Last week I was asked to sub a couple of classes for another instructor and friend. It was at a club that I used to teach at and where I still knew a number of the members. I always like teaching at this particular club because the riders throw out some good energy and appreciate a structured workout — my specialty. Since I was going to be covering both the 9:30am and 12:30pm timeslots, I decided to bring my laptop and camp out in the lounge area between classes to get some work done.
The energy of the 9:30am class was great and the room was full. I taught on and off the bike walking around the room to encourage riders I hadn”™t seen in a while and meet some new faces. After class, a few people hung out. I also took the time to make a few adjustments to the bike setup of a couple of riders. It was definitely one of those classes that often gives you (the instructor) more back than one feels was given. I left energized and refreshed and was now looking forward to the 12:30pm class.
I settled down in the lounge area and fetched myself a cup of complimentary coffee. As I was checking emails and eating a Pop-Tart (yes, I got grief for that - “What, Coach Tom Scotto is eating junk food”) one of the riders approached my table and asked if she could interrupt me. Sure, I love talking with people at the club and particularly about cycling. These were her exact words: “Your class and workout was great, but your music sucks”. She said it in such a genuine, yet straight-forward way, that I could do nothing but smile. “Wow, that is quite a range of feedback. Would you mind bridging the gap for me? What did you like and why such a strong response to the music?”
She sat down and told me how the workout was perfect and how she felt the exact challenge I had presented during the intro. She remembered each of the drills and told me her heart rate ranges for each. I was quite impressed with her detail and assessment of how she felt during each effort. “So what”™s up with the music?” I said. She said it was just awful. “I hate all of that electronic stuff”. Now I was quite certain the instructor I subbed for played very similar music, so I asked what she thought of the music the regular instructor plays. “Oh, his music is terrible too. I can”™t stand that electronic junk”. She told me she liked popular music with vocals. I asked her how she was able to make it through the entire class with that brutal noise. She said that, although she hated the music, it somehow fit the flow of the class and matched the workout. “I just focused on what we were supposed to be doing and blocked out the music”.
I thought this was very interesting. How could someone who had such a violent reaction to the music actually enjoy a class — to the point where her overall assessment of the class was “great”. Being a musician, I”™m particularly sensitive to music and would find it hard to enjoy a class if I “hated” the music. Her feedback demonstrated the importance of delivering sound training. It is so important that a 50% Great plus a 50% Sucks stills equals “great”.
Now I don”™t think she was speaking to the soundness of the “physiological training concepts”, but what I took away from her comments was that she appreciated the thought and structure that went into designing the class. I thought this was great news. As a coach, I have all kinds of workouts just waiting to pour out of my head. The challenge is always the music. It can take me hours to pull together just the right songs. So, as I said, this is good news. It doesn”™t mean we don”™t have to focus on the music, but if we take the time to put together a sound workout, it can overshadow our music choices.
So what does this really mean for us? It is a call for each of us to take the time to design a solid ride profile. How much time and effort do we take to construct our workouts or rides or whatever we call them? Could your profile stand on its own WITHOUT music? Wow, that”™s a challenge! I”™m sure there is quite a bit more that we can pull out of this experience, but I”™m more interested in hearing your feedback and thoughts?
I”™m off to download some new music. Apparently, my tunes suck.
Originally posted 2011-04-15 15:03:17.
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Thanks for that Tom. I’m confronted with that exact issue, except the class communicates it differently. They will tell me at the end of class; “hey John, how about next week you use Amy’s music?”
It’s always the music !!! I have very planned ride profiles, the only instructor in the club who does Most of my classes are attended by males, over 50% (I am a female) they love hard rock which does not work for every ride. I mixup my music and will include everything BUT the top 40. Seems to keep them happy but they always have suggestions which I try include in future playlists. They keep coming back for more so figure it must be working. All in all, I think they like the variety of my ride profiles and at times put up with my music.
