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song structure in electronic music. turning "parts" and "grooves" --> songs Plugin Presets/Expansions
Old 10th December 2007
  #1
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song structure in electronic music. turning "parts" and "grooves" --> songs

What do you do when you have a good groove or part but want to develop it into a song? Do you spend time mapping out structure? How do you approach buildups, peaks, etc? Any math tricks or is it an intuitive process? I find it it takes much longer to assemble parts into songs than to create parts in the first place.

Do you have any tricks or basic rules you use when approaching song structure?
Old 10th December 2007
  #2
same as any other kind of music
here's a pretty generic overview of songwriting.

you start with your intro, verse, choruse, verse, bridge chorus. & there's a million permutations from there.
i like to stack up a bunch of parts or loops that all work together, then brick them out like legos. most pop music if based on 4's, 8's, 16,s. half time, double time. start mellow then build in intensity. as long as your parts fit together well you can usually slice & dice em any way you want.
Old 11th December 2007
  #3
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tricks? there's the fibonacci sequence (golden mean) that often works its way into music. the height of the song being at or around 0.61803 of the way through the song, or a section of the song.

noticed this a lot while studying classical guitar repertoire. pop music as well, usually the second chorus, or the bridge if its really powerful.

[edit]

it's really about giving the listener the "goods" of the song enough so they dig it, but not so much that they're bored, and just barely enough so they'll need to listen to it again. this has everything to do with the frequency of chord/section/riff repetition (ex. people will get bored of an 8 bar groove approx. twice as fast as a 16 bar groove) ya dig?
Old 11th December 2007
  #4
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^ It depends on the context too. If you're writing for radio, tv, etc then yeah, you don't want it to be too repetitive, but if the tracks change up way too much in the club/warehouse/bush, people don't get in the groove.
Old 11th December 2007
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg_KPX View Post
^ It depends on the context too. If you're writing for radio, tv, etc then yeah, you don't want it to be too repetitive, but if the tracks change up way too much in the club/warehouse/bush, people don't get in the groove.
touche
Old 11th December 2007
  #6
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I have always found that my good loops turn themselves into songs easilly and my bad loops don't.

Seems like when I have a song it just unfurls easily and finishs itself startlingly fast.

Rarely have I toiled over some loops endlessly and been impressed with the outcome.

Never be afraid to just drop a tune and move on, you can always come back or not. You will be better for it in the long run.

The best artists know when they have ****e and trash it and are very willing to be extra self critical.

A good tip is if you have ANY doubt about an aspect of a song, TRASH IT!

Again, a good set of melodies and loops will make a song EASILLY.
Old 2nd April 2008
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevil View Post
i like to stack up a bunch of parts or loops that all work together, then brick them out like legos. most pop music if based on 4's, 8's, 16,s. half time, double time. start mellow then build in intensity. as long as your parts fit together well you can usually slice & dice em any way you want.
I do this a lot as well. The stack/unstacking method...but it's definitely something that doesn't always work. Do it, and then look at the whole song and find a way to keep it from getting to repetitive and boring. Spice it up with a different rhythm in verse two for example...
Old 2nd April 2008
  #8
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Techno/House doesn`t typically have a song arrangement.
It`s tracks - not songs.

The buildup is arranged by live mixing. As far as I know this was originated by Dub Reggae producers like Lee Perry und King Tubby.

Ableton Live is made for this kind of mixing.

I personally try to listen closely to productions and DJ mixes and whenever a new element comes in or is muted I "watch" if it raises or lowers the tension and try to memorize that when creating my own tracks.

A good DJ mix would be Richie Hawtin - DE9 (actually a re-mix project since R.H. took loops from the tracks and (re-)arranged them into a long mix but it was done in a DAW).
Old 3rd April 2008
  #9
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Try to work 'lenghtwise' as soon as possible......stacking bits onto an 8 bar loop going round and round is lethal. Just because a loop built up without a song context sounds cool does not automatically mean it will easily turn into a song/track of actual music.

If you don't think about and build up towards a streched dynamic progression of some kind early, be it a pop verse chorus thing or a trance journey, you'll find a lot of the time that your 'cool loop' waters down and dies as you try and force it into an arranged state.

Go as much lenghtwise and not heightwise as you can.....
Old 3rd April 2008
  #10
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try to think of your complete track in terms of energy levels. And try to vary the energey levels in the track to 'create a journey' for want of a less corny description. the overall structure of your track might be something like start off from silence, build up slowly to a certian level, drop down for a bit of a rest, then start building up to the main peak of the track, then build down to a tail out. thats just one possible structure, but it works well for me. so its not chorus verse chorus, but an evolving structure.

so every part of the track is heading in a direction that ultimately makes up the songs structure.

i usually get most of the sounds, melodies,chords etc programmed in while im simply looping 16 bars or something. then its a matter of trying out different combinations of those sounds and seeing what kind of energy levels they have. then you can say this combo sounds the most kickin and therefore i'll build up to that combo at this point in the track. sometimes you will find that dropping out one of the sounds after a while increases the energy of the track, so its not always more layers=more energy.

sometimes the first sound you program in will be the last sound you introduce into the track, sometimes not. it just depends.

anyway, thats just how i think about it, whether its dance or more mellow stuff im doing.
Old 3rd April 2008
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbuehler View Post

I have always found that my good loops turn themselves into songs easilly and my bad loops don't.


