Aspects of Standard Ballroom Music, Part 2, Beat – by Chris Bruce

Aspects of Standard Ballroom Music, Part 2, Beat


DK Ballroom Instructor Chris Bruce


We can define Beat as the steady pulse in a piece of music. It’s that pulse that you’d naturally clap along to or tap your foot to.

A Beat is a pulse of time. A ticking clock is a good example. Every minute, the second hand ticks 60 times, and each one of those ticks is a beat.

We find similar Beats all around us

  • If we place a hand on our heart, or a finger on our wrist, we can feel a Beat – our heartbeat.
  • A dripping tap has a regular Beat.
  • A metronome is a device expressly built to sound out a Beat.

In each of these examples, we hear (or feel) only the Beat – the tick, tick, tick, or drip, drip, drip.

However, in all but the simplest music the Beat is mixed in with melody, harmonies, vocals, etc. and may be much harder to identify. When music is played by an orchestra or band, the Beat is often carried by the percussion instruments, but there is no hard and fast rule and sometimes a Beat may even be a silence.

Some people can identify it easily, while for many others it is elusive. Sometimes we may hear it in some pieces, but struggle in others. Yet, to dancers, this is the most important feature of the music.

It is important that you eventually “hear” a beat in your head. The only way you’re going to be able to do this is practice.