Its Monday – (ouch) so we’re back for another article for Music Mondays! Today was a little lengthy, so part 2 is coming up tomorrow – stay tuned!
I’m here sitting down with a long time dance team professional and music maker extraordinaire- Mark Henderson, at Dirty Dog Productions. Mark has a long and storied history with dance team from back when his daughters danced for the Burnsville Blazettes in the 90s. I first got a chance to meet him when I was a choreographer on the Winona dance team in the late 90s and it was “so cool” to come to Minneapolis to have him do the music. A decade later, he’s doing projects for me still.
Mark has a keen ear for all the needed tweaks and touches that make his mixes stand out in the crowd, and I’ve come back to him year after year for projects and dreaming sessions. After many years in a downtown Minneapolis studio, Mark has now moved his enterprise to his home in NE Minneapolis. (Just down the road from myself!) I got a chance to talk shop and take some photos of the impressive gear Mark runs just for Minnesota High School Dance Team Online:
Erin: So Mark, tell me a little bit about how you got started working with dance teams, weren’t your daughters Blazettes?
Mark: I have two daughters, Mandy and Lauren, who were on the Blazettes from 1998-2002 (they overlapped one year). Were State champs four of those five years if my memory is correct.
Erin: Yes, yes they were. I remember dancing for Apple Valley and being “arch rivals” during that time. Seems like ancient history now.
Erin: Do you think your other musical pursuits (teaching, playing for orchestras and shows, ect) helps you in your dance team editing?
Mark: I think it helps somewhat to understand key signatures, harmonic concepts, rhythmic concepts, and instrumentation. Understanding how to make things go together in mixes when they come from different keys, different sound textures and things like that help me work at some more creative kinds of problem solving, but it don’t think it is an absolute requirement. It just helps me to work out some of the more complicated remix projects that I end up doing. It always helps to understand beat structure in music though. Couldn’t do much dancing without that!
Erin: What do you wish coaches would know more about before they come to work with you? Anything that really slows the project down and adds time and costs in particular?
Mark: Coaches and teams that are doing fairly simple edit/cut mixes can save a lot of time and money by having cut lists prepared for me. A list of the songs and the timings of what they want to use, in what order. Speed adjustments will often take more time, as some of that is trial and error and hard to predict ahead of time. Complicated mixes usually require more time for me to experiment with putting different elements together, and that is not only hard to do when the coaches or team members are sitting there, but also pretty boring to have to watch. It would be like watching someone paint a picture. Better to come back later and see what it looks like then. One of the most important things for coaches to understand is beats per minute (bpm). It’s like tempo to a musician and not too hard to figure out. Count the number of beats in a song over 15 seconds and multiply by four to get your result. Most high kick music is about 142-156 bpm. If your source material is closer to those tempos, then you don’t have to make such extreme changes in the music speeds to get it to danceline tempo, and you can avoid the chipmunk effect.
Erin: Understanding speeds can help you in your practices too. I’ll have an upcoming article on using BPM and understanding it. For now, you can use my favorite online way to count BPM, just click your mouse to the beat! Online BPM meter It also gives you a way to calculate your % change you need for competition day.
A photo of Mark at work – that monitor is 30″! Thats bigger than a lot of TVs….
Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!