Tag Archives: performance

Congratulations to Rhythm Dance Company soloists!

Congratulations to the Rhythm Dance Company dancers on their first competition of the season! Soloists and Duos/Trios who have music edited by Squirrel Trench Audio include:

Sara G. with First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – Elite Gold and 6th overall teen soloist

Allie D. with Giving – Gold

Molly G., Sara G., Katie R. – They Weren’t There – Elite Gold and 4th overall teen duo/trio

That is a fine start. Complete results from their first competition are here.

And that does not even touch on EIGHT of RDC’s group numbers that feature original Squirrel Trench Audio remixes… they came out GREAT and am excited to see them performed later in the Spring!

Nationals are nearly here!

Deliver Us CDSquirrel Trench Audio will be on location at Star Systems’ Nationals competition in Myrtle Beach, SC next week. All of the music is prepped and ready to go, so the only thing left to do is wish the dancers the best in their performances! We are looking forward to a fun-filled week with nothing but dance, dance, dance!

The CD pictured at right is the audio for a hot acro routine that will be performed on Friday, July 22. It was truly a joy to smooth the transitions of this very tricky orchestral music which included full choir.

I love seeing the dancers perform this routine and I know they are going to nail it in Myrtle Beach next week!

Top shelf dance deserves top shelf music

Music in the dance studio. Such an important component, yet too often neglected and undervalued.

Who handles the music editing at your dance studio? In an earlier blog post, I make the case that music editing should not be left to the dance teacher. Just as a musician has no clue about grand jétés and pirouette fouettés, dance teachers have little or no knowledge of zero-crossings and peak limiting. Yet the result of a dance teacher doing his own music editing often turns out as amateurish as if a piano player attempted to perform a changement.

So let’s take a look at the economics of putting a group number on stage, and determine whether or not it’s worth it to spend $250 on a first-class original remix, such as Pixie Hollow.

Let’s say that the routine will be performed for one year, at 4 regionals, and has 20 students in the routine.  We’ll use these rough figures as an example.

Costumes: $125 x 20 students = $2,500
Entry fees: $35 x 20 students x 4 competitions = $2,800

Not taking into consideration all of the money spent on weekly lessons, that’s $5,300 being spent on costumes and entry fees alone for this routine.

Now let’s look at how this outlay compares to spending $250 for an original remix for the routine. An investment of $250 in the music represents less than 5% of the total budget being spent on putting this piece on stage. Another way to look at it is $12.50 per dance student.

And the numbers become even more compelling when you consider that many studios will repeat songs and use them for two years. This equation makes the investment equal to $6.25 per student per year, and just 2.4% of the total costume & entry fee cost over those two years.

For straightforward editing of a song to dance routine length, the numbers are even more compelling. $50 represents less than 1% of the costume and entry fees, and $2.50 per student. If the song is used for two years, that becomes half of a percent of the competition outlay and $1.25 per student. When you look at the numbers this way, there’s hardly an excuse to have dance teachers editing songs and creating flaws in the music. Especially because dance teachers don’t even know they’ve created mistakes in the music.

Music is the foundation of dance. Does the studio want to have the parents shell out $5300 on a routine with a shaky foundation? Is that a good way to go when with a modest investment you can get a fantastic and unique remix to build your choreography on?

Perhaps more dance studios don’t invest in quality music editing because dance is a very visual medium, and you can’t see music. But because the music for every dance routine will be played at high volume on a big-stage sound system, a glitch in the audio is akin to wearing stained and torn costumes. If you wouldn’t dream of putting a dancer on stage in a tattered costume, why would you put them on stage with hiccups or scars in their music?

I think this type of investment in the music is well worth it for a unique piece that will wow audiences, judges, and parents, especially compared to having a self-edited song that has hiccups, glitches, jumps, or any of the other top five music mistakes most commonly heard at dance competitions. But then again, I might be biased. What’s your take on it?

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!

How to avoid awkward fade-outs

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Top 5 music editing mistakes heard in dance competitions, and promised you additional blog posts about how you can avoid making them.

Number One on the list is the AWKWARD FADE OUT.

