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Musical freestyles -- choosing music

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  • Musical freestyles -- choosing music

    I attended a very useful clinic on choosing freestyle music based on stride tempo etc, and the clinician recommended choosing songs that are instrumental versions of popular music so that the focus is on the horse rather than the words of the song. The problem is, everything I find sounds like elevator music. Ugh.

    Is it a total faux-pas to use music with words? It would be nice to use music that I actually enjoy since I will have to listen to it over and over. LOL. I haven't done one of these in about 25 years not I'm not planning on winning any championships or anything, just having fun.

    where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?

  • #2
    Vocals have been allowed for several years now, and there are plenty of Freestyles that use them and many that don't. One thing to consider is that vocals make it more difficult to section the music into phrases that sensibly match the timing of the required movements.

    Most simply put: most (but not all) vocal passages in music are longer than the time it takes to get from one point to another in the arena to complete a movement. It takes editing skill to splice the vocal passages together in a way that makes sense. Many people don't like the result because it "chops up" recognizable songs, songs they were maybe attracted to in the first place because of a particular vocal section.

    But with that understanding in mind then proceed with whatever you want. It's not a faux pas at all. And if you are able to watch any CDIs or other big comps on livestream, you will hear vocals in some of the rides of top pairs. Legolas' Freestyle used words very effectively and was a hit with audiences in part because of that.

    If you are doing a Freestyle at the lower levels you might be better off to use one of the pre-mixed selections that are available but you won't find many of those with vocals.

    If you're set on using the personal and custom selections you like, the editing can get very expensive for the lower levels. But if that's not an issue, go for it and go all customized.


    • #3
      Yes, it makes editing very difficult, and can be very distracting. Oftentimes the best music with lyrics works just as well without because the song has a strong beat and the lyrics blend in rather than standing out. That said, there are no rules against it anymore. Do what makes you happy!

      I personally use lyrics for the entry music so everyone is instantly captivated by the music (hopefully). Then the lyrics drop after the salute. One of my freestyles has some lyrics during the walk as well. Another has lyrics on the final centerline. They are otherwise lyric-free.


      • #4
        Watch the Friday night freestyle livestream from Wellington to get a taste of the variety that's out there. Tonight for example, several of the ones with (IMO) the best music included lyrics - Yvonne Losos de Muniz, Christoph Koschel and Jill Irving. Brittany Fraser's music was dramatic and engaging without any lyrics. At the opposite end, I thought JJ Tate's music was annoying - though not as bad as the one Shelly Francis is using again this year.

        Ao I don't think lyrics are the deciding factor betweeen good and bad. Choose music that suits the horse, gets the audience interested and doesn't annoy or distract from the performance. If the best choice has lyrics, then use lyrics.


        • #5
          Consider some of the music from the Big Band era which often doesn't have vocals.

          My mare loves to move to music. In fact, her training now is being done exclusively to music and the beat helps her to quickly learn new things. It is fun to watch. She has her opinion sometimes about how she wants to dance to it.

          She is clear about her favourite tunes. She is a light elegant mare and heavy dramatic beats are not her style. An example of her taste is Duke Ellington's Jeep Blues which offers lots of variations to play with in tempo and expression.


          • #6
            Sometimes you can find kareoke versions that still play the melody.

            personally speaking, I don't like full phrase vocals.
            I have heard some vocals used well. But mostly I find FS with vocals very very tough to watch.
            Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


            • #7
              Originally posted by purplnurpl View Post
              Sometimes you can find kareoke versions that still play the melody..
              Definitely search the song title you like and "karaoke" in several places, iTunes if you have access, amazon, YouTube, Vimeo, not just a google search. If you're editing yourself, you can go back and forth from the original song to a karaoke version that sounds like the original song without sounding odd. I've found karaoke versions of popular music that matches the original exactly on iTunes.

              Good luck and have fun!!


