Tag Archives: song

CD-quality versus mp3-quality – What’s good enough?

A recent comment on a dance facebook group asked for some further explanation on the differences between CD-quality audio (lossless or uncompressed) and mp3-quality (lossy or compressed) audio.

I thought I’d share my explanation on the subject here.

cd.gifBecause mp3s were created when the internet was new, and slow modems were used to connect with it, they have gotten somewhat of a bad rap because early mp3s were at such low bit-rates, that they truly sounded awful. However, as bandwidth has increased rapidly over the years, it’s possible today to get high quality mp3s that are virtually indistinguishable from CD-quality audio.

The audio quality in stores like the iTunes store or Amazon mp3 store are now quite good. Not CD-quality exactly, but on virtually all sound systems that the music will be played on, no one will be able to tell the difference.

I have had the misfortune of working with some really cruddy music sources supplied to me, and once music is degraded (which I will explain more below), it can’t be returned to its original form. It would be like ripping up a costume and then trying to put it back together with duct tape – yuck. So here’s what you REALLY want to watch out for: DO NOT USE MUSIC SAVED FROM A YOUTUBE VIDEO.

CD quality is a very high standard of music quality. Even better forms of digital audio exist, but this is irrelevant for the dance world and dance purposes. Here is a list of format qualities, from fantastic to poor:

  1. CD quality (usually stored as either AIF or WAV format)
  2. m4a/AAC — iTunes store quality, 256k bit rate
  3. mp3 — 256k or higher, variable bit rate – this is nearly as good as iTunes store quality. Most people on most systems won’t hear a difference between this and CD quality
  4. mp3 — 128 k or lower bit rate—- this is where you start to hear what are often called “swirlies” especially in the high frequencies of the music.
  5. The worst possible digital music is music that is saved as an mp3, and then saved as an mp3 again (possibly more than once). This is how audio from YouTube gets to be so bad.

Bottom line: For dance studios, rehearsal, recital, competition – mp3 at 256k or higher variable bit rate, or m4a at 256k or higher bit rate, are going to be fine, with one very important caveat: as long as the song has not been resampled/resaved in mp3 format more than once. And this is precisely why music taken from YouTube ranges so wide and far in quality…. it can be nearly pristine, or it can be severely degraded, depending on how it arrived there.

Just like cassettes in the old days: if you recorded a CD onto cassette, it didn’t sound too bad…. just a small amount of hiss was added. But as soon as you start recording cassette to cassette — you are left with practically nothing but noise after just one or two such transfers. The hiss becomes nearly as loud as the music!

Well, that’s exactly the same thing that is happening with an mp3 to mp3 copy, and this is where compression comes in that you mentioned six comments above (lol). When you save music as an mp3, indeed, you are compressing it, compared to CD-quality which is uncompressed. The mp3 encoding throws away some of the “less important” details of the music in order to save space in the storage of the file. If you take a CD, and save it as a 256k-rate mp3, you can barely even notice any difference. But if you save a 256k-rate mp3 as a 256k-rate mp3, now you are throwing away even more detail. And low-quality YouTube videos have music that is encoded as a 128k-rate mp3. So if a person takes an mp3, and then uploads that as the music of their YouTube video, now you are listening to the same thing in essence as a cassette-to-cassette transfer. If you then save the music track from the YouTube as an mp3 on your computer, and remix or edit it and save the result as an mp3, now you are doing the same thing as a cassette-to-cassette-to-cassette transfer. So if the music sounds awful at that point, well, now you know why.

Here’s an example of audio that sounds terrific on YouTube. Especially if you click the quality setting to 720p HD or higher. (Switching the YouTube video to an HD setting increases the audio quality to the highest available.)

 

Here’s an example of music that has been pretty severely degraded, as a 48k bit rate mp3. This would be similar to saving a 96k-bit rate mp3 more than once:

On the above clip, if you go back to the start of the video, you can hear what it sounds like as a very high quality mp3. Every 30 seconds, it’s played as a lower and lower quality mp3.