Rarely have I toiled over some loops endlessly and been impressed with the outcome.


The best artists know when they have ****e and trash it and are very willing to be extra self critical.
Couldnt agree more.
Old 3rd April 2008
  #12
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I spend a lot of time searching for notes I can delete.
The fewer events you have the more room the remaining sounds have.

When you`re trying to raise the drive and after you added a fast ch the drive goes down -> delete it!
The listener doesn`t care if the ch sequence took you 30 min to program.
Old 3rd April 2008
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue monk View Post
I spend a lot of time searching for notes I can delete.
Absolutely! And looking for notes in the part of an already progged sound to make play on another new sound instead. Can't have the question-answer thing happening all within the same sound much....one asks, another answers...etc
Old 3rd April 2008
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Absolutely! And looking for notes in the part of an already progged sound to make play on another new sound instead. Can't have the question-answer thing happening all within the same sound much....one asks, another answers...etc
You have had some very interesting input on this thread. Could you clarify what you are saying in this post?
Old 3rd April 2008
  #15
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AH HA

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Absolutely! And looking for notes in the part of an already progged sound to make play on another new sound instead. Can't have the question-answer thing happening all within the same sound much....one asks, another answers...etc
yes indeed, you seem to talk sense!

i believe you have helped me out of a few cul de sac's ! lol

BIGUPS KARLOFF70

peaceheh
Old 3rd April 2008
  #16
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another thing

check your fav artists and listen to what they do....

pull apart there work and see how they have built it...

thats helps too!

but remember you need to have you OWN SOUND....

coz otherwise youll just be known as the guy who sounds like ......

KNOW WHAT IM SAYING?

peace
Old 3rd April 2008
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbuehler View Post
You have had some very interesting input on this thread. Could you clarify what you are saying in this post?

Like this:

If you DO have a cool 8 bar that wants to become a tune, copy either two or three of them after each other (depending on arrangement you're aiming for). Not loop, but copy, then glue the riffs and maybe some spot drums into the full lenght lego (i.e. 16 or 24 bars). Then listen in a 16 or 24 bar loop, focusing on a riffy sound you have running.

Likelihood is that now, that FAT riff from your 8 bar starts grating on you before the longer new loop turns round, because it has to many notes in it.

Now play it from the top and focus on the first few notes of the part and see if you can hear where the riff 'changes direction' if you know what I mean. Maybe the first 3 notes run up and then it dives down on the forth. Maybe the dive down is an answer to the run up. Maybe you can kill the first dive down, listen to it, and realise that a) there is more space AND musicality now... b) you REALLY enjoy the dive down when it happens the second time round as a surprise....maybe you only actually need the dive down once in the 24 bar...etc...etc

Cut holes in ways as to make what was parts based on 8 bar lenght LAST across, say 24 until the actual new resulting pattern repeats= more surprises, less expected boredom, more air....now you've got an interesting verse section with holes for new answers....sparse though....think one new stab in one place of the 24......when you're happy and your longer loop has now aquired the 'forecer-runner feel' play from this into just the drums and get a feel for where it needs to change to musically. Look for a tension/contrast. Get a new sound up and only start touching the keys after there is a way forward in your head. Then play from the verse and record what you feel for the next section with the new sound (KEEP IT SIMPLE THOUGH...). Ater you have a nicely contrasting thing to the verse you could try to see if some mutes on the drumms work better in the new section or take in some of the verse sounds if they fit. Nothing 'in the spotlight'y though, just carpet........whoops you're a few minutes in to an arrangement....bla,bla,bla
Old 3rd April 2008
  #18
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Thanks Karloff, you got some good advice there. My songs def. suffer from repition more often than not.
Old 17th May 2010
  #19
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YouTube Video on DJ song structure

I recently made a post about song structure on my blog.

For DJ mixing, I came across this video:

Old 17th May 2010
  #20
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1) Make a loop you can listen for 6 minutes
2) Press record
3) Wait for 6 minutes
4) Press stop

Maybe twiddle with a knob or two during the recording, but that's optional. Analogue gear helps since it won't sound static like digital does without modulation.

