Congratulations to Ausia Jones!

Ausia Jones is an incredible 17-year-old dancer, and our congratulations go out to her, and her choreographer Ebony Williams, for her winning routine, Reflection. Reflection won the First Overall Senior Contemporary at the Dallas regional competition of Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). Ausia was accompanied by music edited by Squirrel Trench Audio, from a piece titled Rostro by the artist Murcof.

Congrats again Ausia! Enjoy her amazing performance:

The economics of a competitive group dance routine

dancer-with-music-flowers.jpgIt’s pretty amazing how much time, sweat, rehearsal, effort, and money goes into putting a competitive group dance routine on stage. I think it’s terrific and amazing that so many dance parents are able to give their kids the experience, discipline, camaraderie, and excitement of performing an intricate routine, complete with music, choreography, and costumes. While the kids on stage and the choreographers are the ones who get the medals and awards, really it should be the parents getting the awards for making it happen!

One thing I am always surprised about is how often these amazing routines go on stage, and are performed at competitions, with less-than-perfect music. Often times the music for these routines have jarring clicks, jumps, awkward timings, and mis-matched phrasing. While competitive dance is not judged on the quality of the soundtrack, bad music edits can make counting and choreography more difficult for the dancers since musical phrases can wind up with nonsensical timings like 9.7 beats instead of 8!

It surprises me that so much music with significant issues winds up on the competitive stage when you consider how much time, energy, and money goes into each dance. After all, the music is the foundation of the dance, and great music serves as the inspiration both for the dance teacher/choreographer as well as the dancers themselves. There are some studios, such as Mather Dance Company in the L.A. area, that go so far as to have original music commissioned for them by professional recording artists. While understandably, that kind of budget is out of reach for many studios, working with a skilled music editor is quite reasonable, especially when you think about the finances that go into each competitive routine that is put on stage. After all, we wouldn’t dream of putting a dancer on stage with a wrecked costume, so why would be put them on stage with wrecked music?

So let’s take a quick look at the cost to put one competitive dance on the stage. Oftentimes a unique music remix can be created for $199 or less, so I will wrap up our analysis by looking at that music cost as a percentage of the total cost of putting a routine on stage.

To make this calculation, I’m going to use conservative estimates. For many studios, the costs might be much less, while at others, they might be far more. For this example, let’s use a group routine with 15 dancers. If each of those company dancers is paying an average of $180 per month in studio tuition, and is in a total of 8 competitive routines, then their combined total studio fee, on a per routine basis is: 15 kids x $180 x 10 months / 8 total routines = $3,375 combined cost per dance. No matter if a guest choreographer is brought in, or the studio’s own teacher creates the choreography, that takes considerable effort, so we’ll budget $500 for the choreography. Next, costumes can easily run $125 per, for competitive routines, so that is another $125 x 15 = $1,875. But we haven’t even gotten to entry fees, let alone hotel and food costs that dance parents incur. If a competitive routine is entered into three regionals and one nationals, the entry fees can easily be $40 per regional and $50 per national. That is 15 x ((40 x 3) + 50) = $2,550. We are up to $8,300 for the combined routine cost, and we haven’t figured hotel or travel expenses yet.

Let’s assume that one of the regionals is near enough to the studio to not require a hotel, and let’s use a conservative estimate that the other two regionals will require one hotel night, and that the nationals will require four hotel nights. That’s a total of five hotel nights, so our calculation is 15 families x 6 nights x $110 / 8 routines = $1237. Let’s just round up to $1300 when you figure in food on the road. We’re also going to assume that families don’t have to purchase air fare to get to Nationals.

So our total cost, to put one group competitive routine on stage in all competitions is $3375 studio time + $500 choreography + $1875 costumes + $2550 entry fees + $1300 hotel costs = $9,600. Now imagine spending even as much as $200 for a spectacular custom music remix. That $200 represents 2% of the total cost in putting the routine on stage. Some would say that that is money well worth it. But I might be slightly biased. Even if it’s not worthwhile to spend $200 on the music for a competitive group routine, it’s still very much worthwhile to spend $40 on having smooth and seamless music edits handled by a professional.

Congratulations to Joleen’s Starz of the South (again)

Joleen's Starz Pirate Life

A Pirate’s Life performers with their Group of the Day trophy

Winning is getting to be a habit for Joleen’s Starz of the South dance studio. Congratulations go to their small group routine, A Pirate’s Life. A Pirate’s Life features a soundtrack created by Squirrel Trench Audio, and was not only the winner of the 12 & over Small Group category, but also achieved the high score/Group of the Day in the 12 & over category at the 2015 NYLA Dance Competition Biloxi Regional. Way to go, ladies! That is an impressive VICTORY!

In addition, the Starz of the South routine Land of the Free was the winning 11 & under team/production routine for the same NYLA regional competition. Land of the Free also features a Squirrel Trench Audio-created soundtrack.

