Intro to Music Mapping

What is Music Mapping?

A Music Map is a visual picture of the structure of a song primarily for the purpose of fitness dancing. Songs are broken down into their parts (verse, chorus, bridge, tag ending, etc.) and each part is color coded so that the repetition of the musical pattern is easy to see.  The instructor can then match their movement themes with the music themes and have a record of their choreography.

Every beat is counted and clearly marked.  No surprises.  The instructor can plan for the dramatic moments in the music or stray beats for a flawless execution of movement.

In order help the instructor learn the music, the lyrics at the beginning of the phrases are included.  Of course some songs are purely instrumental or have very few words, so lyrics are not included on these music maps.

Lots of space is included to write choreography or draw pictures of your movement ideas.

Know Your Music

Knowing your music is essential for a top quality ZUMBA instructor. Effortless transitions, cueing, and adaptability are the benefits.  For the instructor, the class is a planned improvisation. For the participant, the class is a journey that is a physical and emotional experience.  This is the power of music and movement.

Anticipation of change in the music is needed for the instructor to flow from movement sequence to movement sequence but also to take the class with you.  Otherwise students can feel lost and left behind with an instructor who seems to be saying “catch me if you can”.

If you don’t know your music you can’t cue.  How can you signal a change is coming if you aren’t sure yourself? ZUMBA Fitness stresses non-verbal cueing. Non-verbal cueing is more than a point of the hand.  Watch Beto and the ZUMBA Jammers and you’ll see that they cue with every fiber of their being.  Don’t mistake “no cueing” for “non-verbal cueing”. 

Lack of signaling can give the false impression that the instructor is simply showing off.  After all, your class participants aren’t mind readers.  Non-verbal cueing is such an important skill that it warrants a future article/video completely dedicated to the topic.

The ability to instantly adapt your choreography is quality of a great instructor.  As the ratio of beginners to experienced participants changes in your class so must the complexity of the choreography.  When you know your music it’s easier to adjust the moves to the level of the class.

You may also need to adjust your choreography to maintain a balanced mix of moves in the total class.  After the daunting task of creating your first ZUMBA class, most instructors gradually add-in new songs as they retire other songs from the playlist.  So while you may replace a salsa with a new salsa you may find a certain step is getting overused in the overall mix.  When you know your music, it’s easy to plug-in a different step.

Key Memory Points

Step 1: Print music map

Step 2: Plug in choreography ideas


Music Maps help with memory because they create a visual picture of the song that you can hold in your mind.  According to Psychology Today memory is predominately visual.

“Key Memory Points”  is an added feature that takes memorization a step further. If you didn’t play a song that you know really well for several months, what would you need to remember about that song if you re-introduced it to your class?  “ Key Memory Points” looks to answer that question.

One way “Key Memory Points” aids the instructor is by marking built-in cues (instruments or vocals that signal changes in the music) on the music maps.  The song “Desert Groove” is an example of a song with built-in cues. The shrill “la la la la” yell at the end of some of the phrases comes in very handy for knowing when to transition to a new move.

Another way that “Key Memory Points” assists memory is by looking for relationships or patterns within the music structure. Things are easier to remember when organized into patterns rather than random pieces.  For example, the following is a possible series of dance moves to a song that is tricky to wrap your brain around.

Moves: A,B, B, C, D, B, A, A,

Now look at the same pattern when relationships are created.

Moves: (A B B)  CD (B A A)

To paraphrase  Psychology Today  “chunks are easier to remember than pieces”.