June 6, 2010

How to: Choose Figure Skating Music

Choosing music is an important (maybe even the most important) part of a skaters' season. Whether the skater is an international athlete or a beginner choosing his or her first piece the choice is critical as not only does the music need to fit the skaters' abilities, but also their personality.

The main ground-rule when choosing music is to pick pieces that are skater-appropriate. That is, the score from the musical "Chicago" which tells the tale of a murderess by means of sultry jazz, would not be all too fitting for a 6 year old skater!

This is, however, the most common skating music mistake among younger skaters: whether the music be inappropriate and unbelievable (I cannot imagine that an 11 year old would know the first thing about what Juliet was feeling when she discovered her beloved Romeo had "died"?), or simply far too strong for the skaters' abilities. Picture a little chap trying his hardest to cross-over round the end of that rink and into his three-jump, as the music from "The Man in the Iron Mask" bellows around the rink. It's not that it's ridiculous, it's just not showing off the young skaters' skills, it's drowning him out, and making him look insignificant in comparison to his music.

It's all about finding the balance, that complementary piece that is going to highlight every move, a piece that the skater can get into, and really enjoy expressing themselves to. Because that really does show through.

Many coaches are heavy-handed when it comes to choosing music, but ultimately, it's the skaters' choice (and just as it is not the coach's choice, nor is it the skater's parent's choice). If your coach wants you to skate to a certain piece but said music bores you, you needn't even bother. Not only will your bordom show through, but practising your programme will also become a drag and something you come to loathe. Skating is hard enough already without the extra stress of running a programme you can muster no feelings for!

Always try and search out pieces of music in the style you are looking for throughout the entire year. Now that many of us have smart-phones, laptops, mp3 players, and other gadgets, keeping track of music you love is easier. Don't leave it until the last minute before the programme needs to be made up to start your search: you may very well end up disappointed, not to mention stressed, rushed, and ultimately unhappy. When you hear a piece of music you like, write it down. Whether it be on a piece of paper, in your diary or on your telephone, keep notes! Turn the classical radio station on when running errands in the car. Borrow CDs from your coach and from your local library and get listening in your home.

You will know when you hear the right piece. It will make you want to skate and skate, and inspire you with feelings whether it be passion, romance, or floaty dreaminess!

However, don't cut your coach out altogether: take the pieces you have short-listed back to him/her and discuss together what's right for you (or your little skater). Your coach is better qualified to know what will suit the style of skating in question.

Ultimately, once you have decided on what piece you would like to use, you need to get the music cut to the correct length. The length of the programme depends on the level of the skater, and if you are lost on this one your coach can tell you how long the programme needs to be. You can either enlist a professional music editor, someone at your rink (usually every rink has a known "music-cutter"; ask around, coaches and skating mothers will point you in the right direction), or you can even do it yourself. Yes, honestly! It's not as hard as you would think, and even easier still if you have a good ear. I cut all my own music for competitive programs and galas, and do so using a free open-source software programme named Audacity. You can download it by visiting it's website by clicking here.

Ultimately the skater must be happy and feel something (not necessarily joy, but something!) when skating to the music. Take as long as necessary, get it right, and you'll be happy all season!

Until next time, keep listening!
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