When It All Goes Too Fast

But it feels SOO fast!

How will I EVER learn this? It’s  SOO fast!

A few years ago, I was teaching my student troupe a new drum solo. Their heads were spinning – it was definitely challenging – and they said it felt “so fast.”  As a teacher and choreographer, it’s pretty common to hear a comment like that when students first encounter new choreography. Why is that? What makes it feel so fast when it’s on time with the music, and the music itself doesn’t seem that fast?

In my experience, it all comes down to everything being relative. The music isn’t fast – it’s just going faster than the student can execute the movements. It can also be that the music is moving along faster than the student can recall the next step. Usually, it is a bit of both in the early stages of learning new belly dance choreography.  This is especially true with drum solos because they are often full of rapid-fire isolations and accents.

The solution isn’t new or obscure – slow down the music to match the students’ current speed of recall and movement execution.  Aside from easing frustration which interferes with learning, it gives the dancers time to fully complete each movement. This is HUGE. Along with posture,improving movement follow-through has one of the biggest payoffs in terms of performance quality.  Big dance studios have had the ability to slow down music for rehearsal for years. They had expensive and bulky  CD  or cassette (remember those?) players that allowed them to run the music at whatever speed they needed.

Now that technology has taken major leaps and bounds forward, we now have this ability right on our own computers and maybe even on your phone or iPod! Let’s look at a few ways to take control of your music that you might not know about:

How To Slow Down Your Belly Dance Music in Windows Media Player

  1. Open your music file with Windows Media Player
  2. Right click anywhere in the window.
  3. Select “Enhancements” then “Play Speed Settings”.
  4. A slide bar will appear that will let you adjust the music speed.

Thank you to my resourceful and clever private student, Pam for figuring this out and sharing it with me!

Using Audacity on Windows or Mac Computers

Audacity is a free music editor program that does oh-so-much more than just slow down music. In this program you can actually record and keep several speed versions to burn on a CD or load onto your iPod. This is especially handy if, like me, you use an iPod Mini that doesn’t run apps. While we’re on the topic of Audacity, I can’t stress enough how handy this free and easy-to-use program is for bellydancers! You can shorten songs that are too long. You can edit together, fade in and out or blend pieces for a smooth show. I recorded, edited and compiled all of the In the Ears, Out the Hips Podcasts entirely in this one program!

On Your Android Phone

If you carry your belly dance music on your Android phone, you can try the free Audio Speed Changer app. This will let you select mp3 files you’ve stored on your device and play them back at your selected speed. Connect your phone to your stereo’s audio input line with a cable and you’re ready for rehearsal!

On Your iPhone

According to this blog, playback speed control is built right into the iPhone’s iPod app!  The linked blog does have instructions on how to access that setting, although they only mention going faster. I don’t own an iPhone, so I couldn’t tell you for sure if a slower setting is available – you’d think it would be. If you do have one, check it out and let us know in the comments below.

There is also a free iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app available called Anytune.

As familiarity with the movements, muscle memory and actual memory improve, you can gradually increase the speed to 100%. By using this practice technique, you are sure to see better end results on the stage. So next time you’re staring down a choreography challenge – as a student or as an instructor – check out some of these options. Take a breath…… and slow down!

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13 Responses to “When It All Goes Too Fast”

  1. Ananke Says:

    Brilliant! I usually have them practice it without music super slow, and then work it up to the speed of the music. Never thought about slowing the music down. What a great idea!

  2. holantina Says:

    Oh my…. THANKS a million! I’m seriusly PC-challenged and was recently wondering if there were solutions for slowing down music at WMP. You are the best, Mahin! I really enjoy your daily quickies, lots of love and greetings from Holland ❤
    P.S. Any ideas about editing music? I really need to learn to do this too!

  3. nadirajamal Says:

    BRILLIANT.

    I’ve slowed down music in Audacity for performance, but it never occurred to me to do it for practice purposes.

    “It can also be that the music is moving along faster than the student can recall the next step”

    I also recommend learning choreography backwards (learning the last combo first), so you get more confident as the piece goes on, instead of less.

    http://www.taktaba.com/2010/03/how-to-learn-choreography-more-easily-and-efficiently-by-doing-it-backwards/

    “I don’t own an iPhone, so I couldn’t tell you for sure if a slower setting is available – you’d think it would be. If you do have one, check it out and let us know in the comments below.”

    This feature is only available for podcasts and audiobooks, not for music. (And slow is available, but only at half speed.) You could mark the song as a podcast in iTunes, but that would affect other things, like shuffling, etc. (But it may be worth it.)

  4. Taji Says:

    i’ll try this on my Garage Band—thanks!!

  5. Jenn Says:

    Tempo SloMo app for iPhone .. About to try it. It’s free but had ads.

  6. Samimi Says:

    Great article. I usually use Vegas to slow stuff down. Just Ctrl drag the clip to speed up or slow down. I’m going to try it on Audacity now. 🙂

  7. Kat Lebo Says:

    I tried this in my version of Windows Media Player and could not get an “enhancements” to pop up anywhere. However, I was able to slow my music nicely in WavePad (another free online music editor).

  8. Wallace-Ruby Says:

    Mahin, what do you think of the alternative of practicing as a musician does, put that section of the music on repeat, and practice what you can until your body catches up? “A-B repeat” is my go-to. I ask because I am rethinking how I have been taught choreographies, and what options there are. Love the post!

    • mahinbellydance Says:

      That’s a great way to practice that choreo move you always forget! (We’ve all been there!) Repeatedly do the thing before you do it that you DO remember and the one you keep missing to build a mental connection. There are so many ways to practice – being creative about approach is fantastic 🙂

  9. SheShe Says:

    What an excellent tip. I have used Audacity many times to edit music for class or performance. I never thought to use it for changing the speed. Fabulous for the reminder and the suggestion for classes. thanks.

  10. Myra Fallon Says:

    tempo slomo is brilliant!

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