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Classics of Tango Dance Music

An evolving list of great tangos, milongas and valses for social dancing as recommended by tango dancers and DJs from around the world.


Source: S Brown



Tango Music For New Dancers

Many of our beginner students ask for recommendations for practice music. Below are four artists and 8 album suggestions.


Francisco Canaro

Bailando Tangos, Valses y Milongas

La Cumparsita - Tango Argentina

Poema (mp3 download)


Carlos Di Sarli

RCA Victor 100 Anos

Inolvidables RCA: 20 Grandes Exitos


Alfredo de Angelis

From Argentina to the World

Instrumentales Inolvidables


Juan D'Arienzo

El Esquinazo

Sus Primeros Exitos 1935/40, Vol. 1


There many other artists and songs that are appropriate for beginners so the list above is in no way comprehensive. But there are also many tango artists and albums that would not be good idea for someone who is just starting out. We especially want to help our students avoid the ballroom variety tango which is definitely no fun for dancing argentine tango. The website Todo Tango is a great resource for discovering Argentine tango artists.

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Old Guard — Orquesta Tipica Victor, Carabelli, Firpo, Lomuto

The tangos of the old guard generally had less complex arrangements and simpler, more naked rhythms in comparison to the tangos played during the golden age and later eras.


Early Golden Age — De Caro, Donato, Fresedo, Canaro

The early golden-age tangos represent a transition from the old guard to the golden age of tango. They have clear, simple rhythms but show signs of the stronger orchestration and lyricism that characterize golden-age tangos.


Golden Age Harder Rhythmic — D'Arienzo, Biagi, Rodriguez

Harder-rhythmic tangos are characterized by prominent ric-tic, double-time rhythms that seem to insist on milonguero-style dancing. For the tangos in this style that have vocals, the singer stays relatively close to the orchestra's rhythm. (The prominence of the ric-tic, double-time beats is what distinguishes the harder rhythmic, softer rhythmic, and smooth categories of tango music. Although the differences in rhythmic accents may give an impression of differences in tempo, these categories are distinguished by the rhythmic accents and not the tempo at which the orchestra plays.)


Rodolfo Biagi

Biagi was the pianist in Juan D'Arienzo's orchestra during its most popular period and helped create the rhythmic drive that characterized D'Arienzo's sound. Leading his own orchestra, Biagi kept the harder rhythmic style and added striking syncopated elements—often through gaps in the rhythm. Sometimes, these gaps can create an impression akin to falling into an elevator shaft. That is, you are dancing along and suddenly the ground drops out from below you. In a noisy room with a poor sound system, some Biagi tangos can get lost.


Golden Age Softer Rhythmic — Troilo, Tanturi, Caló, Federico, Laurenz, D'Agostino, Di Sarli

In softer rhythmic tangos, the ric-tic rhythms are present but not prominent, allowing the music to support either milonguero- or salon-style dancing. For the tangos in this style that have vocals, the singer stays relatively close to the orchestra's rhythm. (The prominence of the ric-tic, double-time beats is what distinguishes the harder rhythmic, softer rhythmic, and smooth categories of tango music. Although the differences in rhythmic accents may give an impression of differences in tempo, these categories are distinguished by the rhythmic accents and not the tempo at which the orchestra plays.)


Golden Age Smooth — Di Sarli, Fresedo, Canaro, Troilo, De Angelis

Smooth tangos are generally instrumental music that lack the ric-tic accents found in the harder and softer rhythmic music and the big crescendos, dramatic pauses and heavier beat of dramatic tango music. (The prominence of the ric-tic, double-time beats is what distinguishes the harder rhythmic, softer rhythmic, and smooth categories of tango music. Although the differences in rhythmic accents may give an impression of differences in tempo, these categories are distinguished by the rhythmic accents and not the tempo at which the orchestra plays.)


Golden Age Lyrical — Caló, Di Sarli, Troilo, Canaro, Fresedo, Tanturi, Demare, De Angelis

During the golden age, sometimes the singer sang with orchestra, sometimes the orchestra played for the singer. In lyrical tangos, the singer doesn't adhere closely to the orchestra's underlying rhythm, and the overall effect is to emphasize the lyrical nature of the music.


Golden Age Dramatic — De Angelis, Pugliese

Dramatic tangos build on the power of the smooth sound and have more dramatic arrangements with bigger crescendos, often a heavier beat, pauses, and sometimes tempo shifts.


Transition Era — tangos were recorded during an era in which the tango orchestras were shifting from dance music to concert music. Transition-era music was built on the foundation developed by golden-era orchestras, and many of the transition era orchestras were led by musicians who led or played in the big-name orchestras of the golden age. Those transition-era recordings useful for social dancing have a prominent dance beat.


New Tango — Building on the work of Anibal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese and Horacio Salgan, Astor Piazzolla led a revolution in concert-oriented tango music in which drama was heightened through rubato playing, pauses, and tempo changes. The combined effect works well for tango dance performances, but can be outside the comfort zone for social dancing. For social dancing, the most useful new-tango recordings combine some of Piazzolla's sensibilities with a tango dance beat that is sufficiently strong for modern ears.


Modern Dance Orquestas — Some modern tango orchestras, such as Color Tango, have returned to the dance beat that characterized the golden era of tango dance music. The recordings made by modern dance orchestras typically have more intricate arrangements with a little more of a dramatic concert feel than those made during the golden era, but the dance beat is prominent and the fidelity is much better than on the old recordings. In many ways, the music played by modern dance orquestas seems to be what might have developed had tango music and social dancing continued evolving together after the golden era.


Tango Shows — Music from contemporary tango shows is designed to help professional dancers with considerable rehearsal time dazzle their audiences. The music varies from full orchestration to smaller ensembles, but it is typically marked by fast tempos, rhythm changes and other dramatic devices developed in the progressive sound of Pugliese, Piazzolla and Salgan. The best recordings for social dancing are similar to those made by later Pugliese orchestras.


Tango Fusion — integerates traditional tango rhythms and instrumentation with other musical traditions, contemporary instruments and/or electronica to create a modern and culturally relevant world tango music, often with a dance-club sound. With the musical genre being relatively new, the following listings may not prove to be classics in the sense of being timeless.


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