Site hosted by Build your free website today!

DWI Crash Course

version 1.21


Disclaimer: Extremely conservative opinions regarding DDR ahead. I've never been one to embrace change or wild deviation, therefore some of my views on how a DWI 'should' be made might conflict with your own.

One of the most frequent questions I get (well, more likely the ONLY) is: "How do you do it?"


The first step to making a good DWI is to listen. Imagine yourself standing on a DDR pad listening to that same song. Would you play that song a lot? Would others? Or would your song be relegated to the depths of Let Them Move?

The second (optional) step is to cut the song. Your song may be short enough not to need editing. DDR tracks fall between 80 and 110 seconds in length. I tend to edit my songs to fit this length. Here's how I do it.


For this, I will be using TaQ's "Things of MaNeRi". Its original length is a whopping 6:47. Not good DDR length! Not to mention is a very repetitive song, as all trance is.

I use ACID 2.0 for all my musical needs. There's also Fruity Loops, but I've never tried it. The only problem is that ACID requires loops/files to be in WAV format. Solution: RazorLame (screenshot) Converter. It can convert almost any MP3 into WAV.

Now that my file is in WAV format, I can begin editing. The first thing I do is align the beginning of the song (first beat) with the 1st measure mark. This doesn't look exactly 'on', so I do this.

Next, it's time to take care of the BPM. I can tell this song has a steady tempo, so I try to line up the waves on the screen with their respective bars. Once I've found it, I check near the end of the song to see if it is still in sync. At bar 200, it's still on the beat, after some very minor tweaking (thousandths of a beat).


Now comes the fun part. Cutting the song down to a bite-size chunk. Remember, 1:20 to 1:50. Above that is Beatmania. In Acid, to remove a segment, just split at cursor at the desired measures, highlight the segment, and hit delete. Then move the next piece over. Because I aligned the BPM, I'm cutting exactly where the measures lie. There will be little or no distortion between segments. Now I continue chopping away at the song... and here's what I have left. But while you cut a song down, the transition between segments must be logical!

I added this small fade-out to quickly taper the song off, even though it's quiet enough at that point that nobody will notice. Another thing to look at is your master sound level. Make sure this doesn't exceed +0. Most professional tracks are normalized to peak at +0.0dB. There's a fair margin for error, but people don't want to have to adjust their volumes up and down for the different volume levels of songs.


Almost ready to begin making the steps. Save your file as an MP3 or WAV. I used to have the option to save directly to MP3, but somehow I lost that option. Not a problem, though. Just fire up MP3 Compressor. Then select the WAV you want to compress, and click Compress. Watch all those MB's magically disappear.


First, give your MP3 a home. For making DWI's, my preference is XStep. Don't get me wrong, I still use Notepad, albeit only for songs that are either: A) not 4/4 time, B) have extreme tempo changes or arrow freezes (see bottom), or C) exceed the 100-bar limit. I enter the BPM I found in Acid, and a GAP value. Because I synced this song to the very beginning of the file, it should be zero, but due to my computer, it is around 85. Everyone's computer is differently, so find out and remember your personal 'key gap'. (Note: Bar #1 for a song is supposed to be at the song's first logical beat. I usually enter in zero (85) for my gap so that bar 1, beat 1 is right where the song begins. If I need extra room, I sync the gap to the first step.

If you aren't editing your file, read this step. You can use XStep to calculate an approximate BPM (within 2-3). While fine-tuning your GAP and BPM, fill your entire step pattern (at least 16 bars) with quarter notes of the same step. All lefts, ups, whatever floats your boat. If the steps are consistently perfects or greats, adjust the gap until they hit square in the arrow casting. If the arrows are on one side of the casting and slowly progress the other way, then the BPM is off. Whatever you do, DO NOT put a solitary {0} or (0) in your file to align the arrows correctly. This causes Yellow Arrow Syndrome, where all the arrows are considered "off-beat" and not only throw off your Groove Radar but screw up your playing. Yellow Arrow Syndrome says, "My creator was too lazy to sync the BPM correctly."

Style Tip 1: Arbitrary tempo changes (usually 1/2x and 2x- anything else would automatically result in Yellow Arrow Syndrome, see above) to match the intensity of the song are NOT COOL. Yes, era (nostalmix), Let's Groove, and Somewhere Over The Rainbow, and The Legend of MAX all have tempos that cut in half (SOTR and LOM, twice!) temporarily. They fit nicely in the songs- the song almost require tempo drops. Nobody wants to go from barely being able to read 90BPM stuff and suddenly jump to 360BPM with the same melody and percussion line.

