Tag Archives: choreography

Retaining song structure in music editing & remixing

If you edit, cut or remix music for dance, gymnastics, figure skaters, vocalists or any other purpose, this is perhaps the most important article you can read on the subject.

What’s the Plan, Stan?

Most music has a structure… a road map that that takes the listener on a journey from point A to point B with several interesting stops along the way. While music is auditory, if you were to visualize the journey by breaking a song down into its component pieces, you would see something like this:

While many songs have variations on this theme, this graph is nonetheless a useful starting point in visualizing or understanding the structure of a song, including intro, verses (purple), choruses (blue), and almost always some type of bridge section (green).

Music editors who don’t pay attention to the structure of music typically make the minimum number of edits, or cuts, to get the music down from, say, four minutes, to the required routine length, which is usually three minutes, two and a half minutes, or two minutes. What usually ends up happening is that a fade-out is thrown onto music wherever the time limit occurs. If you were to visualize the resulting song structure, you’d see something like this:

While there is nothing “wrong” with this picture per se, it does not have as powerful an impact as the original song. It doesn’t feel complete, and the overall “shape” of the journey is now lacking.

In addition, we’ve now lost the bridge entirely. The variety from the original song is gone. Musically speaking, the bridge is often the most interesting part of the song and the emotional peak of intensity is often in the bridge.

When the structure is “chopped off” as shown above, instead of visiting three different regions, we’ve now visited the same two regions two times. This type of repetition does not lend itself well to the linear nature of dance choreography. The other problem with this edit is that we’ve also lost the ending. The audience is left hanging because the routine never reaches a conclusion.

So in order to maximize artistic integrity of the song AND meet the linear requirements of dance choreography, music should be edited and remixed in order to retain the maximum amount of interest in moving from point A to point B, taking the audience on a journey, stopping off at scenic points of interest along the way, before finally ending up at the destination.

In almost all cases, retaining the bridge section of a song improves the result of the song editing process. This is because in dance choreography, there are rarely repeated movements. In dance choreography, there is almost always a linear progression that evolves from the beginning to end of a routine, without the repeating verse/chorus/verse/chorus patterns you find in music. Most dance routines consist of a linear series of moves that flow, one after another after another.

A song will match up better with dance choreography if it “keeps moving” from one musical idea to the next. Instead of chopping down a song as if it were a tree, giving it a verse/chorus/verse/chorus pattern, you give yourself, as dance choreographer, more musical variety and movement if you edit the song to follow a verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format.

Here is the same song structure as the first graph, but edited to retain the integrity of the original, including the bridge. Note how the shape of emotional intensity is still a journey that builds up, goes over the mountain top of the bridge, before finally coming to rest with the closing chorus and ending:

Note that the intro has been shortened, as has the final chorus. In this chart, I’ve indicated Chorus 1 and 2 as combined; there are many ways to handle this depending on the nature of the song’s chorus arrangement.

By understanding a song’s structure and retaining the overall feel and variety of it, you can make a remix or edit of that song and still leave the audience feeling satisfied with the journey, even though the trip took less time.

If you are a dance choreographer looking to give your students the best music possible for the choreography you are going to teach them, have your music remixed by a professional ahead of time so that he or she can retain the structure. While I am happy to “smooth” out choppy or incorrectly timed edits, even after the routine has already been rehearsed, you’ll be giving your students the best music and routine possible if you start with a solid musical foundation, and that means getting the structure right, from the beginning.

If you prefer to have a professional edit or remix your music, shoot me an email.

Also see: How To Avoid Awkward Fadeouts for another article on this subject, complete with sample edited waveforms.

Unique music source for choreographers

At many competitive dance studios, guest choreographers are invited to create routines for the most advanced students.

If you are such a choreographer, and want to bring a unique world-class song remix to your students along with the unique world-class choreography you are creating, look no further than Squirrel Trench Audio. I can take your concept and create a unique song interpretation which can then provide the inspiration for your unique choreography. If you are a world-class choreographer looking for unique music which works in a competitive dance format, send me an email.

Squirrel Trench Audio has created the music for a Mr. Junior Nationals Superstar winner in 2011.

Break through at your dance competitions

Many competitive dancers are looking for ways to break through to higher scoring at dance competitions. Hours upon hours of rehearsal, of focused practice, is the number one requisite to winning. In addition to practice, much effort and thought goes into creating the perfect costume.

Don’t overlook the foundation for any dance choreography: the music. The music provides the energy, the vibration, and the platform to express emotion and story in the dance.

One way to lift your dance to the next level is to use a fresh, original remix of the music you use for your choreography. There is no reason to use overplayed songs when there are many things you can do to make your music unique. You don’t have to settle for simple edits. Your music can be much more than that.

