Loading... Please wait...

Blog

Changing the tempo of Recorded Ballet Variations

Posted by


Metronome on a piano

While recordings of ballet variations can offer great convenience for teachers and students alike, no one recording can cater to every individual's preference for tempo.  Younger or less experienced dancers may need it to be slower, or faster depending on the steps.  Teachers may find that, although a recording is ideal for performance, they need a slower version in order to teach the steps.  

The very best way to have a variety of tempos available to you is to use a good live pianist.  An experienced accompanist will be able to alter the tempo of music on the fly, use different tempos for different dancers, accentuate certain parts of the music such as entries, and generally assist in a multitude of ways.  However, a good pianist is not always available, or within the budget of smaller dance studios and individuals.  In this short article, I'm going to go over a few of the options available to dancers who want to alter the tempo of a recording they already own.

1. Vari-speed CD players

There are a number of vari-speed CD players on the market, generally aimed at professional DJs.  They come at a variety of price points, but none of the ones that are good quality are cheap - they represent a major investment.  The main advantage of this method is convenience.  You can use your existing CD collection, and quickly make adjustments to tempo.  It is straightforward to have different tempos for different dancers, and to gradually change the tempo as the steps become more familiar.
The downside of this sort of CD player, aside from the expense, is the reductions in pitch and sound quality.  Generally only the best vari-speed CD players include a master key lock where the pitch of the music is maintained while the tempo is adjusted.  When the cheaper models adjust tempo, they also adjust pitch at the same time, making on the fly adjustments sound very strange. 
There is a limit to how far devices like this can change the tempo, and generally it's up or down 12.5%.  That is enough for most applications, but not always - especially for learning steps. 
There is also always a degredation in sound quality when the tempo of digital audio is altered.  Generally this degredation is worse when music is slowed down, and not so bad when it is sped up.  Small adjustments may be unnoticeable, but large changes in speed will make the recorded audio sound very fluttery, and not suitable for performance.

2. Software

If you are already working with a  library of MP3s, WAVS or similar, or are willing to copy your audio CDs into a computer, then there are a variety of software solutions available.  In this method, you would open the audio file in one of these programs, and then alter the tempo there.  For windows and Mac users, Audacity is excellent and free.  For Android and iOS users, there are a variety of apps that will edit audio, though I have not personally used any - Google would be a good place to start.
Generally, the algorithms used by these programs are more advanced than CD players, and so the degredation of sound quality is considerably reduced.  They are also capable of altering the tempo by more extreme values than 12.5%.  Another major advantage of sofware is that you can select specific regions of the audio and change just that tempo, leaving the rest untouched.  This allows you to speed up one part, slow down another or any other combination that you require.  Also, tempo adjustments can be made without altering the pitch of the recording.
The main disadvantage of this is a lack of convenience.  You have to have the audio files and a laptop/computer to do the editing.  You need to learn how to use the software - it's not complicated, but depending on your general computer skill, it may still take you considerable time to become comfortable with.  You also need to do the editing in advance - unless you are very skilled and organised, you won't be able to use this method in the middle of teaching! 

3. Custom Tempo Matching

The third solution would be to have the tempos of your recording custom fitted.  This option is the most like having a live accompanist, and is ideal for competitions and auditions where you want to be able to show yourself off at your very best.  For anyone who has purchased my Female Variations: The Complete Collection, I also offer a bespoke tempo service on request.  You can liase with me and I will alter the tempo of a recording in detail to get it just right for your own abilities.  Because this is done at the recording stage, there is absolutely no degredation in sound quality, meaning the resulting music not only fits you perfectly, it also sounds fantastic as well.  If you're preparing for an important performance, and neither of the other options are going to cut it, get in touch via my contact page, and I'll be more than happy to help!

I hope this article has given some of you an insight into what your options are when you want to change the tempo of a recorded piece of music. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


10 Essential Tips for Working with a Live Pianist

In this post, I'll give you my 10 essential tips for working with a live pianist, inspired by my years of experience in the ballet studio. Tell the pianist what music you like - I think the best way to start off a good working relationship with a live musician is to tell them what [...]

Read More »

Let's Play - Tendus at the Barre

The order of exercises in a ballet class will often vary depending on the teacher and the time constraints.  However, there will almost always be one or more tendu exercises, and they usually come directly after pliés.  The full name of the exercise is Battement Tendu, which literally means 'Stretched Beating' in French, and involves one [...]

Read More »

Let's Play - Pliés at the barre

Sometimes this will follow on from a warmup at the barre, sometimes it will be the first exercise, but either way, you can always count on this being the first proper exercise of class.  The plié exercise is: "A bending of the knee or knees. This is [...]

Read More »

Lets Play - Warmup at the Barre

In this new series, I will run through all the common exercises that a pianist might encounter in a typical ballet class, and give some thoughts on finding suitable music for it.  Warmup at the barre is usually the first exercise of class, unless the teacher feels they want to press on straight away with plies.  [...]

Read More »

Playing for your first ballet class

Wow!  Second post and I'm already behind schedule!  I suddenly thought about three weeks ago that I'd like to record a Christmas album.  Seeing as that decision came a bit late in the year, I've been madly finishing it and releasing it over the past few weeks, and I've had almost no time for anything [...]

Read More »

Playing for ballet class - My Top Tips

Having sat down to make a start on this blog, I was immediately presented with a problem - what to write about.  The last thing I wanted was to assail potential readers with a mindless stream of whatever I happened to be thinking about that day.  There should be a purpose, a theme, and so [...]

Read More »

Welcome to my new site!

Hello, and welcome to my new site for 2015!  I took the decision to remake the site completely, following increasing demand for my recordings and the desire to give my valued customers a far more polished buying experience.  You should hopefully find the process of buying and downloading much far easier, as well as having [...]

Read More »


What's News

newsletter

Follow us on

Copyright 2017 Music for Ballet Classes. All Rights Reserved.