Weaving an Ecstatic Dance Playlist

iTunes and Spotify are popular programs with which to create playlists.  
iTunes
  • Pros:  You can edit the start-times and stop-times of songs.  You can see where a song appears in other playlists, helpful for, "when was the last time I used this song?"
  • Cons:  You have to buy each song.  They are 256kbs, which is ok.  Details below
Spotify
  • Pros:  320kbs quality.  Access to endless amounts of music for $10/month.  Magically discover new music thoughtfully picked out just for you.
  • Cons:  Can't edit song start times & stop times.  
 
Audio Quality
It's hard to tell the difference between high and low quality audio on normal everyday playback devices, but on a big speaker system made for higher output, it can make all the difference.  
If you have music on a computer/iPod/device, chances are it is in a "compressed" file format like MP3 or AAC.  This means that a certain amount of sound has been cut-out in order to reduce the size of the file.  Although it is not always noticeable when played by itself, but a side-by-side comparison of compressed audio played next to uncompressed audio will sound like a volume difference at first, but a closer listen may reveal noticeable differences in the sound fidelity. 
The level of compression on your MP3 and AAC files is measured in Kilobits Per Second (kbps).  The lower the kbps, the more compressed your audio file is.  This will make the file smaller in size, but will reduce the audio fidelity.
  • Low Quality = very compressed = lower bitrate = 128kbs
  • Higher Quality = less compressed = larger file 256kbs - 320 kbs
  • Highest Quality = True to original = "Lossless" = not compressed 
  • If hard drive space is not an issue, use uncompressed file formats for best audio quality.  

    Most of the following information was written about iTunes:
    • If you're importing music into iTunes from CD, you can adjust the preferences to import the audio at a specified level of compression ...or no compression at all.  
    • Uncompressed audio is called "lossless" because it has no loss of sound fidelity, thus retaining the audio's original quality.
    • To find out the bit rates of your existing audio files, go to the [VIEW] menu in iTunes and choose [VIEW OPTIONS].  This is where you choose which attributes of your songs are displayed (Artist, Album, Track, Time, Kind (MP3, AAC, WAV, etc), Bitrate(quality), Plays (how many times it's been played), Size (of the file), etc.  Select Bitrate in order to see the kbps of each song.  Play around with other options/information you'd like to see listed along with your songs. Make sure your bit rate is at least 256 kbps or higher.
    • If you're importing music from CD, you can choose whether to compress or not.  First, go to the [iTunes] menu at the top of the screen, then choose [Preferences].  The first tab in Preferences is "General" where you should see a button "Import Settings."  Click this button.  Here you can choose different kinds of file formats (uncompressed or compressed... and if compressed, how much you want to compress them (the kbps)).
    • Uncompressed audio takes more space on your hard drive or iPod, but the quality is the best (lossless).  
    • The higher the bitrate, the higher the quality (and file size).
    Cross Fading
    This is a fun and seemingly necessary-for-Edance feature to use for your playlist that allows each song to fade into on another, limiting the amount of dead air in-between songs.  
    [iTunes] > [Preferences].  Select the "Playback" tab and check "Crossfade Songs."  Adjust the amount of crossfade to your liking.   Try starting at the highest amount of crossfade (12 seconds) and work from there. 
    Adjusting Start/End Times of Tracks
    This is advantageous if you'd like clip a bit off the beginning or end of a track.  To adjust the start or end points of a particular song, first determine which portion(s) of the song you'd like to cut out.  Highlight the track by clicking on it, then go to [File] > [Get Info] to bring up that track's info.   Once the info window is open, click on the "options" tab and you will see where you can adjust the track's "start time" and "stop time."  You may have to experiment with the start/stop times, especially when using in conjunction with Cross Fade.
    Creating a Dance Wave
    At The Flowjo, we loosely structure our waves based upon the 5Rhythms structure articulated by Gabrielle Roth.  While none of us are extensively trained in this methodology or are necessarily devout to this form, it is an incredibly helpful structure to follow as you create your waves, especially early on.  If this is your first time (or even third) DJing, please look into these resources and deepen your understanding of the five rhythms so that your mix can create an arc.  
    • A musical wave begins with a warm up period--music that allows for gentle, waking up movement and gives people a chance to settle into being in their bodies.
    • Then the music picks up and moves (generally) through these energies: flowing  staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness.  
    • Having a substantial chaos section is  important because it allows for that crucial, cathartic release, emotion, and is the culmination of the mix.
    • Lyrical can be thought of as a blend of all previous energies, so often early lyrical songs are complex and multi-tempo and bring chaos to completion.
    • Then the wave moves into lyrical songs that are a light and playful celebration after the cathartic release.
    • Stillness slows everything down to just as it sounds.  This allows a space for integration and a sense of closure.
    There are plenty of example dance mixes on The Flowjo facebook page for your listening pleasure.  Scott sets all his Edance playlists to public on Spotify, available for everyone.
    For more information about the 5Rhythms or this wave, consider reading Sweat Your Prayers or research Gabrielle Roth, the 5Rhythms or other Ecstatic Dance communities.