What an interesting post, Tom! There are so many issues worth teasing out here. I’m just going to point out one that I think is particularly fascinating – I think your story illustrates the difference between how we as instructors select and value music as a teaching aid and how our students experience that music. I think that as we evolve as instructors, our response to “cycling music” becomes more and more integrally attached to the purpose for which we select the music. We listen to and value the music with that purpose in mind. Put another way, I think we develop a specialized ear for hearing music we intend to use for training. Many people who take our classes, however, respond to the music in a general fashion – it’s a simple, immediate and emotive response. I don’t think they ask themselves: “Do I like this music for cadence/endurance/power/etc work?” They just ask themselves – “If this came on the radio, would I turn it up, or turn it off?” Most of my people are less excited about electronic music – I think that’s because most people would turn the radio down if that kind of music came on. Thank goodness your student was smart enough not to allow her music preferences interfere with your great class!
Tom, I think I have the very same girl in my class. She loves the profile and workout, but she needs words with the music. My electro-techno has no beat…???? But my class of 30 is energized by Armin Van Buuren’s progressive style.
I learned that I need to mix up my music and let it flow like my profile, I like the music to interract with my profile. This allows me to play a good variety of tunes and give a little to everyone. I can still hear the Echo….What was that Yoga music??
Your interlocutor Tom seems someone smart … with people like that it is easier to use “adapted” music.
How we present our classe, the energy we put, the professionalism too make it understandable why we use what we use … by most people …
I have profile with music sometime that are REALLY challenging, if I want them to low the level I have to use something adapted … a music they know could do it but also do the opposite.
We all have some music preferences and it is great but we need to have different arrow for our bow.
2 weeks ago I did a REAL mind body ride, I put a song I was sure everybody know it, in the middle to relax the atmosphere.
Today, I wanted to do something different so I used a playlist with plenty of 80s music plenty of lyric (warm-up and cool down were different); why to bring variety, to change, … it was like changing your the roads you train on.
There are music I will never used: rapt, country, hard rock, … just because I feel none of those style are spinnable music.
when we make our playlist we really have to thing will it respect my goals if I use x,y,z musics …
You just can’t please all of the people all of the time…particularly with something as subjective as music. I have one student who always asks pre-class if the music has words..we all have one!
My regular classes give me a lot of leeway with what I play and I play pretty much everything(electronic to top 40 and everything in between…I think I even played a country song a couple of weeks ago, granted it was a remix). Profile is primary, music is secondary but it’s their workout not mine. Research has shown that music motivates people to work harder so, if the profile allows it, I’ll throw in what they want to hear.
If I’m subbing though I use a fairly mainstream playlist. They don’t know me or my style and I just feel like everyone is happier if something is familiar to them.
We all face this…many different tastes in music. I throw in some jazz, some Latin, some movie soundtracks, some classical remixes and (shocking) once in a while a smidge of opera just to wake everyone up.Whatever I can do to make it different. But, the requirements of the profile always come first.
A suggestion that I made in an earlier post that I’ve found very successful: let your students make requests, by email or handwritten note. Then use them as you can and be sure to tell the class whose request it was. I ask for the song title, artist, and an idea from the student about how they would like to ride to that song.
Marsha could yougive exemple of the smidge of opera you have used.
Thanks for everyone comments. I agree that it is all about the profile and focus of the ride. The music needs to match/work with the pulse, intensity and emotion of what is being asked of our riders. If a ride requires more coaching, I will default to a greater selection of instrumental music to keep from competing with the vocals. I also use quite a range of styles. Some of my favorite stuff is in the funk, progressive rock and fusion jazz genres. I have a series of rides called “Classic Climbs”. At first my riders assumed it was classic climbs of the TDF like Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez, but each profile is a series of climbs to classic rock music. I blurred the genre a bit and used everything from Rush to Green Day to U2 to Santana to Kansas.
