Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, ACDC, Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Rush filled my eardrums and air guitars most of the time. Ok, I had air drums too.
How I Got Into Creating High Energy Music
I soon broke away from my adolescent comrades after hearing my first rap song. The minimalist attitude regarding melody and strong focus on bone-jarring rhythm caused in me the first real reaction to want to dance. It's funny how sound can influence our mood, energy level and physical state. You may have heard of rap, now incorrectly referred to as HipHop. But I'll save that history lesson for another day.
I decided I wanted to control that power in music and got my first set of turntables, mixer and a ton of related equipment that caused my father and sister to pound on my door pretty much daily to "Turn That Music Down!" But I never did, of course.
I experimented with all types of music, mixing rock with techno, rap with house, rock with rap, which is all so common now... and made tapes for myself to work out to. Soon friends wanted mixes, and I gave them away freely.
Then I started working for a gym as an instructor. I would play my mixes on the gym sound system and make all the 30 and 40-something's angry, including my boss. Then I was asked by an aerobics instructor to make her one. She was ecstatic at the result, and I continued making high energy workout mixes for many years.
Music and physical activity go together. Some may hear Tchaikovsky in the clang of iron plates, but I wasn't one of them. I would zone out with my Walkman, a mix of White Zombie, Public Enemy and anything else that would make you want to rip out a man's spleen... then explode into my set, usually with a lot of screaming on my part.
That was a long time ago, but I'm sure you young testosterone-raging lunatics know the feeling.
How I Got Into Creating Routine Music
A couple years ago my wife Linda Rose Murphy went with me to watch our first bodybuilding and fitness competition in Boston, MA. My long-time friend Ron Harris was competing after finally returning home from living over a decade in California. Neither one of us really expected the women.
Women bodybuilders, women figure competitors, and women fitness athletes! I was nonplussed about it, but Linda knew what she wanted to do right then and there. She writes about it in her interview here on bodybuilding.com (see below).
Once again I was back in the music-mixing business, but this time for my wife's fitness routine. She got DVDs of competitions, and while she watched intently on the moves being executed by the competitors, I was listening to the music driving the performance. I can't say I liked a lot of it.
Sped-up vocals sounding like chipmunks, excessive "whoops" and "peeeeooooss", crashes and explosions… Ok, I liked those better. I had my own ideas of what makes an exciting routine and went about putting it together for her. What follows is a listing of observations and experiences from making and listening to mixes for female fitness competitors and bodybuilders of both sexes.
I find a lot of similarities in performances of all genres. A lot can be learned from not just the successful in physical fitness, but even things like drama, magic, comedy and politics. I have, by nature, a need to study behavior. I pick up on other people's idiosyncrasies, the subtle things that project our personality to the world.
Personality is crucial in your performance. You simply must do what is right for you. Even if it means going against what everyone else says you should do. Especially when getting started as a new face, there tends to be a lot of insecurity as to "what is right".
Forget it. What is right, and in this case, what sounds and feels right is where you start. I've seen many competitions and although music is important, it must complement who you are inside. You should you lose yourself in the music, to quote my stunt double Eminem.
I always ask people who don't have a theme for their routine what music they listen to, work out to, or just have to move to. This is your base. This is what you identify with, and like an extension of your soul, the music you choose is telling the audience and judges who you are, and if you are truthful, the combination will be powerful because it will bring out the best in you while you are on stage.
My wife made a mistake recently in choosing her music. Not because the music was bad. Of course it wasn't! I did it! But anyway, it was very hard rock, and the routine she was known for right before that was a Peanuts/Snoopy theme. Just a tad different. That routine won her the title of Ms. Fitness Cape Cod.
However, the perception this time was that she was trying to be something she was not... a head-banging maniac.
Cathy Savage http://www.savagechoreography.com told me recently: "as her coach and choreographer, I told Linda that although I was an 80's fan, the music/theme didn't fit into the public's perception of cute little Linda!!"
Which brings me to a great unknown quantity in preparing your music, "What do people see when they see me?" Wow! Well, I'll give you a head start on this one, as an observer of hundreds of competitors. Most female fitness athletes fall into the following physical categories:
Fitness Routine Pointers
I had two young women recently contact me for fitness mixes. Neither one of them had a theme. This is tough. Fitness routines really should have a unifying theme to them.
Things To Keep In Mind:
- The Theme
Pick a character, profession or concept that you identify with.
A character would be something like a superhero, cartoon, or fictional person.
A profession like scientist, nurse, firefighter, cop, cowboy or sports player.
A concept could be anything from a movie, TV show, event or even a place.
- The Attitude
Have an idea of the kind of routine you would do in general, meaning do you explode onto the stage, or do you build up to a climax?
Maybe a strong entrance and a slow middle with a fast ending. This is important to the composer of your music as it will determine the order of the songs, and the flow of the energy.
- The Music
By this point you've set up the parameters needed for an experienced music person to fill in the blanks, but they will still need a song or three of your own suggestion that lets them know what kind of sound reflects who you are.
I search the whole world, literally, for new and exciting music you won't find on commercial radio, but one thing that is important is the inclusion of songs that the general public will also be able to identify with.
I don't put a lot of stress on sound effects, but I do like to incorporate effects that are actually tied to the theme, so a racing theme has car engines, race fans cheering and lots of skids and crashes, uh, I mean cars roaring by. Sound effects should be added at the very end, after the music sounds good to you, and you have an idea where you'd like that specially placed "Boom" during your routine.
Routines For Bodybuilders
I mostly do music for women bodybuilders. Why? Pretty simple I think, women are not afraid to ask for help, men are (me included). The reason for this is that it shows we are not an expert at something and that is horrible to a guy. There's not much I can do about the nature of man, but I will say this to you guys out there, you the man!
Ok, happy now? Guys, seriously, you know how much time, energy and money you put into making your body rock, why slack on making your routine rock too? You're missing out on a great opportunity.
Most men get on stage with a single song and sometimes, oh God no... a badly spliced tape. Dude, get some music that sounds as good as you look, or else, you ain't gonna look that good. One person who knows this, and has a half a lifetime to prove it is Ron Harris, who has me do both his, and his kick-ass wife Janet Harris' music.
Here's a clue as to whether your music is up to par... are people talking amongst themselves while you are up there pouring your heart out? Usually they are. Why is this important? Because audience reaction influences judges. Not in the superficial sense, like you got a guy who obviously just decided a month ago to compete because he joined a gym, but the difference between 4th and 3rd, or even 2nd and 1st. Again, Ron will tell you all about that.
Ladies, in this scenario you are the wiser of the sexes. Also the sexier of the sexes if I may. I had a wonderful competitor who knew exactly what she wanted, and spelled it out boom, boom, boom. I created her auditory vision and she won the overall. She absolutely credited the music to this win, but it wasn't my genius that did it for her, she did it from deep within, and that confidence blew the judges away.
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