Squirrel Trench Audio is in the midst of new season of spectacular, original remixes for competitive dance as well as recitals. I will be sharing many of these original remixes once their routines have premiered in competition the weekend of March 3, 2012. If you have a routine you are proud of, and are interested in taking the music for the routine to the next level before competition season gets underway, shoot me an email.

Behind the scenes of a Beatles remix

It’s been a pleasure, a joy, and labor of love creating the Beatles remix called Somehow Someway. I can’t wait to see the choreography for this routine performed at Regionals and National dance competitions in 2012.

I’d thought I’d give folks a sneak peek at what went into the creation of the music for this piece.

More behind-the-scenes peeks of this remix will be posted soon. Let me know if this is useful to you, and I’ll do this for other remixes I’ve made. Questions? Comments?

Walk This Way (dance competition remix)

This song was remixed expressly for a dance teacher at a nationally-recognized dance studio, using both a swing and live version of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. This remix was used as the basis for tap choreography for a small group at regional and national competitions.

Here’s how it looked at Nationals:

To learn more about how I created the ending for this song, check out this post and video about avoiding awkward fade-outs.

If you are looking for an original remix for your next choreography, check out my services here.

Video tutorial: How to Avoid Awkward Fade-outs (Part 2)

Here is Part 2, in which I explain how to avoid awkward fade-outs when editing songs for your dance routines:

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 of this video tutorial, where I explain why this is important.

Let me know what you think, and what aspects of editing music for dance you’d like me to cover in future video tutorials!

Ready to step up your dance?

As has been pointed out previously, music is the foundation of dance. You can easily verify this for yourself by realizing what happens when the emcee plays the wrong music at a competition….. the dancer freezes because it’s not the right music.

If you are a high-level dance studio owner or teacher, and you regularly bring your students to regional and/or national competitions, and you want to step up your routines, where should you start? Answer: The music. If you are working with exciting music, music that gets your kids pumped up, they will naturally perform better. If you, as choreographer are excited about the music, you will bring your enthusiasm to the choreography you create. On the flip side, if you are using stale, flat, worn-out music, it’s hard to generate enthusiasm, either in yourself or your students.

What’s the answer? Try an original Squirrel Trench Mix. I’ve created many original mixes based on modern interpretations of classic songs, including train medleys, a Beatles remix, a slumber party theme, a Mary Poppins remix, a Pixie Hollow remix, and more. I also have a slate of original remixes and medleys scheduled to create for a studio in Canada that I am eager to begin work on shortly.

If you have a theme idea and you want the music to provide the foundation to help you create original, exciting choreography to break through the multitude of routines that judges will view, then contact me to find out about our editing and remixing services. I’m excited about the remixes I’ve already done for the upcoming season, and I can’t wait to create yours!

Break a leg in the upcoming 2011-2012 dance season!

When do you prep your music?

If you aren’t already a fan of Squirrel Trench Audio on Facebook, feel free to “like” us. (We’re also on Twitter if you want to follow us there.)

We’ve just added a poll on our Facebook page, and would be thrilled to get your answer. Check out the poll, and submit your answer here: Dance teachers – when do you select and prep your music for the upcoming dance season?

Original remixes for your dance routines

Are you looking for new, exciting, and fresh music for your next dance routine? Then you are ready for a custom Squirrel Trench remix. Your music should be as memorable and fresh for the judges as your choreography.

Here are some samples:

Pixie Hollow – Squirrel Trench Remix

Drive – Squirrel Trench Remix

Original Squirrel Trench Remixes are already underway (and some completed) for the upcoming 2011-2012 dance season. These remixes include the Beatles, a Slumber Party theme, a train theme, a movie theme, and others.

If you are interested in a custom Squirrel Trench Remix for this upcoming dance season, send me an email!

Songs for tap dance routines

Below are some music ideas for your next masterpiece of tap choreography. These will work for competition or recital. If you have other great song ideas, leave them in the comments below and I’ll add ‘em! If you want to use any of these songs and need them edited perfectly for competition, we’d love to serve it up for you. Also, we have song suggestions for JazzContemporaryLyricalMusical Theater, and Kid Friendly Hip Hop. And here are even more songs for tap, and Songs for Tap, Part 2 and Part 3.

Upside Down – Jack Johnson

Man with the Hex – Blue Babies
Man with the Hex – The Atomic Fireballs

We Speak No Americano (Mafia Boys Mix) – Yolanda Be Cool

Drive My Car – Bobby McFerrin

Showbiz – Mike Stern

Mr. Success – The Hit Co.

Creep – Richard Cheese

Jungle Drum – Emilliana Torrini

Mr. Pinstripe Suit (live) – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Need any of these songs edited? Let me know.

Find even more tap songs here, and Songs for Tap, Part 2 and Part 3.