The Fitness Zone

The pools are alive with the sound of music!

Apr 02, 2022 | by Network

By taking the following considerations into account when selecting music for your next aqua class, you can deliver a session that is a lot less stressful, and a whole lot more fun, for both you and your participants, writes Group Fitness Instructor Mel Morony.

I’m immersed in instructing my class, but out of the corner of my eye I can see some rhythmic movement. Great, the Duty Manager is moving to the music! I always say that if the lifeguards and Duty Manager like the music, it’s a point and if the Operations Manager comes out jigging, then it’s a goal!

Music choices can make or break a class

Over the years as an Aqua Fitness instructor, I have found that music choices can make or break a class. I’ve had my ‘hits’ but I’ve also had my fair share of misses, when I’ve not been in tune with the myriad reasons that people might participate in a class (sometimes reasons not related to its intent), and adjusted my playlists accordingly. Yet there are approaches to music selection that I have found to be crowd pleasers and tend to appeal to the many and varied tastes in music that might be in a class.

Keep it varied

When I first started teaching aqua fitness, I had patrons tell me about instructors who had more or less done certain artists/ groups to death. I decided that I didn’t want to do that. So, I made a rule (with only a few exceptions) not to have two tracks by the same artist/ group in any playlist. Where I have broken this rule by mistake, I make a point of apologising and of editing the playlist after class so that it won’t happen again.

In addition, across my plan of classes (between seven and twelve for each aqua format, depending on how many sessions of a certain format I might have at the one centre), I try to avoid having repeats of songs. An exception might be if I have a theme session – say for St Patrick’s Day (which I take really seriously) – in which case a repeat of a recently featured track is justified by its relevance to the occasion.


In the process of rapport building with patrons, I quickly discovered that my aqua fitness crowd really liked to get out to the cinema and theatre. Sometimes it was for shows they wanted to see, but other times it was in the line of ‘grandparents’ duty’ – looking after the grandchildren, particularly during school holidays. So, I added songs that featured in the soundtracks of the various shows (including the kids’ movies) that they had been to see.

Sometimes with the kids’ movie songs I’ll remind them of where they might have heard a track. For example, when the first few bars of ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen start playing, I’ll  say, ‘I think I need to apologise to the swim teachers in the adjacent lanes because they may find some of their young students becoming Queens and Princesses!’. If you have any kids in your life, you’ll likely now be equally as familiar with ‘We don’t talk about Bruno’ from Disney’s Encanto. Will it work in the pool? Blending salsa, pop and hip hop with sweeping showtune elements, I don’t see why not!

Members requests

At the end of my classes I like to have a play out track that kicks in after the slower, reflective, cool down track, so that my class participants aren’t exiting the pool in silence. Send ‘em home with a smile on their dial, I say, so a party track is usually my choice of closer. On one recent occasion, a class regular mentioned how she’d like to work out to ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. So, a couple of weeks later that familiar opening hook burst out of the speakers to signal the final working track. Needless to say, that patron was not only excited to hear a song she loved, but also pleased that her request had so clearly been listened to. It’s little things like this that can really make participants feel a connection with you and your class.

Classical and instrumental music

While our participants might like to sing along to some pop classics, they may also have an appreciation for classical music, or classical-style versions of well-known songs. Classical music in particular has been shown through studies to produce what is dubbed as ‘the Mozart effect,’ which includes the reduction of stress, lowering of blood pressure and even enhancement of creativity. It may even generate an opportunity for rapport building if your patrons learned to play musical instruments at school.

Using instrumental versions of well-known songs can also provide a way out of what could potentially be sticky situations. For example, at Christmas I like to play Christmas music, including traditional carols. However, I’m aware of the juxtaposing world views that may be present in my classes, so for the traditional carols I use instrumental versions. That way, people are free to enjoy the tune, sing the lyrics, or make up their own lyrics (it’s not sacrilege, most of the lyrics of traditional carols are set to centuries old pub tunes!).

Ideas from other instructors

When a colleague announced on Facebook that she had got into country music and decided that she was going to do a theme session I was intrigued. Was this going to be line dancing in the pool? While I wasn’t so sure a theme session would work with my patrons, I decided to see about acquiring some music in that style. I came across a workout version of ‘Oh Susannah’ and developed some dance moves that worked in the water. It was not only fun for my patrons, but also for me, as I realised that maybe I didn’ have two left feet after all!

Getting the volume right

Sometimes, it isn’t the genre of music being played that’s the problem, it’s that the volume levels aren’t right. Unfortunately, most pool halls aren’t designed with the acoustics of night-clubs, and getting the right levels between the music and the microphone can be a challenge.

The microphone can have a tendency to echo in a pool hall, so consider making your session mostly about visual cueing

The microphone can have a tendency to echo in a pool hall, rendering the voice-over almost unintelligible. In such instances, consider making your session mostly about visual cueing, and really only use the microphone to draw peoples’ attention to the fact that you are about to change the move or when you want to impart a safety tip. An upside to this is that it can reduce the chatter in your class because participants will need to pay closer attention to catch all of your non-verbal direction.

Make it fun!

Have fun with your music selections. As previously mentioned, my final tune tends to be my ‘party track’, when tracks such as ‘Oh Susannah’ or ‘The Charleston’ go on. Sometimes I’ll bring along a prop to do a quick ‘dress up’: a cowboy Stetson hat for Oh Susannah, a feather boa for ‘The Charleston’, or a sombrero for a Mexican/Latina song. While my party track is an obvious place to make things fun, there’s no reason it has to be limited to the ‘finale’. For example, I have a cooldown version of Swan Lake. At the end of the stretches, I’ll get my participants to bring one arm over their head, the other in front of their hips and perform a turn on tippy toes – allowing them to bring out the prima donna within.

Music is subjective – what will grab one person may not appeal to another.

It’s about our patrons

While it is important to like the music that you choose for classes, you need to be careful not to make it all about your likes and dislikes, and to instead aim to have a range of music that will satisfy different tastes, preferences and backgrounds. Music is subjective – what will grab one person may not appeal to another. Making your music selection based on what you expect your patrons to enjoy will make delivering aqua fitness classes a lot less stressful, and a whole lot more fun, for both you and your participants.

Mel Morony 

Mel is a group fitness instructor based in Eastern Melbourne. She is passionate about raising standards in the area of group fitness, for both participants and instructors.

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