I’ve also used some opera and classiCAL music. My favorite is setting the scene for the ominous climb up the Col du Tourmalet. Gotta have the drama and theatrics.
Although it probably shouldn’t hold as much weight, “I” need to like the music as the instructor. I get SO into the ride when the music is “ON”. It affects how I cue and the rhythm of my voice. Maybe I’m just trying to have too much fun.
I think Lisa P hit the nail on the head. The more “we” develope our coaching style and incorporate structure to our classes the more “we” pull away from conventional popular music. It does make it easier to use progressive electronic music both because of the fact that there generally are no words that get in the way and because they tend to be longer and have strong consistent beats. But we forget the other side of the class. The one that faces you. I have never had someone come up to me and ask for more electronic music! I think our challenge now becomes how to structure a class that is effective and keep it “fun”. Lets not take ourselves so seriously that we can’t throw in tunes the general population enjoy and keep it effective. So now that we all can give a smokin profile can we all give a smokin profile that has a little something for everybody in the music sense?
“…It does make it easier to use progressive electronic music both because of the fact that there generally are no words that get in the way and because they tend to be longer and have strong consistent beats. But we forget the other side of the class. The one that faces you…Lets not take ourselves so seriously that we can’t throw in tunes the general population enjoy and keep it effective. ”
I agree 100%!!!
Interesting conversation here! A few years ago I found myself in a situation where the facility experienced a power outage so I had to teach a class without music. Several of the participants came up afterwards and said that it was the best class ever. They appreciated the structure and the visuals that I proveded and felt they were more able to concentrate on the purpose of the class. So, class content can outweigh the music.
I’m late reading this but I am glad I did. I’m with Lisa… Let’s not take ourselves so seriously… Let’s face it, we spend hours searching for the right music for our class but our class really doesn’t care. They walk in and expect to be motivated by our playlist to achieve their fitness objective that day, what ever it is… Most are just not that familiar with the techno genre’s which are – admittedly – easier to use, but are very familiar with classic rock and top 40.
Question. What is more important, everyone’s legs spinning at the same RPM or everyone getting a great work out while they rock out to favorites?
Once again I’ll quote my early mentor Spin instructor… She said, “The class gets their energy from you and the music. You get your energy from the music so play what energizes you, they will follow.
It’s their class not ours.
I do think the one exception would be the very structured class such as the Cycling Fusion Winter Workshop. Most of the music we use day to day in our classes would not have worked at all for something as directed and focused as the training we did there.
Wow, nothing brings out the comments like a discussion on music! Great stuff here. I love the honesty of posting a report where someone hates your music Tom. We’ve all been there. It’s one of the reasons I use a personal “cardinal rule” never do a class of only ONE style of music unless it is a specifically music themed class or has some music notes in the description. It’s sort of fair warning to the students.
Nevertheless, in the end, Tom’s conclusion will carry the day – if you spend the time putting a good class together that could be taught, enjoyed and ultimately accomplish its objectives on its own – WITHOUT music, then you really have something. THAT class, will only be enriched and taken to the next level with music that matches its personality and tempo.
Once a month for each of my classes I do a class playlist CD and those classes are their favorites. Depending on the number of participants, I ask them to e-mail me title and artist for 2-3 songs that motivate them for whatever reason. I then put those songs together in a playlist and during the class, particpants guess whose song each is … This serves several purposes … it helps them get to know each other better, it gets me out of my “music ruts” and it tells me more about what motivates my students … Yes, sometimes it is very challenging to match the profile to the music, and yes, I do end up with some decidedly odd playlists (can you imagine Missy Elliott, Garth Brooks and classical opera on the same play list??) But they tell me time and again that they love these classes and especially love hearing the variety of music … I will then intermix their songs (with appropriate bpms) when I prepare my mixes for LT field tests or HIT workouts where I really want them to be motivated and work hard.
I especially appreciate this post because I know exactly what you’re talking about — MUSIC in an indoor cycling class —
or MUSIC in ANY class!!!!
