Your Tango Music Collection - Part 1 - By Donald Cooper

Starting a Tango Music Collection for Social Dancing By Donald Cooper

If you are a beginning tango dancer and want to get some music for practicing, or just want to enjoy listening to the music, then you may wish to buy some tango music for your personal music collection.  The question you probably have is: What recordings should I buy? And where should I buy them?

Golden Age Tango Music

This posting is about the music of the Golden Age of Tango, defined as the period of about 1930 to 1955, although one or two orchestras continued recording for a few additional years, notably Juan D’Arienzo.  There were many popular orchestras and the recorded music of about 20 of them is still commonly played.  The “Big 4” orchestras recommended below are Juan D’Arienzo, Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli and Francisco Canaro.  Two or three CDs are listed for each orchestra.

Tango for Social Dancing

Not all tango music was recorded for social dancing.  Much of it was simply to enjoy listening to, for example the recordings of Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla are highly regarded, but are not well suited for social dancing.  Similarly, tango music recorded for stage shows or ballroom dancing or with contemporary instruments is best avoided for our purpose.

What to Buy

There are several ways to buy music today, for example:

  • CDs: Amazon, Ebay, Import CDs

  • Digital Music: Amazon, iTunes, Tango Tunes, Los Angeles Public Library

  • Subscription services: Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, etc.

My preference is to buy CDs whenever possible and to create my own digital transfers of the music.  This is in order to minimize loss of quality in the conversion process. [Another topic]
A practical consideration is the variable and limited availability of CDs of tango music.  They are often out of stock and back ordered or even no longer available. This is one area where buying quality digital transfers, such as those from Tango Tunes can sometimes be very helpful.

I try to buy CDs containing a high percentage of tracks that meet the following criteria:

  • They have the best quality sound.

  • The music is played in a clear and consistent rhythm suitable for social dancing.

  • The version of the song is one of the best recordings. There are often multiple versions of a tune:

    • Versions may be made at different times by the same orchestra, with different vocalists or without (generally distinguished by the year the recording was made, but there are a few exceptions to this rule.)

    • Versions of the tune may be recorded by different orchestras, usually each one with their own arrangements.  In this context the original or earliest recording may not be the best one available.

  • The tune has stood the test of time, that is: experienced dancers enjoy dancing to it; DJs play it regularly at Milongas and Practicas, and the melody (and perhaps the lyric) is memorable.

Suggestions of CDs to Start Your Collection

Carlos Di Sarli, canta Roberto Rufino, Sus Primeros Exitos - Vol 1

Tango Argentino

An excellent value, featuring music from the early 1940’s with one of Di Sarli’s finest singers, Roberto Rufino.  This one is currently easy to find at a good price. 17 tangos (T) and 3 Vals (V), a total of 20 tracks, including:

Tristeza Marina - 1943  T

Verdemar - 1943  T

Manana Zarpa Un Barco - 1942  T

En Un Beso La Vida - 1940  T

El Cielo En Tus Ojos - 1941  T

Alma Mia - 1940  V

Corazon - 1939  T

Carlos Di Sarli - Instrumental Vol. 2

Tango Argentino

This is an excellent selection of instrumentals, mostly from the 1940’s.  It is currently available on Amazon. 20 tracks, all tangos, including:

El Jaguel - 1956  T

Viviani - 1956  T

Bahia Blanca - 1957  T

El Retirao - 1939  T

El Incendio - 1940  T

El Jaguar - 1940  T

Shusheta - 1940  T

El Recodo - 1941  T

Dos Maestros, Dos Estilos

Archivo RCA  

Hard to find, but an excellent value.  This CD contains many of the best examples from two of the top orchestras of their time, in high quality transfers.  20 tracks in total, all tangos.

  Carlos Di Sarli    Ten Instrumentals of 1954-1955, including:

A La Gran Muneca - 1954 T

El Amanecer - 1954 T

Organito De La Tarde - 1954 T

La Morocha - 1954 T

El Ingeniero - 1955 T

La Cumparsita - 1955 T

Comme Il Faut - 1955 T plus:

  Juan D’Arienzo   Ten Instrumentals of 1953-1955, including

El Choclo - 1954 T

El Internado - 1954 T

El Irresistible - 1954 T

Joaquina - 1953 T

Jueves - 1955 T

Pampa - 1954 T

Juan D’Arienzo - Sus Primeros Exitos - Vol. 1

Tango Argentino

Some of their early instrumental recordings.  Currently available. It has 20 tracks, a mix of rhythms.  There are many good tunes including :

Don Juan - 1936  T

Pasion - 1937   V

Jueves - 1937  T

Milonga, Vieja Milonga - 1937   M

9 De Julio - 1935  T

Lagrimas Y Sonrisas - 1936   V

Derecho Viejo - 1939   T

La Punalada - 1937   M

Joaquina - 1935   T

Felicia - 1939   T

El Rey del Compás (1941-1943) - Colección Juan D'Arienzo


This is the best compilation of D’Arienzo for this time period and contains many of their hits with singer Hector Maure.  20 tracks (3 Vals, 1 Milonga, 16 Tangos) Not easy to find, but sometimes available on Ebay. (Always use PayPal!)

