Choosing Music

brain-on-music Choosing Music

As always, what I share is based on my own knowledge, preferences and what I have learned from teachers, research and observation.  Take what you will, and apply it your own way.  These are not rules, not gospel, and even I burst out of the box and just go for it if I feel it.  Yes, we dance for the audience, but I believe we create for ourselves, our own sense of accomplishment.  When we truly create, we must set aside the fear of failure and follow our instincts, and learn…

  • Pop/electronic type music is the easiest to choreograph and get started with because so many animations fit that tempo.  Latin music can be great too.
  • Generally, you want to pick music that has transitions it it, a change in tempo.  This creates variety in your dance and keeps the audience attention.
  • I choreograph music both with and without lyrics.  Without lyrics is harder, because you don’t have the lyrics to lean on to convey your message.  I have seen many beautiful dances choreographed without lyrics, but I wouldn’t suggest trying this until you’ve become comfortable with choreography.  There is no fun in stressing yourself, looking at a blank page and wondering what to do.
  • When you choreograph to music the audience knows, they may interpret a different message than you intended.  This is ok.  Music is personal, and they may already have an association to the song, an emotion that is evoked.  When you are performing, you are giving your performance to the audience, for them to see and interpret it as they will, to feel it as they will.  Some pieces of music are more likely to invoke a strong reaction in people.  Consider this, use this if you want to choreograph it.
  • Music that is 3.5 to 4.5 minutes long is good.  It’s enough time for you to convey your message, short enough that it won’t become overwhelming as you plan effects, movements, and choreo.
  • You can relatively easily choreograph something that’s 5 to 5.5 minutes but you will want to make sure there is variation, expression, changes that will keep the audience enraptured.  If the audience is wishing they could pick up the remote control and fast forward or has wandered off to marketplace, know that your dance is too long.  I almost never ever ever use a song that is six minutes or more.  The audience attention span is relatively short, it’s hard to hold interest for that long within a dance.
  • Choose a good quality music file.  Buy the mp3 if you can for quality.  If the version you want is available only via youtube, make sure it’s clear.  You don’t want your audience focused on the static and pops of a poor quality sound file.
  • You will be listening to the song a bazillion times as you choreograph, practice, adjust, practice, perform.  Choose a song you love and will continue to love even after (even if you have to ‘break up’ for a while after you perform it – giving your brain time to reset after the constant replay!).  If the song makes you cringe on the first listen…just say no – or find a different version.
  • Consider the maximum song length a venue allows.  many venues have a limit for the length of the song you can use.
  • Also consider the style of the venue, the audience that will be watching, the other acts.  If you are performing at a strictly burlesque venue, take this into consideration.    Consider the audience attending.  If you perform a classical ballet to an audience used to dramatic and epic dances, it may be received differently than if you perform it at a smaller more intimate venue.
  • You goal/hope will be that you capture the audience’s attention, they they become a part of the performance as they watch.  Pick something they may know or be able to relate to, whether that be the song you choose, the general feel of the music, or a catchy chorus.  If you pick a really obscure punk song with an irregular beat about fish heads, your audience may not be able to relate to it and embrace it.  (Even if you think it’s the best song EVER.)
  • Avoid the overdone songs unless you feel strongly about choosing it.   Sound of Silence is an amazing song, I’ve done a version of it myself…but it’s been done, and done, and done, and done again.
  • Most venues discourage performances with an overtly religious, political, or potentially divisive message.  Consider the venue, the show, and talk to management.  Select venues may focus their performance on a religious theme or encourage it, other venues may have “open” shows where it is all up to the artist’s choice.  If you’re not sure about your song selection, run it by venue management.

These I record here not only to share, but also as a personal reminder to myself.  Remember, these are considerations, not guidelines or rules.  Rules are meant to be broken.

Choosing music can sometimes be a real struggle for me, especially when it needs to fit in a very specific theme.  THEN I can find all kinds of music I’d love to choreograph, but NONE that fit the theme.  When I feel frustrated, that’s when I walk away.  The harder you try, the more you overthink, the more elusive it becomes.

What I do?  I have a private blog with a page of video links, songs I’d like to choreograph someday.  Occasionally I have a look and see if there’s one that jumps out and “has to be done”.  Other times, I just stumble across a song as I browse you tube, search, follow links from other songs.

More to come, as I think of them. 🙂

I am very grateful to past teachers and mentors.  It is through their sharing of knowledge and my own experiences that my passion for dance continues and grows.  May I pass my own on to others and support them as I have been supported.

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1 Response to Choosing Music

  1. Pingback: This Week & Dance Resources Index | Madness, Matter, and Rambling Thoughts

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