Tuesday, July 02 2019

The above preview was for Aqua Musicology, posted 8/23

Struggle with teaching to music? You are not alone. Teaching on the beat and matching movement to music is one of the biggest challenges a novice instructor faces. Fear not, we got you covered. You are going to music camp! Hear the beat, feel the beat, clap the beat and then move to the beat. You got this!

Opinions vary on the subject of using music in aquatic fitness classes. Some organizations do not recommend it, while others encourage it to be used as background music. In my opinion, when music is used in a group fitness setting, whether in a studio or pool, I think that the instructor should learn how to teach to the music. Obviously the exception to the rule is if you are teaching drills or intervals in which movement is not taught to the beat of the music.

As a new instructor, I had no idea what musical phrasing was. I didn’t use fitness music and I didn't match movement to the beat. Instead, I spent inordinate amounts of time creating my own cassette tapes made from taping albums. Yes, albums…remember those? Ultimately, I taught step aerobics for two years without having a clue what an upbeat or a downbeat was. When I started branching out and trying to pick up classes at other clubs, my auditions were complete flops. The directors would tell me that their instructors all taught on the 32-count phrase and that I would need to do so if I wanted to teach there. “The 32 what?” I replied. Initially, I just couldn’t understand what the big deal was. Since my classes were packed, I figured I must have been doing something right. In reality, I just didn’t understand what they were talking about. Eventually, a sympathetic director hired me and taught me how to count. Thank you Jan Gates. I know it sounds silly, but I really had no idea how to focus on the musical beats. Without any musical background, I didn’t know that music was phrased with 8-counts of beats, with four 8-counts making a complete 32-count phrase of music. And I was shocked when I was told that instructors actually construct their fitness moves to correspond to this 32-count phrasing. Huh?

Developing an ear for listening to music and coordinating my movements to the musical phrase was literally the hardest thing I ever did in my group fitness career. Finding the top of the phrase was like trying to jump on to a moving train. There I was, front and center in my step classes, marching and trying to listen for the top of the phrase, only to keep missing it and have to keep marching. Sweating bullets, heart racing and mirror revealing all, I spent endless amounts of time marching because I could never figure out when to actually step up and down on the bench. However, over time my ability to hear the music improved and I learned how to sequence my movements to the musical phrase. My classes became much more streamlined and polished. As a seasoned instructor, I now understand what the big deal was.

For this reason, I put together the video, Aqua Musicology, because I want to lend a helping hand to instructors who struggle with teaching to the beat of the music.
And so now you ask – what is the big deal? Why is this important?

Proper Cadence: when you teach movement on the beat - to an appropriate Beat Per Minute or BPM – you are assured that the cadence of your movements will be safe, effective and allow for full range of movement.

Musical Savvy Students: chances are many of your students go to other classes. If they go to classes with instructors who teach to the beat of the music and you don’t – it will be noticeable. Many people are in tune to music and it is maddening for them to attend a class when the instructor is off the beat.

Synchronicity: when movement and combinations of movement are arranged to start and transition at the top of the music phrase, synchronicity occurs. Students internalize the music and start to identify changes in music with changes in movement. This magical flow of movement and music enhances the overall fitness experience.

Building Block: when you build movement to the beat of the music, the structure of the music becomes your template. Block by block, 8-count, 16 count or 32 count – you have a template to build movement, which provides a more organized method of creating combinations and routines.

Advancing Aquatic Fitness: in order to be treated with the same respect as our group fitness comrades in the studio, we have to take our craft as seriously as they do in the studio. When we collectively strive to teach to the music like they do in studios, then maybe we will be provided real stereo systems and maybe…just maybe… we will also get microphones.

In the video, Aqua Musicology, the first order of business is learning how to hear individual beats/counts of music and then identifying 8 counts of beats and then a full 32-phrase of music. This requires practice. The best way to practice is to listen to fitness music. The music provided by fitness music companies has an established Beat Per Minute (BPM) and is perfectly produced with a strong beat, identifiable 8-counts and meticulous 32-count phrasing.
As shown and practiced in the video, the best way to ‘hear’ the beat is to sit and listen – learn to identify the top of the phrase and then clap out four 8-counts until you get to the top of the 32-count phrase again. Do this over and over and then eventually stand up and start putting movement to the beats. But in order to this you have to know how many beats of movement and aquatic base move is performed at when executing the move at water tempo, half water tempo and land tempo.

The notes posted with the Aqua Musicology video include a complete reference guide to every aquatic base move and the number of beats/counts of music they are performed at with the three different music tempos. This Movement & Beat chart is an invaluable resource for instructors who want to learn how to teach to the beat of the music. Be sure to save these notes! The next step is to start building movement that matches the musical phrasing. Using your Movement & Beat chart – pick out 2-4 moves that add up to 32-counts. To better understand this, refer to the choreography notes I have posted for my choreography videos. Examples in the Basic video plan include, Pure Aqua, Sha-Deep, Aqua Free and Dual Aqua. Now that you have a greater understanding of musical phrasing and counts, the methodology of my choreography notes and corresponding music counts in parentheses should make more sense. Posted along with this blog is a secondary blog regarding music resources. Watch the video regarding the two fitness music companies I obtain all of my music resources from. And then stay tuned for a combined CEC quiz worth 2.0 AEA CECs for both August videos – Deck Cueing Skills and Aqua Musicology. The quiz will be posted on Monday, August 31.

Now off to music camp you go!

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.