              • #8
                Here is another perspective on riding to Karaoke:


                Maybe people suggesting the OP search "karaoke" versions of songs intended to say "instrumental" versions. Definitely not the same thing. Karaoke clears out the vocal track altogether from the edit mix and leaves only the background. You don't want that.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Silverbridge View Post
                  Here is another perspective on riding to Karaoke:


                  Maybe people suggesting the OP search "karaoke" versions of songs intended to say "instrumental" versions. Definitely not the same thing. Karaoke clears out the vocal track altogether from the edit mix and leaves only the background. You don't want that.
                  It really depends on the karaoke version. My daughter just received an "8" for music from an S judge with "karaoke" mixed in with the original song. These versions are from an album labelled "karaoke" and not "instrumental." I don't want to mention which songs my daughter used because she is so protective and doesn't want anyone else using the same songs, but I assure you these "karaoke" versions do have a melody and use an instrument to cover up a bad karaoke singer! These albums are released by the original artist and might not be found if you only search for "instrumental."

                  I understand what Beth is saying in her blog, but if you don't open up your search words and places to search, you can loose out on some great versions of songs that might be better labelled as instrumental but have been labelled as karaoke. You just need to listen to the song, see if it's appropriate, and forget about the label. Searching for different labels just help with finding more versions to consider.


                  • #10
                    I did a third level FS this year and qualified for nationals. I used lyrics, I like them and personally hate the instrumentals FS that sound like elevator music.

                    It's a personal choice that you have to enjoy. I love my music (Imagine Dragons and Coldplay; although my horse selected each piece) and I personally rode it for myself and enjoyed every minute of it. Luckily for me the judges seemed to like it as well. My scores ranged from 68-75%

                    All that said I did have mine professionally done by a professional musician so he was able to manipulate the music and keep the vocals so the song sounds like it does on the radio and still worked with the choreography.

                    Im planning another one made by the same people for 4th level this year and I will use the vocals again; because I enjoy it.

                    OP pick what you and your horse like riding too.



                    • #11
                      You could try music with lyrics in a language other than English. You'd still be getting the texture the vocal line provides but it's less distraction to the audience because they aren't attempting to synthesis the meaning of the words. Also, look for music where the composer has done the work of arranging for instruments for you. Opera overatures are a good example. They're instrumental and are how the composer introduces the themes that will be featured in the arias later in the opera.


                      • #12
                        For me personally I don't find that music + vocals + choreographed horse movements = stimulus overload or distraction in any way. But everyone is different. I love hearing music with vocals especially at the FEI levels.

                        And the responses here are another reminder that not only is dressage scoring subjective, but musical freestyle dressage scoring is even MORE subjective. It's really eye-opening to what extent, once you plunge in. It's definitely not for everyone because the feedback can be all over the map and a lot of riders can't accept that.

                        My own current freestyle has classic rock vocals included in all of the pieces (trot, canter, walk, and intro). It's all Van Halen music so it's pretty attention getting. By classic rock, I mean, it's a male vocal singing very loud, and very high.

                        I love it and have gotten positive feedback on the music selection but I know it's not appealing to everyone and I don't go into the ring expecting it to be. You just have to choose what you like and what works for you as a pair. ETA: And be sensible about it with an eye to showcase your horse's gaits, talents, and presence.
                        Last edited by Silverbridge; Feb. 11, 2019, 10:58 PM.


                        • #13
                          If you need further inspiration, look up "US Dressage Finals Musical Freestyle" on Youtube. I don't advocate "stealing" anyone's music, but you can see the best cases of when lyrics have worked/not worked at a more amateur level than the CDIs. I find that the higher up you go in the levels, the more complex the music should be since there's more going on in the movements. Some horses also just 'carry' lyrics better than others, if that makes sense. A cute, pop-y horse goes with cute, pop-y music (I've learned this because my horse has never fit pop music, but her barn mate is basically made for Taylor Swift covers).

                          Also pay attention to how patterns are crafted - it shouldn't look like a precise test, per say, but it should flow and make sense with the music.


                          • Original Poster

                            These are fabulous ideas and feedback everyone, thank you so much! Since my arena is still frozen solid this is about all I can do these days, planning rides in my head, LOL.
                            where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?


                            • #15
                              This is my favorite freestyle.

                              It does not have the perfect hoofbeats matching music, and is more interpretive. I found it beautiful.