As I mentioned in that earlier blog post, it’s easy to understand why this is the most common music editing mistake. Dance teachers are very busy, and most are not expert musicians in addition to being expert dance teachers. With music editing software now available for free on all platforms, the quickest and easiest thing to do is to simply fade the music out at the desired time in the song.

However, this often leads to disappointment for the dancer on stage. Let’s examine why before exploring the best methods to prevent this faux pas from occurring.

A good song, just like a good dance routine, has a structure. In the most simple terms, songs have an intro, a middle, and an ending. Unless a song fades out in the recording, the ending is designed so that the listener can tell that the end is approaching, and then it finishes in a satisfying way. Musicians who perform on stage like to deliver a good ending, because then the audience knows when to clap, and what performer doesn’t enjoy applause? (For more on dance structure, check out this article in Dance Spirit Magazine.)

It’s no different when the performer is a dancer instead of a musician. A good dance will have an intro, a middle, and an ending, and it should coincide with the beginning, middle, and ending of the music. That way, the audience can tell when the dance is over, and applaud accordingly. When the music fades out at an awkward point in the song, and the dancer holds his/her finishing pose (or starts shuffling off the stage), the audience is left hanging, and is silent for a few seconds before they realize that the dance has ended. This awkward silence makes the performer feel like he/she hasn’t done a good job, no matter how loudly the audience applauds after the silence (or even worse, after the dancer has exited the stage).

The good news: if the song you have chosen has a good ending, it’s a piece of cake to edit the song properly and deliver what the audience and performer deserve: a solid, great ending to a great performance.

As an example, let’s use Jason Mraz’s The Dynamo of Volition from the album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things. It’s catchy, and has a great dance beat. The song as recorded is 3:36, much too long for dance competition. However, with a single well-placed edit, this song can be made 2:23, a perfect length for competition, and still retain the song’s original solid ending as well as retain a good overall structure.

If you were to fade the song out at 2:23, it would be right in the middle of a verse, creating the MOST awkward type of ending, which can’t even be considered a real ending.

In order to understand how it is possible to retain the song’s structure and still reduce it from 3:36 to 2:23, and make it sound perfect, we need to understand the song’s original structure. This song is a bit unusual in that there is no intro; Mraz starts right in on the verse.

Here are the parts of the song:

0:00 – Verse A
0:27 – Chorus
0:44 – Verse B
1:08 – Verse A
1:29 – Chorus
1:49 – Bridge
2:04 – Verse B (with extension)
2:43 – Chorus with ending

If we map this song out with parts, assigning each part a letter of the alphabet, along with a number in order of appearance, it would look like this:

A1 | C1 | B1 | A2 | C2 | D1 | B2 | C3

The easiest way to shorten it is to make a cut right before the last chorus, move the last chorus with ending to a new track, and then shift it in time so that the last chorus now overlaps with the second chorus.

In letter form, our song is now on two tracks, and it looks like this:

Track 1: A1 | C1 | B1 | A2 | C2
Track 2:                            C3

You can see that the 3rd (last) Chorus, with ending, now overlaps with the 2nd Chorus. Zoom in on the audio wave forms, and make sure that these two different audio tracks are matched up to each other perfectly in time. Play both tracks simultaneously, and move the new track so that you don’t hear any echo caused by having the two tracks out of alignment.

Once you have C3 in exact alignment with C2 timing-wise, there is only one more step to make: and that is to make a sharp, but smooth, transition at some point from C2 to C3, and voilá, you now have a perfect 2:23 version of The Dynamo of Volition! Your audio tracks will look something like this now:

When looking for the point to make the transition from one audio segment to another, what you want to find is what is called a zero-crossing point. This is where the audio wave is “standing still.” Making the edit at a zero-crossing for both audio waves is the best way to ensure you don’t get an abrupt cut in the music at the edit point.

It takes a few minutes longer to listen to a song, analyze where the verses, chorus, and bridges are, then to just fade it out, but the rewards are substantial for you and your dancer in the applause generated by the audience, and the feeling of closure at the end of a great performance. The ending is the last impression left with the judges, so make it strong instead of fading away!

Here is a video where I show you how to retain the ending:

If any of this is too overwhelming for you, feel free to send your song our way, and we’ll get it done for you! We love making perfect song edits for dancers!

See also: Retaining song structure when editing music for a look at some colorful graphs that really bring the structure into focus.