old Rock 'N Roll tune. Strong vocal.

  18. The Third Man Theme, Anton Karas, Popular Music Hit Parade (110 All-Time Favorites), Disk 6, Side 2

    Strong lead instrumentation. Measured beat, smooth.

  19. Theme From SWAT, Rhythm Heritage, Star Trackin' 76 - or - K-tel's Mind Menders 22 Original Hits, 22 Original Stars

    Oh, yes, that scratching electric guitar work. Good beat and energy. Stuttering transitions.

  20. The Omen, Warner Tamerlane, Synergy - 12 Electrifying Hits

    The early '80's synthetic electric sound. Good beat and energy.

  21. Knots Landing (Theme from), Floyd Cramer, Dallas

    Big orchestra sound with good continuous beat.

Clark Baker - Belmont, MA

  1. Where's The Walrus?, Stereotomy, The Alan Parsons Project

  2. Around The World La La La La La, ATC

  3. Chronologie Part 4, Chronologie, Jean Michel Jarre

  4. Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit, Gina G.

  5. Magic Friend, Get Ready For This, Two Unlimited

  6. Mox Nix Maksoum, SABAH!, Scabland Band

  7. Animal Life, Dance The Devil Away, Outback

  8. Get Ready For This, Get Ready For This, Two Unlimited

  9. Medley of Paranue and Zoom-Zoom-Zoom, Only The Strong

    Capoeira music (from Brazil) including Zoom Zoom Zoom which is used on the Mazda TV commercial.

Kris Jensen - Albuquerque, NM

I use a lot of music that I've researched from other callers, and I've also "discovered" music that other callers are using, so some of my favorites are already listed. Here, I've tried to list music that I use that others haven't already mentioned.

Hooked on Polkas, Joey Miskulin and the International Festival Orchestra: I like the variety of tunes included in the medleys on this CD. However, because the medleys are so long, I edited one down to about 10 minutes (still a little long). The dancers recognize most of the tunes.

Hine Ma Tov, Shawn's Kugel: Very jazzy. I edited this to cut off beginning and ending vocals.

Green Onions, Dave "Baby" Cortez. I've slowed this down to a square dance tempo (the original is about 140 bpm). I got this off a CD sold by Palomino Records, Wolfman Jack's Rock 'n' Roll Instrumentals. There are some other cuts that can be used, including Last Night and Wipe Out (major slow down needed).

Happy Together, Phil Leadbetter off his Philibuster CD. I know there are square dance versions of this old Turtle's song, but I really like this version.

Hawkeye, Alan Parsons Project, from the Vulture Culture CD.

I've been playing around with MIDI tunes recently, and have found some interesting ones in unexpected places.

Here are two that I found while listening to Band In a Box sample styles:

Drivin' Honktonk: I like the way it alternates between pretty laid back, and more driving.

Top 40 Med Latin: It's short, but has a fun Latin beat.

Here are some others that I like (remember, MIDI sound is totally dependent on what kind of sound synthesizer you have on your computer; a MIDI is not a sound file; it's more like a piano roll for a player piano):

Dance the Samba with Me

American Pie: I changed the lead instrument on this one, using a shareware music editing program called Melody Assistant.

Let the Music Play: Not a bad arrangement. of the original club dance mix.

Vic Ceder - Los Olivos, CA

I regularly listen to dixieland jazz and boogie-woogie. I've recorded all my favourite songs from CD to MP3. I've tried tweaking the tempo of many songs to see if they'll work for square dancing. You might not realize it, but many 'fun' songs used for square dancing are from dixieland jazz (e.g., Bill Bailey, Alabama Jubilee, I Found A New Baby, etc.).

  1. Pagan Love Song

    by Fire House Five Plus Two, an old dixieland jazz band that regularly performed at Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Review. In fact, the band was formed by Disneyland employees who wanted to have a little extra fun.

    This song is recorded at 115 beats per minute. I changed it to 126.

    It's available on a double-CD from Good Time Jazz 2GTJCD-22055-2. I purchased mine from Fantasy Inc.

  2. Spann Salad

    by Rob Rio, a Los Angeles-based boogie-woogie/barrelhouse/blues performer. Rob Rio is the leader of our favourite Swing Dance band. We have all of his (4) CDs.

    This song is recorded at 149 beats per minute. I slow it down (without changing the pitch) to 129 beats per minute. Dancers love dancing to this one, and I often get requests for it.

    It's on the Swing Train CD, available from Boss Productions, PO Box 10016, Canoga Park, CA 91309.

  3. Bill Bailey

    by the Banjo Kings

    This song is recorded at 114 bpm. I speed it up to 120 bpm.

    I purchased mine from Fantasy Inc.

  4. Yes Sir That's My Baby

    by Fire House Five Plus Two.

    This song is recorded at 112 bpm. I speed it up to 125 bpm. This song has vocals that you have to work around (or work in). It's on the same CD as "Pagan Love Song".

I use exclusively MP3 files played from my laptop via my CSDS. I use CoolEdit to record and modify the songs, and Winamp with Chronotron for playback.

Andy Shore - Mountain View, CA

First track - a remix version of Bette Midler's In These Shoes off of the CD Maxi-Single of the same name. There are 7 tracks of the same song. I used track #3 "Mark's Heels to Platforms Vocal Mix" - which I ripped to my computer and digitally sped up without changing the pitch. I found the CD while browsing in a music store, but this listing on is probably the same CD.

