How to Cue at the Right Times for the Next Move
5, 6, 7, 8 is burned in my brain, in part of my subconscious. I probably say it in my sleep, because I know I dream about it. I am not going to get all wordy and technical to explain how you should cue to music while you are teaching, but chances are if you are a new instructor and already nervous about keeping a class going with a good flow, you don’t want to read something complicated and end up with more anxiety.
Even though I am a dancer and counting and cuing is like drinking water, I really came about all of this by a FEELING. And by that I mean, some of us learn to cue and count and others just naturally feel it. Only until I taught my first dance class at 16 did I have to really put cuing in to practice. This is when I learned not everyone felt the music like I did. A student would ask me “what count was that on?” And I would go…”Umm, it was BOOM BAP DA DA BOOM BOOM”. Then they would look at me with a blank stare and I would have to say, “well I don’t really know, let’s go back and do it with counts out loud.” For me I just knew when the music would change or when there was going to be a new instrument added or a beat was about to
disappear or appear.
What I suggest is this…
Listen to as much music as you can and test yourself. Play your music and don’t count, then in the middle of the song try to find the count to drop into. The more comfortable you get with beats, melodies and different types of music the easier it will be.
Learn your instruments. Learn what they sound like so you can recognize them when they appear at the beginning of a new set or in the middle. Sometimes you will pick a song and the sets are happening on the intro of a new instrument not just a distinctive drum beat. Plus it will open up your world to a whole new style of music. Remember you want to keep your class interesting and fresh.
Know your routine. If you are not someone who can just improvise, then make sure you know your routine inside and out. In the beginning you can try to end your 8 counts on a distinctive move.
Use visual cuing. Some people are visual learners and no matter how many times you yell out “7, 8” or “on the 1, 2”, they will miss it every time. Try placing your hand in the air and using your fingers to do a count down while you are verbally counting as well.
What Type of Music Should I Play?
The type of class you are teaching, the mood or vibe you need will all boil down to the style of music you choose and want. And this is where the real learning about cuing happens.
Hard to count music will fall into the category of Classical Ballet, Contemporary, Ambient and Jazz Music. This type of music is definitely a feeling. You will find that the tempo switches around a lot: sometimes fast, sometimes slow.
Easy to count music will be your Hip Hop, House, Techno and most Pop Music. These all have distinctive beats and are pretty much to the point. You will also find that when counting to it you will have:
4 sets of a 4 count or 4 sets of an 8 count.
With this style of music, you will also have your basic BPM (beats per min) or Steps per min. This can be from 130-180 BPM, and will be your cardio dance class, step, kickboxing, Zumba, and others. But to be honest I never pay that much attention to it. As long as the music goes with my routine and the students aren’t tripping over their feet, you are probably not going to judge your music based on how many BPM’s there are or aren’t. One more thing about counting to music that most people forget to tell, is no matter if there is a 4 count or an 8 count, there is also a little count called the “And” count. This is the space between each count. You can leave it open, or the more advanced teachers will have a move on the “And” count. Now they might only keep it for 4 counts and then go back to 5, 6, 7, 8, but it would go a little something like this…
1 and 2 and 3 and 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
1 and 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, 7, 8.
This little “And” count can make your routine a little thicker and complex, kind of like a hearty vegetable soup!
Follow the Leader…
Remember, when you are in the position of being an instructor, for that hour or whatever length of time your class is, “YOU ARE THE LEADER”!! If you are feeling a little out of control or lost just say, “OK after this next move let’s take a break, keep moving and get some water”. This gives you a chance to get your bearings back and start fresh. You can also switch up your music completely. So have a bunch of options for yourself in music. When you are calm and confident that energy will flow through the room and if you are not, well they will feel that also. Try keeping your instruction simple, not talking the whole time so that it doesn’t ruin the experience for your students. They say if you want to really learn something then teach it. For you first time Instructors nothing could be more true. It’s OK to mess up from time to time, it keeps you real and it’s how you learn, plus I have seen some of the top instructors flub up plenty of times. It’s not whether you mess up but how you recover.
People are coming to get away, to have and experience and have fun while getting into shape. Being and instructor that teaches to feel the music while helping them tap into that deeper part of themselves goes way beyond just cuing.
Until next time…
About the Author
Melissa L. Muniz is a certified Pilates Instructor, Dance teacher, Choreographer, Actor, Model and full time Mom! She has spent over a decade traveling the world studying traditional dance such as Flamenco in Spain and cultural dance in Indonesia to name but a few. She has toured with Nickelodeon as a dance performer and actor and starred in several music videos and movies. Melissa had the opportunity to train teachers for the opening of the first Pilates Studio in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and has been working with Total Gym as a Gravity Master Trainer since 2002. She has loved the inspiration and support that Total Gym gives and lives by. Melissa now resides with her family in Atlanta GA, teaching at a Wellness Center where she infuses life, happiness and understanding of the body, to those with an open heart and mind.