Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lessons About Music From a Spin Class

This certainly seems like a strange title, but my bike class has provided some very good examples about how music works! I signed up for a bicycle spin class last year and usually attend 2-3 times per week, so I have been able to experience 3-4 different class teachers. Each of the teachers has their own way of leading the class, including how they utilize the music to facilitate the ride. The three different methods illustrate how elements of music affect our behavior.

Lesson 1: One of the teachers uses music mainly for the beat. She usually chooses songs with a very strong and consistent bass beat that is easy to hear over the noise of the bikes. The music sets the pace by helping the riders pedal on the beat. The teacher has songs with different tempos depending on whether the ride is simulating going up a hill or staying on a flat road. Sometimes the songs do not work well because they are too fast or too slow, but the teacher is usually good about taking those songs out of the mix if they do not work out. As riders, we do not appreciate the songs with tempos that are difficult to keep up with or are so slow that you lose the momentum in pedaling. Music for the TEMPO and BEAT are key!

Lesson 2: A second teacher mainly uses music to set the mood. She is not asking for pedaling on the beat, but instead focuses on the riders setting their own cadences within certain parameters. The music is generally fast or slow depending on the type of riding she is encouraging, but the riders set their own pace using the resistance dial to determine the level of exertion. The music for these classes does not always have a strong beat, but is usually upbeat and lively. This teacher often describes outdoor imagery and encourages the riders to visualize riding a bike outdoors either in a race or for pleasure depending on the song. The music lyrics and style usually coincide with the imagery she is describing. Music for MOOD is king here!

Lesson 3: Another teacher often uses music with motivational lyrics. This teacher combines useful tempos with music that is encouraging through its style and words. The teacher often echoes the lyric lines to emphasize the song's message. Sometimes some of the riders chime in with the words if it is one of their preferred songs. LYRICS are a powerful way to use music effectively!

There have been some classes when I did not appreciate the selections and styles of music. These biking sessions did not feel like I had a good workout and I often found my mind wandering during the class. There are also some classes where I will not attend simply because I know the teachers do not play music that I enjoy or do not use the music effectively during the class. The music is so essential to helping the riders make it through the exercise regime. I often find myself thinking that I can do it if I can just make it to the end of the song!

A good selection of music also helps the riders begin biking at a moderate level and then slowly increase the intensity of the ride somewhere in the middle of the class time. The music can then be used to gradually slow down the class in tempo and intensity as the class comes to a close. Slower and quieter songs are helpful during the cool-down and stretching to help heart rates return to normal. This idea transfers very well to a regular setting when music may be helpful in facilitating relaxation or rest at the end of a long work day.

I think it is instructive to understand the elements of music and how they work in influencing our lives and behavior. When we understand how music makes sense in different situations, we can begin using it more effectively to enhance our own lives and the lives of others.

I'm off to spin!...

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