Thursday, March 6, 2008

Creating Yoga Playlists the Ka-ba Style (part one)

I’ve been posting yoga playlists here for a couple of weeks and plan to continue this popular new trend. I thought that some of you might find interest in the thought process on how I choose the music for yoga playlists.

Of course the concepts of what music is “good” and what music “works” are purely subjective (hence the quotation marks) so please take all of this with a grain of salt. I’ll throw out some of my ideas, run with those that work for you, drop those that don’t. Make this your own.

There’s a very interesting tug of war that happens when I create a playlist. On one side stands the music that I like to listen to in my non-yoga teaching time and on the other stands the music that I feel my students want to practice to. Neither side should be given total control. If I gave in completely to what I want to hear then MIA’s gunshot filled “Paper Planes” would be my abs exercise, and the class would be a lot emptier next time I came to teach. If I gave the class totally what they wanted, the music wouldn’t inspire me enough to give my full focus. Using music to inspire yourself as well as your class is a key ingredient. Some days I might not be totally feeling the class but one well placed song can shift my doldrums into inspiration, so don’t ignore the music’s affect on yourself.

From the get go, I’ll knock out music with profanity, violence or overt sexuality. This is the Corepower standard and it’s a rule I totally agree with. That still leaves me with a board range of music to choose from (though the list sadly finds our M.I.A. missing in action). At this point I’ll sort through all of my music that fits within those perimeters and find the tracks that work for me. Then I throw the tracks into the playlist I’m working on.

Outside of the previous rules, there’s a few more things I keep in mind during this step:

• I try to have a few consistent artists that I use more often than not. That gives the mixes continuity. However, I only want to pepper the playlist with these artists, otherwise the mixes will sound redundant.

• I may start off with some sort of theme in my mind. Usually these themes are pretty soft (techno, female singers, indie rock, etc) but sometimes I’ll do a very specific theme (Halloween, New Year’s were favorites). I don’t adhere too strictly to the theme when I’m doing my first round of music selection though, as the playlist needs room to breathe and it may turn out that it doesn’t want to be a solely African music playlist (I tried very hard with that one a month ago and now, after numerous changes, it’s now about 25% African music rather than 100%).

• I also am mindful that I’m going to need some relaxing savasana music and some powerful core music so I try to grab music that is going to work in those categories and more.

• I know that I want to get the playlist down to somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. But I don’t worry about time at this point, I pull way too much music and the playlist and this point is probably close to 6 hours and in no order whatsoever.

When first staring at this enormous mass of music, I may first feel more overwhelmed than inspired. I mean, it’s all great and I’d love to throw it all in but I know that that’s not going to be feasible.

This is where it’s very important to stop thinking too much and just get in there. Listen to a random track and see if it speaks to you. If it does, what part of the class is it going to work for? I might start building a playlist from the second half of class and have it grow backwards. I think always starting playlists from the child’s posture at the beginning and programming it step by step through the savasana at the end can lead to predictable results. When I’m making a playlist I want it to flow, I want it to be good, but I don’t want it to be predictable. Once it is, my music is no longer adding to the appeal of my class.

Once I get a track that I like, I’ll determine where I think it will fit and try to find other tracks that work in the same segment. This is the fun part. Usually I won’t listen to full tracks at this point I just listen to the end of the first track and then the start of the next. If the transition doesn’t work, the tracks aren’t going to work. If you like your second track better than the first then use that and ditch the first. Think of this part of the process as a similar thing to trying to find puzzle pieces that fit together.

Now, if you find a couple that transition well into each other, then listen to the full tracks (or a chunk of them depending on how much time you have and how well you know the tracks). See how the mood moves from one to the next. Does that work? Do you like it? If not, start over. If so, try to find the next part.

- Well, that’s all I have time for today. I hadn’t intended for this to become such a large entry, if you like this, let me know and I’ll continue. If it’s not doing it for you, I’ll save myself the typing time.

Very best,


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