I'm serious here. If the groove doesn't work looped forever, do something about it until it does.
Old 18th May 2010
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barfunkel View Post
1) make a loop you can listen for 6 minutes
i'm serious here. If the groove doesn't work looped forever, do something about it until it does.

yes! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Old 26th August 2011
  #22
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I suppose I am reviving this thread since I found it in a search and its a very pertinent topic for many musicians having modern conundrums.

There was a day not too long ago when a good 'loop' was a 'riff' and you played it with yer mates until it got boring in which case you changed to another riff or maybe modulated up a fourth or half step... Perhaps this is a useful comparison. There are similarities and differences. Is there or has there ever been a band that could play the same riff for 6 minutes (jokes aside) and not be incredibly boring. Is this something that we have learned to appreciate (or accept) in the era of programmed music?

The issue I believe is a real one. We all find ourselves with loops either through laziness, lack of musicianship, the inclinations of the tools or perhaps just because we write our 'riffs' just like classic rock guitar players. The question is where do we go from here. I believe the answer everyone is getting at in one way or another is FORM.

There have been many good answers and suggestions above re: how to look at 'form' as an escape from 'loop'. I have a number of ideas and some techniques which work for me which I think are worth sharing. Thoughtful musicians have always complimented me on my arrangements - I seem to be fairly adept at the: start-go somewhere-finish part of the puzzle. If only I was so good at the producing / engineering and the #1 - marketing...

1. Form as taught classically. Well, here is a big can of worms, There is the granddaddy of them all the sonata, along with fugue / canon (more of a technique per se), rondo, theme and variations, binary like we see a lot in jazz etc. While the relationship may seem distant at first I believe the learning present in this discipline as well as the surprises available in applying this thinking to say electronica for instance, are well worth the effort. Brahms, Stravinsky, Ellington - all masters of form. It wouldn't do anyone harm to take a part the Rite of Spring for a few hours (or days)...

2. Old school hip-hop. Take the vocal away and what do you have? I think this is very instructive and is one of my favorite techniques. I record an improvised part over my loop, or maybe as my first track, and this part, just by being a real performance, has many of the developmental aspects of beginning-middle-end to it, even if its poo. It creates an outline. It makes it a lot easier to say "the drums OBVIOUSLY would drop out here" etc. and it makes it way easier to write more parts to support whatever evolution is progressing through the piece. This could be trouble if you can't actually play an instrument but that's another subject all together - don't get me started - except to say - this will improve your 'music' more than any other factor - learn how to get in front of a bunch of people with anything, a guitar, a piano, a ukelele, a kazoo, and entertain them without any canned 'assistance'. seriously.

3. Analysis - mentioned above and very important. This is actually a key component in the university music major form class which teaches #1 above. What is super cool about this is that through analysis we find that there is really only 1 form in a larger sense - this guy Schenker Schenkerian analysis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
tried to reduce this to a graph albeit mostly oriented around tonality and harmony, and someone mentioned Fibonacci as well - EXACTLY. The challenge is not simply understand the golden mean or classical proportions but to understand how these universal aesthetics apply to the genre you are working in (in general) and your material (riffs) in specific. Formal analysis will reveal this - club hits are not immune - far from it, they are actually perfect specimens which succeed under very demanding conditions with very savvy audiences.

I think this is a very interesting subject, maybe even THE subject inasmuch as it is a universal problem and it also gives great insight into the question: how did that stupid repetitive pop garbage become such a big hit? Aside from that catchy riff, I think the arc has a lot to do with it, and for those of us composing for the dance floor, this has to be the #1 concern.
Old 26th August 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shreddoggie View Post
I suppose I am reviving this thread since I found it in a search and its a very pertinent topic for many musicians having modern conundrums.
your search-foo sucks... this was covered yesterday

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/elect...song-help.html

the real issue is that non-musicians like myself are making music and have no sense of structure or the inter-connectedness of tone, melody, and rhythm. any clown with a laptop and a torrent site can d/l and then make music.
Old 26th August 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shreddoggie View Post
Is there or has there ever been a band that could play the same riff for 6 minutes (jokes aside) and not be incredibly boring. Is this something that we have learned to appreciate (or accept) in the era of programmed music?
James Brown's lot were pretty useful for it. You should seek out a document called "****ty is pretty". Trancing out on loopy feel music isn't only for programmed stuff......but getting it to feel like music and not just a loop is where the musicianship comes in......in both cases.
Old 27th August 2011
  #25
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Also if you create a mega loop, like some 8 bar riff that you absolutely love. Then what you will subconsciously do is try and get it in all over the song. Therefore your amazing new riff will lose its element of surprise and get boring so you will have to add more and more to get it to sound more interesting.

Look at that Bromance song, not sure what the mr muso people will think of it on here. But I love that piano riff in there and that only appears in 2 parts of the song. If the chorus isnt playing then there is no evidence of that riff anywhere.
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