Have you ever wanted to dance to a certain song, but it just wasn't suitable for dance? It could be for a wedding dance, for an exhibition or simply because you like the song (or maybe you're not a fan of a lot of the dance music on offer). Regardless of the reason, it's not a compromise we like to make so I am going to show you how you can overcome this problem.
At the time of writing this post in my blog, I am working on a routine for a grand-final* dance completion. This means that I need to find some music that I want to dance to. I think this is something that many of us have to face at one time or another. The trick is finding something that you like and that is also suitable for dancing to.
After talking to my dance teacher and listening to some songs that I like (and her; I realise that she will need to listen to the chosen song a lot as well) and thinking about the type of dance each would suit, we decided to do a waltz to Only One Woman by The Marbles. You can take a listen to it by clicking on the link.
After listing to it, you should be able to hear that it has three beats to the bar - that's why I am waltzing to it. So really, we chose the style of dance and music at the same time. And that's the first rule of selecting music to dance to. Think about what style of dance a song could suit when choosing a song to dance to; don't just choose something that you like to listen to.
For example: if it has three beats to the bar, then it's basically waltz material; if there is a strong beat on the even beats, then you're probably looking at a samba or blues; if it's strongest on 2 and 6, then maybe a rhumba. In truth, if you have the right beats per bar, then you can dance any style to a piece of music. As long as you fix one remaining issue.
Take another listen to the song through the link above. If you know how to waltz, then imagine dancing waltz to it. If you can't, then just listen to the music and notice the speed. You should notice that it is actually rather slow. Normally, this would rule a song out. This is often a problem for people; many popular songs are too slow for many styles of dance.
However, it is possible to change the speed of a song.
There are numerous programs out there, but I have found a program called Audacity to be perfect for what I want to do. I used it to increase the tempo (not the speed) of the song by 5% and 10%. I then listened to them both with my dance teacher and we decided that a 5% increase was best. And this is the second rule choosing music - if you need to change a song in some minor, then realise that you can; you just need to identify the potential first.
There was however, one last minor problem I had. The rules for this dance competition state that each dance only goes for 2 minutes. This song goes for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. And that's only the live version; the official release is 4 minutes and 30 seconds and it has an odd instrumental piece at the start. Audacity also allows you to take sections of a song out. I used this to get the best 2 minutes for the dance. You can also use it to fade a song out so that there is no sudden end that you might have noticed when people need to stop a song short for a performance.
In summary the key to choosing a song to dance to is to first consider songs and the dances they could suit at the same time. What is most important is the beats per bar. Then once you have a song with potential you can use programs like Audacity to change its tempo (beats per minute) and length to what suits your needs.
Just a few technical points about using Audacity (and similar programs):
1 - Audacity is free so the support is not what you would expect from other programs, but the online user manual is good. Nevertheless, you will find that you will need to learn by making mistakes and trying things. I found it pretty easy to do what I wanted, but there were a few moments of frustration.
2 - You can speed a song up as much as you like without losing quality, but if you slow it down, then you will start to lose quality. Luckily, as I said above, most popular music is slower than what you need.
3 - Remember to change the speed using the change of tempo tool. If you simply speed a song up, then it will sound like the chipmunks singing. You just can't dance to that.
4 - I am not a copywrite lawyer. Chances are you will only be able to play these modified songs at private functions. However, I am no expert on this topic.
*Truth be known: I only got in to the finals because I consistently show up to the social competitions that my dance studio runs; I am no dance sport dancer. In fact, I am personally not all that keen on dancing for completions. I only go into the social competitions because they provide excellent stepping stones for progress. And I only get involved in the grand-final because it is a chance to create my own routine and choose the song I dance to, which is a break from the usual dance classes. If you're not involved in any kind of competition and you're looking for something to give you a bit more focus so that you can improve your dance ability faster, then give competitions some thought. If you want a way to get creative with a dance, then think about a showcase or something similar – it can be enjoyable researching steps and putting them together.