                              I frequently like freestyles which are instrumental and rhythmically perfect matches as well, as long as the editing is smooth between musical pieces. I find jarring transitions in the music make me feel as if the horse's transition is jarring, too. Rider and horse together have to find music suited to them.

                              I don't do freestyles because I don't show frequently enough to stay at a level long enough to get around to building and competing a freestyle. I'd like to do them at some point, but burned out so badly on showing when younger that I don't want to show as I'd have to in order to get to them yet.

                              If I showed my gelding, he has VERY STRONG preferences for accordion and he steps exactly in time to cowbell. So if I had done a freestyle with him, I would have worked with a friend who has done mixing for multiple CDs and has the instrumental tracks, and ensure of course the musicians were ok with my using their music, too. With all the traditional Mexican music influences in local music, it would be easy to figure out music for him. (Also, traditional Mexican music being played at parties at my neighbors' house, with their backyard on the short end of my arena is how I know my horse's love for accordion.)

                              My older mare is probably the first one I'll do a freestyle on. She hates anything strongly percussive. She loves boy bands. So, she'll be one for more lyrical type music if I do a freestyle.

                              The baby is so happy-go-lucky she loves everything. So if we do a freestyle someday we'll probably be able to use anything which seems to suit her.
                              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                              • #16
                                Music is made up of three elements - melody, harmony, and rhythm. Karaoke drops the melody. If you're listening to a song and melody is not present, you're listening to karaoke - no matter the label at Amazon or iTunes. Karaoke is not music. It's a backing track to which a singer can add melody. A backing track doesn't contain the phrase changes necessary to edit music to fit each movement and using it should negatively impact your score for choice of music and also interpretation. You can mix a little bit of karaoke effectively with the original song if you want to lessen the amount of vocal used. Freestyle judging is quite subjective on the artistic side, so you could use karaoke and still get a good score. The next judge may correctly score it down.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by purplnurpl View Post
                                  Sometimes you can find kareoke versions that still play the melody.

                                  personally speaking, I don't like full phrase vocals.
                                  I have heard some vocals used well. But mostly I find FS with vocals very very tough to watch.
                                  As the wife of a KJ, that is actually an excellent idea. They make a lot of songs for karaoke these days but you have to know how to look for them.
                                  "I am but a passenger on this ship"
                                  -- Stendal (epitaph)


                                  • #18
                                    Even though the judges don't say so, they don't like vocals very much. They will live with a few of them sprinkled in here and there, but if you can find the same music without the vocals, you will probably score better. That being said, I have made probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 freestyles for all levels including some GP and we used vocals when we felt like it. If you are riding for FUN, use them. If you are shooting to go to Nationals, try not to use them much.


                                    • #19
                                      Another thought: movie themes. A student brought in Dances with Wolves to their lessons the other day. I geeked out back to my high school years and started daydreaming about riding to all '90s movie music. John Dunbar's Theme would be good for an entrance/exit and certain walking elements. There's another theme from Dances with Wolves that is perfect for the walk because that's what's going on in the movie when it's playing. ( I think there's a wagon train or the tribe is moving their camp at that point in the action.) The Gael from Last of the Mohicans works for almost any element. Then, there's Braveheart, that movie with Brad Pitt (the name of which escapes me), etc. None of those pieces have a vocal line.

                                      A major problem with many contemporary commercial selections with vocals is that they are just poorly written. One of the first things we address when I teach young singers how to select music for themselves is how to evaluate if the song is well written. There's a lot out there that works for the original artist but no one else. That's usually a big clue that the song isn't well crafted. I suspect that's why you're finding the instrumental versions to sound like elevator music. I can think of tons of legitimately good rock songs that you could excerpt the instrument solo passages from and not miss the vocals. Slash's solo from Sweet Child O'Mine. The guitar duet at the end of Hotel California. Pretty much all of House of the Rising Sun. Kashmir by Led Zepplin. A lot of Metallica (Enter Sandman has so much going on in the percussion and bass that you barely notice it has words). A lot of Queen. Jimi Hendricks. Noodle around on YouTube for different covers of songs you like. You'll hear how skilled artists can make a good song work in ways that you never imagined. Heck. Look at the Roots interpreting chart toppers on elementary school musical instruments! Lol.