The educated Tanguero

Essential Tango Knowledge

Tango DJing 3.2: The big Orchestras of the EDO


We have noticed, that in terms of danceability the orchestras of the true Golden Age are the most reliable. According to an analysis of Steve Morell [1], this is the time from around 1940 to 1955, when all the big orchestras were playing and recording simultaneously. Tango orchestras are named after their orchestra leader, who typically also wrote the arrangements of the music. Most important orchestras for Milongas are those 15 ones (given name, lifetime and instrument the orchestra leader played himself):

Rodolfo Biagi (1906-1969) Piano

Miguel Calo (1907-1972) Bandoneon

Francisco Canaro (1888-1964) Violin

Julio De Caro (1899-1980) Violin

Alfredo De Angelis (1912-1992) Bandoneon, Piano

Lucio Demare (1906-1974) Piano

Carlos Di Sarli (1903-1960) Piano

Angel D´Agostino (1900-1991) Piano

Juan D´Arienzo (1900-1976) Violin

Osvaldo Fresedo (1897-1984) Bandoneon

Pedro Laurenz (1902-1972) Bandoneon

Osvaldo Pugliese (1905-1995) Piano

Enrique Rodriguez (1901-1971) Bandoneon

Annibal Troilo (1914-1975) Bandoneon

Ricardo Tanturi (1905-1973) Piano, Violin


As a Tango DJ, the historical view on Orchestras and music is probably not the best approach. DJs want to present music with high danceability and a good representation of the situation on the dancefloor, without getting the dancers to be bored. So for me as a DJ, the most important factor here is the style of music in terms of rhythm, emotional content, difficulty level, energy level and general style of sound – I call this flavour. To classify the big orchestras, I like to stick to the classification system of Stephen Brown [2] from his annotated list of tandas. For everyday DJing, I personally reduce this classification scheme to just four flavours:

Soft Rhythmic

Hard Rhythmic

Melodic, Lyric


Knowing very well, that it is very difficult to classify Orchestras into this scheme, because many of them have played different styles and some even developed their music into new dimensions, here are the typical Orchestras for these flavours:


  1. Soft Rhythm

More rhythmical music without the staccato rhythms of D´Arienzo, but with different amounts of syncopation and musical complexity:

De Caro, Tanturi, D´Agostino, Calo, Laurenz


  1. Hard Rhythm

Music with lots of quick beats and staccato type styling:

Rodriguez, Biagi, D´Arienzo


  1. Melodic, Lyric

Music, rich in harmony and soft legato style phrases and contrecanti with an emotional romantic feeling:

Demare, Troilo, Fresedo, Canaro, Di Sarli


  1. Dramatic

Music with a dramatic background, high energy and high dynamics:

De Angelis, Pugliese


For a DJ, it is important to keep the flavour the same inside a tanda and to adjust the progression of differently flavoured tandas according to a general plan and according to the needs of the dancefloor. If a more precise differentiation of flavour is needed, it may be necessary to introduce another dimension of the tango, which is the singer. Most orchestras during the golden age used singers (mainly as estribillistas, which means the singer only performed the refrain or single verses to give more focus on the orchestra), which significantly changed and dominated the final flavour of the music. Some of them so severely dominated the orchestra sound, that they might represent a new category of music (like for example Di Sarli with Roberto Rufino versus Di Sarli with Alberto Podesta). This is why the general rule is that inside a tanda the singer should not change.

This is a list of the main singers for some of the big orchestras (I do not intend to present a comprehensive list):


Rodolfo Biagi: Andres Falgas, Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Amor, Hugo Duval

Miguel Calo: Raul Beron, Alberto Podesta, Raul Iriarte

Francisco Canaro: Ernesto Fama, Francisco Amor, Roberto Maida

Juan D´Arienzo: Alberto Echagüe, Hector Maure, Mario Bustos, Alberto Reynal, Jorge Valdez

Alfredo De Angelis: Carlos Dante, Julio Martel, Floreal Ruiz, Oscar Larroca

Lucio Demare: Raul Beron, Horacio Quintana, Juan Carlos Miranda

Carlos Di Sarli: Roberto Rufino, Jorge Duran, Alberto Podesta, Oscar Serpa, Mario Pomar

Osvaldo Fresedo: Roberto Ray, Floreal Ruiz, Oscar Serpa

Osvaldo Pugliese: Alberto Moran, Roberto Chanel, Jorge Maciel

Enrique Rodriguez: Armando Moreno, Roberto Flores

Ricardo Tanturi: Alberto Castillo, Enrique Campos

Anibal Troilo: Francisco Fiorentino, Alberto Marino, Floreal Ruiz, Roberto Goyeneche


These combinations provide a huge palette to pick different styles and flavours for a Milonga. Combining 15 Orchestras with an estimate of 4 singers for each of them offers the chance for at least 60 Tandas. This is way too much to be played in a normal 3-6h milonga, so a DJ needs to create a good selection of all these different possibilities.











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