Basics of music editing

We understand that not every dance routine needs to have the song professionally edited. Personal computers have put audio editing tools within reach of everyone. But even with great tools, unless you really understand what you’re doing, it’s easy to botch the music up when cutting down the music to dance routine length. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been at competition and heard a squirrel trench (a scar on the music)- taking not only the audience out of the moment, but also the judges.

So here are some things to keep in mind when editing music so that you don’t leave a big ole flub on an otherwise great song.

First: Really listen to, and understand the song all the way through. Understand the parts that make up the song: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, ending is the most common song structure. There are certain parts of a song where the performance is almost exactly the same every time it occurs: this is most often true of the chorus of the song, so one of the easiest edits to make is to remove the second verse out of a song. Line up the 1st and 2nd chorus so they are overlapping exactly, and make your edit. This way, you leave the bridge intact, which gives the song (and therefore the dance) more interest over the course of the routine.

Also, watch out for exactly how you make the edit. Many folks try to make a long smooth edit… where one part of the song fades out for a few seconds while the other part of the song fades up for a few seconds. This is usually a mistake and sounds funny (unless there isn’t much going on instrumentally), and can even cause distortion. Better to make a very clean and crisp edit, where one part of the song ends very nearly abruptly while the other part of the song begins nearly abruptly. I usually employ an ultra-ultra-quick crossfade at the edit point, but it happens so quickly (usually a few milliseconds), that you can’t tell that it’s there. The important thing is to line up the beats (and the measures) at the edit point. This brings up another part of successful music editing- make sure you have full measures lined up. Dancers count in 8s… which is usually two measures of 4/4 time. I’ve heard plenty of songs where the edit is in a funny spot and the measures don’t line up.. which produces an “extra” two or three beats, which always sounds unnatural.

Well, that’s all the tips for now. I’ve got more that I’ve developed as a professional musician and music editor, but I’ll post about other techniques later. Here is how to avoid awkward fade-outs, and here are the other Top 5 music editing mistakes heard in competition.

Now that we’re about to enter competition season, take a listen to the songs you’re using for your dancers. If you notice that any of the songs you’ve edited have a squirrel trench or two in them or a funny beginning or ending, send it my way, and I’ll see if I can fix it up for you, retaining the original timing (or as close as possible) so that you don’t have to re-choreograph! My email is: morriss@squirreltrenchaudio.com. Or check out the Services link in the header of this site.

Best wishes for a successful competition season!
~Morriss Partee
Squirrel Trench Audio

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One thought on “Basics of music editing

  1. Morriss has been doing all of my music edits for the last couple of seasons and the results are amazing. He has worked on compilations for me where we mash up several songs on a theme and add voice overs and other special effects, too. His music background ensures that the edits will be seamless and amazing!

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