Name that Tune

The best compliment you can give me as a group fitness instructor is to ask me the name of a song that I played during class.  Of all the elements of a group fitness class, your music has the biggest impact on your student’s enjoyment of and energy levels during your class.  Music is also one of the most difficult elements to master, because music preference is highly personal.  In today’s post, I want to give you ideas on where to look for more music to add to your collection and how to decide whether or not to play a song in your class.

Who’s in the room

The most crucial aspect of music selection is knowing your audience.  You’ll notice that my spinning playlists are lacking in Top 40, Hip Hop, and Techno music.  While you could argue that I am turning into an old woman, the real reason that I don’t play it is because my current Spinning schedule includes classes of mostly middle-aged men.  I also live in an area with a strong evangelical Christian demographic.  If I come in rocking a new Akon tune, folks will literally get up and leave.  Yes, this happened six months ago when I used “Ms. New Booty” and “Milkshake” in the same set.  On the other hand, my All Dance Party class has a younger, edgier student base, so I constantly seek out the latest music to keep them energized.  Your best bet is to start with a large amount of variety in your music sets and then start to narrow down what excites them and what turns them off.  If you aren’t sure, ask them!  Then, keep notes about what works and what doesn’t so you can better structure your next playlist.

So what if you like it?

Trust me, I have made this mistake enough times to know that you cannot make other people love the music you love simply by getting excited about it when it comes on.  Whatever your music preference, even if it gets you higher than a kite, do not forget that you are not there to provide for yourself.  You are there to give your students a great experience, so select accordingly.  Every now and then, sprinkle your favorite ___________ <Insert offensive/annoying/unpopular genre here> song in for variety if it is appropriate, but do not subject your class to your whims if it is obvious that they are not into it.  Especially if the song contains inappropriate language. 

Radio Play vs. 32 beat mixes

If you put together a list of music from your personal CD collection, or downloaded a playlist from Napster, you’d be using the “Radio Play” format.  If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend that you give it a go.  You have much more flexibility in your programming and you have the freedom to add in a variety of songs that can give your classes highs and lows.  However, there are still great reasons to use 32-beat mixed music that you purchase from a group fitness music source such as Power Music or John Sines.  Your students who have been coming to classes since the 90s are used to having a structured format that allows them to anticipate your cueing.  This is essential for teaching highly choreographed classes, such as Step.  These mixes also play without interruption or pauses, so you can keep  moving for longer periods of time without dipping in energy.  Pre-mixed music is almost always themed, so you should put some thought into which mix you play for your audience.  Some sites, such as Power Music, compile CDs for special groups, such as kids and seniors, keeping their tastes in mind. 

Try Something New

You really can’t go wrong with songs your audience has never heard before, barring the usual suspects like language and style.  I have recently come to enjoy combing through the stuff on Napster for world and ambient music that isn’t mainstream.  I have also recently been exposed to the world of “Mashups” which is new to me, but sounds like fun — two popular songs “mashed” into a cool remix.  My new favorite place for unusual music is Cadence Revolution.  In fact, I had great success yesterday with a profile I pulled from the Pedal-On forums plus a Cadence Revolution mix.  That made my effort 10% of the usual for Spinning class preparation.


So you want to find gems, but where do you start looking?  Here are some of my recommendations:

Napster – $15/month gets you unlimited downloads to your MP3 player.

AllMusic – Subscribe to their mailing list to find out about the absolute latest music releases, complete with reviews.  They literally have information about darn near every artist ever recorded.

BillBoard – If you need to know what is hot right now, go to the source and check out the Top Songs and Albums.

CadenceRevolution – Every week they release a 60-minute mix of independent artists selected for workouts. 

Check out the additional sites for purchasing group fitness CDs on the Helpful Links page.


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