Joleen's Starz of the South - Land of the Free performers with their top production award

Land of the Free performers with their top production award

We look forward to seeing videos from these terrific routines as well as other Starz of the South routines for which we’ve done the music editing and remixing! Thanks as always to Joleen for choosing Squirrel Trench Audio to create so much of the music used for Starz of the South competition routines! We can’t wait to make more for you next season!

Maleficent has her Vengeance

In December of last year, I received a request to create an original music soundtrack for a Maleficent pointe routine; combining several elements of the Maleficent motion picture soundtrack. The pointe routine was entirely the creation of Brennan Kolbo who choreographed the concept from scratch, and she performed it last weekend at Rainbow Dance Competition in Omaha, Nebraska.

Enjoy this unique interpretation of Maleficent, featuring costuming from JEM Creations, and soundtrack by Squirrel Trench Audio. Congratulations to choreographer and performer, Brennan Kolbo, for creating this unique and wonderful Maleficent interpretation!

Run The World Girls (Ultra Clean Version)

Who Run The World SquirrelsHappy to announce our latest addition to the Squirrel Trench Audio catalog of cleaned, edited and remixed music on Legitmix: Who Run The World Girls (Ultra Clean Version) by Beyoncé. While there exists a clean edit on iTunes, the clean edit may not be clean enough for many dance or fitness teachers. This Ultra Clean version removes all instances of the word “Mutha” as well as all instances of “F. U.”.

This Ultra Clean edit of Who Run The World Girls is available on Legitmix for only $4.99

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

A YouTube preview is here:

Don’t Let Your Audio Degrade

clean_music_by_fatihakgungorWhen editing, cutting or mixing music yourself, don’t let the audio degrade. Be careful when you do audio editing. Sometimes I get requests to fix or clean already-edited songs, and when I hear the edit supplied, it sounds like a bunch of squirrels have gotten in and trenched the music.

There are many reasons audio can get degraded, and many different types of problems that inexperienced music cutters can create. When you put degraded music on stage, it’s really not much different than putting a dancer on stage with a tattered costume.

Here are just a few things to watch out for:

  • Don’t let the volume drop. You don’t want your music to be far softer than everyone else’s. Trust me, this happens.
  • Don’t turn up the volume either. You may not hear the distortion on your laptop or iPad, but when played on a large sound system, the distortion sounds terrible and piercing. I’ve heard this in competition a number of times as well.
  • Don’t make a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of an mp3, or get the audio from YouTube. People think that you can make a copy of a digital audio file, and it will never degrade. That’s true of AIFF or WAV files, where all of the audio information is retained in the file. But mp3 degrades the audio a little bit every time it’s saved. So when you make a copy of a copy it gets worse, just like a cassette (though not as dramatically worse of course). One generation of high quality mp3 is not that much worse than the original. But several copies like this, and it sounds awful compared to the original.

There are many other pitfalls that inexperienced music editors introduce into audio they are creating, including fade-outs at strange places, pops, clicks or irregular jumps in the beat, copying bad audio from YouTube, and more.

Of course you can prevent degraded audio by taking advantage of the services offered by a professional music editor/remixer who has years of experience manipulating audio. One service springs to mind as someone who specializes in understanding the musical needs of competitive dancers. But if you already have edited your music, and you need it fixed up or cleaned, we are happy to help.

All You Need Is Help From Friends

the-voice-judges-finale-performance-with-a-little-help-from-my-friendsRecently a dance teacher requested a mix of songs, for the benefit of a little girl fighting stage 4 cancer. This teacher wanted to use the song All You Need Is Love combined with others for a 2.5 minute routine. I added the Tom Petty song I Won’t Back Down and wrapped it up with With a Little Help from My Friends. To create freshness, I used cover versions of all of these songs; Brandi Carlile’s upbeat version of All You Need Is Love, Blake Shelton & Dia Frampton’s The Voice version of I Won’t Back Down, and concluded with Brandon Roush’s The Voice version of With A Little Help From My Friends.

This uplifting and original Squirrel Trench mix is perfect for any dance routine designed to pay tribute and be inspiring to someone going through a tough time, whether it’s a medical battle or the loss of a loved one.

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

Don’t let your music hold back your competition score

dancer-with-music-flowers.jpgIt’s that time of year…. when hours upon hours of dance rehearsal are getting ready to be brought to the big stages of competitions. Dance parents have poured hundreds upon hundreds of dollars into lessons, dance teachers have poured their heart and soul into creative choreography, costumes have been chosen and tried on, competition fees have been paid, and hotel rooms booked.

Dance teachers are doing their best to insure every aspect of the dance is as clean as a whistle. Entrances and exits are tight. Costumes, hair, and makeup is perfect and ready to go.

There’s just one thing left, that some choreographers forget to clean, and that is their music. There are several things you want to check, to make sure your music is as clean and perfect as it can be for competition.

