Have you ever wanted to create a tap dance routine with the song from the original broadway soundtrack? Prior to today, this has not been possible, because the sounds of the original tap dancers are embedded in the audio of the song. But thanks to highly advanced audio processing software, along with skill and hard work, I am pleased to offer the Original Broadway Cast Recording of 42nd Street, MINUS TAPS. All embedded tap sounds have been removed as much as possible. Click to hear this choreography-ready version!
For all of you fabulous choreographers who edit your own music: When saving your music as an mp3, NEVER save it at anything less than a 256k bit rate. Why is this important? Because when you save it at 128k or lower, you are telling your computer to throw away some of the detail in your music. You may not hear the difference on your laptop or iPad’s speakers, but when played on a good sound system (like in your studio, or at comp or recital), it won’t be as clear. And it just gets worse if you open up that same low-res file and re-edit it again.
Also worth noting: once you save an edit as a low-res mp3, re-saving it at a higher rate later does not fix it. Once you’ve saved it as a low-res file, then it will always be low res.
I know all the “export” or “save as…” options that are presented in most audio processing programs are greek if you don’t know the details or reasons behind the choices. Way too many of the music edit files I get for repair are saved as 128k mp3 files, and it makes me sad to know that dancers are not dancing with the cleanest version of their music possible, for no good reason other than the choreographer was not aware that saving at a 128k rate (or lower) degrades the audio noticeably.
Also, if you are not sure what the quality of an mp3 is, there’s a fairly easy way to tell, by checking the file’s size in Mb. A 2.5 to 3-minute edit saved as an mp3 or m4a should be roughly 5 to 6 Mb in size. If it’s only 2 to 3 Mb in size, then you know it’s low-res, and too much audio quality has been thrown away.
I can easily understand why this is such a problem. While you are working on the file, it sounds fine, because it hasn’t been saved to a low-res format yet. And when you save it as a low-res mp3, you can’t immediately HEAR that it doesn’t sound as good as what you have been working on. In other words, the quality gets reduced when you save it, but you don’t even know that that has happened. So I am very happy to help spread the word. Now you know!
Bottom line: When doing a “Save as” or “Export Audio” to an mp3 file, always choose the 256k rate or higher!
Did you pick out a song that has taps in it, but now you need them removed for competition or any other performance? You are in luck. Squirrel Trench Audio now has the capability to remove embedded tap sounds in music. Click to hear a before and after sample (with taps and with taps removed) from the Drowsy Chaperone. Click here to contact us about removing embedded tap sounds from your audio.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are some songs where your dancers are constantly being held back by the tempo of the song. When this happens it’s almost like there is an invisible force subtly sapping the energy out of the routine. Conversely, there are other songs where the dancers are always rushing to keep up with the beat. Adjusting the groove of the song, by even as little as 1% slower OR faster, can make a huge impact on how well your dancers perform with the music. Use the Tempo SlowMo app to dial in EXACTLY what the tempo should be for every routine you choreograph. Spin the jog wheel WHILE your dancers are performing to find the exact tempo that FEELS just right!
Tempo SlowMo is just one app that allows you to change the tempo of songs you are playing. Another one is BarreNotes.
Don’t forget to “print” a new copy of each song that you are using at the new tempo that you’ve dialed in.
More and more folks are interested in recording voice-overs of various kinds for their dance routines. Since Squirrel Trench Audio works with dance teachers and choreographers all over the world, we usually can’t come to you in order to do the recording. This means you are on your own to record your own dancers’ voices, but it’s not too hard to do that, and send us the resulting audio files.
The good news: if you have an iPhone, it’s easy to record the voice-overs that you want. Just use the (free) Voice Memo app that is built-in. Here are the tips in a nutshell, with further explanation below:
- Record in a living room or bedroom; never in a dance studio
- Aim the bottom of the iPhone at your dancer(s), about 1.5 feet away
- Record three takes of the words you want
Record in a living room or bedroom; never in a dance studio
One of the most important aspects to getting a good recording is the room in which you record, because sound bounces off of walls, floor and ceiling. This is called reverberation, which is a form of echo. Pretty much the worst space to do a recording is inside a dance studio rehearsal room. Ideally, you want to be in a living room or bedroom when recording a voice-over. The more drapes or other fabric there is in the room, the better. Carpeting is also very helpful. Using the Voice Memo app on your iPhone, situate yourself with the iPhone, and the person(s) that you are recording, in the middle of the room, away from all the walls.
The iPhone’s mic is in the bottom of the phone; aim it at your dancer(s), about 1.5 feet away
Hold the iPhone approximately 1 to 2 feet from the person(s) speaking (1.5 feet is probably ideal). Aim the mic (which is in the bottom) at the person talking. It should be close to them, but not TOO close.
Record three takes of the words you want
Record at LEAST three “takes” of the words that you want to have. That way, I will be able to choose from the best of the resulting versions. Sometimes a word might get cut off, or the speaker trips over a word. If you have them repeat their lines three times, then I can put together the best version of the words.
Here are a few Squirrel Trench Audio custom dance mixes that feature Voice-Overs:
After the smashing appearance in the opening number to the recent Dancing With the Stars episode, Emergency by Icona Pop has been flying up the charts. Unfortunately, for dance teachers and choreographers, the only version currently available on iTunes is Explicit.
Squirrel Trench Audio now has a great-sounding version with clean lyrics, suitable for all ages and situations, including dance studios, competitions, recitals, and talent shows. The full-length version is $4.99.
