Tag Archives: abrupt

What exactly is good music editing for dance routines?

With the proliferation of free and cheap audio editing software, many dance studios have taken it upon themselves to handle the editing of their dance music. While it is certainly better to edit a song yourself than to not edit it at all, a top-notch dance studio may want to consider having their songs professionally edited.

Why would a dance studio have their music professionally edited?

Teachers and students at a quality dance studio spend hours upon hours perfecting their dances for recital, competition and other performances. Students practice all of their routines in class and at home. Every nuance, every detail of motion is perfected and cleaned up. Every detail, from how the dancers enter to how they exit the stage is choreographed for optimum audience enjoyment and professional presentation. The same is true for costumes and makeup. The details of the appearance are examined and refined.

So if a dance studio is spending countless hours and dollars to ensure every aspect of the dancers’ movement and appearance is the best it can possibly be, why wouldn’t they also want to ensure that the music, the foundation for every dance performance, is also as great as it can be? Why use music for performance that has glitches, awkward fade-outs, mismatched beats, frozen statue intros, abrupt jumps and other scars when seamless music can be created by a skilled music editor?

What does professional music editing for dance entail?

Some people think that dance editing is simply employed to remove swear words or other inappropriate lyrics from a song. But editing music well is much more than than, and certainly much more than fading a song out at the desired length of the routine. In fact, 90% of the time fading the music out at the desired length for the routine is at an awkward point in the song, leading to the most common music editing mistake heard at dance competitions. In this blog post I explain exactly how to avoid awkward fade-outs. (Here are the other Top 5 mistakes made in dance music editing.)

A skilled music editor, who understands what dancers need in a competition or recital-length routine, does a lot more than simply a fade a song out or edit out swear words. A skilled song editor analyzes a song for its structure, and then determines how that structure can be changed, sliced, or rearranged in order produce a new song that makes sense from beginning to end. Usually this involves shortening an intro, removing a verse and/or a chorus, shortening instrumental solos, and so on. This process is something that requires a great deal of skill and experience, in both music and audio editing, to execute flawlessly.

Skilled audio mix engineers not only rearrange the structure of an existing piece of music, they can perform quite a number of other audio engineering techniques such as changing the equalization of the music to better fit the dancer, speed up or slow down all or parts of a song without changing the pitch, add reverb to edit points or endings where it makes sense, and even increase the volume (slightly) of older recordings without causing clipping distortion.

The sad but unfortunate fact is that many dance teachers don’t even realize that they utilizing music with poor edits in their routines. Dance teachers are trained in the visual arts, and are experts at choreography and movement. Few are also exceptionally well-versed in music structure or audio editing. Therefore, dance studios would enhance the quality of their performance by utilizing the services of an experienced music editor to handle the process of editing songs to the right length for dance numbers.

As I mentioned before, it’s not too late to have a song with a music hiccup or glitch fixed in time for Nationals. In fact, I’ve just finished repairing a song like that right now… the dance routine is SPECTACULAR, winning Platinum and 2nd overall, and the music is by a well-known artist who hit the scene in the 80s. The song, as edited by the student, was wonderful all the way up until the very end when there was a fade out, followed by an abrupt jump into the last few notes. But have no fear, Squirrel Trench Audio now has the ending smooth and flawless! And since the routine has already been choreographed, I kept all aspects of the song identical to the original edit, except for the newly perfected ending. If you are cleaning up your dance moves after regionals, going into nationals, it makes sense to clean up your music too!

Top 5 song editing mistakes

I just got back from a spectacular regional dance competition, where my original remix Pixie Hollow premiered. The dancers were truly spectacular and brought a tear to my eye. I can’t wait to see them perform it again in two weeks.

It was truly a pleasure to watch so many fantastic dances, and hear the wonderful music that the dance teachers had chosen for their students. I could see how much hard work had gone into each number to bring it to fruition on stage.

Being a musician and not a dancer, I paid special attention to the music, and how the dance and music worked together in the performances. I was very happy to hear no major squirrel trenches in any of the songs I heard. However, I couldn’t also help but notice that there were minor glitches in the music editing of many songs. So in my quest to help eliminate bad music edits from all dance competitions, I present to you the top 5 music editing mistakes I hear in songs played at competition. In subsequent posts, I will explain in detail how you can avoid each one. While most judges won’t deduct points for these mistakes, any one of them takes away from the musicality of the dance that you are striving for. Any of these mistakes takes attention away from the dancer and makes the performance less enjoyable to watch.

1. Awkward fade out

2. Mis-matched phrase edit

3. Abrupt cut

4. Drop-out edit

5. Frozen statue intro

Let’s discuss the first two in a bit more detail. Again, future blog posts will explain more about each one of these pitfalls, and more importantly, exactly how to avoid them in your own music editing.

The awkward fade out (and its cousin, the abrupt ending) is by far the most common music editing mistake I hear in dance competitions. It’s easy to understand why it happens. You find a great song, and virtually all popular songs are too long for competition. So what is the easiest thing for a time-pressed dance teacher to do? Fade it out at the proper length for competition. But while it’s easy to do this, it’s very much worth the time to avoid this practice. With the awkward fade out, your dancer is usually left either holding their ending pose or begins to exit the stage, while the auditorium falls into silence. The audience doesn’t start applauding and cheering because they aren’t sure that the performance has actually ended. There’s nothing worse for your performers’ self-confidence than the nervous silence, followed by the too-late applause created by the awkward fade out. Often these strange fade-outs occur in middle of a verse or some other equally unexpected point in the song. As I’ve said in an earlier blog post, if your song has a clear ending, use it. [Update: Here's exactly how to do it.]

The mis-matched phrase edit is another common song editing mistake, and one which can be quite problematic from a dance point of view. Most dancers love a strong groove, a catchy or funky beat, that propels them to dance. And most dance music (though certainly not all) is in 4/4 time. Dancers learn to count in 8s, which corresponds very nicely to most musical phrasing, which usually occurs in groups of 4-beat measures. While musicians learn to count in 4s, these groups of measures often occur in even multiples, such as 8 and 16, and these patterns usually can also be lumped together in groups of 24 and even 32. How strange then, when the editing of music occurs in mid-measure, and sometimes even in mid-beat. Here is what this pattern looks like in written form, from a dancer’s point of view:

8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 11.3, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8.

No wonder your dancers are having a hard time with this section of their song- it not only has an odd number of beats, it also has a partial beat! OUCH! It’s nearly impossible to get your dancers’ moves clean when the music itself is not clean in this way. Inevitably, this type of editing flub kills the groove and pulse of the music.

Well, that’s all for this blog post. In future posts, I will give you some very specific guidance on how to avoid these most-common song editing mistakes in your competition routines. In the meantime, if you have a song that has one of these mistakes in it, and you want it fixed in time for your next regional or nation competition, send me an email.