Choosing Music for Your Spinning Class

Being a successful Spinning instructor has a technical side and a creative side. The former consists of understanding heart rate zones, cadence and bike positions to successfully achieve a desired profile and fitness goal. The creative side is the music and the in-class presentation. Harmony is achieved through balancing the two aspects. For some, the technical side is easier to grasp. It’s definable, and the guidelines are clear-cut. Music, on the other hand, is much more subjective. It is uncomfortable for some of us to realize that the success or failure of a class is directly related to our taste in music. The importance of choosing “good music” for Spinning class is easy to understand, but not always as easy to accomplish. Here are some strategies to help you along with your music.

Time

An upcoming season or holiday can be a good source of inspiration. For example, if you're creating a class profile in late September or early October, get into the Halloween spirit by looking for songs that refer to ghosts, witches, monsters and other spooky stuff. There are many songs in this category, so you'll probably end up with more than you can use for one class. Put the extra songs aside. Next Halloween, just modify the profile and add new songs to create a whole new class .

When Valentine’s Day approaches, consider using love songs as the theme for your next class profile. Love songs probably make up over 75 percent of all music, so you will have a wealth of options to pick from. Or, if you don’t like Valentine’s Day, or if you just got out of a relationship, check out the J. Geils Band and their song “Love Stinks.” You could pick songs with that theme for your class too.

For St. Patrick’s Day, play songs by Irish bands.  Songs by artists like U2, Thin Lizzy, Boomtown Rats, The Cranberries, Enya, Sinead O’Connor, Black 47, Hot House Flowers, etc., will definitely contribute to a good Spinning class. Wear your green bike shorts and put a couple drops of green food coloring in your water for added affect.

Traditional holidays don’t have to be your only source of inspiration. Use Pink Floyd’s “Money,” The Beatles’ “Taxman” and other fiscally oriented tunes for a class as April 15th draws near. The same songs work just as well starting after Thanksgiving, during the holiday shopping season.

You can also pick songs out of season. Give your class a break from the winter blues by creating a class using “summer songs.” The Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley are sure to warm things up. Add songs like “Summer in the City,” “Walking on Sunshine” and the Atari’s “Boys of Summer” to enhance the mood. Wear your sunglasses, serve lemonade after class, and make winter melt away for a little while.

The one holiday you might want to try to stay away from is Christmas. People are bombarded with holiday music everywhere they go, so consider making the Spinning studio a refuge during December. Even the cool pop/rock holiday songs are over-played on the radio and in the malls. However, a “Christmas in July” class might be just the kind of relief your class needs during a brutal heat wave.

You can also use time-themed music that is not necessarily about a season or a holiday. Choose a day of the week, a time of day, or choose now! Play songs recorded in concert to give your class a “live” feeling.

Space

You’ve probably noticed that certain locales have a certain “sound.” Use songs by bands from those places to take your class on a journey of the mind. Pick places and music you and your class will like, for example the Pacific Northwest, known for the alternative rock/grunge sound of bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Spice up your class with a Latin ride that might include songs by Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin and Shakira. Create a recovery ride to the mellow island sounds of reggae and ska with songs by Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, UB40, The English Beat and The Mighty, Mighty Boss Tones. New Jersey is the birthplace and home to some of the best in music: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Frankie Vallee, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Take a ride through the Garden State while listening to the songs of those artists, and don’t forget the attitude!

New York, Los Angeles and Nashville are all centers of the recording industry. Pick a town and pick a recording label. Then pick songs from artists who record for that label. The result might be a unified sound or a completely eclectic mix, but either way, it should be an interesting ride.

Time and Space

Just like certain places have a sound, certain times also have a sound. Think of a time in your life and of the music you listened to at that time. Have your class hop on their time machines and pedal to a historic groove. How about the psychedelic sounds that sprang from San Francisco during the late 60s: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Carlos Santana and Vanilla Fudge? Pedal on down the coast to Los Angeles and throw in the sounds of The Doors, The Byrds, Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly. Don’t forget about the British Invasion: the first wave of the early 60s and the New Wave during the 80s, or the Motown and southern rock sounds of the 70s.

If you really want to capture the atmosphere of a specific era, check out what was on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” for any week by visiting their website at www.billboard.com. Another place to look for music is Apple’s iTunes, www.apple.com/itunes. The iTunes software is free to download and is compatible with both PCs and Macs.  The iTunes song library is fully searchable, and you can listen to a 30 second sample of any song before you buy it. There is also a cool feature called iTunes Essentials that categorizes songs by various genres, styles and themes.

Remember, picking a theme for your class is just one tool to help you pick music. Every class doesn’t have to have a theme. And if your music does have a theme, it doesn’t have to be obvious to anyone but you. Just because you use a theme to help you pick your music doesn’t mean that every song has to fit your theme. It’s your class and your music. All that really matters is that your class enjoys what they are hearing and that you aren’t stressing about what music to use in class.

Bob Rebach is a STAR 2 instructor at Bayshore Fitness in Hazlet, NJ. A self-proclaimed “music geek,” he hooks up his iPod to the Spinning Studio sound system for his classes. He can be contacted at SpinBobBikePants@att.net.

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