If you have any questions about CD-quality, m4a/AAC, or mp3 audio quality, please comment, and I will answer to the best of my ability!

Put a button on it

Definition of Button, from a Broadway Glossary:

Button: The payoff moment in a song; the moment when the song is “buttoned up” and finished.

On Broadway, music composers know that nearly all of the time, they need to deliver a button on their songs…. that point in the music when the audience knows the song is over, and it’s time to applaud. The same concept applies when editing music for performance dance routines. When a song fades out, your audience is robbed of the routine’s button. That’s why Squirrel Trench Audio retains the ending of the original song so that the button is delivered to your dancer. The audience knows the routine is over and it’s time to clap.

There are times when a song might have a big musical finish that lasts 20 seconds or more. These type of endings, while great in a music performance, are too long for a dance performance. In such cases, we will edit down the big finish into an appropriate length for the dance routine.

If you need your music edited to retain the button, either look through our catalog on Legitmix, or fill out a custom music edit request form.

Songs featured on Dancing With The Stars (DWTS)

Disco Ball 2The latest episode of Dancing With The Stars, Season 19, episode 9, aired tonight (10/27/2014). Here are two songs featured in the show, edited to be the perfect length for your next dance routine. Secret by The Pierces is perfect for a macabre contemporary routine, and Come With Me Now by Kongos works as a jazz or tap routine.

View other Squirrel Trench edits and remixes for dance routines on Legitmix or contact us for custom edits and remixes.

Hot new band: Dirty Loops – Hit Me

Dirty Loops Hit MeA hot new artist has just arrived on the scene from Sweden. Dirty Loops is a trio of talented musicians bringing an avant garde twist to popular music. Their first single is Hit Me. This song will be spectacular for a small group, large group, line, or production, in either jazz or tap. It could also work for a very advanced soloist in jazz or tap. Squirrel Trench Audio has three versions available on Legitmix:

2:45 version:

2:30 version:

2:00 version:
Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

View other Squirrel Trench edits and remixes for dance routines on Legitmix or contact us for custom edits and remixes.

FREE Lyrical edit: Try by Colbie Caillat

Try single artBecause Squirrel Trench Audio’s mission is to eliminate less-than-ideal music edits for dancers everywhere, we are giving away a FREE* edit of Try by Colbie Caillat. How does this work? How can we legally give away a free edit of a published song? Legitmix is a new service that enables remixers to sell their services legally. The service checks to see if the buyer already owns the song(s) used in the edit or remix legally. If so, then the buyer can purchase the edit/remix. If not, you have to buy the song(s) used in the remix from iTunes, and then you can also buy the remix. Remixers have the option to give away their work for free, and we have chosen to do so to announce our launch into this new arena.

Now available for free* on Legitmix: Colbie Caillat’s Try, edited for a 2:36 lyrical dance routine length.

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

(*The edited version is available for free if you already own Try. If you don’t already own Try, you’ll have to pay $1.29 for it, and then you can get the edited version for free.)

Please feel free to share this free edit with every dance teacher and choreographer you know. One step closer to our goal of making sure every dancer has the beautiful music that they deserve.

View other Squirrel Trench edits and remixes for dance routines on Legitmix or contact us for custom edits and remixes.

Michael Jackson/Dangerous & Janet Jackson/Rhythm Nation remixes

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, crushed it at the MTV Music Awards. Here is a remix based on that performance, along with some original twists. Edited for a 2:45 length dance routine.

Janet Jackson is one of the top female music performers of all time. Here is an original remix of the classic Rhythm Nation from the album 1814.

Get more Squirrel Trench remixes at Legitmix

Congrats to Joleen’s Starz of the South

Starz of the SouthA huge congratulations to Joleen’s Starz of the South studio who took home some serious hardware from the NYLA Dance Nationals in Biloxi Mississippi from June 12-15. “Music of the Night” featured a five-minute-plus Squirrel Trench-mixed soundtrack for this production number. In addition to Music of the Night, Starz of the South won in many other categories with routines featuring Squirrel Trench edited and mixed music, including Oceans, a Baseball-themed mix, My Flawz, Egyptian Style, Dirty Laundry, and Crazy in Love. Three additional special numbers were: a remix of Lady Gaga’s Applause, a moving 9-11 tribute, and a NYC street drumming scene. Here are the complete results from Starz of the South’s Nationals.

