Ready for a new program? But here is the question: what will you skate on? Below are my tips to choose the best figure skating song for you as well as rules and suggestions to find figure skating music ideas.
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Rules about short and long program musics
A big change in rules in 2014
Since its Olympic debuts at the 1908 Summer London Olympic Games, figure skating rules have only allowed non lyrical music to be used.
However a huge change happened recently in 2014 when the ISU (International Skating Union) announced that lyrics would be allowed to play during competitions.
Opinions have varied. Some skaters stick with tradition while other embrace the opportunities it brings.
Personally, I would not skate to music with lyrics because it would be too difficult not to sing along 🙂
The current rules about music for figure skating programs
Basically, the current rules that you should have in mind regarding music are the following (from the ISU regulation, but flowing to National regulations):
- All program must be skated to music (rule 243)
- All competitors shall furnish competition music of excellent format on CD or in any other approved format (rule 243)
- Competitors must provide a back-up drive for each program (rule 243)
- The certified length of the music for each program must be submitted at the time of registration (rule 243)
- Regarding ISU championships, titles of music and name of composer shall be submitted (Rule 379)
- The program shall be skated in harmony with the music chosen by the Competitor. The music is chosen by each Competitor, vocal music with lyrics is permitted; (Rule 611, 612, 620, 621, 709, 710)
Scoring related to music
In the description of the components to establish the Program component score, it includes:
- "Involvement of the Skater/Pair/Couple physically, emotionally and intellectually as they deliver the intent of the music and composition"
- Expression of the music’s character / feeling and rhythm, when clearly identifiable
- Use of finesse to reflect the details and nuances of the music
- Relationship between the Skaters reflecting the character and rhythm of the music
- And extra for ice dance: "Skating primarily to the rhythmic beat for Rhythm Dance and keeping a good balance between skating to the beat and melody in the Free Dance"
Special ice dance rules
Rules are more stringent with regards to ice dance, because of the dancing element of the performance.
- Regarding the Rhythm dance (rule 709) - must have an audible rhythmic beat, and must be in accordance with the designated rhythm selected for the season
- Regarding the free dance (rules 710) - must have an audible rhythmic beat, must have at least one change of tempo and expression, edited to create an "interesting, colorful, entertaining dance program with different moods or a building effect"
Can you choose any music? How about the licensing and artist rights?
You don't have to care about that. Just pick a music you like.
The test and competitions are live events, no permission is required.
The rinks and/or clubs are responsible to purchasing a license that allows them to diffuse all music in a public forum (different licenses for free and paying events). It covers the copyright laws about "the right of public performance".
The license includes reporting criteria.
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Best figure skating songs for you - 7 criteria to consider
#1 - Impact of the music on the skater
The most important thing, is that the skater
- enjoys the beat
- is transported by the music
Nobody enjoys watching someone who does not enjoy the music and is just moving in rhythm to it.
If you can conjure emotion as you listen to it and you can put it into your performance, then it will show and make a difference to your score.
The skaters should close their eyes or start dancing imagining a potential choreography. Do movements come naturally?
#2 - Lyrics or no lyrics?
So, as I wrote earlier, lyrics are now allowed (though maybe some local regulations might still be behind, check the rules in your country).
That does not mean you have to have lyrics.
Pros of staying with instrumental figure skating music:
- The audience focuses more on the dance without lyrics. Otherwise, the listening takes the audience away from the watching
- Without lyrics you are free to interpret the music. However, with a song, the story has already been written and you have to interpret that story, otherwise it would look strange
Pros of skating to lyrics:
- Can be a crowd pleaser, chanting along your song
- Increase the number of options for music
However, if you choose a song with lyrics, don't be too literal. Don't skate only to the words but listen more in depth to the nuances in the music.
#3 - Age / skill suitability
The capacity to trigger emotion in the skater should always be the priority in my opinion.
However, within that, it is better to choose a music suitable for the skater's age.
- You don't want to big of a gap between the intensity of the music and the emotional depth of a child - he/she will be over-powered by the music
- And at the other end, you don't want an easy superficial music for a teen or young adult who can portray deeper emotions - the program will be boring
It must also be adapted to the skills of the skater:
- Don't choose a very fast tempo if the skater is not quick in his/her movements - it should be adapted to the figure skating level
- If his/her arabesques are beautiful, choose a piece with long notes to highlight them
#4 - The judge age gap
This is a controversial criterion.
Should you take into account what should please judges, who are generally quite older than the skaters?
Some say yes, that it gives you an advantage, it creates empathy from the judges.
Some say no, a well interpreted program should be loved anyway by the judges.
But judges are only humans.
When I was skating competitively, I had a music style that really suited me and my skating style. I was really moved by Yiddish and tzigane musics. They transmit very powerful emotions. I have always connected to them (despite having no specific connection to those communities).
Just before my last season, a judge came to my parents and said she was tired of seeing me perform on those musics. That she did not enjoy them and that I should try something else.
So I went to a completely different style: Grease. It was a not a success. Many other judges told me it was not a good choice, despite the program being technically good. Part of it was because it was too simple for my age and part of it because I could not use my capacity to express strong emotion. So, I had to create another program for the season. Lesson learnt.
#5 - Choreography / story opportunity
Listen to the music and imagine the choreography.
Does it have changes and rhythms of moods that would create good choreographic moments that suit your skill.
