The difference between a professional, well rounded dance work being presented and a less professional one is usually a culmination of factors; from concept, choreography, costumes, appropriateness and often forgotten editing.

The cuts and edits you make on a piece of music for your dancers is crucial in terms of looking and 'sounding' like a professional studio. Not always easy to achieve on your own and sometimes not in the budget to hire out, we spoke with Jason Marquette, owner and director of Marquette Productions- on the tips and tricks to both handling the task on your own and/or considering the benefits on hiring someone to help you out!

Happy Editing! Good Luck!

1. Jason, what are the benefits of quality music editing? Why is it essential for dance studios?
Owning a dance studio is a very competitive business.  Everyone is looking for ways to stand out from everyone else.  Perceived quality is a huge part of that and even if the choreography is amazing, your music has a huge impact on that perception.  High quality music editing will keep a smooth flow and maintain good musical structure to keep your creative juices flowing.
2. What are some common mistakes studios make in terms of music selection and editing?
I think it's really important that you choose music that moves you the 1st and 101st time you listen to it.  Having a song that is too repetitive and doesn't give you musical variations or emotional levels can also stunt the creative process.  As far as editing is concerned, there are certain things to consider that can make the editing process more difficult.  
A. Choosing a song that is a capella or only has acoustic guitar for accompaniment can make it difficult for a clean fade from one section into another.
B. Cut and paste should be a last resort editing tool.  In most cases, you want to crossfade whenever possible. Give yourself at least 4 counts to fade from one section into the next.  Most editing programs allow for you to create custom fades in order to create the cleanest possible edits.
C. Pay attention to key changes.  When combining two sections that are in different keys, finding the right note to fade into can be awkward. Especially when there is a lyric riding over it.
D. Try to avoid jumping from a quiet part of a song to a much louder part.  Even if both parts you are putting together are identical in lyric and key, that jump in volume can be jarring.
3. As a competition judge as well, what sets a studio apart in terms of their music editing and sound presentation?
The most obvious answers to this question are seamless transitions throughout and a clean ending to the track.  Having jarring transitions or an ending that cuts off awkwardly can leave us feeling disconnected to a piece; even if up until that moment we were completely immersed and along for the ride.  It can really effect the perception of quality of a piece. There are a lot of ways to create a smooth ending that sounds like it was made that way.  Adding a sound effect like an explosion, a door slam or a giggle of some sort can cover an awkward ending of a track.  You can also choose an accent and add reverb to it to create a fade effect or use delay to create an echo to fade out the ending. The easiest thing is to edit the original ending of the track onto the end of where you plan to finish the piece.
4. What is the best way to go about length of music, multiple cuts and keeping it seamless?
Length of a piece should be a reflection of age/ability as well as considering the number of dancers in the piece.  A solo can be just 2 minutes long and give the judges ample time to make their assessment.  However, it can be difficult to get enough musical variation to give the piece levels.  One suggestion is to try and keep any musical interlude that might be in the piece.  Quite often this will appear after the second verse and chorus.  There are a couple different structures you can use to make this work and still give you everything you need to make it a musically interesting piece and get all of the choreographic levels you need to fulfill the piece's intention.
5. Jason, for those teachers & studio directors on a budget & editing their own music, what is the best advice you can give them to achieve professional, quality results?

 There are several software programs you can use to make great, professional sounding edits.  Be sure whichever one you choose, that your computer has the specs to run it without conflicts.  A lot of freeware doesn't get updated regularly and can have many conflicts with computers as their platforms update.  My favorite is Sony's Sound Forge Audio Studio. It's affordable, simple, clear and easy to use.
If you decide to engage a professional, make sure you feel comfortable asking questions and that you always get clear answers; especially about their pricing.  A lot editors charge hourly studio rates, so it's super important to be prepared.  Have very clear notes about where you want your edits to happen as well as 2nd choices if you think any particular edit might be questionable.  If possible, have all of the tracks on a flash drive and do it all in one appointment. This way you're not paying for an hour of time on one track that may only take a few minutes to edit.  Also be sure you know the editor's policy on corrections or re-edits in the case that the choreographer isn't happy with the first version. 

If you're using an online service, like mine, make sure you're very clear about pricing, add ons and turnaround policy.  Many services will offer package deals that will help manage the costs, but again, make sure you know what the package covers, what the benefits of purchasing a bulk package are and what, if any, additional charges might incur. 

Jason Marquette is the owner/operator of Marquette Productions, LLC and has been editing music for over 5 years.  With a BFA in Musical Theater, he has an extensive resume of teaching, professional performance, choreography and adjudication.  He has produced, directed and choreographed several shows and corporate events in NYC and around the world.  His edits have been used in professional performances in New York City including Maurice Brandon Curry's Stories from the Night Before as well as corporate events and professional choreography showcases.  He is also the owner of MPower Dance Workshops, an in-studio convention that Mpassions, MPowers and Motivates young dancers by teaching them how their dance training prepares them for success in life.  Marquette Productions, because the best edit is the one you don't hear.


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