The Art of the Perfect Playlist

After seeing this article from Cynthia at spinningmusic.wordpress.com, I decided to write this about creating playlists.

If you’re an instructor, you’ve probably been asked more times than you can count how you go about choosing music for a class, or where you get your awesome tunes from. It always makes me feel good when I get asked those kinds of questions, because I usually end up spending at least 5 hours a week making 1 playlist between listening, choosing, placement, and then re-listening to create the ride profile. Not to mention, all the hours spent on blogging everyweek, which is my favorite part of the process other than teaching the ride.

This might go against traditional practices when I say that typically, I choose the music first, and then create a profile that works with the music. Not everytime, but most of the time. Here’s what goes through my head when I make a playlist:

1. As mentioned above, typically, I choose music first. I listen to music the entire ten hours everyday I sit chained to my desk using spotify, YouTube or groove shark. If you’re not on spotify yet, you are just depriving yourself of true love and happiness. It’s free. You can drag and drop songs to friends so easily, and it’s really fun to get inbox song mail that doesn’t feel like an email burden. In fact, you can’t even respond to the song mail unless you send a song back. Genius.

Spotify really helps you find new music. If you’re listening to Jimi Hendrix, it’ll show you fifteen other artists like him you should check out. Particularly great for all the new bands you always hear about but may not actually end up listening to. It’s all literally at your fingertips on spotify. If you like a song in particular, you can “star” it and it will save to a favorites playlist. Or you can create playlists, drag and drop to friends. If you look in the right places on spotify, you can find already made playlists like “top 100 songs of the decade” or “rolling stones top albums of the millenium” types of stuff. It’s just incredible. They don’t even pay me to endorse them (but I would agree to for no less than $100,000. Talk to my people, spotify.)

Another great resource to finding new music, other than the websites you can find listed on the “Find New Tunes”, is by utilizing your friends suggestions. I’ve learned about so many pump up songs for spin from my friends, who either tell me in person, via email, text, or better yet, spotify. I’m far more likely to check it out when it’s in my spotify inbox versus if I have to go search for it on the interwebs. So, thank you, friends. Another reason to like you.

2. From there, I usually have an idea of what kind of ride profile I want it to be. Endurance, strength, interval, and race day.

3. After listening to a song, I have a good idea of it would be good for sprints, intervals, jumps, heavy hill, runs in position 2, etc. I usually gauge it by the tempo of the song, if the tempo stays the same or picks up during the chorus, or if you could end up feeling zoned out and lost (in a good way) deep on a heavy hill. I find that a lot of poppy songs are perfect for jumps.

4. Song placement. Try to think about the ride as a whole, rather than by thinking about it as 13 songs. Create different settings and moods for blocks of the class. Where do the songs need to be throughout the hour for them to feel like they come on at just the right moment? If you’re gonna go heavy hill for two songs, using slower tempo’d music, you better follow up with some pump up, recharge music after.

5. Go back to step number 3, and figure out what you want to do for each song… to the exact second. I try to break it down in every song. Add and switch positions every 30 seconds, pick up speed for 20 seconds, sit in the saddle for 3 minutes and climb, or jumps every 4-8 counts during a certain period of time for the song. Listen to your songs to find out what works with them. If I know the songs going to get super fast for the chorus and we are gonna do intervals, I’ll write it down on a piece of paper that comes with me to class. There’s nothing better than spinning exactly perfectly to the beat of the music. It just flows, and it shows your riders that you put time into making a great ride for them. And they will tell you that, and come back every week.

6. Listen some more! If you catch me in my morning or evening commute, you’d probably see me talking to myself, dancing, singing, or all of the above (if you have to commute, at least make it fun). Practice. Go work out to your own playlist. Does it amp you up? If not, ya better switch out that song!

That’s generally the process I use in creating a playlist. Here’s a few more pointers:

-I have found that creating a theme for the playlist has been fun. Sometimes it really helps you choose songs where you might otherwise feel like you have so many to choose from and it’s tough to narrow down. I have done a british invasion (then and now artists), love stinks, Super Bowl playlist, and have dabbled with the thought of doing a “cities” playlist. Other good themes could be single artist playlists, or single genres (queens of pop, oldies, mo town, reggaeton), the Jackson’s (think Janet, MJ, Jackson 5), weather-related (cold, snowy, rainy, sunny, happy, summer, beachy), and so many more! Use that brain nugget.

-if you’re ever feeling stuck on how to choose songs, try thinking 1 song from each genre. 1 pop, 1 oldies, 1 classic rock, 1 bluegrass, 1 hip hop, 1 jammy song, 1 electronic/house song, etc. Diversity is what’s going to keep your riders happy, and intrigued. I want my class to feel like they will never have any idea what’s to come next on my song list.

-even if you feel sick of a song, or feel like it’s cliche to use, I guarantee the riders will be psyched to hear it. People love sing along songs where they know the words and know what’s to come for the rest of the song.

-lastly, if you’re ever feeling stuck and the above doesn’t do it for you, look at my links to other blogs on my site. There’s so many super cool and dedicated bloggers who want you to try out their music they used for class, and it’s just truly endless options once you dive in. Some of them have had a blog for years, so go back through archives. Start your own blog! Keep yourself accountable for making sure to switch up your music.

And that, my friends, is a blog post created via my iPhone.

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9 thoughts on “The Art of the Perfect Playlist

  1. Great post Amanda! I too am constantly listening to music (when I’m not working that is…-can’t really listen to some of my stuff and teach 5 and 6 year olds at the same time…). But in the car and constantly when I’m doing chores at home or when I’m out running for sure. I wrote some similiar posts which can be found on my old blog in the ‘header’ section: (labeled Music 1, 2 and 3): http://www.chrispins.blogspot.com/
    Gosh, I think that was before Spotify, so they may seem a bit outdated already! Anyway, you and your music rock my socks off!

    • Thanks Chris! haha yeah, 5 and 6 year olds create enough noise on their own is – I remember reading those posts a while ago actually (I might know your website like the back of my hand… not creepy at all). Xoxx!

  2. Amanda nice post and I agree Spotify is the best thing since sliced bread. I will never go back to itunes, emusic or amazon. I AlWAYS create my profile first and plug in the music afterwards. I throw new songs I want use in a new music playlist in Spotify and when I want some new I search that playlist.

    • I love that you love spotify as much as I do! some people still seem a little weary of it. Thanks for coming by, as always! Hey, was it you on Spotify who sent me the sinnerman song? I think it was, so many thanks – I have used it like 3x so far!

      • Yes, I did sent you the Sinnerman song glad you are able to find a place for it in your classes. If you find a great tune send it my way, always looking for new fun music as I always create at least one new playlist a week.

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