Can you imagine specific moves you love fitting perfectly at a moment in the song?
Can you hear some discreet elements of the music that your moves could highlight? This would give depth to your performance.
Are there nuances behind the main tempo that you could interpret with part of your body? Again, this would give depth to your performance.
And does it tell a story to you?
Imagining a story can help display emotions better and adapt the choreography.
#6 - Edit-ability of the music
Another point that may be more difficult to consider when listening first to a music is the ability to edit it to the correct length.
Depending on the skater's level, programs last from 1min to 4min30. It can be a difficult trick to create such a short version.
For something easier to edit, choose a music with natural pauses, where the phrases or the lyrics stop or with distinct rhythm changes.
#7 - Don't copy
At high level, you don't want to create a program on a music that is the same as another iconic program e.g. the Ravel Bolero from Torvill and Dean.
At regional / national level, make sure you don't use the music a direct competitor used the season before. People will want to compare both of them, instead of totally focussing on your program. This is a natural reaction.
Other than that, it is normal to have cycle and see musics come back.
And above all, it is important to enjoy the music. So, this should always take precedence.
Note: keep your choice to yourself
If before the season, you already have ideas, only discuss it with your coach.
Don't share too much with other skaters, as people are quick to take the idea as if it is their own. Sometimes not even realizing they are "stealing" the idea. Friendships have been strained because of that.
Where to find figure skating music ideas
OK. Now that you have all the criteria to keep in mind when listening to music, where should you find ideas... There is a lot of music out there!
Always keep a list
With phones nowadays, it is easy to take notes any time you want.
So, right now, open a list on yours called "figure skating ideas".
And any time throughout the year, as soon as you hear a music you / your kid enjoy, take note of it.
You can use an app like Shazam to learn the title and composer / singer.
Discuss with your coach
For younger children, the coach can be a great help, if there is a good relationship.
Coaches have seen many programs, they have a large database of music ideas. They can at least guide you / your child.
However from 9 or 10 years old onwards, the final choice should definitively come from the kid.
Just scroll music libraries
Listen to radio stations you are not familiar with
If you always listen to the same radio station, you will hear the same music.
Just change the frequency and listen to what pops up.
Watch old / foreign skating programs
YouTube is full of skating program of all levels.
You can see archives of old programs or programs of national level skaters in other countries.
This can give you ideas.
Movie soundtracks / Broadway songs for figure skating
Watch older movies and older broadway play and pay attention to the soundtracks.
You can find beautiful musics that are often overlooked!
Find music experts
There are clubs and music schools or shops where group of music afficionados gather. Go ask them.
Tell them what type of music and tempo you are looking for, and they will make you discover all kinds of music you never knew existed.
This is how I have found a few of my musics. Someone who had a passion for music and understood my style.
Editing your figure skating program music
Once the music or musics are chosen, it is time to edit and reduce to the program length.
Program lengths (US)
Below are the lengths to respect. Times must be respected plus or minus 10s.
- Pre-Juvenile - Free = 2:00min
- Juvenile - Free = 2:15min
- Intermediate - short = 2:00min / Free = 2:30min
- Novice - short = 2:30 min / Free = 3:30min (male); 3:00min (female); 3:30 (pair / dance); 3:00 (dance)
- Junior - short = 2:40min; Rhythm (dance): 2:50min / Free = 4:00min (male); 3:30min (female); 4:00min (pair); 3:30 (dance)
- Senior - short = 2:40min; Rhythm (dance): 2:50min / Free = 4:30min (male); 4:00min (female); 4:30min (pair); 4:00 (dance)
How to edit
3 options to edit your music:
- Normally all rink environments have someone used to editing the music - the coach, a former skater or relative... Ask your coach
- Hire a professional music editor (company or solo) - I saw this website with someone who specializes in figure skating (but I can't recommend or not as I don't know him at all, I just noticed the website).
- Learn to do it yourself - it is always fun to learn a new skill, and you can create exactly what you want - Free software such as Audacity, Ocenaudio or priced software such as Adobe Audition if you have the adobe suite of products...
- Learn how to properly edit music - there are many tutorials on the Internet, take advantage on them!
- Make sure the start of the music is loud enough not to be missed, but not so loud that it startles everyone
- For more beginner skaters, a gradually increasing tempo can be a good idea, when possible (if the skater misses the beginning of a fast music, it can be hard to catch up
- Some include a beep a second or two before the music start
- Control how loud the music is, especially when changing song or tracks
- Be really sure you do not exceed the rule for length - the limit is +/- 10 seconds, not one second more - don't think you can get away with it.
- Avoid long silent sections (the judges may think there is an issue with the music)
- Be careful with your transitions - make sure they blend well
- Never forget your music for competitions - check out my competition checklists
Most popular figure skating musics
Popular songs are not a bad choice, especially for a beginner level.
Just be aware that someone else might have the same music as you during the competition.
However, as the skater get into more advanced levels, originality is better.
Classical / opera
- Swan Lake
- Phantom of the Opera
- The Four Seasons
- Moonlight Sonata
- Clair de Lune
Broadway / Movies
- Moulin Rouge
- The Sound of Music
- Star Wars
- Miss Saigon
- Les Miserables
- Clair de Lune.
- Pink Panther
- Adams family
- Mary Poppins
- Wizard of Oz
- more and more pop songs...
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