Tag Archives: intro

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.

An introduction to Squirrel Trench Audio

An introduction to Squirrel Trench Audio. This video segment covers why it’s important for dance teachers and dance studio owners to edit your dance music correctly from the start!

If you are new to Squirrel Trench Audio, or music editing, here are some links to what you can find here on the web site:

How to Avoid Awkward Fade Outs

Song Ideas for: JazzLyricalTapContemporaryMusical Theater

Services offered: Song editsCustom Remixes

Let me know if you found this video worthwhile, and what music editing tips you’d like to learn about in future video segments. Your feedback is appreciated!

 

 

 

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