Also available is a 2:15 length version:
We have also created a Spicy Clean remix with a 2:32 length:
For more great songs that have been cleaned of objectionable lyrics, Squirrel Trench Audio has a collection of full length clean songs here:
And in fact, Squirrel Trench Audio’s entire catalog on Legitmix is clean, so any remix or edited song you find there, that is created by Squirrel Trench Audio, is clean. Search the Squirrel Trench catalog on Legitmix here.
Normally, when you come across a short song when searching for music for your routines, you breathe a sigh of relief. You think to yourself, “Thank goodness, I don’t have to cut this one!” However, occasionally the song is TOO short. Into the void steps this extended (2:23), rockin’ fun version of Let It Snow! by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, perfect for a group tap routine. This song is simply begging to be used in a tap routine, and is great for any age dancers.
Honey, I’m Good by Andy Grammer has been lighting up the charts over the past couple of months, but it includes some inappropriate language. Squirrel Trench Audio is pleased to provide a clean, full-length version of this hit song.
Choreographer/teacher Desiree Johnson runs Desiree’s Dancers in David City, Nebraska, a subsidiary of Barb’s School of Dance in Columbus, Nebraska. Desiree contacted me about a year ago to craft a custom remix for her production called Revealing the Royals. Assistant choreographers for this routine were Melinda Allen, Becky Brandenburg, and Kayla Hollatz. Here is a video of this four-minute masterpiece. Congratulations to Desiree and all of her dancers on a spectacular creation!
Music is a part of every dance studio. Music is used in just about every dance routine. Therefore, it’s important to have a good understanding of the costs of music in your studio, and how to charge appropriately for it, so that you don’t take a loss on your studio’s music expenses.
There are two major expense areas associated with music in the dance studio, Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) licensing fees, and music editing and remixing costs. In addition to these two costs, there are potentially other expenses if you have a competitive studio and audio CDs must be created for competitions. Also, if students expect to receive rehearsal CDs, there is a cost associated with that as well. However, for this article, I will ignore CD-creation costs since today there are online options for sharing music privately with students, and many competitions accept music uploads or submission via iPod or flashdrive.
To find out dance studio’s Performing Rights Organization costs, I contacted the two primary PROs in North America, ASCAP and BMI, and found their published annual fees for different sized dance studios. (Size is determined by total number of students.) I ignored SESAC licensing fees since the number of music artists they represent is a very small fraction of the other two major music PROs, and many dance studios don’t use any music represented by SESAC.
This leaves us with the last major expense in music for a studio; editing or remixing music to optimize it for dance routines. No matter what avenue you use to get your dance studio’s music edited or remixed, whether it’s done yourself, left up to each dance teacher, or if you hire a professional, there is a value associated with music editing that should never be absorbed by the studio nor the choreographer. In my experience, $29 is an average value for editing a song optimally for dance routines. In addition to editing a song, many popular songs today need to be cleaned of inappropriate lyrics, which requires skill and time to do. Also, competitive studios may benefit from having unique remixes created for group routines, especially high-calibre or “elite” teams. These unique remixes can be created at an average price of $99.
I have prepared a spreadsheet, below, showing the total music costs using average studio sizes shared by members of the Facebook group, Dance Teachers’ Network. I have divided the spreadsheet up into three typical studio sizes; a smaller studio with 130 recreational students and no company students; a medium studio with 352 students of which 77 are competitive; and a large studio with 690 students of which 115 compete.
The important thing to note is that in order not to have a loss on the studio’s music costs, these example studios charge a modest annual music fee per student. For many studios, $19 per student will cover all music expenses, and create positive cash flow for the studio, an extra $800 for the small studio example. However, each studio is unique, and will have a slightly different cost structure. After analysis, you may discover that you have a high number of routines per student (such as the Medium-sized studio in this example), and if that’s the case, the annual music fee you charge might have to be $24 or $29 per year in order not to take a loss.
Bear in mind that every studio is different in its approach, in terms of number of students and number of routines performed, and therefore the annual music fee needed to result in a profit and not a loss for each studio is different as well. The important thing is to run the numbers for YOUR studio, so that you come out ahead, or at the very least, break even. (It’s best to build in a small profit cushion to guard against unexpected expenses that always seem to crop up.)
If your studio has never charged an annual music fee before, you may have some dance parents question this new charge (even if it’s pretty small). Keep your explanation simple and straightforward; that this small annual fee covers all of their student’s dance music expenses for the year, including obtaining the license to use the music in their routines from the relevant Performing Rights Organizations, as well as all editing and remixing costs.
Alternatively, in your studio’s market, it just may not be feasible to have an annual music fee to be competitive with other studios in your area. If that’s the case, the music fee of approximately $19 could be added to your regular annual registration fee.
In the spreadsheet above, I have shown two different options (out of many) that a studio could choose in order to create positive revenue associated with the studio’s music. In Plan A of the spreadsheet, the same annual music fee is charged to both Recreational and Company students. However, it’s reasonable to charge Company students a slightly higher music fee since they often perform in more routines, especially solos, or in elite groups which have more expensive custom remixes. Therefore, in Plan B of the spreadsheet, I show the studio’s net music profit if Company students are charged an additional $10 over what Recreational students are charged.
In all cases, this spreadsheet shows how smart dance studios cover their music costs (and even have a few dollars left over). Conversely, studios that don’t charge an annual music fee wind up having to absorb their music expenses from other studio revenue.
If you are a dance studio owner, and have any questions about properly handling music income and expenses for your studio, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to provide you with a modification to this spreadsheet using your studio’s exact number of students and routines.