Second track - from a CD titled Karaoke 80's found on right here track number #9 Word Up. Again, I adjusted the speed. A couple of other tracks on this CD also work for patter.

My Toolbox
RealOne from - to play and "RIP" CDs to my computer
Cool Edit 2000 from syntrillium - to edit music files, speed up or slow down tempos, etc.
CSDS from Vic Ceder - to maintain my square dance music library and call from my laptop. I also use the built-in BPM counter.

Contact info: email & web site

Pat Carnathan - San Diego, CA

SongArtist / Album
100% FattFattburger
2 FattFattburger
The Block
Bump 'n HustleDown to the Bone
CallieJoyce Cooling
BlueChristy Lane
Cotton-Eyed JoeChristy Lane
Two TimesChristy Lane
Club CharlesBona Fide
Coming Up For AirDavid Benoit
Cry of the CeltsLord of the Dance
Down the VillageShilts
Evil WaysFattburger
Fuzzy LogicDavid Benoit
Ghost Riders TechnoUnknown
GuanabaraBossacucanova & Roberto Menescal
Hold On to Your LoveSade
The Horse You Came In OnBona Fide
London LowdownRonnie Jordan
Long Way From BrooklynDown to the Bone
Low RiderKombo
Mind the GapShilts
NanaBossacucanova & Roberto Menescal
Never As Good As the First TimeSade
New DehliRonnie Jordan
Oye Como VaFattburger
Peter GunnBlues Brothers
The Poe HouseBona Fide
See What HappensShilts
Short Island Iced TeaShilts
Smooth OperatorSade
Snap!David Benoit
Stax of SaxShilts
There's No WonderShilts
Too SexyRight Said Fred
Too Sexy (with vocals)Right Said Fred
Walkin' on the SunJeff Golub
Willie DonBona Fide
Alligator AlleyNovaMenco
Cold Duck TimeJeff Golub
Cold SweatJeff Golub
Hooked on Classics MedleyHooked on Classics
In DeepMarion Meadows
In the House
LowdownJimmy Sommers
Promise MeJimmy Sommers
Riverside DriveKim Waters
Show Me, Show MeMarion Meadows
South ChicagoMarion Meadows
Tales of a GypsyMarion Meadows
Two to TangoVanessa Dhou
WaterfallKim Waters
X-Ray HipBona Fide
You Are the One For MeKim Waters
FallenWarren Hill
Morning DanceSpyro Gyra
JubileeSpyro Gyra

Eric Henerlau - Corte Madera, CA

Using Alternative Music for Square Dancing
Callerlab 2003


Throughout this paper I discuss the benefits of alternative square dance music. While I use alternative music, clearly the bulk of my program is with regular square dance music, most of which is thoroughly enjoyable. This paper is not intended to purport that regular square dance music is obsolete, but that the boundaries of the music are expanding and becoming more adaptable to a new generation of dancers.


Callers use alternative music for a variety of reasons. Some use it because they are bored or unsatisfied with music offerings by regular square dance labels. Others use it as a complement to the music they normally use. Whatever the reason, callers use music from different sources to round out their program and provide variety for themselves and the dancers.

I look for alternative music specifically to appeal to a wider, non-dancing audience and to newer dancers in class. Using alternative music at public demonstrations allows non-square dancing observers to see square dancing in a more contemporary light, helping break the stereotype of "an old barn dance". Radically different or very current music to which people can square dance piques the interest of non-dancers. This helps prime people for new dancer class solicitations. Modern Square Dancing can be viewed as something more "cool" and less "hillbilly".

I use alternative music in all my groups, but especially in the newer dancer classes. These dancers are most open to new kinds of music because they are less set in the "traditional" style. They are also the best recruiters for the next new dancers and point out the music as one aspect of why they enjoy Square Dancing.

In looking for alternative music, I search for music with the following criteria:

Keep in mind that not all alternative music will appeal to all people. In fact, there's a good chance many dancers won't like it. You can fine tune your music selection as you go on.

I also choose instrumental music or instrumental portions of music. I don't like calling over someone else's vocals, as I must lower the volume significantly to make the calls distinctive.

When I record, or "rip" music from a CD or record, I use CoolEdit 2000 software on my computer. With this software I can eliminate sections of music, change speed, tempo or pitch, convert to mono, and save as MP3. It's available from Syntrillium ( for about $65. Visit their website for a free demo download. I always adjust the tempo to 128 BPM. Dancers generally have a very narrow range of tempo that they feel comfortable dancing. Fine tuning the speed during playback can be accomplished through the plug in software on the MP3 player.


Some square dance labels have started experimenting with alternative music. Examples include patter records Tush, Swamp Thing (MR 5021), 3 Stooges Hoedown (DDPCD 2002), and Rocky Tech (MR 5022). Check out and support alternative patter music as it becomes available. Sometimes you have to try it out for a while before you get into a rhythm with it.

Finally, remember to fulfill your professional, ethical, and legal obligation to purchase or own the original music. Share mixes with friends, but make sure you own the originals and your friends do, too.

Revised: $Date: 2010/07/19 21:15:33 $

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