Music really matters to skaters. If you don't think so, just turn the sound down on the TV while you watch a skating competition. Because if music choices aren't crucial to your performance, thats okay - you can just skate compulsory, right?
But a lot of skaters aren't sure what to choose, how to choose, or even what works for their event program.
If that's you, read on. You are about to learn some tips and tricks that should stand you in good stead and make your skating experience a whole lot more fun. It's a lot of info, but you need to know.
Did you know the categories have changed?
USFSA used to offer 5 categories of programs that skaters chose to skate in competition. Now, Light Entertainment splits into three NEW categories, and Dramatic splits into TWO, so there are now EIGHT choices:
Compulsory (without music)
Freeskate Program with Music
Light Entertainment -
Duets (this has now expanded to duets AND trios)
Great - no music to worry about! This event is all about technique and in fact, for this event many younger skaters use the same program as their Freeskate, just with no music. More opportunity to have fun competing with little extra work.
The music for this category is supposed to be something orchestral in flavor, preferably not a vocal piece, and should be age appropriate. Your skater doesn’t have to interpret this music like in other categories until they get to much higher levels, but they should be very familiar with it, and ideally have some moves that coordinate with musical features. Depending on their age and level, this music/program may also be used to test with at the end of the skating season. NOTE: All CFSC skaters do a Freeskate program – it’s the backbone of their skating experience and it’s how they apply all the skills they learn.
The following events are more optional. Many young skaters are enthusiastic to have programs for Freeskate, Light Ent or Dramatic and some even find themselves a Duet partner, but others wait til they reach the advanced track. Skater's choice.
This category changed a lot for 2021. Light Entertainment programs have always been directed to be uplifting, fun and interpretive in nature. Kids could use props, and we had kids skate to everything from the Charleston to Def Leopard, from Russian Polkas to Annie. The most successful routines were when kids listened to their music and lyrics and interpreted.
Now there are three categories, your music choices need to be more tailored to the category.
This event is where you can go to town with costumes (although there are safety limitations you must comply with – more below)
Perform to your favorite song containing lyrics, without lip-synching. Props and
Scenery are NOT allowed. No technical limitations (meaning skaters can use all their skills, unlike Freeskate where the elements are level-specific.
Skaters will impersonate a character, original or adapted, on the ice. Performances as a character from a movie, musical, book, original idea, original adaptation are all good. Lip Synching is required. Props and Scenery are permitted. No technical limitations (as above).
A humorous performance intentionally designed to achieve continuous/multiple chuckles, laughs, or rises from viewers. Performance is projected outward towards audience and entertaining through skating movements, gestures and physical actions deemed comedic.
Lip Synching, props and scenery are permitted. No technical limitations (as above).
NOTE: Parents, beware. This may be harder than it sounds – few of us are the most objective judges of our own kids’ comedic abilities. This is definitely one to leave for coaches to figure out and prepare!
Tell a story, expressing conflict, resolution and/or depth of emotion. Provoke an emotional response with the audience through related skating movements, gestures and choreographic processes. The entire spectrum of emotions should be considered, not just negative ones, so if your theme is ‘loss’ you need to include love too. If it’s longing, include fulfillment. Lip synching is not permitted. Props and Scenery are permitted. No Technical Limitations (as above)
Choreographic Artistry (Juvenile through Senior ONLY!)
Programs will have music without spoken words or lyrics. Technical elements are LIMITED to no more than ½ rotation jumps, 1full spin, additional spins with 3 or fewer revolutions. Your emphasis is developing movement on the ice, using the
entire body to express abstract ideas and choreographic processes and gestures. Lip Synching, props and scenery are NOT allowed.
Costuming should be simple with minimal adornment.
DUETS (which has now expanded into TRIOS)
A theatrical performance by any two or three competitors. Lip Synching, Props, and Scenery ARE permitted. Skaters may enter only one duet and although you may duet/trio with skaters in any level, remember that you will have to enter at your highest skater’s level. So, if you are at Basic 3 and you duet with a Freeskate 3, you are competing against other duets/trios that could have all skaters at the Freeskate 2 level.
While there are a handful of other categories available, CFSC skaters are likely to stick with the above options – there is already plenty of scope for our kids!
So, here comes the fun part . . .
What Music Should Your Skater Choose?
Your music often makes your program, and if you don’t believe it matters, try skating without music and see how engaging it feels.
It's important to make sure your music is appropriate to the event you are competing in.
If you are choosing for FREESKATE, ideally find something without vocals, don’t go with pop or country, or actually rock, punk, grunge and definitely not Hobo Johnson. Musicians such as The Piano Guys feature heavily at competitions, as do symphonic rock orchestras such as the Boston Pops, and while you may want to find something more original than those options, listen to the overall sound of their tracks – the genre definitely works for this category, so it may be good to stay in their lane.
If you are choosing for DRAMATIC categories, film music is a wonderful option since it is composed specifically to provide film-goers with instructions on how to feel.
If you are choosing for LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT categories, the musical field is open; movies, Broadway and West End Shows, pop songs, country music, traditional music from other countries . . . the list is endless.
