Part 1 Week 3

Song & Choreography Mapping

Now we're going to begin a process that I have developed over time , its a process to breakdown my music and make it easier to digest and understand. Choreography mapping has so many benefits, it cannot be overstated. From allowing you to look closer at your music which gives you see more possibilities, giving frame and reference to what you're hearing to make better choices, allowing you to look at the song in a larger context which makes it easier to decide how to use sections, as well as breaking the song into bit size piece which then makes it seem more approachable. There are many more advantages to using a choreography/song mapping system, I'm excited to see what benefits you will discover. 

How to Make a Song/Choreography Map

Using the Song/Choreography Mapping document found in the email sent out this week, listen to your song as many times as necessary to fill in the categories appropriately. Depending on the complexity of the song, this can take you anywhere from 30 mins to an hour and a half if you're being detail oriented and really studying your music. This is not the time to rush, but sink into the music. Relax and take your time, close your eyes even, and identify the 5 categories of information for each section of music. You will end up hitting pause a million times, rewinding, and starting over, don't worry, just take your time and fill in as best as you can. 

If you're familiar with this process, focus on developing your skills with this process. You should hear more in the music, catch more variations, and be more detailed in some of the Song Map part 2 sections. 

Activity 1 - Song Mapping

Read through the following section completely before starting and refer back as needed!
Using the song below, and the song mapping pdf provided in the weekly email, follow the below steps and fill out the song mapping chart or draw your own if you need more space. This song is pretty clear in it's changes, it uses traditional instruments, and it's a classic song. Enjoy!!!! 


Take out your song mapping pdf as a reference as you go through this and imagine yourself marking in the pertinent information. I always work with the chart from left to right, filling in the Time & Counts first, then the Main instruments, so on and so forth.

  • Time & Counts - The first thing that I do when I'm listening to my music is mark the sections by what time they start and end in the song, and then how many counts exist during the section. This gives me an idea of the length of the section in seconds, length of the section compared to other sections, and seeing the timing next to all the other sections can help you make decisions about how to use your time wisely. Maybe a section is extremely long and you use more dynamics in it to try and keep things entertaining and varied, maybe you edit part of it out in order to meet your time limit restraints. 
  • Main/Focal Instruments - The second thing I do is then assess which instruments are MOST prominent in each section. Most commonly you'll have 1 melodic instrument, maybe two that share the spotlight and then you can notate if you feel the percussion is very prominent or not. If one instrument is hogging the spotlight and the other is just supportive, leave that secondary instrument for the next section. If it's a strong call and answer section, I would potentially name both instruments as leads.
  • Secondary/Supportive Instruments - The next step is to notate the other instruments you hear in the section but maybe aren't as prominent, but can be seen as supporting roles. Commonly the violin will show up in sections that it's not the lead melodic instrument just to add accents or play call and answer with another melodic instrument. 
  • Percussion and Rhythm - In this category I notate which main percussion instruments I hear, which rhythm is being played, any accents that standout to me. If you hear something you really feel drawn to in percussion, mark it here and you can work around that with your other musicality options. You might note which supporting percussion instruments inspire you here, like zills, riq, duff, and how you might wanna play with those to create diversity in your piece. Take advantage of the variety, so you can keep your piece diverse and dynamic. (If you do not know what the rhythm is called, never fear! Figure out where the dums are, how many counts are in the phrase, any major teks, and work from there. This is usually more than enough to give you concepts on how to move to the percussion.)
  • Tempo - Assessing tempo (speed) is important because it makes options of what you wanna do clearer very quickly. Tempo can usually tell you whether or not you're going to travel, or if it'd even a musicality option. If you have tremendously slow section lead by an oud as the main instrument, chances are you aren't gonna be traveling all over the place. You want to diversify travel, stationary and stage usage throughout your piece, so when you've assessed that you only have a couple sections you can travel in, you'll be a lot more likely to make sure you travel during them and that they are effective displays of your skill or favorite moves. If you feel like you can travel in all the sections, it'll force you to identity musicality options that allow you to stay in one spot. 
*** I purposely do not give a written example of this process even though I am ALWAYS requested for one. This is because I want you to explore the process yourself through the guided directions and come to your own conclusions about aways to use this process to see and hear your music. I know this is a pain, and a challenge, but I want you to feel your way through this. ***
  • So start your music and listen for the first dramatic change in melody, percussion or tempo. Go through the song noting all the section changes, timing and counts. 
  • Sections can last between a couple seconds (if it's just a transition) and up to a minute or more. Most commonly they're between 20 seconds to 40 seconds though. 
  • If the melodic line repeats, and the percussion is the same, that means the section is still the same. It is extremely common in Arabic music for a phrase to repeat multiple times within a section of music before transitioning on to something else. 
  • If you hear a variation in the music but it's similar to the previous phrases in melody, main instruments, etc. You can decide if you consider this a different section or not. Notate in the way you understand the music the best, and gives you the most insight to your song. 
  • An entire section may repeat later in your song, exactly the same or with variation. Sometimes I name these sections in order to have something to refer to it as or a way to think about it, and when I fill out the section in my mapping I'll just put "repeat frolic violin section" or whatever I want to call it. MANY time repeat sections in Arabic music will have subtle or dramatic variations, make sure you are pay close attention to these details and notating them. If this is the case I might out "repeat frolic violin section with accordion variation" This will give you good ammunition for how to change up your movement in a repeat section of music. 
  • You can start by going through your entire song doing just the Timing and Counts and then the entire song again with just the Main Instrument and so on. OR you can work on each section in the song part by part filling in all 5 categories and then moving on to the next section. 

Once again, this process can take a long time! Give yourself the space and time to go through it calmly. If you can't hear or understand a section under a specific category, just move on and come back to it. 

Choreography Part 1

We're going to start the choreography to the song Saher Al Sharq Etneen. The section we will be using starts around 1 minute. I have chosen to leave the first minute of the song along because I want to have the effect of a traditional entrance or merjance style song, so I will let all of this pass and wait for the "dancer entrance". Right around 54 secs, the malfouf rhythm will start and this prepares the tempo for the entire band to start the meatier sections of the song. I will leave all of this alone and way for the "dancer entrance" which comes right after the 16 counts of malfouf when the full orchestra starts playing in unison. 


Entire Choreo Breakdown and Run Throughs


Entire Choreo w/ Verbal Cues

Additional Exercises 

Activity 2

Listen to the following 3 songs. With each song I want you to mentally reference back to the stylization that was talked about in the previous lesson for each instrument. Without listening to the songs first, improvise slowly to each instrument, and find your way, move organically but still keeping in mind traditional concepts for the move. Try and notice when you're moving in sync with the instrument, or if you might be ahead of behind. This kind of self recognition can be hard but very essential. 



  • What is your initial reaction to the song mapping process? Challenging? Enlightening? Frustrating?
  • Activity 2 - What was your experience in this exercise? Was there one instrument harder than the others? Could you relax into the instruments and find a flow or did you feel like you were fighting to stay with it? 

Homework emailed

  • Activity 1 - Send your completed song map for Activity 1 to Don't worry if you don't feel like you did a great job, or its incomplete, this is a learning process! 
  • Return to your own approved song and submit an initial song map for this song as well.