Tango DJing – Music Collection

When you’re trying to get into Tango DJing, a good collection is a pretty good thing to have. Having thousand of songs or just a couple hundred could get you by and everyone can enjoy. Where do you start, how do you find it, how much do you need, and even more questions will arise. So lets tackle many of them now.

Starting Out

When you start out I’ll assume you have nothing, but the reality is if you’re starting to DJ or interested in DJing in your Tango community, people have music and are always offering to share. You also should be hearing a lot of music at the different classes, practicas, and milongas. Many teachers will even mention who the music is by in the class, and you can always ask if you are unsure and even get song names. If they don’t or some other reason prevents the conversation, apps like Shazam easily identify most popular tango songs.

You may also notice as you’ve been dancing, there are many popular songs, artists, singers, and there are patterns.  Depending on your community there may be different structures, but they are all very similar. A pattern will arise that you’ll start to hear the same songs over and over again, it might give you a stale feeling at first, but there are reasons. In tango, there are thousands of songs, but many songs are done multiple times by different artists, singers, years and orchestra compositions. These are the popular songs, the ones that people know and love dancing to, and overtime you have your favorites and you look forward to them.  So you don’t really need 10,000 songs in your collection, starting out, you can only have a couple hundred.


So if you’re starting out, you should start by identifying the popular songs, artists, singers, etc and build from there.  Start small, you can find most on any popular platform, and once you get some good names, start listening to more from them. A good 10-15 songs from artists like Canaro, Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, and Troilo can get you started.

Acquiring Music

Maybe you’ve been given some music, copy of CDs, a flash drive, given download links, found some good music on Spotify and put it together on a playlist instead of be given anything.  Acquiring music like so is a grey area, and I’d suggest getting music in more legal means, but regardless on where you get the music, you’ll find a few issues.

Acquiring music is tough as distributions of official music is very difficult or impossible to find. Ordering CDs online can be hit and miss, but online services and digital stores do require proof of ownership or rights to sell them to you.  Those are the places I’d suggest looking first. Many artists aren’t available, so getting music ordered from CDs or records and having them imported or online through auctions are great ways to acquire music.

You’ll start to get multiple copies of the same song, maybe the exact same in every way, maybe one was remastered differently, or badly recorded.  You’ll have to go through duplicates and find the music that sounds best to you, and for me, I delete the bad quality ones.  Beware though, you may have the same song, but could be a different singer, so you pretty much need to skip around to confirm they are the same before you throw one out of your digital collection. This is your first big hurdle in acquiring music, duplicates, different versions, and the quality.  Having thousand of songs, but most duplicates or bad quality and you’ll find yourself frustrated, so sticking to popular songs and building over time and going through them little by little makes the process simpler.

Further Expanding

After you start to get a small collection of quality music, you’ll start to want to grouping them together, or Tandas.  If you don’t know what Tandas are, they are covered in detail in the next section Tanda Composition. Now as you start grouping your music, you’ll find yourself needing a little more variety, which helps, and may also find needing some milonga or vals tandas in the mix, they are usually missed when you first start acquiring music.

Listening to others DJ, patterns arise from their tandas, usually from artists, singers, and even by year if you look closely enough. So you may want to start looking to expand out your collection while looking at these factors. The reason for this, is when people dance in tandas with someone, it is to the same type of music or sound for that tanda, so having the music flow and sound similar is the goal, and pairing the same in many aspects will achieve that effect most of the time.

Around this time, check out different playlists that milonga across the globe publish. Quite a few different practicas or popular milongas and DJs will list out their milonga and music.  Some give more depth, some less, but you’ll find good ideas on new music.  Fair warning, not all playlists are good, and some music may not be well received or even work well. There will be good music in every list, but I’ve used these as ways to find new artists or music, and you can also contact the DJs and ask where they might have acquired some music to help you expand.  I’ve found wonderful songs I’ve heard once ages ago, but couldn’t remember, only to see it on a playlist and then acquire myself.

Non-Tango music

Before DJing music other than traditional Tango music, you need to know your audience. If people are there to practice or a very traditional milonga, don’t play much more than that.  Throwing in other music outside of cortinas can be crushing when you’re starting out, or maybe if it’s a predominately college crowd, you can do more popular songs that aren’t tango. Even though a song is not a Tango song, you need to play something with a good rhythm, usually something with a steady beat that you can dance tango to.

For myself personally, I find you can tango to anything except for a few outliers (scream metal and similar) and I can identify patterns and beats, able to dance with most people, but usually requires a like minded person. It is a matter of finding the middle ground, you are looking to find music that a majority of people can dance to some degree.  Many people in tango have difficulty with musicality and need a steady pattern, especially with something new or if they are starting out. If you’re going to play something outside of tango, make sure you try dancing to it in private a few times, and if you’re introducing it to a community, make sure it is timed appropriately and grouped well.