CDs or Tapes-Which to Choose
by Bob Masek

“Musical Freestyle” --- the wonderful art and science of Dressage set to music that accentuates the movements, power, and teamwork of the horse and rider combination. It's a joy for those of you participating and a very pleasing display for the spectators - growing in number at each show. The result is normally well timed and satisfying, however, as with all best laid plans, things can and do occasionally go wrong.

The focus of this Musical Freestyle article is the music media - - specifically, CDs and cassette tapes. CDs offer the optimum media: easy to use, less affected by heat, no rewinding, instant return to the start of a track, no tape to stretch, and sound that doesn't deteriorate with age. With a CD, the lead time to the selection is normally the same, any early starts can be corrected with a single push of a button that immediately starts the track over again at the beginning, and not a heck of a lot can go wrong.

Cassettes had their day when they were the best media available for portability. And in many applications (cars) they still have a great place. In Musical Freestyle, however, cassettes are very high-risk compared to CDs. We've seen it happen: something human or technical causes the music to start early or late. With a cassette the process of rewinding and finding the start of the music again at that moment strikes terror in the operator and is disruptive to the competitor's thoughts, presentation, and flow.

Given the above, CDs are the media of choice for announcers and sound engineers. For those of you hanging on to those precious cassettes that have your favorite music mixes from years past, converting to CD now will preserve your music far better than the tape which will wear out and gain more background hiss with each playing. Tips:

  1. Some of the VADA/Nova Musical Freestyle competitors use professional studios to create their CDs. These professionals may be able convert your cassettes to CDs. There are other professional services that can convert tapes to CD and filter out the existing hiss in the process.
  2. Your neighbors (esp. teenagers) that are PC-types may be able to convert for you in a heartbeat. All that's required is the ability to plug the cassette player into the PC (minimal hardware and software), record the music as a .wav file, then use a music CD burn program to create the CD. Watch for an upcoming Newsletter and our Website for more software and process details.
  3. When you make a CD for Freestyle, place music for only ONE test on it and do not record multiple selections or tracks on that CD. Also, use the standard automated lead-time to the start of the music.
  4. Regardless of the media you use - Bring a Backup Copy to the designated location (customarily the show secretary). It's amazing what can happen to the only copy of what you are depending on (stepped on, spilled on, etc.).
  5. Find time to do a sound check. You and someone who knows your music and how loud you want it should check in with the sound engineer at a time provided for Musical Freestyle Sound Checks (customarily early in the morning and during the lunch break). Then, at the time of your ride, the person who did the sound check with you can stand within view of the sound engineer, but across the arena, with responsibility to signal the sound engineer if the music is too soft (arm out from the body, bent up at the elbow) or too loud (arm out from the body, bent down at the elbow). Reason: Even a successful sound check in an outdoor area can be worthless if the wind comes up and blows the sound in a new direction. In this case, the most likely way the rider can get louder music fast - without disrupting concentration or the ride - is for the person who did the sound check with the rider to signal the sound engineer that for some unforeseen reason the sound at the agreed-to settings is not working for the rider and needs to be adjusted.