Transitions: Make sure that every transition is precise and smooth. Hiccups, jumps, pops, or other glitches take the audience and judges out of the moment, distracting them from the beauty of the dance. In addition, bad edits can make it more difficult for the dancers to stay on tempo. Precise transitions, on the beat, are made far easier when you align the music to a tempo grid. Click here for more information on Finding the Tempo.

Lyrics: CHECK YOUR LYRICS. Judges will MAKE DEDUCTIONS for inappropriate language used in your music. There is no need for these deductions! Why risk the thousands of dollars that have been invested in your dance with an unnecessarily lowered score? You wouldn’t put your dancers on stage with tattered costumes, so why would you put them on stage with lyrics that have the potential to offend a judge?

Volume: Make sure you have not accidentally lowered the volume of your music in the editing process. Older songs can often have the volume raised without distortion in a process called mastering.

Clarity: Make sure you are not using a song imported from YouTube (more explanation on why). The quality often suffers and that loss of clarity will be amplified in a theater or convention hall.

If any of your songs needs cleaning, Squirrel Trench Audio is at your service. We have cleaned songs for lyrics, transitions, volume and clarity many times, and have literally helped dance studios increase their scores because of it. Use this request form to get your music cleaned! Squirrel Trench Audio also has clean versions of many songs ready to choreograph. For instance, here are clean versions of:

DON’T LET YOUR MUSIC HOLD YOU BACK FROM THE BEST SCORE YOUR DANCERS CAN ACHIEVE. 

How to score better at dance competitions

Cathy Roe dance awards 2010_1Have you ever wondered what it takes to do better at a dance competition? Well wonder no more because Cathy Roe, the founder of Cathy Roe Ultimate Dance competitions has spelled it out for you. Here is the link to her recent Facebook post on this topic, How to Stand Out at Competition. Here are the most important things as Cathy has listed them:

  1. Technique
  2. Rehearsal
  3. Stage Presence
  4. Originality (including unique music!)
  5. Dance within your abilities
  6. Be classy and age appropriate
  7. Show Good Will
  8. Innovative choreography (including using music that connects with you!)

Out of the eight most important things to score well and stand out at a dance competition, TWO of the items include the musical aspect. Reprinted here is the full text of Ms. Roe’s comments on these two aspects, musical aspects emphasized in bold:

4. Our motto “Dare to Be Different” means BE UNIQUE, BE ORIGINAL! I used to tell my students that if we heard a song at a competition, that was a guarantee that we would NEVER dance to that song. There is no dearth of exquisite, exciting, original, emotional, clever, mesmerizing music. If you haven’t checked out Spotify, it’s fantastic for finding music! And as for dance themes…. we see a lot of “love gone wrong” themes, especially from our soloist. The soloist that stands out has a unique and interesting message or song that makes the judges sit up and pay attention because they haven’t seen/heard it before.

8. Bring innovate choreography. How? Be yourself. Think about your life, what you love, your experiences. Listen to music until you find that song that hits you right between the eyes and you say YES! I GET THAT! I FEEL LIKE THAT! Tell a story that matters to you. Forget about imitating anyone and especially because you think what they do what “wins”. Be in it to love it; to be an artist; to be a leader. Be an original thinker, a path finder! My judges are people (that it took me years to find) that will appreciate you for it. But just remember, with all the innovation in the world, we can’t see your vision without technical dancers that can execute it. So I must go back to #1 because it is the technique of your dancers that will display your vision like fine paint on and expensive canvas.

Squirrel Trench Audio is in the business of delivering UNIQUE, original music and remixes to competitive dancers. There are two different ways we can help you in this regard. If you have a music idea, or songs you’d like remixed together, you can use this Request Form to get a price quote from us. In addition, we have a library of unique music remixes for you to choose from on Legitmix. Just take a listen, and if you find one that connects with you, you can purchase it immediately, no waiting! Here’s our catalog of unique remixes:

Get more remixes at Legitmix

Uptown Funk Clean Lyric Sheet

bruno-mars-snlAs the creator of the popular clean edit of Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars, I was recently asked to supply a lyric sheet of this cleaned version.

Here is a link to the PDF of Uptown Funk (Squirrel Trench Clean Version) lyric sheet.

The full-length clean version of Uptown Funk is available here on Legitmix for only $4.99. This clean version features the exciting intro as performed on Saturday Night Live, as well as being sped up slightly for maximum excitement while retaining the fantastic groove.

I also have five additional edited versions available for just about any dance routine you might need; 2:58, 2:46, 2:32, 2:16, and 1:59. They are available individually for $9.99, or you can buy every length for $11.99:

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

Lyrics that have been eliminated from these clean versions include “damn” “bitch” and “put some liquor in it”. Click on the above PDF link to see the full lyric contents. Words that have been eliminated are shown with a strike-through.