San Diego Figure Skating Communications
a non-profit educational organization
The Role of Music
in Figure Skating Programs
The relationship of music and the skater’s abilities
Coaches and choreographers must balance a skater's age and talent with the selection of music used for free skating, pair, or free dance programs.
The combination of music and an expressive skater can result in a truly outstanding performance. Music that is lacking in a score that creates opportunities to highlight jumps and spins, plus complimenting transitions and step sequences wastes the potential to earn higher performance/presentation marks from judges.
Music's Reaction on Judges
The music the skater uses should have a positive reaction on the judges. A skater will be more inclined to become involved and interpret music that has a meaning or understandable theme.
Teenage skaters often want to skate to music they like, but they need to consider the age and music that be most likely to invoke a positive audience response that can be an influence on the judges who will evaluate their performance. On average, skating judges are quite a bit older than most skaters. They are less likely to know, understand, or even like the music that appeals to a young audience. Some popular music just does not translate to a competitive free skating performance, but might be excellent as a interpretative, artistic, or showcase number.
Very few judges would mark a skater down because they dislike the music, but classical, movie themes, Broadway shows, and familiar contemporary music is more likely to appeal to them, thus establish a positive empathy with the skater's interpretation of that music.
Are the movements natural and performed with confidence?
Choreographed movements that a skater does not relate to makes the skater look strained and out of character.
A well choreographed program needs to display a skater's ability to skate to music whose score includes both fast and slow segments.
It is the composer who uses tempo changes to create interest and help communicate his or her message. It is the choreographer and skater who use the media of figure skating to interpret the music through a demonstration of technical skills, power, and an artistic performance
The music should not over power the skater's strengths: powerful, driving music demands powerful skating; beautiful drawn-out music demands elegant, fully extended body lines. Lively tempos and hand capping rhythms probably calls out for quick footwork. Don't expect a skater to interpret music which is inappropriate to his/her style of skating.
As a coach or choreographer, you should try to incorporate some changes in the music style, but make sure that your musical selections give more weight/duration to those things that the skater is best able to demonstrate. For example:
• Use age appropriate music: 5-year-old skaters look really cute skating to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidoscious". A teenager probably wouldn't look nearly so cute. Similarly, a really sultry piece is probably not the most appropriate choice for an 8-year old.
• Identifiable Segments: Try to ensure that the music is uniquely recognizable throughout. Music is a great memory tool. For example, the alphabet song is widely used to assist children in leaning the alphabet.
It is important for the skater to associate each musical phrase with particular program elements. It will make it a lot easier for the skaters to avoid "getting lost" during a perfofrmance. It also makes it a lot easier to pick up a program in the middle during practice or if they have to restart an interrupted competition program. Music that is very similar or highly repetitive throughout the program invites mistakes.
• The beginning should be "gentle": Make sure that the start of the music is loud enough to be heard, but not so loud that it startles the skater, judges or the spectators. Generally, it is preferable for less experienced skaters if the tempo at the beginning allows a gradual start to the program.
If a skater has a fast start and for some reason misses the beginning, it will be hard to catch up. It may be helpful if a quick beep or click occurs a second or two before the real music starts. This will help the skater to identify the impending start. The referee won't start the stopwatch until the skater actually starts moving, so the beep won't hurt anything.
• Avoid excess dynamic range: You should have volume changes in the program. But keep the loudness "range" somewhat limited. If the program goes from painfully loud all the way down to so quiet you can barely hear it, you're inviting problems.
Either they'll have the volume turned way up when the suddenly a loud part comes on, or they'll have it turned down so much that your quiet part completely disappears.
• Use the correct duration: Freestyle programs allow up to 10 seconds over or under the stated time (except for adults). Short Programs must stop at (or anytime before) the stated duration. Don't cut the length of the music too close to the limits in either direction.
• It is not wise to make a new program from a shorter old one: It's tempting to extend an old program when you move up a level, especially if the skater really likes the music.
Adding to an older program runs the risk of the skater becoming confused under the stress of testing or competing. A skater who has been doing a program for a long time has that pro-gram's elements mentally bound to specific musical segments.
A new program will probably require different elements or a different placement - its going to be hard for the skater to not "go on autopilot" sometimes, and if it happens during a competition the result might be really unhappy.
• Avoid long silent portions (and/or really quiet parts): if the music stops for a while during the program, or gets very quiet for a while, you risk having the referee stopping the program because he/she thinks a music problem. He/she may signal the music people to stop and make corrections. Even though they'll probably let you restart, it will break your skater's concentration and possibly fluster them enough that they are unable to perform at their best.
• Consider professional help; Cutting good music is tough. It's difficult to make nice edits without special equipment; its expensive to develop a good enough "library" to suit the needs of all skaters.
There are lots of people in business specifically to create music programs to your specifications. It costs more than doing it yourself, but if you consider the on-ice costs of choreographing the program, the costs of the new dress the skater will probably get to go along with it, and the amount of time the skater will probably use the program, you might find that the cost isn't all that significant.
The following resource articles discuss efforts to introduce performance skills into a well balanced and choreographed figure skating program.
Sonic Edge Music - Professional skating music and skating ...
Professionally music consulting for figure skating programs and performance ... a seamless skating program
Sk8tunes Quality Figure Skating Music Mixes - Music Editing A prestigous local competition recently and I was amazed at the terrible music mixes being used by higher level figure skaters.
Music - Welcome to Sonia Bianchetti Garbato .:. Figure Skating ... Oct 12, 2006 ... Without music figure skating simply cannot exist.
The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
All materials are copy protected.
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.