A very long time ago I took a class with an instructor whose music taste was VERY different from mine; I seem to remember it was the LONGEST, most ‘challenging’ class I ever took in my life. Why? The music she chose was ‘awful’ in my opinion and I just lost most of my motivation that morning. The clock was facing the opposite wall but I kept staring at it…I could have got up off the bike and left but I was too much of a diehard at that time. I zoned out. My attention was on the clock, the ‘insult to my ears’… My legs were not as strong that day for some reason. It was the LONGEST hour ever.
Well, for some crazy reason I did stay and maybe one or two more files she chose fit my music taste so I kept pedaling.
She loved the music. She was totally into it. I think that’s what saved the day; SHE LOVED IT and her energy level was much different than mine, but what the heck, it worked for her!
As instructors we choose music we love and it motivates us and the class feels that energy. You are absolutely right on the mark when you say that the music you use causes you to reach great peaks because then we see it and feel your energy — it’s contagious!
I know it’s a bummer when someone gives us a less than stellar rating of our class but here is my two cents:
we cannot please everybody 100% of the time and the people we DO please become regulars and appreciate your style and music taste. Your approach to indoor cycling is what people love about your classes (the content of each class and your particular personality) so don’t change anything in those departments). As for music, for myself, my music tastes evolves. With that I mean that over the years my music style has changed; I’ve discovered music that I wouldn’t have used 9years ago!!! We make changes slowly sometimes…and that is just fine…sometimes it’s just a matter of ‘discovering’ the music you once thought was just brutal noise becomes endurable when you find that one file you just find less ‘brutal’ in your mind. 😀 Or not. It’s all good 😀
Remember Tom you are an excellent instructor and I would just leave it at that! Enjoy the beautiful day with your Pop-Tart!!!! 😀 😀 I happen to love the ice cream sandwich that Skinny Cow produces — in Vanilla 😀
First of all Tom, your music ROCKS!!! We have all begged and and bugged you to share (and you so generously do! thank you).
Sometimes it is the untrained ears that find some music hard to tolerate. But it is more than that.
I am not under any illusions to compare myself to you Tom, but I just want to share that it takes me quite a few hours of work to put a ride together. Why? To nail the flow and to build that strong structure you mentioned, and to get the profile to make sense…
So, I develop a plan,ride to it, then change it, then ride to it again, etc etc!Reading your post, I feel a little better about my OCD 😉
I have even recently sponsored(yes personally!haha) a drummer to come twice a month to play during one of my 90 minute rides. It is not because I want a party-feel! Although there is nothing wrong with that as icing on the cake. My main reason was to bring “rhythm and beats” to my riders. As a musician you know this better than anyone, some people just can’t hear or recognize the beat. It is not a shortcoming of any sort,it’s just the way it is. So, by bringing a drum set right in front of them,and by selecting very specific cadences and match the beat, the riders are now more aware and stay with the intended rhythm/cadence/plan.
Yes, my music is different too. I play “world music”, and quite a few are instrumental only. In my humble opinion, music should not be a “distraction”, but a powerful “instrument” in training on a bike 🙂
Certainly there are some who won’t ride with me because of my style, but I am so pleased that those who do, get the work done :):):)
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
Where old can be classical, jazz, opera or Beatles and back. New? Pick something super new. Unreleased even. Break a new act, be ahead of the curve! Borrowed is a well known song covered interestingly for ‘recognition with a twist’. And blue is chilled and use these for warm ups, cool downs AND sometimes for your most fierce key efforts.
Rule out nothing. I contend that if you believe something can’t be used for a spin class, it’s your imagination failing.
Aim to offend everyone (musically) at least once but not the same person the whole class through.
Kinks, AC/DC, Foos, Public Enemy, Pavaroti, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Placebo, Fat Freddy’s Drop. I defy you to screw up with any or all of these in any class.
Attitude and planning and you can play anything or nothing, IMO.