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Music 101

If you're new to the Group Fitness Instructor world, finding music that works for your classes might seem daunting at first. But fear not! Knowing these basics will help point you in the right direction.

1. The Type

What genre of music do you want to use? Base this choice on your participants' preferences. Are you teaching senior citizens? Try some "golden oldies." Teaching women aged 20-50? Try pop music. Have a mixed class? Mix it up! Throw in some music from various generations so everyone has their own jam.

2. The Message

Try to ensure that your music has an upbeat and positive message. There are thousands of songs that have a "You can't stop me!" and "We can do this!" vibes. Even with cooldown music, it is important to keep the message positive. There's nothing worse than having an amazing class, where your participants are flying high on endorphins only to end on a sad note because of a depressing cooldown song. Keep it light and fun!

3. The Lyrics

Keep it clean, y'all! There are many situations in which private clubs or studios let any kind of lyrics fly, but as a general rule, you never know who may step foot into your class and feel offended by vulgar or suggestive lyrics. Your goal is to make everyone feel welcome, energized, and rewarded for coming to your class, not offended, triggered, or victimized. I always think it is better to err on the side of caution and use "clean" mixes than to take a risk and hope no one is upset by the lyrics.

4. The Rules

Music licensing is a big deal. You do not want to set yourself or your gym up for a large fine. Check with your gym or studio to see what licensing they hold, and when in doubt, use music that is specifically made for group fitness classes. My favorite sites for that type of music are:

Yes! Fitness Music



If you choose to use "radio music" (regular songs that you would hear on the radio, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.), you will need to make sure that you or your gym has the correct license to play it. You can check these sites for more information on that:




Secondary certification (like Beachbody or Les Mills or Zumba) classes come with their own music that is specifically licensed for their own formats. You may, of course, use the music that comes with the choreography for that class, but you may not use that music for any other classes. For example, I could not use my Beachbody TurboKick playlist for a regular cardio class that I create my own choreography for.

5. The Tempo

Making sure your music is the right tempo is SO IMPORTANT. Have you ever done a painfully-slow grapevine? Have you ever done a jab-cross-jab-cross that was so fast you had have T-Rex arms? Repeat after me: Tempo. Is. of UTMOST IMPORTANCE. Not only does it keep your participants safe, but it makes your class doable, and that's your ultimate goal.

Not sure what tempo is right for your class? Check out this list:

Resistance Training: 125-135 BPM

High-Intensity Intervals / Tabatas: 150-160 BPM

Boot Camp: 130-140 BPM

Step Aerobics: 128-132 BPM

Barre / Pilates: 124-128 BPM

Cardio / Kickboxing: 140-150 BPM

Aqua / Water / Seniors: 122-128 BPM

Mind Body: 95 BPM

When you are choosing your music for class, sites that have music specifically made for group fitness will list the BPM (beats per minute). If you are using "radio" music, you can find the tempo using a tempo-finder app (there are a lot in the app store!), or a website like SongBPM.

I highly suggest practicing at home in advance with the music you choose before bringing it to class. Sometimes something sounds like it would work and then it definitely does NOT. Practice full out before bringing it to your people.

6. The Movement

One of the most fun parts of creating class choreography is matching the movement to the music - you can match the tempo, the beat, the lyrics, the intensity, the volume - anything you want! For example, if the song you're using has a pulsing beat, maybe try some pulsing squats. Does the tempo speed up before the beat drops? How about some quick feet? Does the tempo slow down before the beat drops? Try a slowwww bicep curl before you crank out some singles. Do the lyrics say "It's going down"? Hit the floor for some burpees or pushups! Do the lyrics say "Put your hands up"? Try an overhead press or some jumping jacks so everyone's hands go in the air. The same goes for the intensity of the music. Say there's an amazing guitar riff mid-song. Use that opportunity to pump your class up by encouraging them to match their intensity to the song's intensity. You can also use the volume to help participants understand the intensity in a song. Popping over to the stereo and turning the volume up, just even by a hair, shows your class you mean business and you are ready to ROCK.

Want to see me talk about this in person? Check out my video here.

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