Wizard of Oz Remix is big hit

Just got a link to a video from Kim Houli, dance studio owner of Dance for Joy in Brielle, NJ. This is a video of the opening recital production number for which I did the music remix last fall. It was truly a pleasure to make this music, and an honor to provide the foundation for what Kim says was their biggest recital opening hit to date.

Enjoy the hard work of these fabulous dancers!

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.

Maximum length for dance competition songs and remixes

Occasionally someone arrives on this site by googling for something like “song length for dance competitions.”

While there is no definitive answer, I can give you some guidance. The most important thing you can do to determine the allowable length of your song is to check the competition rules for each competition you will be entering in for the season. Most competitions follow the same guidelines for maximum allowable length.

Many competitions state that solos can not be longer than 2:45 in length, while group numbers can be 3:00. Some competitions allow for even longer songs with larger groups. For example, Star Systems allows:

• 2:45 for a solo
• 3:00 for a duo or trio
• 3:30 for a small group (4-9 dancers)
• 4:00 for a large group (10-18 dancers)
• 4:30 for productions and lines (19 or more dancers)

However, not all competitions follow these guidelines. For some competitions, 3:00 may be the maximum, no matter what size the group, so be sure to check EACH of the competition rules that your studio is entering for the season.

For recitals, many times the maximum length is 2:00.

Bear in mind that these are maximums. It’s much better to make your routine shorter and tighter than to drag it on and on with no real purpose. Also, more important than the total length is the story arch that the dance and music follow.

Here are the things I keep in mind when trying to determine the right length for a music edit or remix:

For tap or acro, endurance can be a factor, especially for younger students. For younger tappers, 2:00-2:10 can be a good length. More experienced tappers who have built up endurance can be in the 2:20-2:45 range. And in general, younger dancers will want to be in 2:15-2:30 range, and older, more experienced dancers who have developed their style and moves, and want to tell a story with their dance should have music in the 2:45-3:00 range.

I know you are struggling with cutting your music

I know you are out there, and you are frustrated. You are a busy dance teacher, and you’ve got a boatload of choreography you have to create and teach. And in addition, you have to pick out the perfect music for each of your groups and soloists. Now you have the task of cutting down a song that is 4:10 to a competition-ready length of 2:45, or to a recital-ready length of 2:00. You grab your trusty music editing program of choice, and start listening. You stare at a bunch of strange squiggly lines on the screen, trying to figure out what-in-the-heck they mean. How on earth do these squiggles represent MUSIC? They look like a bunch of scribbles that your 3-year-old toddler drew in pre-school! They sure DON’T tell you where the bass guitar plays a riff, or the saxophonist starts wailing on a solo!

Instead of pulling your hair out, trying to figure out what needs to match up to what, just shoot me an email and I’ll solve your music cutting problems for you. And all at a VERY reasonable price! And maybe save you a from a few gray hairs in the process. After all, your students test your patience often enough, you don’t need more aggravation from trying to wrangle your music into shape!

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?

Another happy gymnast…

In addition to cutting, editing, and remixing music for dance routines, I thoroughly enjoy cutting, editing and remixing music for floor gymnastic routines as well. It’s basically the same process, but in gymnastics the routines are shorter (a maximum of 1:30), and lyrics are not allowed. Here’s what my latest client had to say about a really fun edit I just completed:

“Oh my goodness!  This is great! i can’t wait to have her listen when she gets home from school today.  I will have her bring it to gym and see what the coach thinks about timing.  I’m sure it will be great.  Thanks so very much! That was fast!”

— parent of a gymnastic student in Ohio