For Instructors Spinning

Music, part 1: 10 musts.

You don't have to have formal education in music to understand that it is the hallmark of a great Spinning® class.  The canvas across which great coaching is splashed, music sets the tone, the ambiance and the mood, eliciting energy and motivation from participants, like no other aspect of the class.  That is why it is crucial for any dedicated Spinning® instructor to priortize the creation of their music sets with attention to detail to ensure the world-class dynamics that we all crave and have likely experienced in Spinning® events, from orientation to workshops to conventions.


So, what goes into a great Spinning® playlist?  Lots!  When I first started I had tape cassettes and cds of music that I liked.  After deciding on the class profile (the stuff of another blog, for sure) I would sit for hours and hours (and HOURS!) choosing the songs I wanted and burn them in the order I wanted onto a cd.  Thank goodness those days are over.  Now I have 20k+ songs at my fingertips and the creation of a single playlist to match my profile takes less than an hour. (in fact it could take 3 weeks as I come across songs that might be right for something I'm brewing in my mind and I drop them into the playlist file for consideration on the day that I actually sit and blend the playlist.)


As a side note, I want to make sure that you know that I realize that some instructors in some countries face very strict laws regarding exactly what music they are entitled to use.  The onus is on you , the insructor, to comply with the laws of your country and the rules of your place of employment.


For this first in a short series of blogs, I'll list the 10 conditions I need met in order for me to pull together a good Spinning® playlist.  I invite you to comment below to add your habits/rituals or whatever.


1.  Where I teach, they must have the ability to play my iPod, not just cd's, but I am the first to argue that while I don't like cd's, I also want there to be a cd player on hand, for that day that I show up with an uncharged iPod.

2.  My music must not only be run through my computer (digital) it must be put through my Mac garageband because...

3.  My music must be blended.  I have had extensive arguments with instructors who butt their music up from song to song insisting that the break in between the music is "when they speak," but this is ridiculous, unless your coaching is also rehearsed to fit the timing of the music.

4.  Although I am strongly a "world music" - even tribal kind of gal, I try to put in at least one "oh! I remember that!" song into each playlist.  Sort of like that wedding adage:  Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue.  Most every one of my playlists has at least one widely known song in its original form - not some song that the "aerobics industry" hijacked, jacked up and up-chucked.

5.  I will not teach without coaching notes.  Every time I make a garageband playlist of music, blended together, I have a word document with my Spinning® notes template pulled up along side.  As I add a song, I record the information I need about the playlist.  That includes:  Title of the song, the duration of the song, the time within the playlist (ie: if the song is played from 12:41 - 16:23, the duration is 3min 42 sec.), the tempo in bpm and the coaching notes - to indicate that I was expectig a certain HR range or something less tangible like "aggressive hill" or "recovery/rehydrate."

6.  I usually make the playlist as a file in my iTunes and I fidget with the order in order to make the best fit for my profile there - in iTunes...before garageband.

7.  All my songs in iTunes have the bpm listed - which is an indication for cadence.  Before I get attacked on this, it is not something I adhere to strictly.  If a song is at 70bpm, and I'm coaching for 70rpm, it is entirely possible that I'll ask for a surge that will take us up to 85, even though the music remains at 70.  Generally, though, I came into Spinning® via the group fitness door and the rhythm matters to me - not stuck on it, just largely influenced by it.

8.  I will never use someone else's playlist.  It just has to be organic to me.  I can be in someone else's Spinning® class and love it - have a great experience with their profile, their coaching and their music, but there is no way I could take their playlist and teach to it.  In order for me to lead the class, I have to choreograph it and feel connected to the music myself - which is why I think I am so married to Spinning® and not other groups who choreograph classes and prescribe music for their instructors.

9.  I will not teach using a playlist until I have listened to it all the way through at least 3 times.  I'd love to be able to say I listened to it on a Spinning® bike; it would be ideal...but it would be a lie.  I do listen to my finished, fully blended playlist in the kitchen or while running...through and through.  I have to really own the music, the order, the way in which it was blended (overlapped) - I don't like surprises, I guess.

10.  I burn back up copies of my playlists onto cds.  I'm not perfect about this and this reminds me that I need to be more diligent about doing it - but really, it is a smart thing to do.  


I'm going to leave it at this for now and invite your remarks to add to the list of habits that make for good playlists.  In the next post we'll examine one playlist - look at what I consider to be sound anatomy of a good playlist.  In order for that to happen, I'd like to invite you to hear a playlist I have uploaded to my gmail drive.  


If you are interested in this series - please do email me at  and I'll take you to the drive where I have put the song (I think you might have to have a gmail acct - but I'm not really sure about that - we can sort it out when you email me.)


Love to know your thoughts so far - Do you have any "rituals" or habits that help you make a good playlist?  Any "musts?"  Please do share them so we can all continue to get stronger together! hope to hear from you! cori




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