Any other PE teachers out there feel like their ears are bleeding when they hear Kidz Bop? If you are able to listen to Kidz Bop all day, everyday in your gym, more power to you. For me, Kidz Bop is more like listening to nails on a chalkboard. I just can’t bring myself around to using it. Never have, probably never will.
No offense to the kids who record the Kidz Bop songs (they are without a doubt talented singers), but I am a much bigger fan of the originals than their versions. The problem with trying to use a lot original songs in the elementary PE setting is that they are often, for one reason or another, not appropriate for children. After all, the inappropriateness of such original songs is why Kidz Bop exists in the first place.
Enter Audacity. Audacity is a great, free audio editing software available for Mac and PC users that is relatively user friendly. I have been using Audacity for many years and it has allowed me to use a lot of upbeat, popular, original songs simply by making some changes to the music files themselves. Simply import the file of the song of which you would like to edit and go from there (video tutorial on that below).
Once you have become familiar with importing songs and the selection/button functionalities within Audacity, you are ready to take things to the next level. Audacity offers a variety of effects, options and editing features that you can make use of to turn a once off limits song into one in which you can play without hesitation. Here are a few of the features that I use most often within Audacity while editing my music for my PE playlists:
Deleting Portions of Songs (2:00 mark in video below)
Deleting portions of songs can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Maybe the song in question that you are editing has a long instrumental intro and you want to get rid of it. Or maybe there are extensive consecutive bars of the song where you deem the lyrics to be inappropriate, which you want to eliminate. Whatever the reason, this is a no nonsense, easy way to make an edit to the portion of the song in question.
Change Tempo (4:04 mark in video below)
This feature is fantastic, as it allows you to speed up or slow down the song which you have imported. I use this feature in a variety of ways. I might speed a song up if I think it just doesn’t have enough “pizazz” for my general music playlist that I have playing while the students are moving around. In general, I like for my background songs to be pretty upbeat (100 beats per minute or more). I find that upbeat music helps to create a great environment in which my students want to be active. Upbeat music can be a tremendous motivator in and of itself.
Another way I use this feature is while preparing for my dance units. Maybe I found the perfect song to choreograph a dance routine to for my K-2nd grade students, but it happens to be a little too fast. I can use the “change tempo” feature to slow it down to a tempo I feel would be more appropriate to allow my students to be able perform the steps to the beat. The same is true on the flip side of this. Maybe I found the perfect song for my 4th and 5th grade students to create their own repetitive dance to, but the tempo is a little to slow for them. I can again use the “change tempo” feature to speed it up in order to challenge them enough so they stay engaged and don’t get bored with it.
To be honest, I often create multiple tempo versions of the same dance song. I might have a slow, medium and fast tempo version of a particular song which allows me the freedom to change things up based upon the needs of my students. If as a whole, they are struggling with the medium tempo version, I can change over to the slow tempo version to allow them to be more successful. The same goes for switching from the medium tempo version to the fast tempo version if as a whole, they seem to not be challenged enough.
Vocal Remover/Reverse Feature (7:26 mark in video below)
This is another great tool within Audacity to edit out inappropriate lyrics. While using these features are a little more complex than simply deleting out a section of the song, I find it to be worth it. The “vocal remover” feature is hands down my go to when it comes to removing a cuss word, inappropriate reference, etc. “Vocal remover” does exactly what you would expect – the software removes the vocals of a selected piece of audio track while leaving the background beat/instrumentals intact. If for some reason the “vocal remover” feature doesn’t do its job and you can still hear the lyric, it might be best to use the “reverse” feature. “Reverse” simply takes a selected piece of the audio track and flips it, vocals and instrumentals. This makes it sound like a blur/censored piece of track.
These features just scratch the surface of what Audacity is capable of. I am by no means an expert in using this software, but I know enough about it to do what I need it to do for my PE classes. You can download Audacity for free here: http://www.audacityteam.org/. Mess around with it for a bit and see if you think it can beneficial for you and your students. Happy editing!
P.S. Here is a screen shot of my iTunes playlist to start off the new 2017-2018 school year to give you some ideas about what to include on your own playlist. Any songs in which you see "Edited" next to have been altered in Audacity in order to remove inappropriate lyrics or speed up song tempo. Make sure you do your due diligence in terms of checking out prospective songs to ensure they meet your standards of appropriateness before playing them in your PE classes.