WE GOT THE BEAT! It's all about musicality...
Updated: Oct 10, 2020
My last post talked about different types of things (mainly music) I listen to to keep me motivated. When doing cardio, I need a good beat and something uplifting. It just helps me lose myself in the song so I am not thinking about how much I am sweating. Maybe you just broke up with someone and need to listen to "I Will Survive" on repeat. Cliche, yes. Necessary? Absolutely. I was already happily married by the time I took up running so break up songs just didn't work in the same sense as they may have in the past. However, onceI was turned down for a job I wanted, but then they came back and wanted me to do the job without the recognition. True story. The song I listened to over and over again was "Since You've Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. Yes, it's a break up song but I would hone in on the following line "You had your chance you blew it". See, it can work in many different ways. This song helped me get through that part of my career without having to shout out loud in my office "I TOLD YOU SO" and I am a better person for it. Cardio and music can really be a stress release!
Now where was I? Oh right, musicality. It is a thing. Some group fitness classes do not require you to understand musicality. Think yoga, pilates, mediation, etc. But many formats require you to understand it. What is musicality? It is defined as sensitivity to, knowledge of, or talent of music. What? Well, it the fitness world it means you have to be able to HEAR the music. I don't just mean the "sensory function in which sound waves in the air are converted to bioelectric signals, which are sent as nerve impulses to the brain, where they are interpreted." (I went all "Big Bang" on you there, didn't I?)
No, you need to be able to understand musicality. Group fitness classes, just like dance, are taught to the beat or rhythm of music, and usually to a 32-count musical phrase. This helps one move transition smoothly to the next. Participants can anticipate the change because the music guides them. As an instructor, I can hear the changes AND anticipate the changes in music. You also need to know when it will change, when there is a big change, whether a song gets loud or soft, and I can go on and on... The reason why you usually do multiples of 8 reps of a particular exercise is because that is how music is arranged! (See above about the 32- count phrase. 34 divided by 4 is 8!) Many pre-choreographed fitness formats, like PiYo (TM), which is one of my faves, provides music in PERFECT 32 count phrases. They take all the guess work out of it, but you still have to be able to hear the beat. As long as you can hear the downbeat which is the first beat in a measure, you will go a long way in teaching fitness. If you aren't certified in a pre-choreographed format, you can purchase or subscribe to music services that have already arranged the music for you this way as well as have it in a certain BPM (beats per minute- I will get to that one)
But I want to use my own music...
Does that mean I have to teach my barre class or any other class that isn't trademarked using this type of music? Nope, because I can hear the music. I understand the "musicality". Songs you hear by your favorite artist are most likely NOT arranged in this manner. If they were, the song would be SO BORING!!!! They have intros and bridges to make the song more interesting. A musical bridge is a part of the song that is different from the rest and will bring you from one part to the next. This can be 16 count, 8 counts, etc. It stands on its own. This is usually a part of the song where I give participants a break, or make them work harder! One of my favorites to do is in the song "Attention" by Charlie Puth. There is a part where he just pauses like he is taking a breath. This is usually done in a barre class while the members are doing a first position plie. I have them old it as low as they can and then I shout, "Wait for Charlie!". Then he continues and I let them continue with the exercise. Yep, I am fun like that. (The screenshot shows the song "How Long" becasue the one for "Attention" doesn't show his face.)
Now don't get me wrong. There are clients/members that will NEVER notice if you are off count. Phew! But if you are going to teach something like Barre (yes dancers gravitate to this) or some type of dance fitness, you have to hear music as explained above. I can write 10 blog posts about it, but you just have to sit down and listen to it. I can offer a piece of advice that was given in a certification class I took a few years ago. Listen to the song "Watch me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silento. Don't judge, just listen to it! You almost can't help to hear the count in this song and know when the change is coming.
Beats Per Minute (BPM)
Moving on to BPM. Ahhh yes, beats per minutes. Different genres of music will have different beats per minute. And this often changes with current trends. For example, pop music is/was usually around 115 beats per minute, but in 2018 this slowed down. Think of "Despocito" by Luis Fonsi. This song is 89 beats per minute! Whoa! For barre classes, I actually like the BPM to be around 100. It can be faster but not much slower. It just depends on the exercise I am planning. Other formats like zumba or some other dance format will require a much hire bpm, like 130 to even 170. If you notice, dance and techno music has this much higher bpm. Hip-hop and rap tend to be slower. I actually choose the slower tempos when I bring a class to the floor for some type of core workout. These are just my preferences. If you really hear the music you can usually make it do what you want. Just do the exercise as half tempo or even double. Once you can understand the musicality, the variations on your class formats are endless!
Give me a beat
So how do you figure it all out. You count. You can use a metronome app or you can do what I do...count the beats in the song for 10 seconds and multiply by 6. Am I always exact? No, but I come pretty darn close. Plus I don't always rely on myself to hear it. This comes into play when I teach a cycle class. This format requires various BPM songs and I take a lot of time to plan it out. I don't always want two sprint songs in a row. If you have seen my accidnetly dropped piece of paper with my playlist, all songs have a number next to them. This is actually the RPM which is revolutions per minute. You figure it out the same exact way but then you dived the bpm by 2. You do this because you have two feet pedaling Planning this type of workout can take a bit more creativity. This is where I play with the tempo a lot. If most pop songs are around 100-130 bpm let's say, that means the RPM is 50-60. That's not very fast so it turns into a climbing song. Take the song "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen. That song sits nicely at 110 beats per minute. So for cycle the RPM is at 55. That's a really slow climb. There is nothing wrong with that and you can have your class climb the entire time....or....on the chorus you can have members take down resistance a bit and find that 110 pace. This is another song where they can really feel "the beat" and can be successful finding that tempo.
Can a fitness instructor just throw in a Spotify playlist and teach a class? Sure. But for me, I need to incorporate that musicality. I truly believe the reason there are often LONG waitlists for my classes (pre-pandemic) is the ability I have to connect members to the exercise with the music. I also tend to have good time slots, but let's go with that first answer!
Now go listen to music!