Dime Mi Amor - 1941 T

Tierrita - 1941 T

El Olivo - 1941 T

Humillación - 1941 T

La Serenata de Ayer - 1941 V

Cuatro Palabras - 1941 V

Compadrón - 1942 T

Enamorado ( Metido ) - 1943 T

Anibal Troilo (el Pichuco):  Yo soy el tango - 1941 - Troilo en RCA (594362)

Currently available.  17 tracks, (2 Milongas, 15 tangos) most with his singer, Francisco Fiorentino.  Many excellent tracks including:

Yo soy el tango - 1941  T

Toda mi vida - 1941  T

El bulín de la calle Ayacucho - 1941  T

Milongueando en el 40 - 1941  T

Tabernero - 1941  T

Cachirulo - 1941  T

Te aconsejo que me olvides - 1941  T

El cuarteador - 1941  T

Guapeando - 1941  T

Tinta Roja - 1941/1942 - Troilo en RCA (594372)

Currently available on Amazon.  16 tracks (2 Vals, 2 Milongas, 12 Tangos)

Tinta Roja - 1941 T

Malena - 1942 T

C.T.V - 1942 T

El Tamango - 1941 T

Tu Diagnostico - 1941 V

Un Placer - 1942 V

Francisco Canaro Sus exitos con Roberto Maida


Currently available on Amazon.  Recordings from 1936 to 1938, all featuring his singer of this period, Roberto Maida.  20 tracks (3 Vals, 2 Milongas) includingMano A Mano - 1938  T

Nada Mas - 1938  T

Milonga Criolla - 1936  M

El Adios - 1938  T

Paciencia - 1938  T

Francisco Canaro - Bailando Tangos, Valses y Milongas


Currently available on Amazon.  20 Instrumental tracks, 7 tangos, 7 Vals and 6 Milongas, including:

Retintin - 1938  T

Pampa - 1938  T

Desde El Alma - 1940   V

Corazon De Oro - 1938  V

Milonga De Mis Amores - 1937  M

Reliquias Portenas - 1938  M

Milonga De Antano - 1937  M

Milongon - 1938  M

Francisco Canaro - Sus Exitos Con Ernesto Fama


Currently available on Amazon.  20 tracks, all featuring singer Ernesto Fama.  13 tangos, 4 Vals and 3 Milongas, including:

Tormenta - 1939  T

Pajaro Ciego - 1940  T

Noche De Estrellas - 1939  V

Todo Te Nombra - 1939  T

No Hay Tierra Como La Mia - 1939  M

En Un Beso . . . La Vida - 1940  T

Parque Patricios - 1940  M

El Lloron - 1941  M


For any tune recorded on a given date by a given orchestra, the quality of transfer to the CD may vary significantly between different albums containing that tune.  Naturally, one would prefer to buy the best quality one. When buying digital music, one way to check the quality of a recording before purchasing it is to determine which CD album the tune was extracted from and to find the rating of the tune in that album.  

Juan D’Arienzo y Alberto Echagüe,

El Rey del Compás

At Makela’s recent Saturday classes she has been giving us a fun introduction to tango music,  starting with Carlos Di Sarli, El Señor del Tango with Verdemar and Bahia Blanca.  See above.

Makela introduced us next to D’Arienzo - Echagüe with the songs Ansiedad and Pensalo Bien.  A good, available source for this music is not readily available in CD format.  However, you may want to try the following sources to add these tunes to your personal collection.

  • As I mentioned earlier, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL- free membership for CA residents) through its’ Freegal service allows five free mp3 digital downloads per week.  The album “Pensalo Bien, Juan D'Arienzo Y Su Orquesta” can be reached at:

It contains good quality versions of both of these songs, as well a few others by Echagüe, such as No Mientas.  Also, many of Hector Maure hits.

  • If you prefer shopping iTunes for your music, I suggest checking the album, “Juan D’Arienzo, Discografía Completa, Vol. 1”, which contains the above songs.

  • offers dozens of D’Arienzo - Echagüe songs in excellent quality transfers, including the above, but at a higher cost

  • Finally, if you prefer to buy CDs I’m afraid there isn’t much available to purchase right now containing these particular songs.  On Amazon I was able to find some 3rd party offers of “Used, Very Good” copies of the CD album, “Juan D’Arienzo, La Morocha, canta Echagüe”, by Magenta records.  This contains good quality transfers of 9 Echagüe songs, plus 7 instrumentals.