Whether you are a music producer who is new to the routine music game or a choreographer looking to improve your technique, here are 5 tips for improving your mix…
#1 Pop it (pre-intro)
How many performances have you seen where the music starts and then a second later the dancers begin to move?
It takes just half a second to place an intro sound that your dancers can familiarise themselves with, in order for the piece to start hot out the gates.
A good choice for this sound is a reversed crash cymbal, which is kind of a sucking, swooshing sound (NB. This is also worth using in your mix as a run up to a transition point)
#2 Lock it (Tempo mapping)
If you can, and your software allows it, it is good to make sure that your tracks are tempo locked. This is referred to in different ways by different software manufacturers.
(Warping, Flex Time, Beat mapping, etc.)
Even if you are not speeding up or slowing down the music, it will make editing faster, and your transitions will be in countable time divisions, whether they are rhythmic or not.
#3 Drop it (Tune Selection)
Most dance routines are about the same length as an entire track. Our advice here is to embrace the character of a whole track in your mix, in other words, make one tune out of many tunes.
So, a song might go, intro, verse, verse, chorus, middle eight/ instrumental/break, build chorus, end.
Obviously this varies from track to track, and rules are made to be broken, but this is a good reference if you are just starting out.
Switching up gives your audience the opportunity to get hyped all over again during the performance, and if you build the mix towards a banging end track they will feel that your piece was a true and complete experience.
#4 Max Headroom (making your mix loud)
Anything in your mix that goes above 0 Db is going to sound glitch and horrible (digital distortion) to avoid this, it is common to turn everything down until the loudest part of your mix is peaking at a maximum of 0 Db (just under is safer) however, if you are using samples and FX in your mix then these may well push it 12Db over the average which means your mix is actually 12 Db quieter than is could be. (a noticeable difference) .
The best and easiest way to ensure that your mis is going as hard as it should full time, is to purchase a software limiter, these are available from £0 to £thousands and can work stand alone or as a plug in for your DAW / editing software. Strap this to the output BUS and it will essentially ‘squash’ the peaks and ‘turn up’ the troughs in volume throughout your mix. Check out this excellent explanation of limiting to find out more.
And don’t forget to render/export at a high resolution, we use 320kbps MP3 and find this works well.
#5 The End (getting the applause)
So not only should the last track in your mix be the biggest and the baddest, it should build towards the end, and then make it obvious (using an explosion sample etc) that the performance is now over and that the audience get a cue to clap, cheer and go crazy! Fading an end track out slowly, looks weak and results in applause starting in dribs and drabs as the audience slowly figures out that the performance has ended. This reflects badly on the performance and saps the crews’ confidence (not ideal).
We hope that you find these tips helpful and inspirational.
If you want some more in depth information on mixing music for dance, then check out this lecture we gave at the SAE institute in Oxford.
If you would like advice on any other aspect of mixing for dance, or if you have any tips you would like to share with us, we are always listening, so drop us a line.