Tag Archives: fadeout

Two ways in which poor music editing can lead to students who quit dance

Recently, there was a great conversation about the value of music editing as it pertains to dance studios in the Facebook group Dance Teacher Network. As I’ve outlined previously, there is much more to quality music editing for choreography than simply making a cut and calling it a day. Good music editing for choreography takes into account song structure as well as employs a variety of audio engineering techniques when needed. But there are two specific cases where poor music editing can completely frustrate a dancer, and in extreme cases, may even lead a student to quit dance entirely!

There are two kinds of poorly executed music edits that can lead dancers to quit: Awkward fade-outs and too much repetition

The first kind of poor music edit is one that robs the dancer of the applause that he or she so very much deserves after performing a routine. This poor choice is when a dance group or soloist’s song is simply faded out without any thought as to how the music should flow from start to finish. These type of fade-outs usually have the performer(s) dancing off the stage at an awkward point in the song; at a point where the audience isn’t expecting the routine to end because the music does not sound like it’s supposed to end. So the dancer is all the way off stage before the audience realizes that the routine is over, and there is a hesitation before they start to applaud. AND, the dancer is now not on the stage to properly feel, and fully receive, the audience’s applause. In extreme cases, this leaves a young, fledgling dancer who is timid, or a little bit uncertain of their dancing abilities, feeling like the audience may not have really appreciated their routine after all. Instead, always put a button on the music to ensure the dancer(s) receive the applause they deserve while on stage!

The second, and even more direct route where a bad music edit can lead to a dancer quitting entirely is when there is too much repeating left in the music edit for a young soloist. This can happen no matter whether it’s a competition solo or a recital solo. When too much repetition is left in the music, it is extremely easy for a dancer to lose track of where they are in the song and thus where they are in the choreography. When the music repeats over and over (especially choruses that repeat and verses that repeat), the dancer doesn’t have the “help” of the music or lyrics to serve as auditory cues as to where they are in their choreo and what comes next.

Properly edited music for dance has all possible repetition removed. This is an aspect that the vast majority of DIY music editors (and even many audio professionals who have not studied the intersection of dance and music) fail to realize. Music with too much repetition retained leads to students who more easily lose track of where exactly they are in their choreo, an especially big problem in solos where you can’t cue off of another dancer. In these cases, the person creating the music edit doesn’t even realize that the repetition in the music is a big contributor to the problem. And if a student doesn’t not have the “help” of the music to help them remember their choreo, then that leads to frustration, which can lead to quitting dance entirely.

I’m sure you have viewed hundreds and hundreds of solo routines in competition as I have, and therefore you know that at a large comp, there will ALWAYS be at least one young soloist who runs off the stage sobbing because they forgot their choreo under the bright lights of the stage. I have come to the conclusion that poorly edited music containing too much repetition is a major contributing factor to these breakdowns.

Of course, sometimes a dancer who forgets their choreo returns later to the stage and performs triumphantly, but some of these dancers decide to quit dance forever right then and there. Why risk it? Why lose young dancers forever due to poorly thought-out music edits? Sure, there are sometimes when a student forgets their choreo, even with perfectly edited music. But no one wants their students to experience these kind of choreo-forgetting melt-downs.

You, as choreographer and teacher, pour your heart and soul into your choreo, into teaching your students, and cleaning their routines. You spend hours picking out the perfect costume to match your choreo. You deserve to have perfect, optimized music to match the effort you put into every other aspect of the dance, and you deserve to have music that actively helps your dancers remember their choreo instead of being a stumbling block.

This is why Squirrel Trench Audio music is created with the UTMOST care and precision — with song structure analysis to eliminate all possible repetition, ensuring that each music edit is a complete soundtrack, start to finish, that is ideal for choreography. Squirrel Trench Audio even has more than 1,000 clean song edits and remixes available in our archives. Check the listing for the songs that you want and email me or use this form to send me your music requests or for more information.

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, here’s my Request Form.

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

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!

Video Tutorial: How to Avoid Awkward Fade-outs (Part 1)

In this two-part video, I explain both WHY you should avoid awkward fade-outs whenever possible, and HOW to do it. Here is Part 1, WHY:

If you already know WHY you should avoid fade-outs, here is Part 2, where I show you HOW to do it.

For more detailed information on how to avoid awkward fade-outs when editing music for your dance routines, here’s a web page about it, in written form. Here’s more about the Top 5 song editing mistakes I hear at dance competitions.

I would love your feedback about this video. Was it useful to you? Did you learn something? What audio-editing-for-dance tips would you like to learn about next?

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