BUILDING A GREAT PLAYLIST

The Power of Music

When I first started taking yoga classes, I really didn’t like the teacher playing any kind of music. The music was often distracting with heavy lyrical content that distracted me. Also the order of the songs seemed a bit off. Sometimes, a slow song would be played followed by a fast song which ended up disrupting my yoga flow. I did discover some teachers that really had playlists that contained songs in a way that complimented the movements/asanas that we were doing. When I started going to yoga festivals, I saw how professional DJs would select and order songs in such a way that they created a nice flowing experience.

When properly used, music can be a powerful mental anchor to a yoga practice. It can be used to energize, calm or create moods in a class. The properties of a song can impact the nature of breath and even heartbeat. A curated playlist can match and enhance the sequence or flow of postures in a yoga class.

In the sections, below I list a few things I have learned from various DJ’s and teachers.

Selecting Your Music

Early on in teaching yoga classes with music, I have made the mistake of playing popular songs that I really didn’t like. I quickly learned that when I wasn’t inspired, it showed in my teaching and the students could feel it. The music for your class should inspire you and at the same time be accessible to your students. You may love hip hop but some of the content may distract your students. I don’t tend to limit musical genres. However, there are a few key attributes I look for in songs:

  • Minimal lyrics – Songs with a lot of lyrical content can distract students. It can make them “think” and “feel” the song instead of focusing on themselves and their asana.
  • No profanity – Profanity, while acceptable to some, can be very distracting and in my opinion goes against the niyama of Saucha (cleanliness).
  • Moderate tempo – The music ideally should never go above 120 beats per minute while moving. Fast paced music can be distracting especially when students are focusing on their asanas and alignment. There are some exceptions which are discussed below.

Song Beat Search

On the most agonizing tasks a fitness teacher has is creating a music playlist for their class. In order to assist people in this task, I created an online app that allows you to search the Spotify catalogue and get important song information. Additionally, it will give you a listing of songs that are similar to the one you searched. You can try it out here.

The Song Beat Search provides two important pieces of information which are the beats per minute (BPM) and the Key of the song. Arranging your songs based on these properties can create a powerful impact and/or set the theme of your class.

BPM

Have you ever noticed that when you listen to a fast paced rock or dance song, you feel more energized? Have you also noticed that certain songs make you feel at ease and even slow down your breath? The tempo or beats per minute (BPM) of a song can have a strong effect on heart rate and breathing.

According to a University of Wisconsin study, listening to songs with fast BPM will increase heart rates while listening to music with slower BPM will lower them. The physiological effects of music are powerful. The study observed that music that was less than 60 BPM was more effective at slowing down a fast heartbeat than just resting in silence.

The most effective playlists for yoga are ones where the BPM matches the type of movement and breath of the asanas. For example, most vinyasa style yoga classes start with a slow or static asanas and gradually moved into more movement with a slow down or “cool down” at the end. Matching your music’s beats to the flow will only help in reinforcing the breath and create a mental anchor. If the music tempo doesn’t match the movements, it can cause an unwanted distraction.

Vinyasa Flow Playlist Breakdown by BPM

The following table is how I usually will break down my playlist for a vinyasa style flow class. This breakdown is based on a CorePower Yoga style class. Depending on your theme, you may wish to use different musical tempos. For example, the theme of your class might require faster beats for a more energetic flow or slower beats for a more mellow class. In these cases you would adjust the BPMs for setup/warm-up flow, core section and peak sections. It is important to use slower beats at the beginning and end of your class. Your integration section should gradually increase the pace while the cool down and surrender should be use slower beats in order to relax the mind/body.

 

SectionAsanaBPM
Integration Part IChilds pose, static warm-upNo music or ambient music (no strong beats)
Integration Part IIGentle movements, cat cow, forward bends, sun salutations50-75 BPM
Setup/Warm-up FlowStrong flow, Sun A, Sun B65 -110 BPM
Core SectionAbs – bicycle sit ups, crunches110 – 140 BPM
Use music with strong consistent beats.
PeakPeak postures, balancing, inversions65 -110 BPM
Cool DownStretching, deep back bends, spinal strengthening, twists75 BPM
SurrenderSavasana, meditation65 BPM
Consider using ambient music

 

Ambient

75 BPM

90 BPM

Harmonic Mixing

Have you ever heard a playlist where each song seems to flow together perfectly as if they appeared to be singing together? The reason is that the two songs are in key with each other.  A key is the major or minor scale around which a piece of music revolves. For example, a song in the key of C Minor has its harmonic center or “do” at note C and revolves around a minor scale. Professional DJs use harmonic mixing as a way to organize songs in a playlist in order to flow smoothly from one another. In order to accomplish this, the DJ must know the keys of all their songs. Mixing harmonically when combined which BPM allows the DJ to have control over the energy of the room or class.

If you want to know the key of a song, find out by checking out my song beat search engine here.

Camelot Wheel

 

Using The Camelot Wheel to Arrange Your Playlist

For an in-depth explanation of the Camelot wheel and key combinations, I suggest reading this post from the dubspot website. To summarize, here are a few ways you can use the Camelot wheel to plan your songs. There are a lot of other possible combinations.

  • Staying in the same key or Camelot number (Example 8A-8A or A minor- A minor) : Two songs in the same key would be harmonically be compatible. The tracks would be easy to blend together.
  • Moving up +1 on the Camelot Wheel (Example 4A – 5A or F minor – C minor): The keys of the two songs would be perfectly compatible since there is only one note is different between the two scales.
  • Going down -1 on the Camelot Wheel (Example 4A – 3A or F minor – B flat minor): This change will create a feeling of going “deeper” or slightly more “serious” mood.
  • Going from minor to major +3 and change letters on the Camelot Wheel (Example 8A – 11B) or (A minor – A major). This shift can create the effect of brightening the mood. See the sample transition.

To play your songs seamlessly with crossfade and beat matching, consider using apps such as Pacemaker or DJ Pro.

Let the Chalice Blaze (8A) to Bitter Sweet Symphony (11B)