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Skating on the Right Note: A Guide to Picking Music for Your Program

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Your favorite song comes on and you crank up the volume. You start dancing and singing along. Getting tired of this song will never happen - you can’t even conceive of the day when you will get tired of this song! Obviously, you need to send this song to your coach so you can have a program choreographed. But, your coach does not think the music is right for your skating level at this time. So, what do you do?

Picking skating program music for an entire season can be a daunting experience. Basically, you are going to be in a committed relationship with this song. You will hear the song over the speakers day in and day out while you train. Most coaches will tell you to find a few songs that you love. But, it’s not enough to just find songs that you love.

According to the rules, you must have choreography that is skated “in harmony with the music.” Therefore, you cannot go out there with music to which you cannot skate. Before you send music to your coach, I recommend the following steps before presenting your coach with music selections:

  1. Pick 4 to 5 songs that you can listen to multiple times a day, every day

  2. Try to find an empty session where you can play all of these songs without having to wait in line to play your music

  3. When each song comes on, improvise a program. Skate your skills to the music and see which song makes you feel you can move easily

  4. Next, see which song makes you feel you can express your emotions and makes you feel free

  5. Send the songs that you can both move easily and express yourself. These selections will be the most successful for your season’s program

You followed these steps, sent 2 songs to your coach and your coach still says “no.” What do you do?

First, plead your case: tell your coach all of the steps you have gone through to find these songs. Explain that these are the songs you feel you could be at your best self for the season. If your coach still disagrees, ask them for advice. Ask if they have any suggestions and be open-minded. Perhaps, they have a suggestion that did not occur to you!

The music rules for singles and pairs are really open-ended. You have the license to be creative with your music choices and don’t limit yourself. However, if you choose to compete in dance, the music rules are more parochial.

There are so many rules for music when it comes to ice dance that the only recommendation I can make is to consult the most current Official U.S. Figure Skating Rulebook. However, when it comes to some of the music parameters here are the basics from Rule 8111 of the 2023-2024 Official U.S. Figure Skating Rulebook:

8111 Fundamentals of Music to Be Considered for Ice Dance

A. Beat: A note defining the regular recurring divisions of a piece of music.

B. Tempo: The speed of the music in beats or measures per minute.

C. Rhythm: The regularly repeated pattern or accented and unaccented beats which give the music its character.

D. Measure (Bar): A unit of music which is defined by the periodic recurrence of the accent. Such units are of equal number of beats.

E. Strong Beat: The first beat of the measure or group of two measures supporting the skating count of the rhythm.

F. Weak Beat: For rhythms with a skating count on two measures, the first beat of the second measure (examples: skating count 3 of the Quickstep; skating count 4 of the American Waltz).

Picking music for dance can be a nightmare. The rule of the “audible beat” can feel very limiting. However, this rule is crucial to the discipline. If you wish to compete in dance, I highly recommend consulting your coach. I would still repeat the steps from above to find songs that I feel would set you up for success. However, you need to be more mindful that these songs satiate the rules.

If you find the perfect song that does not satisfy the rules, you can reach out to professional audio engineers to assist in the process. Many audio engineers can add an audible beat and help manipulate the track to satisfy rules. I strongly recommend services such as the ones offered by Hugo Chouinard and Karl Hugo at These services can remove some of the headaches of negotiating the many music rules for the ice dance discipline.

As an artist, picking music for my program is so important. It takes a very long time. However, the investment of time is worth it! Start the process as early as you can and try not to settle for something you don’t believe in. And, if you don’t quite get it right this season, there’s always next season!

Happy listening and, as always: glide with purpose!

Music notes and skating boots

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