Here’s what studio owner Joleen had to say:

“We absolutely loved all of our music you created for us. :) Music of the Night won an overall highest scoring group/production and 1st place at Nationals. All of our music sounded amazing and we received great judges comments on all of our mixes and cuts. Thanks again!”

– Joleen Sanders, studio owner
Starz of the South, Vancleave MS,
July 5, 2014

How to find fantastic music that isn’t overused

Happy-New-Years-Fireworks-2014-WallpaperFor all the dancers going to Nationals in the next few weeks, break a leg! I know some studios have already finished their Nationals, but in any case, the 4th of July for many dancers, teachers, and studios means it’s time to start working on music for the upcoming season.

Just thought I’d share this tidbit, that comes courtesy of my girlfriend, dance teacher extraordinaire Lesley Lambert, for finding that hidden gem of a song… you know, that one you hear at a dance comp, and can’t believe that no one else is using this amazing song. Here’s one way to do it:

Go to Spotify or Pandora or iTunes Radio, and play a song that you really like. Then turn it into a radio station, and you’ll have a whole bunch of similar songs, many of which you may have never heard of before. Give them a listen, and pick out the gem for your next routine!

Happy hunting and happy independence day!

Clean your dance, clean your music

Competition season for dancers is here in earnest. This past weekend featured two studios utilizing Squirrel Trench music for their routines at the same competition (27 routines!). We’re thrilled to report a slew of 1st Places, Platinum, High Golds and Overalls were garned by these dedicated and hardworking dancers and choreographers.

Now that we’re in the competition phase of the year, don’t forget to clean your music at the same time you’re cleaning your routines and costumes. If there is a hiccup, jump, skip, mis-matched beat in your music, or section of music that is too soft, or not punchy enough, too fast or too slow, it’s not too late to get it fixed in time for the next regionals competition.

Already, Squirrel Trench Audio has helped dance teachers and studio owners get higher scores for their routines in a number of ways. For one tap number, the dancers were rushing too fast for the music. Solution? Speed up the music. For another studio, the routine was receiving deductions for inappropriate language. Solution? Inappropriate language obscured through clever remixing by Squirrel Trench. For another studio, the music they were using was too soft compared to all the other music being used. Solution? Brought up to current loudness levels by Squirrel Trench through a process known as mastering.

We know that many dance teachers and studios cut their own music. One of the potential pitfalls to self-cut music is that in the course of rehearsing the number five hundred times, any mistakes or hiccups eventually sound normal, just because you become used to hearing it that way. Of course, the judges will be hearing it for the first time, and if there is a hiccup, skip, jump or any other strangeness in the audio, it detracts from the polish you’ve worked so hard to achieve with your students.

So find a friend who can listen to your competition music with fresh ears. If they hear something that doesn’t sound right, send it my way to get it fixed in time for your next Regionals, so that you’ve got it the best it can be in time for Nationals. If you have something that needs fixing, email me at: morriss@squirreltrenchaudio.com

Related articles: Time to Fix Things UpPump Up The VolumeFix Your Music in Time for Nationals

Congratulations to Wikkd Lil Grrrls!

1902765_10152284887868103_160835853_nCongratulations go to choreographer Miss Lesley and the NEDC dancers of Wikkd Lil Grrrls!

Today they performed spectacularly at Hall of Fame’s Worcester regionals dance competition at the DCU Center. Wikkd Lil Grrrls features music edited by Squirrel Trench Audio. This morning the routine won:

  • 1st Place Platinum in their category (Junior Tap Line)
  • 1st Place Overall in Junior Line routines
  • 1st Place Overall Junior tap routine

Wow! It doesn’t get much better than that! Congratulations dancers!

Live Stream • Full Schedule • Routines using Squirrel Trench music