Style Tip 2: Obscenely long freezes are NOT COOL. Offending song: Ecstasy. Minor offense: Abyss, Burning Heat. In Ecstasy, it's not fun to stand there and anticipate when the arrows will start scrolling again. This is especially tasteful when you're on Stage 5 of Lesson Oni with zero lives left. As for Abyss, it's very obvious that the freeze lasts a perfect four beats, but it wouldn't take away any of the feel of the song if the arrows just kept scrolling after a huge gap in the step pattern. Burning Heat has one-beat pauses at the beginning and end of the song. They could be eliminated, but the only reason they exist is to throw people off. On the flip side, Healing Vision (Angelic Mix) utilizes the freeze in a very creative way- a freeze in the middle of nowhere. It's only good for one song, one time, before it becomes a 'stupid novelty'.

NEW!Style Tip 3: Do not align arrows solely to the singer/melody. Setting arrows to ONLY the vocals creates "karaoke steps". Doing the same with just the melody (or sound effects) creates "Beatmania syndrome". These also usually make for some really short and wacky high-voltage areas followed by several bars of rest. If there's little to go on for a song (5.1.1. Another is a good example), you could do this, but the large gaps really hurt a DWI. Imagine if you'd play that. What would you be doing during that huge rest? Dare I ask?

NEW!Style Tip 4: How to handle hold arrows. One thing that screams 'bad style' in a DWI is when one foot is holding down a freeze while the second one has to scurry around the pad to hit an 8th-note stream. This is alright on very, very slow songs, such as My Summer Love Remix. Anything more than that, and it's just ridiculous. I'm writing about this because I just played Look to the Sky (Trance Remix) (Challenge) on MAX2-JP. There were several parts that consisted of something along the lines of "9!648". That made me unhappy. Stick with quarter notes (or half notes for Max songs) if you want to move the free foot around, but eighth notes are allowable only if they're on the same arrow- see Stoic (Heavy), Silent Hill (Challenge).

NEW!Style Tip 5: Stuck for steps? There's one technique artists use to make their songs longer: symmetry. If you notice, that most songs have phrases/melodies grouped in bars of 2^X. Two, four, eight, sixteen, etc. Near the end of PARANOiA Survivor MAX, where the Challenge steps are going all over the place, you hear a melody for two bars, then an 'echo' for two bars. Then you hear the same thing repeated again. Then you hear the last four bars repeated again. This is symmetry. If you're out of ideas for new and unique steps, don't make any. Just go back and repeat the last four or eight bars, and maybe mirror them, or rotate them. This can also apply the other way around: you should (try to) use the same beat pattern (not necessarily notes) if the music doesn't change. For example, If the music goes "1, 2, 3-and-4, etc." several times, you should keep the pattern the same with your arrows. This also means where you position jumps. If your pattern for the example is "step jump step-step-jump", that's the same pattern you should keep until the rhythm changes. Adding or removing a jump in there would make it asymmetrical, which may or may not be a bad thing.

XStep helps me visualize the step pattern. You see So Deep (4202404808408080), I see a very long integer. Also, XStep has a built in DWI tester, so you'll be doing a lot of this before your DWI goes public.

Finally, it looks like my step is done. Save to DWI! Now I can copy my MP3 and DWI to their final destination. Time to test-drive my file. Everything seems fine. It seems that the BPM and GAP are correct.

Now all that's left is to make Light and Standard steps (somewhat optional), and a background and banner (very important).

Important Note: When you design your background and banner, there are certain guidelines to follow if you want your DWI to look professional:
1) The song name must appear somewhere in the background. Artist name is usually omitted.
2) The song name AND artist name must legibly appear on the banner.
3) The capitalization and spelling used on the banner must exactly match that on the selection wheel text. (DXY!, bag, TSUGARU, etc.) This includes all punctuation (.59, I Feel...) and parentheses or dashes ("(for Extreme)", -AMD G5 MIX-).
4) If the banner includes special or non-Western European characters (Japanese, etc.) they are normally written included as-is on the wheel (Matsuri Japan, Break Down*, Sana Morette Ne Ente, Graduation, Yozora No Mukou) *Break Down's subete appears to be a flipped-A, but is in fact a special Japanese character. (I wish I knew what I meant.)
5) If special characters are not easily an option, like on DWI, SM, and DDRMAX USA for PS2, capital English letters (with a close/same pronunciation) are used in place of the special characters with no modification to the banner image. (Yes, I know DWI and SM support special characters, but implementing them is a real task. Also, DDRMAX USA's Sana Morette banner was modified to include the romaji spelling above the katakana. Bad move.)


Note regarding BPM changes and tempo freezes: These are calculated by Beat Reference numbers and time in milliseconds. Starting from zero, each beat of music is 4 'units' of Beat Ref. A bar in 4/4 time is worth 16 units. For pauses, if your song has a clean pause- where it stops for exactly X beats- you use the Rule of 60000. The Rule of 60000 states that 60000/BPM equals time in MS between each beat, and that 60000/(time in MS) equals the BPM. Say you were doing Stoic (for Extreme). The killer freeze lasts for one beat, or 60000/155 ms. 387 ms. You'll find it comes in handy in more ways than one.

Check out Things of MaNeRi by TaQ on the main page now!

Return to Main Page