Top five tips for choosing:
1) Please don't choose your own favorite song and impose it upon your skater. Every competition we see small skaters with Johnny Cash, the Beastie Boys or Tchaikowsky, or some other such thing that is clearly meaningful to mom/dad. Please try not to be that parent. Figure on something your kid can have fun with, that shows their personality and that they can enjoy presenting to the judges.
2) Make your music age appropriate if your skater has to interpret the lyrics, or the feel.
3) Be mindful of your time limitation – most CFSC skaters have between a minute to 1:30mins to to skate their programs. If you choose something inordinately slow there may not even be enough time to play the whole tune (eg. Saint Saen's The Swan) and also, if the original piece is 6-10 minutes long with key and tempo changes (eg. many of the Disney overtures) it can be very hard to condense into a much shorter piece.
4) Be savvy about comparisons or lazy choices that are overplayed. Say you choose the currently popular Cruella DeVil (and sure, the costume options on Amazon are amazing) there could be one other Cruella in your level and two more in the event level before yours. . . which just invites comparison. And do remember that every competition the judges go, they see Auroras, Ariels, Belles, Jasmines and of course many, Many, MANY Elsas. Variety is the spice of life.
5) Biggest tip – if your interpretation depends on lyrics, think about choosing something the judges (who are often in their 50’s and upward) will be familiar with. However much you love the song, don’t expect them to hear it for the first time ever and instantly understand your interpretation within your program. If they can't hear lyrics clearly they may have no clue why you are riding a plastic elephant, waving frantically to your mom, or doing the Whip, the Renegade or the Git Up. It's harder to judge something you can't make out.
How to find music:
TAKE TIME. Sometime you hear something almost immediately and know that it's perfect, but if you don't it can take a few weeks to come up with something that works for your skater.
YouTube! Hop on and see what kinds of choices skaters are making in competitions across the country. Don’t copy but be inspired.
Spotify! When you reach the end of a play or playlist you like, the next song that Spotify randomly chooses will be similar. Let Spotify run for a few songs, and you might be reminded of something, or maybe hear music you never heard before.
The Broadway channel on your TV service can be a useful source
Look up Soundtracks on Amazon and listen to some snippets of film music.
The kinds of music you might want to consider:
Anything with a flavor your skater can hook on to and interpret - dances from a particular era, country, movie, or show can be great.
For example, the Charleston, a Hungarian Dance, a symphonic version of a pop tune, an acoustic version of your skater’s fave pop anthem.
Music you may want to avoid:
Ice Ice Baby
Frozen. Actually, anything from Frozen.
Anything seductive for anyone under 21
Anything with bad language in the lyrics.
Anything that is too big for your skater’s capabilities (eg. if they are on bunny hops, they probably don’t need Also Sprach Zarathustra).
Fast music can be hard until you really have your skills in a row.
Very slow music often demands a lot more control and balance than young skaters have! Find the in-between and comfortable.
Can you cut music yourself?
Some people have an ear for it, others don’t. The phrase pro editors hear all the time from coaches and parents both is, ‘I can tell something’s wrong, but I don’t know how to put it right.’
Importantly, you never want to make the judges wince! and the basic 'winceable moments' are clumsy cuts, especially those that skip beats or split beats, involve bad key changes, or iffy tempo changes.
But there are other ‘cutting sins’ to beware of; places where a coach wants to go from one song to another, so they literally just splice – no transition, no key change, just a hard bumpy line. Owch!
And then there’s fade endings.
Look, if you can’t give your skater a beginning and an end, find a cutter who can. Don’t fade. Please don’t fade! It’s easy for you to make a fade ending and sure it saves you time, but in your head picture the other kids’ finishes - arms stretched, posing and smiling to the judges, while your kid is slinking off as their music disappears on them. A good cutter will usually find a way to create an ending, even if the original track has a fade ending. And if it’s really not possible to make one, they’ll tell you and help you find something else to skate to.
What equipment do you need to cut well?
If you are going to cut, you‘ll need some software. Audible is free and good enough for simple cuts. Adobe Audition is a fantastic program if you need more capabilities, but comes at a price.
It’s best to avoid the ‘editor’ in Apple music because it only gives you the option to start in one place and cut once when the allotted time is up. But the intros to most songs are boring, and you may not even reach the chorus (which is the part your skater likes) before you have to finish the cut. Sorry to say but Apple editor produces some of the most disappointing cuts you will ever hear.
The most important thing to take care of is your skater’s time allowance. USFSA has specific time allowances for every single event, and it's up to you to know your kid’s event, have the length right and not go even a second over. At most competitions, one of the judges has a stopwatch to time each performance. If you get it wrong, your skater will lose points, and if it’s wrong for a test . . .well, we don't even want to think about that!
If you have a higher skater (Pre-juv and up) who has jumps or other elements that are required, you also want to make sure your cut allows them the time and place to make a repeat attempt on anything they miss before the end of the routine.
Also consider the system your track will be played on at the competition/test. Most arena systems are made for hockey games and are mono. If your track is in stereo, you could lose part or all of a track vocal that’s on one channel which isn’t playing. You might also want to soften the audio settings to match a sound system that has great potential to be tinny.
If You Still Need Help or Inspiration:
Help is at hand! Jump on www.icecutmusic.com. Explore the site and you will find some ideas and example cuts to listen to.
If you need a cut made for your Cody Figure Skating Club member, visit this page for a whopping discount (only for Cody skaters!)
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